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‘What is a Grind Opp?,’ you ask? It is a job opportunity. A help wanted ad.
Persistence and paying dues:
Isaac Wolfe earns his stripes at the Record Plant
Recording Connection student Isaac Wolfe is a great example of these two things working together. Not long after beginning his apprenticeship with audio engineer Matt “Linny” Linesch (Van Halen, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros) at United Recording in Los Angeles, CA, he proactively began applying to dozens of studios in the area until a random email landed him an entry level position at the Record Plant, one of Hollywood’s most prestigious recording studios. Isaac’s musical journey is a bit of a winding road, as he tells RRFC he actually started off pursuing a career in film production. “I studied film in high school,” he says. “I got a pretty thorough education in film production and then, when I was applying to colleges…I spent one year at school in Orange County and really did not enjoy it. I don’t know, maybe growing up in San Francisco, and then coming to the O.C., it was just like a culture shock, or maybe I was just kind of losing my fire for film. I don’t know what it was, but it became increasingly clear to me that film production was not the heart that’s within.” All during this time, however, Isaac says he’d nurtured a love for music that seemed to be growing even as his “fire” for film was waning. For a self-described “middle-class white Jewish kid in San Francisco,” it seemed a bit odd even to him that he was most drawn to rap music. “I always connected a lot with it,” he says. “I listened to these stories of kids, you know, talking about gang violence and growing up and struggling, and I felt far more emotionally connected to those stories than to, you know, like, indie rock songs or EDM. For some reason, I don’t know what it is, it’s always moved me a lot…I played in a bunch of different bands. I played piano and drums growing up, and then me and my friends would always get together and kind of rap with each other because all of us listened to rap music and it was a fun thing for us to be able to do, and kind of a non-committal relationship to music. And then as soon as I left San Francisco, I kind of shifted my mentality…[If] it’s something that I enjoy doing and that makes me feel good about myself, a good creative outlet, then why not start taking steps to kind of create a more professional relationship with it?… After his move to L.A., Isaac says he started off working on his own music, but eventually came to realize he was more interested in the production side. “It became clear to me that I was really far more interested in the technical part of music-making,” he says. “I really enjoyed kind of the attention to detail and spending hours working on the computer, kind of fine-tuning the song.” That’s when Isaac had an epiphany that ultimately led him to the Recording Connection. “In the middle of the night,” he says, “I was lying in bed, and I was thinking about what I was doing, and I was getting tired of telling people that I was in L.A. trying to promote a record because it didn’t feel like that was really what I wanted to do. I impulsively pulled out my computer and started looking online at the different kind of audio engineering programs and I saw Recording Connection and it looked really cool… I sent somebody a message telling them that I was interested in learning more about it and got a quick response, and it all happened very quickly.” Before he knew it, Isaac was placed as an apprentice with Matt Linesch at United Recording. “As soon as I met him,” Isaac says, “I knew that it would be incredibly beneficial to spend time with somebody who was as successful and experienced as he was.” Besides learning the ins and outs of recording and mixing, Isaac says he’s been particularly impressed watching the way his mentor deals with clients. “Every time I see him in the studio with recording…people who are paying him to work on their music, he is open to every suggestion,” he says. “It’s like he becomes this significantly softer and more open guy when he’s around the artists, and that was very cool to see…You can know everything about your system and about your console and, you know, maybe you’ve produced hundreds of albums and you know exactly what to do, but when you have somebody expressing themselves- somebody who’s paying you to, you know, kind of help guide them, that they express themselves creatively, I think he understands how fragile that moment is and how fragile that connection is, and he really does a good job at making artists feel safe and comfortable and like anything that they suggest is worthwhile.” Meanwhile, having become recently unemployed, Isaac decided not to wait until he graduated to start finding his entry point in the industry—and that’s where the persistence and dues-paying we spoke of earlier came into play. “I actually just applied to a ton of different studios,” he says. “I must have applied to 10 or 15, or 20 different studios and, all of which, kind of said the same thing. It’s just like, ‘Hey, we’re not, you know…’ Admittedly feeling discouraged, Isaac remained persistent, including sending a random inquiry to the Record Plant. “I somehow got access to their email,” he says. “It didn’t seem like that was the type of e-mail that anybody would check…and so, I randomly sent it off one evening, kind of in the midst of other applications…I didn’t spend a whole lot of time crafting my articulate message to them. It was just kind of a two-sentence sort of deal. And I woke up in the morning to a call from one of the guys at Record Plant, saying they got my e-mail and that he wanted me to come to the studio within the hour to interview for a position…I went there and they said they were looking for a runner, and that the only thing that I needed was a car…and so, I lied and I said that I had a car and they said, ‘Okay, well you have the job, so take the weekend to think about it and call us on Monday and we’ll get you started.’…And so, I went home and I emptied out my savings account and I got a car.” Persistence having paid off, Isaac is currently splitting his time between apprenticing with Matt and working at the Record Plant as a runner. “It’s a hard position,” he admits. “But they have a pretty clear promotion system…They only hire their assistants and engineers from the runner staff. They don’t hire from…they don’t outsource or hire from the outside. Everybody who is an engineer there started off as a runner…I’m very grateful that they’ve taken me in. It’s a tough job, but I really feel like it will pay off, and I’m enjoying it.” Meanwhile, as Isaac continues learning from Matt and “paying dues” at the Record Plant, he has long-term plans to put his skills to use for himself. “What I, ideally, would like to do is have a studio,” he says, “and have artists and bands come through and kind of talk about what they want to do, what sort of projects they want to put out, and help us come to fruition…I think that my strong suit would be taking somebody else’s content and really fine-tuning it and paying tremendous attention to detail, so that it sounds, you know, as good and as fresh as possible…We just moved in to this new house in Northeast L.A…We have a back house which is not being used for anything. So, the plan is, as soon as we can get a little bit more money together, we’re going to start constructing that and turning that into the studio space. My roommates and I will be doing that.” With a bit of persistence to get his foot in the door, a willingness to pay dues along the way, and his Recording Connection training to help him master the technical stuff, Isaac is now on a trajectory toward a long, rewarding career in the music industry. No more winding roads for him—it’s obvious he’s in it for the long haul.Besides learning the technical aspects of audio production itself, breaking into the music industry typically requires a combination of two things: a) a persistent, go-getter attitude; and b) a willingness to “pay dues”–that is, to be willing to do the small jobs before graduating to the larger ones.
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