New York City (October 25, 2004)–New Jersey producer/engineer Machine was working in home computer-based studios long before record labels saw the value of letting an in-studio artist take control with only a fistful of technology. Machine’s made a name for himself in the hard rock community, producing and mixing King Crimson’s latest studio album and live DVD set, and more recently producing the new Clutch album, Blast Tyrant. But, he started out making hip-hop records “out of thin air.”
“My high school in Teaneck [NJ] resonated with the sound of MC’s and rappers,” recalled Machine. “All I wanted to do was play guitar, but a buddy who had a four-track upgraded to an eight, and he essentially showed me how to make a rap record using a bare bones mixing board with an off-the-rack Atari computer. Track 1 for sync, seven tracks for vocals and beats, maybe a DJ, and you could make a record.”
Machine was soon producing rap records for local kids who would show up on his doorstep holding lyric sheets and little else. “A friend who worked at Sam Ash had access to all this great gear, so I’d make records after classes and assorted part-time jobs. Guys would show up with lyric sheets and in no time they’d leave with a finished production–track, mix, done–all in one day.”
At the time, it was common for home-brewed producers to manipulate their favorite tracks for their personal pleasure, but Machine, who’s expanding circle of friends included John Fryer, was given an opportunity to contribute a remix to a White Zombie collection that turned out to be a big seller.
“I was a White Zombie fanatic from day one, so I couldn’t wait to start messing around with a few of their tracks. Heavy guitars with heavy beats,” he described. “So, I nearly leapt out of my shoes when John suggested I take a shot at Supersexy Swingin’ Sounds.”
The 1996 release illustrated the immense size of the market for creative re-inventions of rock as well as hip-hop. For artists like Machine, this meant that size no longer mattered as far as studio real estate was concerned. “The label guys were comfortable with the fact that I knew how to meld synth sampling with organic instruments,” he said. “It was a long, sometimes tedious process, considering this was in the pre-historic, pre-Pro Tools era. One A&R guy with vision, from V2, which was a Branson label, said, ‘This kid Machine is doing stuff that would really work for a bunch of my artists.’ That was the day I became a producer.”
Machine once again landed at the top of the heap when his manager passed a reel to King Crimson, who jumped at the chance to work with Machine. “It was a fluke,” Machine recalled. “He got them a reel and they reacted to it. It helps that I’m in with Tool, who happened to support Crimson on a stadium tour.”
In selecting Machine to produce the album titled, Power to Believe, King Crimson ensured a strong, heavy sound updating the band’s progressive trademark sound. Primarily recorded at The Tracking Room in Nashville, over the summer of 2002, the CD was followed up by a live DVD, Eyes Wide Open, which gave Machine his first taste of mixing for multichannel.
“It’s the only way to go,” said Machine of 5.1 audio. “It’s how we experience life. Sound surrounds us all the time. It’s amazing to hear music as nature intended.”
When mixing both the studio and live discs, Machine stayed true to his minimalist roots. “Even in Nashville, I never really dove head first into all the available gear. I’m more concerned with the outcome than I am with the toys. A Pro Tools-based system and NHTPro’s M-00 mini-monitors were the key ingredients throughout the process.
“The ‘moo’ is particularly useful when working in guerilla-style environments. I can sit as close as I want without losing any detail or precision, and they never color the sound. Their size makes it easy to pack ’em up for any number of jobs without feeling like I’m schlepping heavy-duty monitors wherever I go.”
The new Clutch record also features Machine’s handiwork, once again creating a big, bold sound with only the barest essentials.
“I’m all for technology that makes my job easier, but it has to do more than make me look good when I’m sitting behind the board,” said Machine. “Less is definitely better, except when it comes to making some loud music–what I call ‘pushing some air.’ Even at its most ostentatious, rock and hip-hop are all about the basics. The sound has to be big and bold, not the studio.”