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WEEKLY NEWSLETTER October 3, 2016 by L. Swift and Jeff McQ


A man’s world? Recording Connection student
Alysse LeFevre proves otherwise…

Recording Connection student Alysse LeFevre

Recording Connection student Alysse LeFevre

Recording Connection student Alysse LeFevre says she’s noticed an interesting dynamic being a female in the music industry, especially working on the engineering side of the glass.   “[My mentor] Larry is super supportive,” she says. “He’s very protective. He wants to make sure I’m always comfortable no matter what situation I’m in there at the studio…But definitely, you feel different when there’s 10 guys in the room, and you’re the short little girl in the corner that’s doing the dirty work. And they’re like ‘Who the heck is that girl? Like why is she here?’ So, yeah, there’s definitely a different dynamic when you’re female and working in the field. But if you’re good at what you do, and you’re sociable and you’re nice and you can get along with a lot of people, I think you can overcome that.”   Hailing from Los Angeles, California, Alysse’s interest in a music career blossomed early and stayed with her growing up.   “My parents signed me up for piano when I was 12,” she says. And I really didn’t want to do it, but I ended up liking it a lot, and I found that a lot of the people I admired were musicians. And so one day, it kind of clicked with me that I could be a musician.”   That desire led to an interest in learning audio engineering, as well. In fact, Alysse says she actually discovered the Recording Connection as a teenager and begged her mom for two years to let her enroll!   “My mom was pretty resistant to it when I was in high school,” she says. “But I was really persistent, so she finally let me pursue it.”   Alysse was placed as an apprentice at The Lair, a noted L.A. recording studio with a client list that includes names like Katy Perry, One Direction and Ariana Grande. When she and her mom went in to interview and see the facility, she felt an immediate connection with her mentor, studio owner Larry Goetz.   “He showed me around the studio,” she says. “It was a really long conversation. He had us there for like an hour and a half or two hours. I mean, I was really impressed by him and the studio from the get-go, and I haven’t been disappointed since…Everybody there is very kind.”   Since starting at The Lair, Alysse has become immersed in the learning process and the happenings at the studio. A recent high point for her was assisting on a session with indie-rockers Portugal. The Man!   “They’re such a nice band,” she says, “…just really friendly guys. So I was just the assistant and I was micing up everything. And I think they had a set of like 15 mics that they didn’t know they were going to use…I had good conversations with them. They offered to buy me lunch. They’re really fun to work with.”   After waiting so long to enroll, is her Recording Connection apprenticeship all Alysse hoped it would be?   “I’m really satisfied,” she says. “I love the studio, and Larry’s probably the best mentor that I could have gotten…He’s seen a lot of changes that the industry’s gone through regarding engineering. When he’s teaching you…it’s a history lesson. He’ll tell you the history of everything. It just keeps it so interesting. And he always has really cool insights and suggestions. It’s not the same way reading from a book, because he’s actually done it.”   And what of her mother’s previous skepticism about the program?   “She loves it,” says Alysse. “She even comes in and listens in on the lessons, and she finds it really interesting when Larry teaches. And so that’s been a huge relief.”   As Alysse works toward finishing her basic apprenticeship, she says she hopes to continue on with Larry into the master’s program. Her advice to other students:   “Definitely use the resources that the program provides,” says Alysse. “Tutoring is a huge deal. If you call your student adviser, they’ll definitely show you how things work on Pro Tools. That helps a lot.”   As far as her own future is concerned, Alysse has a goal to work full-time in the studio as an audio engineer. Even so, she sees it as a marathon, rather than a sprint. “It’s learning, so it takes time,” she says. “I think we expect to be professionals right away but it takes time, and we can’t get discouraged by that.”   
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Recording Connection mentor Matt Stein

   A music industry veteran, producer/mixer Matt Stein’s big break into music is the classic case of right place-right time-right skills—a life lesson on the importance of connections. As you’ll see in the interview below, in the span of a few weeks, he quickly found himself in the heart of New York’s emerging hip-hop scene in the early 1990s, working with major players like producer Bill Laswell and artists like The Jungle Brothers. These days, Matt operates out of his own studio, SWAN7 Recording in the heart of Brooklyn, NY, and along the way has been passing his knowledge on to Recording Connection students for the past several years. In a recent interview with RRFC, Matt shares key moments from his musical journey, talks about his approach to producing artists and offers simple but important advice for his students.  
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Recording Connection mentor Matt Stein

