WCA #166 with Ken Sluiter

Working Class Audio #166 with Ken Sluiter

Working Class Audio #166 with Ken Sluiter!!!

Ken Sluiter is an American recording engineer/producer/mixer from Chicago, IL now based in Los Angeles, CA.

Ken grew up in a small town called Wilmington, IL, about an hour outside of Chicago, IL.  He was obsessive listener of 70’s AM radio and what is now called “classic rock”.  One day while walking through a department store with his mother, he spotted the cover of “Rock and Rock Over” by Kiss.  From that point on, he was hooked.  Every dime he could scrape up went to the record section of the department store.  More records from Kiss, Led Zeppelin, Sweet, Aerosmith, Van Halen, Cheap Trick, Beatles, Foghat, even Styx (Ken was young) were to follow.  This all naturally led to borrowing a friends’ Silvertone guitar, then guitar lessons etc..

While playing in garage bands with friends, Ken was the one that kinda understood how to set up the P.A.  That led to recording rehearsals, shows, cassette four tracking/overdubbing etc….  When his guitar teacher purchased an Oberheim OB-8, he gave Ken his “hand me down” Korg MS-20.  That combined with discovering a college radio station led to a passion (which continues to this day) for all things new wave/synth pop.  Soon Ken was hooking synths and drum machines to his Commodore 64’s MIDI sequencer.  After spending more time “in the city” and discovering the Wax Trax label and Medusa’s dance club, the guitar started collecting dust and the focus became the stiff, cold groove of the machines.

After graduating college in 1992, Ken started his studio career working on jingles in the ad industry-dominated studio scene in downtown Chicago.  The worked ranged from national ad campaigns to local furniture stores.  It was in this environment that Ken learned to record, edit (w/ grease pencil and razor blade) and mix fast to meet the tight deadlines the advertising industry required.  At the same time, he started assisting at studios that recorded local and regional bands.  In 1994, Ken bought his first Pro Tools rig (a four track version that was the size of a fridge) and started working with other engineers as an editor.  This enabled Ken to use his editing-skills learned in the jingle studios with engineers and producers that had previously never been exposed to the power/flexibility offered by the Pro Tools platform.  It also allowed Ken to bypass some of the “dues paying” associated with being as assistant engineer (more on that later).

By the mid-nineties, Ken partnered with Dave Trumfio and Mike Hagler, founders of Kingsize Sound Labs.  For many years, they made indie-rock records for the exploding indie/alternative rock scene that was happening in Chicago.  Some notable acts that worked at Kingsize included Wilco, Billy Bragg, Andrew Bird, Neko Case, Mekons, The Frogs, Archer Prewitt, Kelly Hogan, Jonny Polonsky, Steve Earle, OKGO, My Morning Jacket, Jesus Lizard, The Sadies and hundreds of other bands.  Label clients included Atlantic, Geffen, Warner Brothers, Virgin as well as Touch and Go, Sub Pop, Matador, Merge Records and Bloodshot Records.

During this time, Ken played and recorded with studio parter, Dave Trumfio’s new wave revival band, Pulsars.  Pulsars made two albums for Almo Sounds/Geffen.  Ken also co-founded local power-pop luminaries, Box-o-car, who in addition to recording two records, supported acts such as Iggy Pop, Cheap Trick, Teenage Fanclub, Mathew Sweet, The Kills and many more.

By 2003, as the indie explosion ran it’s course in Chicago, Ken re-located to Los Angles to continue his craft.  As Ken felt he “skipped” much of the assisting phase of a traditional engineers’ career path; he pursued assisting opportunities including assisting Andrew Scheps on Weezer’s “Red Album”, Greg Fidleman on Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “I’m With You” as well as Jim Scott on multiple records.  Ken also assisted on scoring sessions, in which he learned the ropes of orchestral recording from Sean Murphy and Dan Wallin among others.  Ken also stayed busy as a Pro Tools editor working on projects ranging from Barry Manilow to Pink to Metallica.

