WCA #129 with Brad Smalling

Working Class Audio Session #129 with Brad Smalling!!!


Brad Smalling is an audio professional with a passion for music and for making great records – records that connect the artist and the listener emotionally. From the creative to the technical, Brad is passionate about all aspects of the record-making process. Brad’s creative ear and his ability to connect with the artist combine to present the artist’s music as they envision it and often in ways they never considered.

Brad’s desire to learn about audio appeared in his teens while learning to play guitar but he wouldn’t actively pursue engineering until 2000 when he built a recording studio in his basement in Boulder, CO. After gaining confidence through self study, he and his wife, Jenny, hired Wes Lachot to design what would become Evergroove Studio. Solar powered and located on 4.5 wooded acres just outside Denver, Evergroove Studio opened in 2006 and offers a retreat-like setting sought by artists that desire a different recording studio experience.

Brad continues to grow as an audio professional and small business owner by striving for excellence in every project, and pushing himself to be a better engineer, business owner, and person. In addition to studio work, Brad enjoys the challenges of live mixing and recording, as well as the detail of mastering. He works closely with artists and their home studios to help them capture better recordings, or by a combination of home recording and studio recording at Evergroove. This experience led to the launch of the Evergroove Academy of Recording (EAR) – a series of workshops for audio engineers, producers, and musicians focused on producing the highest-quality recordings possible.

When asked about his passion for audio Brad said:

“I love exploring different microphone techniques, the thrill of the first take, and the excitement on an artist’s face when they hear their music in a way that moves them. I enjoy working closely with artists to help bring out the emotion of the song. I like exploring arrangements through overdubs and I love combining all the tracks into a mix that draws the listener into the music. The final creative and technical process of mastering fascinates me and, finally, I love album release shows; that moment when an artist’s work is presented to the World.”

When not in the studio you can find Brad with his wife at a local music show, working with the massive interactive performance art group itchy-O, on a local hiking trail, road-tripping across the Western USA, or enjoying a locally crafted beer on a sunny deck.

Brad joins Matt to talk about his solar powered studio, his partnership with his wife and how hiring studio designer Wes Lachot was one of the best moves he ever made.

WCA #128 with Frank Pappalardo

Working Class Audio Session #128 with Frank Pappalardo!!!


Frank Pappalardo started out a guitarist wanting the rock star dream. After hearing Van Halen’s “Eruption” at a party  he realized  being a killer recording engineer was a more realistic plan  than being a mediocre guitar player. From his early days at Chicago’s River North Recorders to his current 30 plus year gig at PBS’ Soundstage Frank has had an incredible career recording and mixing so many household names including Bon Jovi, Dave Matthews Band, Fall Out Boy, Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers, Sheryl Crow, Sonic Youth, Death Cab For Cutie and the list goes on  and on. Frank talks with Matt via Facetime from Saint Charles, Illinois ( West of Chicago) in the post house where he does most of his mixing work about family, work ethic and his overall approach to audio. Enjoy!


WCA #127 with Craig Schumacher

WCA #127 with Craig Schumacher

Working Class Audio Session #127 with Craig Schumacher!!!


Craig Schumacher has been making noise unprofessionally since 1985. He’s managed to carve out a niche in the desert southwest by be part of an eclectic scene that bubbles out of Tucson and has been an integral part of the sound of  Calexico and Giant Sand, and has recorded artists like Neko Case, Amos Lee, KT Tunstall, Roger Clyne, Left Over Salmon, The Jayhawks, Steve Wynn, and John Doe at WaveLab. He is also a sought after mixer and has been to France, Sweden, LA, NYC, Austin, and New Orleans for mix jobs. He is also an adjunct professor at Scottsdale Community College for the past ten years.

Craig crashes at Matt’s house for a night while on his way to record the new Calexico record. Naturally an interview that was long overdue was in order.

WCA #126 with Peterson Goodwyn

Working Class Audio Session #126 with Peterson Goodwyn!!!