Recording Connection mentor Matt Stein

RRFC: Take us through your musical journey a bit. What got you into music in the first place?   Matt Stein: What got me into music, I guess, was being a fan of music. When I got into music, other than just listening, right away I knew I wanted to record and produce. I was a fan of David Bowie when I was a kid. I read an article about a producer that he worked with, Brian Eno, and they were talking about some tricks they did in the studio. And I was like 14 or 15 or something, and I didn’t really have any like idea of what people did in the studio… And reading this article about all this kind of crazy stuff they were doing and experimenting in the studio just kind of blew my mind. And, you know, that was it. From that moment, I kind of knew that’s what I wanted to do.   RRFC: And how did that lead to working in the studio and recording?   Matt: I started buying equipment which, back then, was pretty primitive compared to what we have now and would zone-out in my basement, messing around with recording…Programming has always been a big part of what I do, you know, computer programming, programming music. So even way back, when it was just MIDI and using samplers and outboard synthesizers and stuff before you could do it in the computer…That’s how I got my lucky break in the industry.   It was back in the early ’90s when I moved to New York, and I was interning in the studio…And there was this artist there working, Bootsy Collins, with this producer named Bill Laswell. And they were having trouble programming a drum machine or something…They were like ‘We’re stuck with this drum machine. Anybody here know how to program it?’ And I said, ‘I do!’ So they called me in the room, and I fixed this thing in the drum machine. And then it happened again like on the same client like a couple days later. And so, the engineer on the session, like a month later was–this producer, Bill Laswell, had built his own studio…and the engineer called me at one in the morning one night, and was like ‘Jump in a cab and come out to Brooklyn. We need some help with the computer.’ He remembered and got my number from the studio. So I went out there, and they were working on this album for the Jungle Brothers, kind of early ’90s rap group…So I went out and fixed whatever problem they were having with the computer and the engineer said he’d pay me 50 bucks, you know, just to come out every day and sit in the room…More and more, I kind of was starting to get integrated into the session, because, rather just sitting there waiting for something to go wrong, they started being like ‘Oh, can you do this? Can you do that?’ So I started actually programming for them…This was a Warner Brothers album. And, you know, like I said, I was an intern like two weeks earlier. So of course, I said I would do it. And so that was kind of like my big break. I went from interning to engineering a major-label album.   RRFC: So you get thrown into the deep end with these guys. So does that end up being a job somewhere else? Did it help you land more work?   Matt: I mean being in New York, you know, it’s so compact, you know? You’re just always meeting people. So with the whole sort of thing centered around Bill Laswell’s scene, doing the Jungle Brothers album and then two Golden Palominos albums, was noteworthy enough that people I started to meet at labels were willing to give me jobs…My resume just started building up; I was meeting people. Once you’ve got some stuff under your belt, it’s a lot easier to get jobs.   Recording Connection mentor Matt Stein RRFC: Do you have a specific approach you take with artists? Let’s say I’m an artist coming to you and I want to do a project. What kind of questions are you asking? What do you want to know about me before you work with me?   Matt: I think a lot of it is influences, you know, because it’s so hard to communicate verbally something you’re looking for musically. And so always having examples of influences and things that they like and that they aspire to is always, I think, the best way of communicating what they’re looking for and, of course, you know, hearing their own music as well, what they’re doing. And I think as any good producer, I think it’s the job of the producer to not so much put their stamp on it or, you know, but really being about showcasing the artist, what they are.   RRFC: What do you think of the state of the music industry today, and is there anything you think really needs to change? Are there any cues we need to be taking from the more old-school approach, or things we just need to be doing differently?   Matt: Well, this is a good and a bad thing, it’s a double-edged sword: anybody can be a musician now, or anybody can have a band now, and there are so many bands. And so I feel like in some ways, [before] you had to have some sort of like ability to be in a band. Now I hear and see some bands that I feel like before, when I was in a band, they would’ve never gotten a show…so it’s good and bad. The other thing, I think, what’s killed the business is people decided at some point they don’t want to pay for music anymore. And the industry itself, on the industry side, they’ve definitely played into that with the streaming services that pay these fractions of fractions of pennies and stuff to artists for every play and stuff…not understanding that the people that put that music together put so much of their time and energy and spirit into developing that skill and ability, not to mention whatever it cost to record it and put it out.   RRFC: So what advice would you give to Recording Connection students just coming in? Let’s say someone wants to start the program next week. What advice would you give to them as to how they can make the most out of the experience?   Matt: As trite as it might sound to some, I say just practice. When I was starting out, even after I was already getting work and stuff, I would spend time just messing around, you know, learning, putting together libraries of sound that I liked to work with, just getting to know my gear, putting stuff through processes for the sake of putting it through a process or just so I could really get to know it inside and out. You know, it’s definitely not something that you read a manual on and then you can do it. I’m just constantly improving at it. As cliché as it sounds, it’s true. Every mix I do, I figure something out. And you’re always building on that, you’re just building on your experience. There’s no substitute for that.   
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A Day in the Life of Our Students

   Jocelyne Berumen Film Connection student Jocelyne Berumen (Green Bay, WI) recently discovered her screenwriting mentor Tom McCurrie was hooked on her story! I was so surprised because most of what Tom had to say was praise to my writing. As I write this series, story information is kept from Tom as well. Every time he reads a new episode, he has no clue what is going to happen next. I have fun with it, but there are also troubles with it. Tom shows his excitement for my writing because he wants to know what is happening next, but as he edits, he is not sure where I am going with some things, because I haven’t revealed the complete story. Therefore, he points out some story issues that don’t make much sense yet. This is extremely helpful, because Tom is just like a viewer. The opinions and criticism he gives me help me dive deeper into solving the mystery of what real viewers will be thinking…In the beginning of this program, I didn’t know a lick of storytelling & scriptwriting. It wasn’t my biggest interest, so I didn’t pay attention to it at all. This course not only started by challenging me, it has begun to transform me.”    jacob-richardson Jacob Richardson, Film Connection student at Joe Pollock Films (Minneapolis, MN) recently had the opportunity to assist his mentor on a noteworthy documentary shoot:  “I joined Joe for a shoot for a documentary, being conducted by Joe’s customer, on cases where the suspects are believed to be wrongfully convicted. I gathered that the people interviewed teamed up with The Innocence Project, and the interviewers were attempting to bring light to cases where people have been perhaps wrongfully convicted and/or exonerated of their charges. While I was there, both a forensic pathologist and a lawyer were interviewed. I found both interviews incredibly interesting. During the shoot, my mentor instructed me on the types of angles we would be using, which were both a wide and a close-up. We also set up a tungsten light instead of using the florescent lights the room provided.”   
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