It was during this time that Ken got involved with EastWest Studios in Hollywood.  Ken was a key member of the crew that brought the studios back on-line as the rooms had been closed since Cello studios closed in 2004.  This included working with the technical staff to “shake out” the analog gear as well as configuring Pro Tools systems for each room.  Ken was also the recordist for the entire EastWest “Hollywood” series of orchestral virtual instruments.  

In 2009, Ken signed on to engineer/mix two records for Jerry Lee Lewis wth legendary drummer Jim Keltner as producer.  That project included doing overdubs with a “who’s who” of rock royalty, including Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, John Fogerty, Shelby Lynne, Kris Kristofferson, Robbie Robertson, Nils Lofgren, Aaron Neville, Mavis Staples, Gillian Welch and Jon Brion.  Ken also mixed tracks with performances by Mick Jagger, Ron Wood, Sheryl Crow, Derek Trucks, Kid Rock, Daniel Lanois, Ringo Starr, John Mayer, James Burton, Leon Russell, Tim McGraw, Neil Young and Slash.  

Other projects Ken engineered and/or mixed include records by The Pretenders, Marshall Crenshaw, Heart, Andra Day, Veruca Salt, Flogging Molly, James Blunt, Divine Fits (Britt Daniel), The Format (Nate Ruess), Ron Sexsmith, Kathleen Edwards, Young Dubliners, MxPx and Dwight Yoakam.

Ken also worked closely with producers Wally Gagel and Xandy Barry on a series of “iTunes Originals” sessions for artists that that included BRMC, The Decemberists, PJ Harvey, Maroon 5, Metric, Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros and Best Coast  

As a producer, Ken has worked with Weezer (”Christmas With Weezer”), B52’s (“Squidbillies”-theme song), as well as soundtrack songs with Debbie Harry and Shirley Manson (“Tehran 1979” from American Gods), Siouxsie Sioux (“Love Crimes”-Hannibal) and Marc Almond (“Snakecharmer”-Hannibal)

Recently, Ken has worked closely with producer Joe Chiccarelli, mixing records for artists such as Morrissey, Augustines, Nightriots, Ivan and Aloysha and Victorian Halls.  Ken has also worked closely with film composer Brian Reitzell on several film scores and soundtracks including “Hannibal” (Season 3) on NBC, “American Gods” on Starz, “Kicks” for Focus Features, as well as ad’s for Nike and Apple.

About this Interview:

Ken Sluiter joins me for a great conversation about 90’s era Chicago,  his transition to Los Angeles, working with Andrew Scheps and Jim Keltner, having a great baby sitter, mixing in the box, social media and much more! Many thanks to WCA Alum Brad Wood (http://www.workingclassaudio.com/wca-095-with-brad-wood/ ) for introducing me to Ken at NAMM.  Enjoy!


Show notes and links:

WCA #165 with Dave Collins

WCA #165 with Dave Collins of Dave Collins Mastering

Working Class Audio #165 with Dave Collins!!!

Dave Collins is an Grammy Award winning mastering engineer located in Pasadena, California. Dave has worked with artists of many genres include Sting, Metallica, Soundgarden, D’Angelo, Bruce Springsteen, and Madonna as well as many major film soundtracks. Dave makes a point to work on projects of all sizes from aspiring artist demos to major label releases.

After over 30 years of experience, Dave  built a new state-of-the-art facility “from the sound up” in consultation with acoustician Thomas Jouanjean of Northward Acoustics in Brussels, Belgium. The studio is specifically designed to provide a creative, yet highly accurate, listening environment – capable of achieving the perfect balance for your sound. Of particular note is the custom signal path Dave has designed.  From equalization, to analog to digital conversion, to dynamics, all equipment has been purpose-built specifically for mastering – these proprietary designs are the result of over three decades of listening experience with proven results.

