Ethan Mates | Interview

What was your first big break in the recording industry?

I was lucky to be able to assist on some sessions with big artists in NY before I moved to LA; including Celine Dion and Jennifer Lopez for producer Ric Wake. However, I would consider my first real break doing Pro Tools and overdub engineering for the Chilli Pepper’s record “By The Way” with Producer Rick Rubin and Engineer Jim Scott. It was recorded at Cello (now East West), which is the greatest studio ever. And, Jim Scott is an amazing engineer. Aside from getting to watch those guys play and record, which is pretty life-channing in and of itself, It was a huge learning experience for me engineering-wise.

You’ve worked with a wide range of artists and musical styles from Celine Dion to Slipknot.. do you have a favorite type of music to work with?

No, I really enjoy changing it up. I’m a little over it with commercial hip hop/pop records, but I think any session I do will teach me something that will make me better for the next record.

What was the last album you bought to listen to?

Radiohead’s King of Limbs. I love how their records sound.

You’ve worked a lot with the legendary Rick Rubin. What kinds of things have you learned from him?

Rick has an amazing ability to strip a song down to its essentials and identify what is and isn’t working.  He is really one of the only producers who can put their ego aside and make bands and songs better without putting his “sound” or whatever on it that makes it identifiable as his work.  I feel like his comments are always coming from an honest place, and not because of some agenda he has.

What 3 tips would you give up and coming recording engineers?

Have many hats. If you don’t play an instrument, learn. Learn how to fix stuff, learn how to read music, know how to edit video, etc. It’s only going to get harder to make a living, you can’t be a specialist anymore. Study the past. There’s a reason everyone wants vintage gear, or wants to model it. Old albums sound better. Find out why and apply it to your work. Record everything you can. I’ve been at this almost 15 years and I’m learning every time I sit behind a mix.  Every session you do will make you a better engineer and more desirable to hire. You have to project confidence to get hired as a freelance engineer, so you better have the skills to back it up…

What Slate Products do you use, and can you describe your experiences with them?

I use FG-X all the time. I mixed a ton of live performances for Linkin Park from their last tour, including many tracks that ended up as bonus tracks on the record, as well as a dvd of their show in Madrid, and the FG-X was on all of it. I have actually used it in shootouts with real mastering engineers and it won. My Pro Tools editor, Andy Hayes, uses Trigger all the time now, where before he did everything by hand and wouldn’t touch a plugin, as they all ended up being more work than by hand.