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From: RRFC Mentor News - August 21, 2017


Recording Connection mentor Ira Parker on Presenting
Your Authentic Artistic Self

   With more than 20 years of experience and hundreds of recording projects to his credit, Recording Connection mentor Ira Parker is a solid industry veteran to say the least. As founder of Maximus Music Records in Charlotte, NC, Ira works with a wide range of clients, and in the process he goes the extra mile to make sure his students get a full range of experience. Not just satisfied to teach the fundamentals, Ira also is passionate about helping students learn how to convey themselves professionally and to network in order to get clients. In the following interview, Ira offers some key advice on that topic, shares his secrets on staying inspired—and even brags on a few of his students along the way! Enjoy!  
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RRFC: Ira, you have a wonderful way of comporting yourself. What can you tell us about the best ways to present oneself in the world or in the studio?   Ira Parker: A professional attitude goes a long way. I tell people to check the ego at the door, keep an open mind, and for me, knowledge is the number one key for me for opening and being professional…Always kind of presenting yourself as confident [without bragging]…I tell people the bragging thing’s not cool. Some people will kind of go more in depth about, ‘I can do this, I’m this, I’m that, I’m this,’ when truthfully the work should speak for itself. So presenting yourself as a professional means for one, again, having an open mind. Presenting yourself to others: “Hi, my name’s Ira Parker with Maximus Music Records Studio. I’m the head engineer here, 750 clients, I’ve worked with eight different labels, major labels, features, production. You name it, I can be of assistance to you. Let me know what I can do.” That’s a really good opener for me when I go to establishments, like going to the legendary Saltmine, which since the 70’s has been one of the most amazing recording studios, from The Beatles probably all the way to Ariana Grande now currently. Going to places like that, how you present yourself is always going to matter.  They’re going to look at you and remember you, so how are they going to remember you? How are you going to present yourself professionally to where people are going to be like, “Okay, I like this guy or gal.”   RRFC: So let’s say you want to network, you’re out at a club in Los Angeles and you’re talking to other people. Should you be saying, “Hey, I’m an engineer, this is what I do,” or how does one network themselves in sort of a pseudo-social business environment?   Ira: You need to understand your surroundings, and this is the phrase that your mom or dad always said, “There’s a time and place for everything.”…You’ve got to learn when and where to present…Now, if this is more of an event where you shouldn’t really be approaching people, they’re kind of on a mission, then hold back for a minute. But like I said, it just depends on where you’re at…If it looks like the crowd you’re in front of are a little bit more in the area of performing, they’re writers or producers, then it’s a good time to go up to them and say, “Hey, I see you have interests out here. What music interests you out here?” You’ve got to give an icebreaker… For example, this is my little trick. Take it if you want to, I don’t know. I have a digital flyer on my phone. It’s a two-in-one. It kind of messes with people…My card or my digital flyer on my phone has a $10,000 mike in front of it and my boards. That’s automatically a, “Whoa, this guy is serious.”…It gives me an icebreaker and opening to present myself to them without doing the standard, “Hey man, what’s your number? We do music.” That’s like, no. Everybody is going to look at you like, whatever. It’s being creative, opening people’s minds, and making them think. They’re going to remember you…I’m not saying everybody should do it like that, but at the end of the day it’s how you present yourself at a time and a place.   RRFC: Do you think looking a certain way matters? And can people overdo it?   Ira: That’s a good question…Conrad Dimanche told me something very amazing. He told me that when you’re going to go out and you need to present yourself, you need to give a reason for people to remember you. So yeah, I believe that your image is everything. At the same time, you can overdo it. For example, me, I like to do the cool look. I like to have a graphic tee on, something that’s fit, not baggy, but it’s bright…I’ll have on some fit jeans or something like that. They don’t have to be designer. They could be some ripped jeans or something cool, but they’re fit, not loose…I would have very unique shoes on. I’ll find the coolest Nikes, like pink, gray, and white with a designer tee that’s pink, gray, and white. I have a skinny beard that’s kind of long, and I’ll have glasses to kind of match it—white, pink, and gray glasses, something really cool. When I’m in LA, for example, people will approach me at the airport. They’re always like, “You must be in the entertainment business.”