About this Interview:

Mastering badass Dave Collins (Sting, Metallica, Soundgarden, D’Angelo, Bruce Springsteen, and Madonna) joins me to discuss his background, how he got into mastering, working with projects of all sizes, budgets and location. We also touch on in the box mastering, keeping your perspective about working in audio compared to working in other industries, the importance of listening and keeping your overhead in check. Enjoy!

Show notes and links:

WCA #164 with Steve Albini

WCA #164 with Steve Albini

Working Class Audio #164 with Steve Albini!!!

Steve Albini needs no introduction really. Musician, engineer and studio owner known for his work with Nirvana, Page and Plant, PJ, Harvey as well as thousands of other bands. Yes, thousands. Steve is well known for his long term practice of sticking to analog recording methods and his dedication to the bands he records with regards to respecting the band dynamic. He also has played in the bands Big Black, Rapeman as well as his current band Shellac. Steve is  part of a program called  the Letters to Santa Program of Chicago with his wife Heather Whinna and Jeff Tweddy of WIlco known for it’s work raising money for poverty stricken individuals and families in the Chicago area.

About this Interview:

Steve Albini joins me to chat about fascist haircuts, analog longevity, the strengths and weaknesses of digital recording, structuring your studio business for the longterm, reusing analog tape, surviving 20 years running Electrical Audio, The Letters to Santa program, poverty and the cycle of money. Enjoy! –Matt

Show notes and links:

WCA #163 with NAMM 2018

Working Class Audio #163 with NAMM 2018!!!

NAMM 2018 was a fantastic experience this year. The crowds were massive, the activity was electric and there was sooo much to see. In this episode I give you a recap from not only my perspective but also from the viewpoint of my friends Chris Selim from Mixdown.Online and Lij Shaw from Recording Studio Rockstars. There’s also interviews with Universal Audio and Whitestone Audio. It was a great time and the amount of cool people and products was encouraging. Enjoy!

Show notes and links:

The People:

The Gear:

Breakfast 4 days in a row!

Colin from McDSP Interviewing me.

The killer new desk from Zaor!

The lineup from Universal Audio!

The amazing Whitestone Audio P331!

Michael Beinhorn breaking down Black Hole Sun for us!

Jacquire King laying out the wisdom at Mix with the Masters.

WCA #162 with John Karr

Working Class Audio #162 with John Karr!!!

John Karr is  well regarded as one of the top sound engineers in San Francisco, with a professional career spanning over 30 years, engineering shows and albums for over 20,000 bands, in every genres you can imagine.  From recording studio’s to local house gigs to national tours of theaters and large music festivals, across the United States, Japan and Europe.

John has worn the hats of F.O.H. and monitor engineer, studio producer, session musician, composer, and live sound mentor @ at S.F. City College and Expressions School for Music in Emeryville Ca, He has over 60 album recording credits, including the theme songs for KALW Rose Agular’s Your Call Radio and KSAN Steven Weed’s Weed in the morning. Other notable accomplishment’s include 7 years tenure as head sound engineer/manager and sound system designer of The Independent – which has won international praise as “The Best Sounding Live Music Venue in San Francisco”.   

About this Interview:

John Karr joins me for a great chat covering his approach to working in multiple genres, accepting gigs of all shapes and sizes, bringing humor and humanity to the audio work environment and how he dealt with an accident that left him without the use of his legs for 6 months. John has been working his ass off since arriving in San Francisco 1988 and it’s a pleasure to have him as my guest. Enjoy!


Show notes and links:

WCA #161 with Matt Donner

Working Class Audio #161 with Matt Donner!!!

Matt Donner holds a Bachelor’s degree in Quantitative Business Analysis (Penn State) and a Masters in Music Technology (NYU). While developing his Producer and Engineering chops in NYC, he went on to perform for various TV studios and John Cale (Velvet Underground) that included 3 feature film scores. After signing his band to an indy record deal, his cross-country tour brought him to SF where the drummer exploded – how typical.