Peterson Goodwyn wants every musician and audio engineer to know how to build, tweak, and repair their own gear. He founded DIY Recording Equipment (DIYRE) in 2010 as a wiki to catalog the world of DIY pro audio. He now conducts workshops, publishes how-to content, and designs DIY kits for DIYRE. In 2014, DIYRE launched the open-source Colour platform for modular, analog signal-processing. Since then, Colour products have found their way into thousands of studios and dozens of designers and have contributed designs to the format. Peter joins Matt for a discussion about his world of DIY pro audio equipment and all that goes into his small working class business.



WCA #125 with Michael James

Working Class Audio Session #125 with Michael James!!!


Michael James is a  New York-born producer/mixer/engineer and has also been a an A&R rep as well as an solo artist himself. He’s worked with  New Radicals, Hole, Far, Robben Ford, L7, Edwin McCain, Chicago, Reverend Horton Heat, A.J. Croce, Butterfly Boucher, Jane’s Addiction, Maia Sharp, The Coronas, and Jawbreaker and many more.

At 19 years of age, Michael  met former Blue Cheer member Ethan James (no relation), the owner and creative nucleus of Radio Tokyo. Michael had just recorded a single, which cost him $15 in studio time.  Ethan happened to walk past the control room as the mix was being played, and offered Michael a record deal on the spot. Ethan took the disc to KROQ-FM DJ Rodney Bingenheimer, who debuted it on his legendary show, “Rodney On The ROQ.”  It was later added to the station’s playlist. From there, Michael joined the band Waves Of Grain, whose indie release “Catch Me I’m Falling” placed Top Ten on several college radio playlists; it was later licensed in the UK, France and Germany.

Radio Tokyo and Sub Pop 

By then however, Michael decided he was to be a producer and engineer, not an artist. He served as a staff producer and chief engineer at Radio Tokyo from 1986-90, where he recorded classic rock giants such as Ray Manzarek (The Doors), John Lang (#1 songwriter of “Broken Wings” and “Kyrie”), Richard Page (Mr. Mister), and L.A. session aces Abe Laboriel (Larry Carlton) and Alex Acuna (Weather Report).  An unsigned band from New York called Too Much Joy came to L.A. to record a demo at Radio Tokyo, which had become a Mecca for credible indie bands.  Michael was given the chance to produce a few tracks for the band. When Too Much Joy was signed by Alias Records, they asked Michael to produce the album Son of Sam I Am.  Rolling Stone, New York Times and Billboard praised the album and Michael went on to produce the band’s major label debut for Irving Azoff’s Giant Records.

Michael soon encountered a band called L7, who asked him to produce their debut album, Smell The Magic for Sub Pop Records. Sub Pop liked it enough to ask him to produce several other artists on the label, including Reverend Horton Heat, who generously offered to perform at Michael’s wedding reception!  And then there was Courtney Love and her band, Hole, whose Sub Pop debut he produced. Michael was taken with Courtney’s sense of style, as well as her sense of where she was destined. “My goal was to keep the intensity while highlighting the pop element,” he says.   Michael went on to work briefly with Jane’s Addiction, Mazzy Star and the critically acclaimed Geraldine Fibbers.

The Major Labels: Find The Good Stuff First!

After an introduction from Sheryl Crow and Beck bassist Dan Rothchild, venerable WEA and Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman tapped Michael to be Head of A&R and Producer at his Warner/Discovery label. Michael made it a point to listen to the boxes of unsolicited tapes that came in until he found Canadian band, Sal’s Birdland, which he signed.  Later, they changed their name to Artificial Joy Club and Michael brought them to Interscope Records for their second album.  The band’s first track wasted no time in ascending to the Top 20 of the alternative airplay charts.  Michael quickly found his next hit, New Radicals.  Working under the radar and without a record deal, he and singer Gregg Alexander slipped into the studio during downtime to work on the album.  Not only did Michael mix, but he also played the guitar solo on “Crying Like A Church On Monday.”  When Michael “shopped” the album, it was repeatedly rejected. The major labels claimed “the stigma against male singer/songwriters” was insurmountable.  Ultimately, however, MCA Records saw the light, selling over two million units of Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too and securing Michael his first Gold and Platinum credits.