…I’m not saying I wear Gucci every time I walk somewhere or Versace every time I go somewhere. It’s just presenting flavor, presenting who you are, your attitude, your spirit. If you can mimic your spirit on how you look, people will approach you first most of the time. And it’s cool. Be different. I do weird stuff all the time. …Everyone has a look. Everybody has something they’re known for. So you should do your own thing…Whatever you do, whatever your key features are, whatever you do that makes you who you are, you should hone in on that.   RRFC: Can we talk a little about your creative process? Are you one of these guys who, do you hear something in your head and then you want to put that down somewhere? Or are you more like messing with something and then something happens and that inspires you?   Ira: I’m the most random dude you ever met in your life. It’s ridiculous, but I make it work. But I fill up my phone recorders, I’ll fill up two phones with ideas of recording myself. If I’m in a car and I have a feeling, a melody that I cannot get out of my head, I’m going to put a recorder on, and that way I’m not going to get in a wreck, and I’ll hum it and beatbox the drums just so I can get a feeling by the time I get to some electronic goodies so I can actually lay something down…I’ll pick whatever melodies I’m feeling that I have on my phone when I get to it, I’ll drop a good portion of the melodies in my phone, and some way home in my porta-gig or the studio, I’ll at least get the melody out.   RRFC: How do you stay inspired? It seems like for creatives who work professionally, we have to measure our own level of interest and inspiration and know how to keep that well full.    Ira: Right…The thing is how do you keep the flair and fire going? I do weird things…[For example,] if I want an adrenaline rush and I need it on a track, I’ll [rent] a Corvette Stingray, dual exhaust turbo, like something dumb, and I will drive that thing for the weekend and just keep revving the engine, and it gives me ideas. It’s just the feeling in the drive, the rush, it makes me feel that adrenaline, and I’ll take my ideas on my phone and I go to the studio and I put that record down. I’ll start the beat and then I’ll go somewhere.   RRFC: Can you tell us about some of your students and recent grads that have stood out to you?   Ira: Absolutely. Wes Hagy—cool dude. Totally cool guy. Really great. The clients loved him here…The cool thing about Wes, Wes did the program here in North Carolina…We even hired him for a couple small jobs, and he got so inspired he moved to the West Coast. He moved to LA and he’s starting up his own studio out that way and doing production… Julia [Putintsev] is very outgoing…I think it’s super awesome that females get involved in the industry, and I don’t think there should be any type of waiver because she’s a female. I think females are just as great as dudes, and everybody has a great opportunity. I don’t see it any other way, and what she was dealing with at the time was her friends were kind of doubting her because she wanted to do music, and, “Girls don’t do stuff like that,” and I’m like, “Dude, are you serious? Yes they do.” And she was telling them the same thing. So what did she do? She got herself a new set of friends like I told her, and she came in here with her heart, her mind, and her soul like, “I’m going to do this, I’m going to be one of the baddest females ever to step into this business.”… Daniel Katan, which actually I’ve really taken a liking to, and I’m literally training him on my own…I’ve taken him under my wing along with doing the master’s program and training him also in studio management and everything, because he has a background as a financial advisor before he even got into this, and he’s really a good people person, and I need that type of spirit…Chris Hancock is every day going, “When can I come in? When can I come in?” I’ll get questions at all times of the day, all times of the night. I’m really busy but I love the fact that he’s eager to throw questions out, and he always listens particularly a bit closer than everybody else…I’m fond of all of them…Some of them stick out more than others by the questions they ask, the stuff I don’t think they’re picking up, and they pick up on it and drill me on it later…that type of eagerness is exciting because I know you’re learning. I know that the program for the Recording Connection works. I think it’s a wonderful program.   
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From: RRFC Apprentices in Action - October 31, 2016


