“Mixing isn’t just about pushing buttons, it is about what is going on inside of you. For this reason I invited all participants to introduce themselves on the first day of the seminar and asked them, ‘why are you here?’ I added, ‘the more honest you are, the more I can help you.’ Then I discussed the mental state one has to have before walking into a mix room. What are you thinking? Are you ready to mix a hit?”
Michael Brauer is someone who knows about being in the right mental space to mix a hit. The American has worked with Luther Vandross, Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Coldplay, John Mayer, Ash, My Morning Jacket, Ben Folds, Eric Clapton, Prefab Sprout, Leonard Cohen, Pet Shop Boys, Dream Theater, Aretha Franklin, to name but a few, and has won four Grammy Awards.
Brauer started his career in 1976 as a tea boy at Media Sound Studios in New York, and came through the ranks working with legendary experts at creating hit records like Bob Clearmountain, Mike Barbiero, Tony Bongiovi, and Harvey Goldberg. He currently works in Electric Lady Studio B in New York, which sports an SSL 9080 J-series desk, as well as a mindboggling amount of outboard. The outboard is at the heart of an approach to using compression and EQ that is so elaborate that Brauer has given it a trademarked name.
“Brauerize,” explains the mixer, “is the combination of a few different compression techniques, including multi-bus, parallel and post-fader send/return compression, which focus on mixing into compression, allowing me to ride instruments, vocals, and my entire mix, into the sweet spot. I mainly do this in outboard, but today I in general also use a lot of software, perhaps even more than hardware. Software offers things that you can never get from hardware, like great de-essers and fixing tools. The digital versus analogue debate has become irrelevant; you simply use what’s best to get the sound you’re after.”
In the summer of 2010, Brauer conducted the very first Mix With The Masters seminar, together with producer David Kahne. “I was skeptical,” recalls Brauer, “because I’d never talked for more than three hours, let alone a week! So we talked about how to do this and what kind of template the seminar should have. From the beginning I said that it would be important that there was a philosophy regarding only inviting tutors who would do it for the love of music, technology and wanting to help others, and who would be prepared to really share all their working methods with participants and explain in detail why they do things.”
“The seminars had to be friendly and comfortable for everybody and without any of the bullshit that can be part of the music industry. This was one foundation we all agreed on. Another was that it wouldn’t make any sense for us to teach beginners. The participants had to be working engineers, and maybe a couple of people who had burnt out or in other ways lost their way.”
“I ended up doing two seminars back-to-back in the summer of 2010, one with David and one alone, and both were really successful. It was obvious that people’s lives had been changed! Given this, we decided to continue, so I got on the phone and called a large number of friends of mine, like Tony Maserati, Manny Marroquin, Tchad Blake and others, and told them that it’d be a great thing to put time aside to do this, that they’d get amazing satisfaction, and that they should also bring their families, because La Fabrique is such an amazing place.”
“The two seminars we did in 2010 provided a foundation from which to expand, and in 2011 many of the people I called went to La Fabrique to conduct seminars. Afterwards they all felt that it was one of the greatest things they had ever done! I met Tchad Blake in 2011 just after he had finished his first seminar, and he looked exhausted, but also told me it had been one of the best experiences of his life. The seminars are incredibly powerful.”
An illustration of the power of the seminars is that all of the above-mentioned mixers have since returned to La Fabrique to conduct more master-classes, while many new names have been added to the program. Brauer himself have been returning to La Fabrique every year since 2010 and is looking forward to conducting more classes in the future.
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