“Superwoman” Alicia Keys

“I tried anything and everything. It’s about whatever I have to do to get this sound.”
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“Superwoman” | Alicia Keys
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SINGLE: “Superwoman”

ALBUM: As I Am (RCA)

DATE MASTERED: Over four months over the Summer of 2007 at The Oven Studios in New York City

PRODUCERS: Alicia Keys, Kerry “Krucial” Brothers, Linda Perry

ENGINEERS: Manny Marroquin and Ann Mincieli with Chad Franscoviak and assistance from Keith Gretlein, Glenn Pittman, Zach Hancock, Kristofer Kaufman, Vincent Creusot, Brendan Dekora, Seamus Tyson, and Seth Waldmann.

MIXERS: Manny Marroquin with assistance from Christian Baker and Jared Robbins

MASTERING ENGINEER: David Kutch

OTHER PROJECTS: Kutch has mastered a wide variety of music for artists including Whitney Houston, Lyfe Jennings, Sarah McLachlan, Anthrax, Kanye West, The Roots, Luther Vandross, and others.

SINGLE SONGWRITER: Alicia Keys, Steve Mostin, and Linda Perry

MASTERING MONITORS: Focal Solo 6 powered nearfields

MASTERING WORKSTATION/RECORDERS: Magix Sequoia sequencing and editing software, Pro Tools|HD, and half-inch Ampex analog two-track recorder with Aria heads

SELECT MASTERING PROCESSORS: Dangerous Music Monitor; Dangerous Music Master; Prism Sound A/D and D/A converters, Manley Pultec EQP-1A EQ, Prism Maselec MEA-2 mastering equalizer, API 2500 compressor, GML 9500 Mastering EQ plug-in.ENGINEER’S DIARY

Last summer, mastering engineer David Kutch received the sad news that his digs, NYC’s Sony Music Studios, would be closing its doors. But as serendipity would have it, Kutch was considering his next permanent spot when a mobile mastering job became his most important gig of the year.

“At that point I got a call from Alicia Keys and her engineer, Ann (Mincieli), to book me for mastering,” Kutch recalls. “Of course, I was happy to be booked for the album, but Sony was starting to look like a ghost town. Then, about three days later, they called me back and asked, ‘Would you be interested in doing it here?’ I went out, took a look, and found the best place to master this record — in the live room (at Oven Studios, Keys’ private recording facility). It’s a great sounding room designed by John Storyk. So, I said, ‘I’m in.’”

Kutch’s entire rig — centered on a Dangerous Music Master and Dangerous Music Monitor combo — was transplanted to Oven for a four-month run. “The beauty of the whole scenario was that there were two studios there,” he offers. “I could be mastering something, go into one of the rooms and listen, go out to my car and listen, go to (producer) Kerry Brothers’ Range Rover and listen, and so on. We had tons of listening environments. Meanwhile, (engineer) Manny (Marroquin) was mixing upstairs while I mastered downstairs. We’d just go back and forth.”

Other than having all the time in the world, the team enjoyed the peace of mind of knowing their masters were safe. “We’re all so proud that the album never leaked,” says Kutch.

(click thumbnail)David Kutch
With Keys’ larger live tracking room serving as workspace, Kutch realized that his normal large monitors would be out. “I knew that I would rely on nearfield monitors almost exclusively. About a month prior, I had discovered the Focal Solo 6 monitors. They really saved my butt on this project.”

All songs were printed to both analog half-inch tape and back to Pro Tools|HD. “It was all about vibe,” he explains. In fact, for the mastering of ‘Superwoman,’ the final came via a few plug-in squeezes in Pro Tools to tape, then back from tape into Pro Tools. “I tried anything and everything. It’s about whatever I have to do to get this sound.”