A Day in the Life of Our Students

   Just in time for Halloween season, “Clown Community” is a Film Connection student-led project inspired by the recent rash of clown sightings across the country. Mentor Deen Olatunji of Rehoboth Pictures (Dallas, TX) created the platform and served as principal advisor while his apprentices worked various positions on the crew.   Clown
  • Cesar Villagrana and Corey Gingrich broke down the script, and distilled it into scenes, props, dialogues, and camera angles.
  • Joslyn Greenard and David Aguirre handled the lights and the sound, and organized their notes during filming to help out the editor for post-production. David also assisted with securing locations and permits for the shoot.
  • Brian Sanders served as writer/director and also procured the talent i.e. actors for the shoot, who did a great job.
  • Noah Cook served as DP and editor. He helped with various cameras and test footage before production began, and during real-time filming.
  • Ananth Agastya organized the crew during production on the set during the first two weekends. Joslyn took over this responsibility during the latter two weekends.
Catch the trailer here.  
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   Recording Connection student Kayla Parker was recently got quite the surprise when she went into her mentor’s studio, Twelve Studios, to attend an awards reception and show her support for all the producers, engineers, and staff that make it happen. “I’m not a tall woman so I’m easily swallowed up by a room full of tall men,” she says. “Suddenly, I hear ‘Kayla Parker, is she still here?’ My mentor and advisor Christopher ‘CAT’ Taylor and Kandice Knight, alongside Twelve’s owner Dina Marto, presented me with the Most Likely to Succeed Award! I was in total awe.” Congrats Kayla! We believe in you!  
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From: RRFC Student Successes - October 17, 2016


Recording Connection student Kayla Parker gets
plugged into Atlanta’s music scene

Kayla Parker If you ask Recording Connection student Kayla Parker about her five-year goal, her answer is simple: “Grammys.”   Indeed, Kayla has been intent on a music career since childhood. “I grew up singing in the church,” she says. “My aunt was the choir director, my cousins were the directors of music. I just grew up in the church, in a musically inclined family. Gospel singers, hip-hop artists, and so on, it just comes natural to me…. I always wrote music, since the age of 10.”   So serious was Kayla about music, in fact, that after graduating high school, she registered with ASCAP, formed a business entity, and made a move with her mom from Huntsville, AL to Atlanta, GA to become part of the Atlanta music scene. Even before moving, Kayla says the Recording Connection’s hands-on studio training was on her radar and part of her strategy.   “I actually wanted to do it when I was in high school,” she says. “I really came into the Recording Connection initially to learn techniques, and to actually get hands-on work inside the music business that I wasn’t getting…I initially came into the Recording Connection to really learn audio engineering from some of the music’s best.”   Before she knew it, Kayla had been paired with Twelve Music Group in heart of Midtown Atlanta, to be mentored by head engineer Christopher “Cat” Taylor.   “When I first went in,” she says, “I went with my mother, my mother tagged along with me. It went very good, because Twelve is more like family, and I like that. So I knew right off the bat that I liked Twelve as the studio that I would like to go with, and it just took off.”   Kayla says her mother was impressed too. “She actually screamed all the way home from the studio,” she says.   Since starting her apprenticeship, Kayla says she’s already acquired a deeper understanding of the production process. “I knew the basics just from working in the studio when I was younger, and YouTube,” says Kayla. “But until you actually go in, actually doing it yourself in a setting like Twelve, you feel like you totally didn’t know what you were doing before….Learning how to work the soundboards as well as working it on the computer in Pro Tools is very important, and I had no clue of how to do that before. I’d seen it done, but I didn’t know how to do it myself.”   Kayla has also had the opportunity to learn work flow in sessions with talent that comes to work in the studio, such as producer Powlow da Don (Rihanna, Ciara) and Grammy-winning engineer Caveman (Ashanti).   “There’s a rapper here called Roscoe Dash,” she says. “He’s working on his mixtape right now, and I’ve seen how he stacked all his tracks together. And it’s so many tracks. And when you play it, it sounds like something totally different than what you envisioned. Caveman and Chris tell me all the time that your engineering ear is very important, because it’s not what you see, it’s what you hear.”   As for being female in a studio environment long considered to be male-dominant, Kayla takes things in stride. “The majority of the time, if you produce good work and focus on what you need to focus on, then you won’t have any trouble,” she says. “They’ll treat you just like one of the guys. As long as your work ethic is great, you’ll get great results.”   Now settling into her studies, Kayla is excited to have her foot in the door of the Atlanta music scene, and is already applying what she’s learning to her own hip-hop/R&B sound. “My goal is to try to do as much as possible,” she says, “but my main goal is to focus on producing my sound, as far as controlling my sound more and developing my sound. I would love to work with other artists as well. That way I can still do what I do as far as audio engineering, but also do it with other artists, more than just myself.”   From what we can see, Kayla is well on her way.   
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From: RRFC Apprentices in Action - September 26, 2016