Encouraged by Alexander to play and write more, Michael began taking on more work as a session musician.  He wrote several songs with A.J. Croce for Transit, including the hits “Maybe” and “What I Wouldn’t Do,” and played lead guitar on the album, which was recorded mostly live in the studio.  “There’s no substitute for having a tight band perform live,” he says, “because that’s how you get the best vibe; that’s how you capture a great moment.”

Giving Back = Staying Relevant

Michael founded IndieProMix, a remote service that provides bona fide professional mixes to independent recording artists, at sliding scale prices.  “I pitched a few of my favorite mixers (David Kahne, Matt Forger, Tony Shepperd and Rob Chiarelli) the idea of giving back to the indie community because we all started as indies,” says Michael.  “Many super-talented indies only dream of having their music mixed by pros with hits, so we decided to give them the pro experience while keeping our thumbs on the pulse of fresh new talent.  We thought it would be a ‘cool’ thing to do, just because we could.  It’s been a win-win since we launched in 2010.”

Frequently a supporter of good causes for independent recording artists, Michael has been a top tier sponsor of International Songwriting Competition and San Diego Indie Fest.  He has been a featured speaker at seminars, master classes and conventions, including Musician’s Institute, Los Angeles College of Music, EAT’M Festival, Taxi Road Rally, Westlake Pro and Vintage King L.A.

Michael recently launched The Platinum Legacy, a series of pro bono seminars in which he and Grammy winning producer Rob Chiarelli (Will Smith, Madonna, Erica Campbell) share their hit-making tips and tricks, and how to deploy them in today’s modern analog-digital “hybrid” studios.  When asked how he expected a pro bono venture to be successful, Michael responded, “It’s the right thing to do.  Up and coming artists don’t have the same mentoring opportunities that I had, so I’m doing my part to keep classic recording and production techniques alive.  Plus, more generosity yields more abundance in my life.  I’m confident that it will work out well, as it always does.”

Embracing New Technologies

Michael has become one of the most respected and sought-after sound design consultants to the pro-audio industry as a result of his roles as a preset/algorithm designer and beta-tester for several highly successful, award-winning products from Lexicon, Eventide, Sound Toys and TC Electronics, among others.  He is a long-time endorser of Mesa/Boogie Amplifiers, Tom Anderson Guitarworks, Taylor Guitars, Eventide, Manley Labs, Dangerous Music, Chandler Limited, Avalon Design, Tonelux, Glyph Technology and SIT Strings.  “The endorsements, the product development, even the seminars and master classes I’ve taught,” says Michael, “are a logical extension of what I do in my daily activities in the studio. To my clients in those sectors of the music business, my ‘real world’ experiences are valuable in their laboratory or classroom settings. For me, those relationships are critical for two reasons: I contribute to the development of new products which are both practical and creatively stimulating to my recording colleagues and to me; and exercising the technical side of my brain magically broadens my artistic horizons when I’m making records.”

Today Michael is in constant demand as a mix specialist precisely because of his multi-faceted skill set.  As a writer-mixer, he knows when to make the technology get out of the way of the song and the artistry.  As a musician, he can completely rearrange a song when an artist wants to dig deeper—even at the mix stage.  He is frequently hired to do just that, often performing new guitar, bass and keyboard parts at the artists’ request, breathing new life into the song and the mix.

For more info, contact Jan Seedman / Cadium at +1.310.200.4448.



WCA #124 with Owen Curtin

Working Class Audio Session #124 with Owen Curtin!!!


Owen Curtin is a audio engineer and professor of audio technology. He has worked with recording artists including Sheryl Crow, David Gray, Keane, Amanda Palmer and Jordan Knight.  Owen is the co-owner and head engineer at The Bridge Sound and Stage. Aside from his role recording and mixing at The Bridge, he manages all technology and facilities including studio integration, information technology, and acoustic design. One of his latest endeavors includes the Audio Builders Workshop which holds seminars on DIY audio building projects. Along with numerous DIY preamps and other tools, he designed and built a control room monitoring solution for the 500 series. Owen’s courses at Emerson College and the New England Institute of Art includes Adv. Studio Recording, Foley, and Senior Seminar. As the Director of Faculty Development at NEiA, Owen chairs the sabbatical, grant, and titling committees. Owen also runs the online Learning Management System used to support all classes at NEiA.  He holds a bachelor’s in Media Arts from Emerson College and a master’s in Music Technology at from The Conservatorium at the University of New Castle.

