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Seva, professionnal Mastering engineer

Dec 1, 2002 - by Synthetic
Seva is an american Mastering engineer who worked and works for many major artists in the us music industry, like Dolly Parton, Bill Scarlett, Bill Swann, Acoustic Syndicate, Angie Foster, David Beason, and Corrosion of Comformity.
    Greetings and thanks again for accepting this interview.
    How long have you worked in the music industry to collect such a wide range of artists for your clients?

    887 years.
    Actually started in radio in 74. went to belmont college in 76 for music business. That bit me good and i never let go.
    As for mastering, since 1991. Truthfully i was a recording/mixing engineer for years, then would tweak the 2-mix for the clients. They always loved it even more, and i was somewhat unaware there was a name for this procedure. It was mastering! Sheesh, i got bit again, and continued. I will produce/engineer, but not very often; it has to be a band that really interests me.

    Are there any of your clients that have left a memorable impression upon first meeting or during the session that you could share with the visitors?
    Well, dolly left an impression on my left arm during the photo shoot. At first i wasn't sure what was pushing on me, but when i glanced, i blushed, then they took the photo, and that's for posterity. She has a good ass too (SHE said it, not me, i'm just quoting).
    The heavy rock dudes who visit are able to see i have a nap bed faster than any other client genre. as soon as they are in, one says "oh, Dude, he has A Bed Here". That's it.
    Southern gospel people try to ignore the buddhist paintings on the wall (it's art, not icons). But they like the final product so they come back.
    COC's pepper keenan always seemed (from the videos) to be such a dark edged power person. Turns out he wears kitchy 1950's glasses and really digs rebuilding old houses (i.e., an interior re-designer using vintage stuff). He's as quiet spoken as he is brilliant, actually.

    I see that you are known for mastering on your site. Can you tell us briefly what is involved in a mastering session?
    It's the final polish on a project. It's the last chance to change things before the duplication of the product.
    At the simplest, the songs are adjusted so they have appropriate volume levels from song to song, and the EQ (bass/treble, etc.) is adjusted for each song if needed. It nearly always is. The dynamic range can be changed as well. If a song has very soft parts, it might be prudent to bring them up some so they are not lost by the listener. For some types of music, the overall level is brought up so that the CD compares well with other CDs in the same market (type of music). For other types of music, special edits are required (Walmart-compatibility or radio edits). Finally, the master itself is made (the final version) from which all copies are duplicated for commercial release.

    Do you provide mixing and recording services as well?
    Since i started as a recording/mixing engineer and producer, i can't get away from it. Most projects i take on are ones of strong interest to me, either because the recording technique is challenging and/or the music simply appeals to me.

    I see from your site that you have worked in both analog and digital realms of audio processing. What is your opinion on the new recording, mixing and mastering technology available for computers these days? Do you prefer analog or digital recordings for mastering?
    It's like chevy versus ford. both are good trucks.
    Bad tools just are bad, period. who wants a cheap hammer?
    Both analog and digital have great benefits; when used to take advantage of these positive points, both are good. so in my studio i use both.
    When people record and mix, unfortunately, analog is harder to use, requiring regular maintenance and calibration. you know of ansel adams and his approach to exposing film? it's not so different for analog tape. So, i love it when it's done correctly.
    This said, it's mostly done incorrectly by all but tweaky professionals. On the other hand, the new digital tools are frequently used incorrectly by the professionals. This means that some times the mixes i get from small studios simply knock me out, spot on the money, to mix metaphors.
    Metaphorically, mixing is cooking, and the cook influences every thing. Even if the same ingredients are used, a cook with a smooth attitude has food that is simply different and better than one who is a bastard in the kitchen (see the movie, like water for chocolate).

    Speaking of computers. I am sure visitors would really like to know what role do Apple computers play in your daily routine. Are Macs used in your studios? If so. what models and what are their function in the studio? Do you have a mac for personal use such as a Powerbook or a desktop model at home? Do you work with PC machines as well or have you used them in the past? If you have worked with both... do you have a preference?
    Macs are the main machines in my studio. I have several, matched to the duties they perform. some are very old and have very old vintage software and hardware installed simply because they do some thing that was never bettered. Otherwise, i use G4's and even a nice 6-slot 9600 in daily work.
    They provide the mastering and forensic tools i need.
    A lombard bronze powerbook 333 does the email and billing and forum aintenance and e-interviews, plus shuttle launches for my 6-year-old son. (we ARE into rocket science).
    And yes, Wintel machines are here too. I first started with a PDP-8E in the 1970's, then programmed on VAX clusters, and really got in deep with the first IBM 8086 (DOS 2.x) or something like it. Built a number of DOS machines from scratch. Somewhere in there i got interested in the macs and bought a Mac II for $3000. I still have it and it boots in about 15 seconds. I use it only for Word 5.1a, probably the best version of Word i've ever found.
    The wintel machines do forensic work and sound cleanup with some tools from switzerland, plus some other unique processes not found elsewhere (ACID for example). Sure there are mac versions of some of these tools but i am very interested in elegant implementations of tools, not just something that runs on my "main platform".
    I have a preference for macs because they take any disk or file format, don't choke on wintel disks, can provide the same back to them, and have most of the heavy tools i need. But PCs also have things i need, so i prefer to have a studio with both. Chevy vs. Ford vs. Dodge.

    I also notice from your site that you use Waves hardware and software.
    Are there any other pieces of hardware or software that you rely on, whether for audio or for personal organization?

    Well, i was the "associate founder" of waves, meaning that i was around when the founders were the only 2 people in the company. So i'm partial to the products i helped develop. But nothing can do everything, so i use other softwares, including lexicon, serrato, syncro-arts, algorhythmix, and soundhack. Hardware-wise i have Manley EQ and compression, TC Electronics finalizer and dbx quantum, studer 1/2", ampex 1" and 1/4", otari 1/4", dolby A and SR, stuff like that. And of course, a nice technics 1200 turntable. Now that is analog!

    Many visitors to are musicians in one form or another seeking news, announcements and advice or help. Can you offer any advice regarding computer recording and mixing that might help the visitors. I realize this may seem a bit broad but any little morsel of advice such the when to use dithering etc. would be a greatly appreciated gem to the staff, the vistors and myself.
    Seva's rules of audio. No matter what type of system you're using:
    1 right mic in the right place
    2 move the knobs til it sounds right
    3 STOP
    Don't clip digital stuff.
    Record in 24bit fixed or 32bit float whenever possible.
    Don't clip digital stuff.
    If you are 24bit or 32bit, you really don't have to worry about levels very much at all, certainly don't have to get "close to red".
    Often, stop and refer to the rules of audio mentioned previously.
    Don't fix everything that you *can* fix, just *because* you can.
    Only dither at the last stage, and only if you have to.
    If you can, always mix to 24bit fixed or 32bit float as your final master.
    Always do a mix without "finalizing" or limiting at all, so you can do it later in exactly the amount you want (or the mastering engineer).
    Don't clip digital stuff.
    Learn how to set mic pre-amps so you have enough headroom and the lowest noise.
    If in the course of mixing or whatever, something sounds great, STOP.
    Don't keep tweaking. Do a "Save As" so you have that great moment nailed down, if you insist on more tweaks.
    Don't listen so damn loud. Just 80 to 85dB is plenty.

    Mastering engineer
    SoundCurrent Website, forum on ProSoundWeb Website

About the author: Synthetic
Professional graphic artist by day and aspiring musician by night. I play keyboard and bass as well as write and compose music.
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