A Day in the Life of Our Students

   Kayla Parker Recording Connection student Kayla Parker (Atlanta, GA) has been having a whirlwind of a time at Twelve Music Group: “I’m just in disbelief at all the opportunities the Recording Connection has already provided me…The main thing I take away from Twelve every single time is to never limit yourself and always continue to grow [and] that the people around you are just as important to your career as your actual music is. How you nurture each relationship will determine how successful you are…I have been working with two of my mentors; both have taught me so much so far. My second mentor is Rondal “Caveman” Rosario… He has one Grammy under his belt with singer/songwriter Ashanti for the song titled “Rain On Me.” With his experience, combined with my main mentor “CAT” [Chris Taylor], I am learning so much words can’t even describe. I am looking forward to everything that’s about to take place.”    Libby Belcher Just weeks into her apprenticeship, Libby Belcher (Amarillo, TX) is getting first hand insight into audio engineering at Animal Kingdom Recordings with her mentor Nick Schmitto: “This week we mixed and mastered several songs for different artists of different genres. I also observed my mentor while he created beats for use in hip hop songs. My mentor is working on my first single as well and showing me all the details that go into making a song from start to finish.”   
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From: RRFC Mentor News - June 13, 2016


NUGGETS OF TRUTH: Recording Connection mentor Ira Parker on pushing the limits

A true music industry veteran, Recording Connection mentor Ira Parker is the owner and chief producer/engineer for Maximus Music Records, one of the top recording studios in Charlotte, NC, serving clients like Jadakiss, DMX and many others. As a Recording Connection mentor, Ira is passionate about training up new talent and always looks for opportunities to push his students to expand their skills. In a recent conversation with RRFC, Ira shared a bit about his own journey into music and offered some insights into his teaching style—and even shared how he sometimes gains new perspectives from his students, as well! The best nuggets from that conversation have been mined for you below.  
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Recording Connection mentor Ira Parker

Recording Connection mentor Ira Parker

ON THE TYPES OF CLIENTS HE SEES AT MAXIMUS MUSIC:   “We do all music. I guess it’s kind of a cliché because it looks like there’s a lot of rappers and R&B artists up there, but we do all music. My guys are very versatile. I do a lot of pop. I’ve been doing a lot of alternative acoustics lately with guitar and vocals. I’m very good at that. Me and my guys, we do R&B, pop. We do soul…Of course, we have done a lot of hip-hop. In the building, we’ve had Jadakiss, Beethoven Beats, we’ve had DMX, Naughty by Nature. Currently, we had Yung Joc, Yung Ralph, a couple of [the] Barrino family, which is Fantasia’s family–Joe Barrino, which they call Teeny on the VH1 episode…a reality show with Fantasia. We had her brother Ricco Barrino. Ricco, he does a lot of work, a lot of R&B work.”   WHAT HE SEES AS THE STUDIO’S BIGGEST ADVANTAGE:   “Our mixes are what we’re known for. Our guys are just amazing…We’re dealing vintage equipment and having it modified, power supplies taken out, more beefy power supplies put in, analog railings, the headroom and some of this older vintage equipment which allows us to push the envelope a little bit harder than anybody else.”   ON WHAT DREW HIM INTO A MUSIC CAREER:   “It was on my mom’s side of the family. My mom taught school. She was a teacher for 33 years, the majority of that. She was a music teacher for elementary kids, school kids…My uncle was a jazz musician named Matt Smith. [He] was like my hero when I was a little kid…I learn differently so I couldn’t–it was hard for me to pick up instruments like that because I repeat a lot. It was hard for me to go past measures. So I guess falling into engineering…I could just take steps and try to go over it until it’s correct. It’s more like problem solving if anything, so I guess it kind of really worked out, which makes me pay attention to meticulous details a lot of people just miss. So that may have made me keep coming up with my own sound. I’m even nerdy enough to take apart equipment and modify it to get extra measures out of a sound.”   ON WHY HE DITCHED COLLEGE TO LEARN HANDS-ON:   “I ended up going to school for broadcast communication. I was bored senseless…I was antsy, and we’re in the classes, some in the actual audio room…kind of like a station, but it wasn’t for the college set up…I ended up putting down broadcast. I just started following myself into audio engineering and ran into a couple of great guys at the time that were actually teaching me. I just kept learning from there.”   ON WHY HE MENTORS FOR THE RECORDING CONNECTION:  
Control Room A in Maximus Music

