“The job of a mixer is to find the pure essence of a song and take it to a new level,” says Manny Marroquin. “You ask yourself how a song makes you feel, and why it makes you feel that way. And with every change you make you wonder: does it make me feel better, or not? It’s not about the equipment, but about what you do with it. We all use the same tools. Instead your job is to find an emotional connection with the song, and trust your own feelings. When you do, other people will get it too.”
Marroquin has taken the “pure essence” of several thousands of songs to a new level, making sure that millions of people around the world ‘got’ these songs. It has turned him into one of the 21st century’s most successful mixers. Marroquin prides himself in working with a wide variety of artists and music styles, which is exemplified by a credit list featuring Alicia Keys, Whitney Houston, Pink, John Mayer, Shakira, Maroon 5, Ludacris, Duffy, Buno Mars, Lana Del Rey, Usher, Cee Lo, Pitbull, Rihanna, Flo Rida, Chris Brown, Justin Bieber, Kanye West, Mariah Carey, Christinia Aguilera, Linkin Park, Imagine Dragons, The Rolling Stones, and countless others. Marroquin’s achievements have been recognized with several Grammy Awards, and an interactive mixing exhibit in 2008 at the Grammy Museum, named after him and featuring material supplied by him.
Marroquin is originally from Guatemala, and moved to Los Angeles with his family when he was nine. He set his first steps in music by playing the drums at the age of 11, and discovered his calling for the recording side of music a few years later, while studying arts at Hamilton High School in Los Angeles. He began his studio career as a runner at Enterprise Studios in Los Angeles, and worked his way up from there.
Since the late nineties Marroquin has been based in Larrabee Studio in Los Angeles. He currently has a residency there in Studio B, where pride of place goes to his favourite desk, an 80-input SSL XL9000, which he calls “a super analogue console,” because, he says, “it is the best sounding SSL besides the old E-series. It has a really smooth top, but it also has this incredible low end that mimics a Neve sound.” Like everyone, Marroquin has adapted his mix methods to the inexorable rise of the DAW, but he remains one of the world’s prime exponents of mixing on an analogue desk.
“I am probably 50-50 with regards to outboard versus plugins,” explains Marroquin, “though because I still mix on the desk, and can instantly grab an EQ or compressor on the board, I may still use more analogue treatments. On major reason why I still mix in the analogue domain is that mixing on the desk is much faster. It allows me to do many things at once, whereas when working in the box I can only do one thing at a time.”
“Ironically, the amazing range of plugins that has come on the market has led me to use them less. The reason is that producers also have these plugins, and as a consequence the rough mixes I get in nowadays usually are really good and will already have effects like delays and reverbs. This means that mixing has become about less being more. Today, improving a mix usually involves doing more subtle things, like the art of quality-EQ rather than tweaking-EQ, the art of balancing and the art of compressing in the right way. I do less, but still need to make sure that what I do makes the record sound better.”
Marroquin has conducted four Mix With The Masters seminars, and is very enthusiastic about his experiences. He explains, “There’s a great family atmosphere at La Fabrique that I enjoy supporting because everyone involved is doing it for the right reasons, which is the love of music and music technology. Doing these seminars is very fulfilling for me because it allows me to give back a little bit and to help out engineers who are already really good, but just need that extra push.”
“To be able to talk about what we love doing for seven days, ten hours a day, is pretty amazing, and with the setting also being very beautiful, it creates a great and powerful experience that is totally different from the regular 2-hour Q&A seminars that I sometimes do at music colleges. In two hours you can only scratch the surface, but seven days allow me to be very thorough, and also go into the psychology of what I do.”
“My seminars are not primarily technical. It’s much more about how to approach music from a mixing and production point of view, and what it means to be a mixer, and the personality traits, work ethic, and people skills you need to be able to conduct a successful career. We often go out on the lawn and talk about life and where people are at with their careers, and what they feel they are good at and what they would like to get better at. This information makes it easier for me to help the participants.”
“The cherry on top for me is that I also end up learning stuff during the seminars! I get reminded not to take things for granted, and that we are all in it to work on cool, great music, and in the process hopefully make a living out of that. From a life point of view these are important things to remember. From a mixing point of view doing the seminars remind me of techniques and equipment that I may not have used for a while, and inspire me to try these out again after coming back home. These things are the icing on the cake!”
Manny Marroquin will return to La Fabrique to conduct a Mix With The Masters seminar from March 27 to March 31, 2017.
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