In many ways, Recording Connection
mentor Nick Joswick
epitomizes the passion of the thriving music scene in Austin, Texas. Not only does he perform and tour with a killer rock band called Otis the Destroyer, but he’s also established himself as a top-notch audio engineer, having recorded and mixed for the likes of Morcheeba, Black Pistol Fire, Tje Austin
and White Denim.
Working out of the busy 5th Street Studios
in downtown Austin, Nick is also passionate about sharing his love for engineering with apprentices who are fortunate enough to train with him.
In a recent conversation with RRFC, Nick took a few minutes to talk about who he’s been working with in the studio, the importance of hands-on training and mentorship, and the promise and possibilities of the Austin music scene where he lives and works.
* * * * *
RRFC: did you have any mentors yourself when you were first starting out in the industry?
Yeah, well I guess probably the head engineer at 5th Street at the time… He and I really got to form a good friendship and definitely feel like just getting to pick his brain, seeing more of how the actual industry worked from the insider’s perspective, that he was definitely one of my guides coming up.
RRFC: You’ve mentioned before that you feel hands-on training is important for people wanting to learn studio work.
In big classes of 30 or 40-plus kids, I feel like that personal touch is lost, you know? I feel like it’s a good thing to do to be able to help kids one-on-one and really give them the most bang for their buck, really.
RRFC: What did Recording Connection student Michael Ilumin want to get out of the program when he first came to you?
He produces beats and does a lot of electronic music himself, so I feel like initially he was just wanting to kind of further his outlook in that sense, and further his ability for production and for creating his own music. And then, once we kind of started getting into it and getting into the program, he started seeing how vast audio engineering actually can be and what all goes into it, from the engineering side to the production side, to producing other people’s music and all of that. And he kind of started to really grasp onto everything. So I think he first started off looking to further his own thing, but he also had come into it with a very open mind, not really knowing exactly what to expect…but just knowing that he wanted to learn as much as he could.
RRF: Isn’t it cool to watch someone’s mind expand as you mentor them?
It’s always a really good feeling when you can see somebody’s eyes light up when they finally make a connection of “Oh, okay, so this is why you have to go through a pre-amp first!” –[learning why] you have to plug a mic into a pre-amp, and then from there, you know, learning the signal close of that, and this is why it’s important.
RRFC: Why do you think Austin is so full of music? You can go to five shows a night, during any weeknight.
There’s almost some sort of undefinable quality that just kind of attracts people that are very still young at heart and young in general. This is a very young and happening city, but that just kind of perpetuates the need to have shows and the need to have something to do… Something’s always happening, there’s some sort of event that you can go to, to network with people, or just see music or see some kind of art happening. You know, I can’t literally put a finger on what exactly sets Austin apart like that.
RRFC: Do you think that Austin is like a place where artists can go to find themselves?
Absolutely, yeah. I mean, the culture and the mindset here is very open, and everybody is very willing to experiment and to participate in a lot of different things. And there are a lot of great artists in the scene now that are coming up.
RRFC: What are some of the artists you’ve gotten to work with whose work you’re excited about?
One of my favorites has definitely been White Denim, this rock-and-roll band, also from Austin. I’ve worked with them a bit as a whole band, but then I’ve also worked a lot with the singer for that band—his name is James Petralli. And he and I do a lot of stuff in the studio, and we’ve been doing a lot of kind of teaming up on things where I’m engineering and he’s producing sessions with some local bands in town. So White Denim and James Petralli have been some of my favorite artists to be working with so far, and also this band called Black Pistol Fire, it is kind of right on the cusp of doing some good things, as well.
RRFC: How often do you get your apprentices to work with the different bands that you’re tracking?
I try and get them in every time I have a full band, or even just single artists coming in to track vocals, or whatever it may be. My door is always open to my apprentices to come in and try to learn as much as possible. You know they have their lives, of course, and they have to make a living and all that, so it’s not always feasible for them to come in, but I highly encourage them to come in as much as possible, just because the more you’re in the studio, the more you’re around it and just immerse yourself it, the quicker it’s going to start sinking-in for you.
RRFC: So what is it about 5th Street Studios that sets it apart?
I think one of the main things would be our focus on analog equipment. We still have a 24-track tape machine and a 2-track half-inch tape machine that we mix down to, depending on the project. And then we have a lot of great analog outboard gear, and then our board, as well, which is a Neve Console from 1973…Then also, we have a fairly, not a big live room, but a fairly large live room with big, tall ceilings, and [it] can go anywhere from really tight sounds, really close and really present, to big, roomy, open sounds pretty easily. It’s just a nice relaxed atmosphere and good vibe.
RRFC: If you were giving advice to a potential apprentice about how they can get the most out of the Recording Connection program, what would it be?
I kind of mentioned this earlier, almost total immersion in the program, like as much time as you can spend reading about this stuff and digesting it, and having it in your head…the more you can just be around it and be in it all the time, the faster you’re going to catch on.