Matt quickly found himself as Regional Technical Director for Guitar Center and the Pro Tools Support Lead for the Cutting Edge Audio Group.  There, he served as studio designer, installer and trainer for the likes of Joe Satriani, Metallica, Spearhead, Santana and the SF Jazz Fest as well as many private studios including Wally World (Walter A., N’Sync, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion).

In January 2000, he and Greg Gordon began working together exclusively at Pyramind where they began running the hybrid Production/ Training businesses. Matt has served the company as Chief Engineer, Senior Producer/ Composer, Chief Technical Officer, Vice- President and now as CAO and COO. He helped grow the Pyramind Training program from a single 24 hour class to the highly-touted 900 hour 12-month Complete Producer. He has trained thousands of students, mixed/ mastered dozens of records and has published several magazine articles. Matt has also written two texts on Pro Tools (Thomson Press) as well as the Pyramind Training three-book series published (Alfred Publishing). He’s best known now for his YouTube series “The Breakdown” on the channel “Pyratube”.

Matt currently lives in San Francisco and Davis, CA with his wife, two children and three dogs. He has trained in Mixed Martial Arts and Bak Mei Kung Fu for years and on good days, surfs the Pacific Ocean on his Al Merrick 6’ 2” fish.

The Pacific usually wins.

About this Interview:

Matt talks with me about Pyramind and the three prong approach to preparing students for the real world of audio. We also discuss survival, failure, gear lust and work life balance amongst a few other key topics. I’ve known Matt Donner for 20 years and have great respect for him so it’s an honor to have him on.


Show notes and links:

WCA Studio Before and After Zaor Makeover

WCA #160 with Joe Costable

WCA #160 with Joe Costable

Working Class Audio #160 with Joe Costable!!!

Joe Costable started his  career in Houston, TX, at Studio 7303; the largest studio in the area, and at that time the hub of Hip-Hop. Starting as an intern, Joe eventually moved up the ranks as an engineer working with many prominent artists and producers, such as Mike Jones, Scarface, Mannie Fresh,  Gerald Levert, and many others.

A few years later he moved back to his native New York for a short stint at the Island Def Jam Music Group, where he learned the other side of the industry in the A&R department while building his clientele as a freelance engineer. Joe landed his first mixing gig with a few Good Charlotte songs, some of which landed on the Cardiology record.

In the years since, Joe has worked with many more artists in genres from hip-hop to shoe gaze. His work has been everywhere from top 10 at radio, selling millions of copies worldwide, national ad campaigns, to being featured on the most underground of music blogs. While the majority of his work is with Alternative, Rock, and Pop records, Joe loves getting an opportunity to expand his abilities and paint a new picture. Joe is  a member of the Audio Engineering Society and a voting member of The Recording Academy as well as  an average home brewer and an avid hiker. 

About this Interview:

Matt speaks with Joe about his early days in Houston making Hip Hop records, hustling in New York, mixing in the quite and remote town of Patterson, NY, making a living and photography as well as many other topics. -Enjoy!


Show notes and links:


WCA #159 with Matt Allison

WCA #159 with Matt Allison

Working Class Audio #159 with Matt Allison!!!

Matt Allison started Atlas in 1996 with a vision to fill a void in Chicago’s Punk Rock scene, offering bands a refuge to bring their music to life. 21 years later, Atlas has become a Chicago staple. Matt has worked with an extensive list of artists including Alkaline Trio, The Lawrence Arms, and The Menzingers, to highlight a few. Matt continues to record at Atlas but focuses most of his time on mixing and producing artists.  Enjoy!

About this Interview:

Matt speaks with me about running a studio in Chicago, landlords, leases, recording on black face ADATS, mixing at home, working with punk rock bands and much more! Eric Arway must be thanked for suggesting Matt as a guest!

Happy New Year!

Show notes and links:


WCA #158 with Eddie Kramer

Working Class Audio #158 with Eddie Kramer!!!

