Here at Overdrive, we are lucky enough to constantly have the opportunity to listen to and write about great music from some incredible artists. It’s easy to forget sometimes, that while the work an artist creates is mind-blowing, it wouldn’t be quite what it is without the meticulous work of a producer before a song or album is ready for release to the public. As passionate as we are about the finished product, we’re suckers for virtually anything related to music, so we decided to dig a little deeper into the world of producing and had a chat with Melbourne producer/mixer, Mike Trubetskov of EOL Studios.
Overdrive: Tell us a little bit about how you got into producing.
Mike Trubetskov: Well, this is a fun story. As far as I can recall, I have been bound with music since I was born. After graduating from music school on the piano, I started to play around with some MIDI and VST instruments on my computer. I even composed one or two albums worth of some crappy-ass songs only 13-year-old kids could dig, but it was still some sort of production! [laughs] When I finally joined my band Gift of Madness, I was ready to do the pre-production for our upcoming album myself. When we came into the studio for the recording, I unintentionally took producer’s duties. The other band members always trusted my opinion on little things – like how to play this part, should we take it off, etc. I think that’s when it really clicked in my head. At last, when I parted my ways with Gift of Madness and arrived in Melbourne, I missed music heaps so I decided to give mixing and production a serious try. Here I am now 4 years later.
OD: Could you briefly explain your process when producing and mixing a piece or body of work?
MT: My process is rather flexible, and I fully rely on musical material to guide my way. Indeed, no two songs are the same. One may call for a band playing it live in the studio environment to get that raw, angry sound. Whereas the other aims for this meticulously polished sound and requires some serious effort to polish all the parts. However, normally I use this so-called hybrid approach for tracking and mixing. For drums and sometimes vocals, we hire studios around the city to get the sonic character we are after. Guitars and bass are carefully tracked at my place to get the super tight sound. And for mixing, I use lots of analog flavours from Universal Audio emulations to get some unique colours going.
OD: One for the music nerds – Can you give us a quick rundown on your go-to gear/software? Do you have your go-to equipment, or does the software you use vary depending on the piece you’re working on?
MT: The tools that I find indispensable and that really define my sound are Universal Audio Apollo for analog colours in my mixes and Axe-FX II for the thick and full guitar sounds. To master these properly, it took me a few years, but now I have a huge array of different colours sounding as close to the original hardware analog units as possible, in the format of UAD plugins and Axe-FX amp models. I work in Pro Tools for mixing and in Logic for production, and I use an external iCON fader controller to inject that human touch into my mixes. Fabfilter and Soundtoys plugins are very useful for surgical precision and interesting effects as well. Last but not least, I work on Focal Solo 6 speakers paired with Equator D5. These give me an objective and full perspective on sounds that I process.
OD: As a rock and metal fan yourself, do you find yourself facing challenges producing music in some of the same styles as you listen to personally? On the other hand, do you think this makes your job easier?
MT: I’d say, it’s the opposite. I find a lot of inspiration in my favourite songs and productions, and this has gradually led me to develop a well-refined personal taste. My philosophy for a sound is big, aggressive, ballsy and epic, but the opposite of sterile. This idea guides me well and gives quite a unique approach to modern productions – especially in the age of prominent over-processing and over-production. I am referring to classical albums from the ’90s and early ’00s which were done on big consoles with little to no sample replacement and automatic alignment (think Fear Factory’s ‘Demanufacture’ or Lamb Of God’s ‘Sacrament’ albums). Of course, the challenge here is that such approach requires much more work, and one can’t just use a template to get things right. I find it much more rewarding, though.
OD: Can you tell us a little bit about what your favourite part of the creative process is and why?
MT: My favourite part of the process is mixing – as that’s when the individual elements come together and start to sound like a record. Also there is heaps of room for creativity and experimentation. What if we put a cranked up hot analog tape onto the guitars or drums? Parallel distortion on vocals? This is just naturally very exciting. I also like to help musicians get their parts just right in the studio and come up with some creative layers/movements as well.
OD: And the most challenging or frustrating?
MT: The worst part is trying to create an illusion of work-life balance, haha!
OD: What other producers and artists inspire you?
MT: Basically all of the groove, progressive and industrial metal from the 90s and 00s. I am also a fan of neoclassical guitar shred. Tony MacAlpine and Vinnie Moore were big influences back in the day.
Few of my favourite producers are Sylvia Massey, Colin Richardson, David Bottril, and Jacob Hellner.
Locally, I respect Chris Themelco from Monolith Studios a lot. He is a very nice guy and we share the same philosophy in terms of production ideas. Also, Adam Calaitzis from Toyland Recording Studio is one of the strongest producers that I happen to know.
OD: Of all the bands out there currently, who would be the ultimate dream to work with?
MT: Meshuggah, Fear Factory, Lamb of God, Machine Head, Chimaira, Rammstein, Killswitch Engage.
OD: What can we expect from Trubetskov and EOL in 2018 and into 2019?
MT: I expect to work on some exciting recordings, participate in more collaborations with local producers and bands. There may be a few interstate opportunities, which is always thrilling. Towards the end of the year, I may be looking to actually start a band again, as I am writing some more of heavy melodic material.
If you’re an artist looking for a producer for your next album, we hope we’ve given you a little bit of insight into how Mike works, or if you’re just a music fan, hopefully, this has helped open your eyes as to what a producer’s role in the creative process is. And whoever you are, go forth and put your favourite album on again and see if you can spot some of the little things in the music that only the producer could have achieved.