Owen joins Matt for a chat to discuss his studio, his workshop, education and how keeping his kid count at two prevents him from being outnumbered!

Show notes:

Audio Builders Workshop

The Bridge Sound and Stage

Front Panel Express



WCA #123 with Jon O’Brien

Working Class Audio Session #123 with Jon O’Brien!!!


Jon O’Brien is the owner and producer at The Music Box Studios in Downtown Fullerton, CA.  In 2009, fresh out of college and after a summer spent interning at Blackwatch Studios in Norman, OK, Jon returned home and began recording local bands out of his parents’ living room. Since then, Jon has spent the last 7 years recording and producing over 80 bands and artists in the Southern California area.  Many of the clients continue to frequent the studio year after year.  In a constant effort to improve his recording space, Jon has moved studios 3 times in the past 5 years, all the while, scouring craigslist and picking up unique instruments and gear for clients and producers to use. Eventually landing at his current and favorite space in Downtown Fullerton, Jon has launched a new studio model that focuses on pairing clients with like-minded staff producers. Jon has worked with bands such as Young the Giant, Listener, Travelers, Yellow Red Sparks and Roah Summit.  Today, Jon is 29 and he and his wife are expecting identical twin girls; sure to be producers and engineers in the making.

Jon joins Matt for a discussion about SWAT teams, fake lawyers, health insurance, crack pipes, and running recording studios. All related of course! Enjoy.



WCA #122 with Kurt Andress

Working Class Audio Session #122 with Kurt Andress!!!


Kurt Andress is a Business Manager for Working Class Audio guest Mitch Dane ( WCA #075). Kurt is also an old friend of Matt’s going back almost 30 years. Kurt’s background before moving to Nashville was as a musician in New Mexico working at Mesilla Valley Music where he built stage gear and flight cases, and owned a stage lighting company. Kurt moved to  Nashville in 1991 and graduated from Belmont University in 1994 with a degree in Music Business. After graduating he worked for a popular Christian music band called White Heart for a couple of years and then started KSA Management in 1996. In addition to Business Management in the music industry Kurt is also a real estate investor and property manager. Kurt and Matt talk money, debt and the business of recording. Kurt offers up his advice and guidance on running  your business as a recording professional. 


WCA #121 with Jim Greer

Working Class Audio Session #121 with Jim Greer!!!


Jim Greer is a Bay Area record producer who has massed a wide variety of credits through many years of wielding multiple instruments and knowing how to fiddle some knobs. Highlights included writing and producing with or for: Galactic, Macy Gray, Handsome Boy modeling School, Cyndi Harvell, Andrew St.James, Diegos Umbrella, MC Lars, Del the Funkee Homosapien, Irma Thomas, Rondo Brothers, Butterscotch, and many more, including lots of writing and placing music in various films, tv shows, and commercials…
Matt and Jim sit down for an in person talk that covers Jim’s approach to making records, business and how the death of his son Teddy has shaped his view and approach to life.

Jim’s Site: http://digitalchildren.net/

WCA #120 with Will Russell

Working Class Audio Session #120 with Will Russell!!!


Will Russell is the owner and chief engineer at Electric Wilburland Studio, which is located in an old Baptist church in Newfield, NY. He has been working in audio since the age of 17, when he first started doing live sound. Will continues to mix live at regional music festivals for bands like The Horse Flies and Sim Redmond Band. His most notable tour was mixing for Rusted Root from 1994-95.

After being on the road, Will switched his focus to running Electric Wilburland full time,  where he records and produces mostly local and regional artists– and has been for 30 years. Past clients include The Samples, Madder Rose, Martin Simpson, The Horse Flies, Joe Crookston and Donna The Buffalo. He won a Grammy in 2009 for recording the album “Douga Mansa” with kora player Mamadou Diabate.

Three years ago, Will joined the staff at The Park School of Communications at Ithaca College, where he teaches audio production part time. He also teaches a handful of young engineers and interns at Electric Wilburland year-round.

Show notes

Ben Bernstein Episode


Will’s Studio


Kurt Cochran Go Fund Me