‘What is a Grind Opp?,’ you ask? It is a job opportunity. A help wanted ad.
Where it all happens: Recording Connection student
Mario Ramirez works at his dream studio!
“I’m really into indie…really into [the] music scene that’s going on in Mexico City,” he says. “There’s something about the Spanish language that really blows my mind…something about Mexico City indie rock.” It turns out that most of Mario’s favorite records were produced in his own backyard, at the world-renowned Sonic Ranch in El Paso. Little could he have guessed that by age 18, he would be learning one-on-one in that very studio and by 19, he’d be working as an assistant engineer at the legendary studio, but more on that in a bit… Mario says his love for music started at an early age, when he would go to church with his parents and look at the drummer “like he was the most important member of the band.” He eventually took up the drums and started playing in a band as a teenager, which is when he said he also developed a love for audio. “I just think it was more the fact that I wanted my band to sound good,” he says. “I think that was what triggered my interest in sound in general, basically. And I think recording professionally for an album is the highest level of recording you could possibly do with your band, and I wanted to do the best job I could, record the best sound we could…I knew if I wanted to do something in the music business, I really wanted to make it big, I wouldn’t just do it with half of my effort. I would really commit to it.” Finances were an issue, so Mario began looking for inexpensive schooling options that would allow him to stay local. When he discovered that the Recording Connection could train him affordably in a real recording studio near where he lived, he was hooked. It’s no surprise that he specifically asked to be placed at Sonic Ranch, the nearby recording studio that was already producing most of his favorite Mexican indie rock records. Even so, Mario remembers being more than a little intimidated the first time he came through the doors. “I was really curious to find out what Sonic Ranch would be just because a lot of my favorite records had been done here,” he says. “You can tell that there was something special about this place…coming here was definitely something really nerve wracking for me at first.” But when he met his mentor, producer/engineer Charles Godfrey (Mudvayne, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sublime with Rome, Beach House and Portugal. The Man), he was set at ease. “My first impression of Charles was like I have never seen anyone so excited about music and so passionate about it,” says Mario. “And just the way we worked with that high energy level and always positive, and just try to do our best, I really know that something is special in that, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.” Mario was supposed to attend the studio twice a week for lessons and do his homework on his own. To his delight, Charles gave him the opportunity to toss that schedule out the window. “He was so cool,” says Mario. “He said, ‘You can come every day if you want, and we can just go through the chapters here.’ So…I would go every day to the studio and then I would read the chapter and Charles would go over it with me. And as the session was going on, he would teach me…he would always be just like pointing out little things here and there that wouldn’t be on the chapters for example, or he might think would be really important to know.” That routine helped Mario gain a real-world understanding of the studio that he never could have gotten in the textbook alone. “I definitely do think that it is important to learn the stuff that’s in the textbook,” he says. “Everything I learned has been really useful. But I think it’s also important to think outside of the textbook sometimes, and especially with creative things…I gained a lot of knowledge through the textbook that is offered through the Recording Connection, and also I gained a lot of knowledge just watching producers come in.” Now working as assistant engineer at the legendary Sonic Ranch, Mario is giving it his all and Charles says, “He’s doing nothing but great work… I can see him growing into being a producer and growing into whatever he sees fit.” Constantly learning and striving for excellence is the creed Mario is bringing to his work every single day. “[Charles] wouldn’t settle for something that was not great…I think if you really want to be in the music industry and you want to be a professional, you have to constantly be on top of whatever is new, and that means you have to be learning all the time. And there’s always new things you can try out and experiment with… It’s a continuous learning process.”Most of us have a certain style of music we connect with more than others. For Mario Ramirez of El Paso, Texas, it’s Mexican indie rock.
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