After moving to London from South Africa, Eddie Kramer began his recording career working at three of the most legendary studios in rock, Pye Studios, Regent Sound and Olympic Studios, where he recorded Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Traffic and a myriad of other major recording stars.
In 1968 Kramer came to work at the Record Plant in NYC, engineering Hendrix’s “Electric Lady Land” LP, and also worked with The Vanilla Fudge, Joe Cocker and NRBQ. In 1969 Kramer went independent, producing Johnny Winter’s first LP and engineering “Led Zeppelin II,” acknowledged by fans and critics alike as perhaps that bands most influential work. In 1969 Jimi Hendrix hired Eddie and architect John Storyk to build a state of the art studio. After 13 months Electric Lady Studios was complete, and Kramer served as its Director of Engineering from 1970 -1974. Electric Lady became one of the world’s most popular recording studios and still rocks the world today with it’s great sounds.
Eddie continued to man the boards for other projects, including the best-selling Woodstock soundtrack, which made Kramer one of the most pre-eminent producer/engineers of live albums by rock artists of the era. He worked on live recordings by Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Kiss, John Mayall, the Rolling Stones, Peter Frampton, Joe Cocker, Curtis Mayfield, David Bowie and Derek & the Dominoes. Add to it 6 of Led Zeppelin’s most enduring albums (Led Zeppelin II, Houses of the Holy, Physical Graffiti, The Song Remains the Same, Coda, How the West was Won, as well as Hendrix collections throughout the remainder of the decade (Cry of Love, Hendrix in the West, War Heroes, among others), and you’d think Kramer’s plate was full. But this proved not to be the case.
In 1973, two unknown musicians  (Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley) asked Eddie if  he would be interested in producing their new group’s demo tape. He accepted, touching off a relationship with theatrical heavy metallist’s Kiss that would last throughout the ’70s — resulting in such hard rock classics as their breakthrough Alive, plus Rock and Roll Over, Love Gun, Alive II, Double Platinum.
Kramer spent the ’80s producing and engineering primarily heavy metal acts- Fastway, Anthrax, Alcatrazz, Raven, Loudness, Triumph, Whitesnake, Ace Frehley’s solo outfit, Frehley’s Comet. But the ’90s saw him once again getting involved with Kiss for their Alive III set, as well as numerous Hendrix projects (once Hendrix’s family got the rights back to his music, Kramer was put back in control of overseeing all subsequent releases). During this time, he also co-authored two Hendrix-related books Hendrix: Setting the Record Straight and Jimi Hendrix Sessions. In 1999 he won a Grammy Award for his audio production of the video Jimi Hendrix live album The Band of Gypsys.
In recent years, Kramer has received several more Grammy awards including engineering a single entitled “The Game of Love”, with Carlos Santana and vocals by Michelle Branch, Martin Scorcese presents- Jimi Hendrix –“The Blues” which Eddie produced and engineered, Jimi Hendrix –“Live at Berkley,” Led Zeppelin- “How the West was Won”. Other Best selling albums include “Stone Free:” A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix, featuring tracks by Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, The Cure, Buddy Guy, Spin Doctors and others, which Kramer produced and engineered. He produced and engineered “Our Country” John Mellancamp’s single for the Chevy Silverado campaign, worked with The Pixies Joey Santiago, Wolfmother’s cover of Cheap Sunglasses for a ZZ top tribute album, produced steel blues guitarist Robert Randolph, Buddy Guy and the Family Band.
He is currently working on Acoustic Experience- a contemporary acoustic remake of Hendrix’s songs with artists Jason Mraz/Crosby and Nash, Mike Mc Cready and Brandi Clarlisle, Grace Potter, Rafael Saadiq, Heart, Shinedown, etc.
In addition to his legendary music career, he has been one of the key photographers of the rock world. His unique access and life long friendships with rock’s luminaries have given him access to a world others rarely see. Eddie’s photographs have been exhibited in some of the world’s most prestigious galleries and museums and have become prized possession of international collectors.
He likes to educate the next generation of producer/engineers by sharing his years of experience in the studio. Kramer is a frequent lecturer at La Fabrique Studios in St. Remy de Provence conducting weeklong seminars and workshops at Mix with the Masters.
Eddie continues to engineer and produce new artists. He is constantly pushing the envelope by developing recording software for WAVES, DTS surround sound, designing Jimi Hendrix and Brian May Guitar Pedals for Digitech, he partnered with F-Pedals to create the “Eddie Kramer” signature guitar pedals, worked on the Disney interactive game “Fantasia- Music Evolved”. He is currently working on the “Eddie Kramer Tutorial Recording App” and has a company with his partner AJ Newton called Lunafinery which sells men’s and women’s luxury accessories.
The most recent highlight in Kramer’s career was an Emmy award for best sound in The American Masters Hendrix documentary “Hear My Train A Comin’.
Kramer is currently working on his memoir, From the Other Side of the Glass.

