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60 seconds with mastering engineer and PSNEurope columnist Katie Tavini

Tavini on her MPG Awards nomination, the best of 2019 and what she hopes to see from the industry in 2020

Photo by Dom Sigalas.

Last month, Katie Tavini was nominated for the 2020 MPG Awards Mastering Engineer of the Year award, capping off an eventful 2019 that, in addition to her acclaimed work with a diverse array of artists such as Rookes and Stone Jets, has also seen her become a hit on the pages of PSNEurope with her monthly columns. Here, we catch up with her to discuss the year’s highlights and what she’s hoping for from the coming 12 months and beyond…

Firstly, congratulations on your MPG Awards nomination! How does it feel to be nominated?

Thank you! It feels so surreal to be nominated. I still can’t believe it. I’m super grateful for the support I’ve had though, and to the wonderful artists who’ve trusted me to work on their music this past year. How important is it that mastering engineers are recognised at awards ceremonies like this? I think it’s super important that mastering engineers are recognised – it’s an important part of the production process, with a large emphasis on quality checking, creating formats, writing metadata, etc. As most people have probably seen, there’s been a rise in ‘automated mastering’ tools, and having awards like this shows that there’s much more to mastering than audio processing.

Mastering is still seen by some as quite a mysterious art form. Do you think that’s why mastering engineers aren’t as widely recognised as producers/engineers?

To be honest, I think one of the reasons that mastering engineers aren’t as widely recognised is due to self-imposed secrecy. When I started out in mastering, I found it very hard to talk to mastering engineers, and the majority I approached were not willing to share skills and knowledge. I think that some people like the fact that mastering seems mysterious. However, I prefer a much more open approach as it’s enabled me to skill share with some truly brilliant people. Plus, mastering is a very quick process; producing an album can take months, whereas an album can be mastered in a day. That means you work with way more people but for a much shorter amount of time. So it can take more projects for a mastering engineer to build a strong relationship with an artist.

What projects are you currently working on?

Well, now is the time to conform to the mysterious mastering engineer! I’m not sure I’m able to talk about projects I’m currently working on. However, some upcoming releases that I’m really excited about is a very cool single by McBaise and ‘Hitting Skins and Pulling Strings’ by Too Piste, who I also really love. And recently, Rookes released her Liminal EP, which is just glorious. And one of my absolute favourites is the Telling Lies game soundtrack, which Nainita Desai composed. This was performed by the London Contemporary Orchestra and it was an absolute dream to master.

What have been some of the standout moments of 2019 for the recording industry?

I think this year has been so good. So many of my friends are smashing it right now – shout out to Olga Fitzroy and Rhiannon Mair who are now directors of the MPG, and Lauren Deakin Davies and Sophie Ackroyd on their fab new studio jobs. It’s been so empowering to see so many talented women doing so well.

What are you hoping to see from the industry in 2020?

This is such a tricky question. The standard of music created this year has been mind-blowingly good, so more of that. But I’d also like to see studio managers, bookers, labels, etc. taking some responsibility for bullying and harassment. I hear way too often about this stuff going on, and it happened to me when I was a freelance studio engineer. There’s no HR department in the music industry, so I’d really like to see people in charge of the bookings at studios take some accountability for these things. Sorry to end on a downer, but this is the most common subject that younger engineers ask me about. If we don’t look out for them, there’s going to be a skills shortage down the line.