Control Room A in Maximus Music

“I’m always providing information to and for someone and explaining it…It’s just a good feeling knowing that you can get that light bulb to go on in somebody’s head. This program should be for everybody: songwriter, artist, producer, engineer, whichever one you want to be…The biggest advantage is you’re working with the recording studio…instead of paying a very, very large amount, and maybe not acquire the attention that is needed…you’re doing all three at one time, you’re learning, then you’re learning hands-on, then you’re taking a quiz, and then you get to come in and watch it happen realistically every week. The only real way to learn is to be around it enough.”   ON HOW HE PUSHES HIS STUDENTS TO STRETCH THEIR LIMITS:   “I think if you’re going to be here, you should get pushed, because if you’re not pushed, you’re just going to be mediocre and moderate…You’ve got to push the limit. You got to jump on top of the mountain. You got to get up there somehow. So that’s what I do. I’m always trying to find, every week, I’m trying to find a new way to push the limit. I think everybody should.”   ON HOW HE GAINS NEW PERSPECTIVES FROM HIS STUDENTS:   “The really cool thing is people like Wes [Hagy]. Wes is curious. His curiosity leads to doors. Sometimes, it makes me scratch my head like, ‘I never thought about that.’ When he gets it, he gets it, and it’s so cool. The fact is he got it by working with me and working with the Recording Connection, and because I push him a little bit harder, then he starts pushing back, and I like that…Sometimes, I get new ideas because of guys like him. I’ve got Spence [Green], I’ve got Demario [Rushing], Chris Wedlock finished the master’s program. These guys are…totally enthused. They make it worth the reason to be in this business in the first place because you know you’re doing something that’s making a difference.”   ON WHAT HE LOOKS FOR IN AN APPRENTICE:   “First of all, I don’t have to do this; I want to do this. So if you’re really not going to take it serious, I’m not going to take you serious. I am going to go about my life that is serious, for other future students that might need mentoring they really want to take it serious, because at the end of the day, if you’re wasting your time, you’re probably wasting someone else’s time, too.”   
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From: RRFC Student Successes - May 23, 2016


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Wes Hagy finds his groove and gets to work

Recording Connection grad Wes Hagy

Recording Connection grad Wes Hagy

Recording Connection grad Wes Hagy is a busy guy these days. Recently hired as a tracking engineer by his mentor Ira Parker at Maximus Music in Charlotte, NC, he’s making the most of the opportunity to expand his working knowledge of audio engineering.   “I just want to try and master the tracking/engineering situation at Maximus as much as possible,” he says, “just get as much experience as I can, with working with artists, working with that equipment, just getting the feel for that environment, and that would give me a little bit better idea of what I’m going to want to do specifically on a day to day basis in the music industry for the rest of my life.”   Wes’ personal journey into a music career is an intriguing combination of trial-and-error and self-discovery. Having a naturally analytical mind (“math head,” as he calls it), it seemed apparent he was meant for some sort of engineering, but finding his passion in it was another story.   “I was pretty good at math, and I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do,” he says, “so I went for Mechanical Engineering at NC State. Did a couple internships there, and just couldn’t really find the passion associated with it that I was looking for, but I knew that I really had the engineering mind.”   Disillusioned, Wes dropped out of college for a couple of years, to the chagrin of his parents. “My parents were telling me, ‘You’ve got to do something. You’ve got to legitimize something. You got to go to school. You need to figure out another place you want to go,’” says Wes. “Because to my parents, how they grew up, that’s the way it works. You go to grade school until you’re 18, and then you go to college, or you go to trade school, or you go to some sort of school. That’s the way there were taught, and, necessarily, the way that I work doesn’t really have to be that way. I was trying to make sure exactly what I wanted to do and the exact education that I wanted to get before I just jumped into another school.”   All the while, a different passion began to stir inside Wes’ soul—namely, a love for music that had first begun when taking piano lessons as a kid. “After about two years, [I] met up with a buddy of mine who had been making music, really, since he was about…honestly, ever since I can remember,” he says. “He used to sing or rap for everyone [with] his Apple Mac computer, like those ones that were like the station that had the microphone on the back of it. We got together and just started talking about the things and what we wanted to do as far as music goes, and it just really intrigued me.”   That rekindled passion eventually led to Wes taking up music again, along with an interest in shifting from mechanical engineering to audio engineering. But he knew he didn’t want to go back to school in the traditional sense.   “My mom and I were doing a lot of research looking for a place where I could get hands-on,” he says. “I had been in so many schools and learned from someone just talking at me in a classroom. I was like, ‘If I don’t get in a place where I can actually work hands-on and see how a real studio operates, then I don’t think I’ll ever get the balls to actually start it by myself.’”   That’s when Wes says his mom discovered the Recording Connection. “I talked to a couple of admissions counselors,” he says. “I was actually amazed at how interested they really were in what I wanted to do, and really the direction I was trying to take my life, and they were very helpful every time I called back. It was just impressive to me, and it was worth the money and the time for me to see what the Recording Connection was like, because I’d never heard of anything, really, else like that before.”  
Control Room A in Maximus Music