About this Interview:

One day I received an email with the subject line Guest suggestion/Eddie Kramer from Clifton David Broadbridge. The email read “I work with Eddie in Toronto. I’m his studio partner and assistant,, was wondering if you would like to interview him for your podcast? He would be totally into it!” I almost fell out of the chair! Long story short, I replied back, spoke with Clifton, then spoke with Eddie and next thing I know I’m wrapping up an interview with someone who is responsible for some of the most incredible records in music history. I was a little stunned afterwards. Sincere, funny, and full of energy is how I would describe Eddie Kramer. We talk about his photography, Jimi Hendrix and the new record coming out, Led Zeppelin, business, diversification, leaving South Africa for England, the famous Troggs tape, music today vs. the past, rebuilding the El Mocambo club with a studio inside and much more. Enjoy!

Happy Holidays!

Show notes and links:


WCA #157 with Dana Jae

Working Class Audio #157 with Dana Jae!!!

Dana Jae’s career as an audio engineer spans 34 years since the first day she began to record and mix songs on her Tascam PortaStudio in the early 80’s while attending college at UC Berkeley. She formed several of her own bands performing and recording until 1988 when she discovered that the “behind-the-scenes” tech realm was much more to her liking. Dana then began a career as a live sound engineer and has toured extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe as front-of-house sound engineer for a multitude of bands on various record labels and have been a staff engineer at the venerable Bottom of the Hill nightclub since their inception in 1991.

Dana has  owned and maintained a live sound production company since 1989 under the moniker dcj Productions, that has provided sound to the Bay Area community (mostly in the non-profit sector) in both large-scale, outdoor sound events as well as nightclubs and music halls. In 1991, she started recording bands on an 8-track Tascam TSR-8 analog tape recorder and moved into the digital realm in 1993 to 16-tracks of Alesis ADAT in her home studio. In 1995, Dana advanced to using Pro Tools and has been recording exclusively digital ever since, combining audio skills in sound for film as a location recordist as well as in post-production sound design and mixing. Dana says she  still prefers the sonic rapture of “strictly analog” in live sound mixing, however.

Dana co-owned and was the President of APG Records & APG Studios, a record label and recording studio from 1999 – 2004 which had a distribution deal through EMI.

In 2001, Dana was hired to the part-time faculty at City College of San Francisco in the Broadcast Electronics Media Arts department where she has taught Digital Media Skills , Basic Audio Production, Digital Audio Production , Sound Recording Studio, Sound For Visual Media , Advanced Sound Recording, Sound Reinforcement, Audio for the Web , Video for the Web ,Field Video Production,  classes in sound design, audio for animation and games, music video, and computer applications at Laney College in Oakland, CA, Art Institute of California-San Francisco, and Globe Recording Institute in San Francisco.

About this Interview:

I’ve known Dana Jae since the late 90’s. We crossed paths working at local San Francisco pro audio dealers  Audio Images and Cutting Edge  Audio  and also worked briefly together at a small record company.  Since then we have stayed in touch over the years and recently ran into each other at an audio event where we planned this interview. We discuss how Dana got into audio and her journey through live sound, studio sound, film sound, pro audio retail and her current gig at City College of San Francisco. Enjoy!

Show notes and links: