STUDIO FEATURE: Andrew Lawson of Debaser Studio
Andy Lawson of Debaser Studio is on of our Song of the Year Grand Prize Sponsors. He has taken an organic approach to developing his technique and style as a Producer, Mixer, Engineer. Andy is the 2017 WAMAward winner for Best Sound Engineer/Producer (Studio) and he built his base in production, working with some of Perth’s finest artists including; The Chemist, Little Birdy, End Of Fashion, Eskimo Joe, The Fergusons, Gyroscope, Sugar Army, Ben Witt, Little Birdy, FOAM, Tired Lion, Riley Pearce, Rainy Day Women and Elki to name a few.
Q: How did you get started in music production, mixing and studio engineering?
A: I was playing in bands and took out a bank loan to buy a mini disk 8 track recorder. I started recording every jam we had… then anyone else’s jams. Soon I was doing demos for mates that I would mix on the 8 track just using the basic EQ and balance. This evolved to using a computer by bouncing the files out one by one into my sound card. I had to recorded myself saying “beep” onto all 8 channels at once so I could line up the files on the computer… It’s been ever evolving since.
Q: What are some of the changes you’ve seen in the business over time?
A: The biggest change I’ve seen is the transition from physical to digital. It’s had a huge influence over the industry and the way it operates. Studio wise, the affordability of high quality recording & equipment is now available to us. 15 years ago, it wouldn’t have been feasible to have a studio in my back yard with all this wonderful gear.
Q: Why should artists head into a professional studio over say, doing a home-recording?
A: A proper studio allows the artist to really focus on their music and utilize the experience and knowledge of an outside perspective to help guide them through the process. That said I’ve also mixed some great stuff that has been recorded at home. I mixed a great record for Ben Witt last year that he tracked at home and came to me for the mix. I don’t think there are any rules on how to do it, just whatever is going to work.
Q: In your opinion, what makes for a good track mix?
A: Instrument balance and song dynamics. Getting the songs story or point of view to come across.
Q: When bands come to record with you how do you structure their time? What should they expect?
A: What should they expect? Too work bloody hard!
Every band requires it’s own direction depending on the needs of the project. Is it going to be tracked live? Is it going to be broken down to drums, bass, guitars, vocals? So many variables and details. I would have a good chat with the band beforehand to figure out how the session is going to run. In saying all that, I do like to keep the studio as relaxed and fun as possible. Vibe is very important!
Q: In your experience, what are some of your top tips for artists who are about to record? What should they have prepared to maximise their time with you?
A: Demo the songs, even if it’s just an iPhone recording, I need to hear what you’ve got before you come in. Be on time. Make sure your instruments in working order. Be well rehearsed and know your parts but stay open minded. Don’t go to work all day then come to the studio tired, you need to be fresh and ready to go. And most importantly relax and enjoy the process!
Q: With the long list of renowned WA artists you’ve worked with over the years you must have seen many good songs go through the recording process and been involved in the journey of making them sound their best. In your opinion what makes for a good song and how do you go about improving tracks as a producer?
A: MELODY is what attracts me to a song. I need to be able to sing or hum along to something. Improving the tracks? Again, this can come about in so many different ways. Chopping up songs, getting the band to work on parts, defining the vocal melody or performance, giving the song a sonic character or just standing back and let it all happen. It really depends.
Q: After so many sessions recording artists, what would you say your favourite instrument or piece of equipment is to use while recording in the studio and why?
A: It changes and depends on what I’m doing. At the moment a couple of my favourite pieces would be the Chandler Curvebender EQ (A classic Beatles era EQ) and the Chandler Redd mic, it’s a new microphone but an instant classic.
The real joy is capturing a great vocal or the perfect drum sound or distorting the heck out of a bass or getting stuck into guitars and playing with pedals to dial in a unique tone or pluging in a synth for some madness… Magic!