Control Room A in Maximus Music

From his first meeting with his mentor, Ira Parker, Wes says they hit it off. “He was a very welcoming guy. I didn’t feel intimidated or anything like that. I just really felt welcomed and at ease…After the interview, for the most part, every time I gave him a call, every time I texted him, or really, if there was an opportunity for me to come in, he would let me know…It seemed like he really took a liking to me, and it seems like we may have a little bit of future working together.”   Eager to learn, Wes immersed himself in the process, coming to the studio as often as he could, helping out with organizing and asking questions from his homework during the early part of the week, and sitting in on sessions over the weekends. As he learned the ropes and made himself useful, his passion paid off when Ira hired him as a tracking engineer. These days, even as a paid member of the staff, Wes considers himself in learning mode.   “Some of my favorite interactions with [Ira] are when I get to actually watch him create,” Wes says about this mentor, “when he’s not really in that box mode, but when he’s getting to work with artists, and he gets to do some productions. It’s probably one of my favorite things…And in my head, I’ll have questions, just nonstop questions that I wish I could be like ‘Ira, stop. I need to ask you this right now,’ but you can’t always do that, especially if there’s an artist in the area…[so] I’ll write stuff down, and then we’ll have little interim conversations whenever he gets time…I learn by observing and then doing. I watch him, I watch him in his mode. I watch how he works, and then really just hone in on the key questions I want to get answered.”   In addition to his work at Maximus Music, Wes says he’s collaborating on some tracks with his buddy Justin Allie (the music friend mentioned above), and the two are working on some long-term goals, as well. “The 5-10 year goal is really to have a writing and production company,” he says. “My buddy Justin, he’s into writing lyrics, writing hooks. We call him ‘Captain Hooks’ because he can pull a hook out of his you-know-what in less than a minute and a half. But either way, he’s really good at writing, and I love to produce and create beats…really, that’s the way that I feel like it can get money to start with, to fund the ultimate goal.”   So how does someone transition from a technical career like mechanical engineering to a creative career like audio engineering? While some people see the technical and creative sides as two worlds in conflict, Wes sees them as collaborators, and as an engineer, he actually views his technical skills as a way to give creativity a voice.   “It’s really kind of like you’re this to the point where you’re either one [or] the other, and you see some people that have both,” he says. “But it doesn’t always work that way…I feel like I have that, to the point where I can communicate between the people that have people skills and the creative artists. That’s why my seat as an engineer and my seat as a producer is that much more important, because that artist is going to want to try and communicate to me the message they want to get across, [and] I also need to interpret that message and help them present it in a fashion that these people who don’t understand creativity…can understand it, and feel the music the way that artist intended. Otherwise, that artist could be hidden and not really heard at all…I believe creativity has to start with structure.”   
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From: RRFC Apprentice Media - January 18, 2016




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