Exclusive interview with Jim

January  2011

Jim in 2010

K&M: What was the highlight of 2010 for you?

Jim: It would have to be the Olympics. As I kid, I always watched them on TV, and it was an amazing experience to be a part of it. The World Cup was a very close second place (see how I did that, got a little competition reference in there.
K&M: Very cool, Jim... I had never been to South Africa, and we got to visit a Lion Park which was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

K&M: You have performed on many open air festivals (the last one w/ Shakira at Glastonbury, UK on June 26). How is playing on festivals different for you than a normal concert (big or small venue)? If at all.

Jim: Playing to a large crowd is not as fun for me. There are so many people, most of the time, it is hard to feel the connection - but if you can make one (which has happened a few times), it’s pretty special.

K&M: Speaking of Glastonbury – did you know that your favourite band Phoenix performed the previous day? Have you actually seen them play live in concert?

Jim: I did know. And I have seen them. I met them in France. They rule!

K&M: Still in Glastonbury: Were you star-struck when you met The Edge? Actually, have you ever been star-struck?

Jim: I’m not sure what star struck feels like??? I wasn’t forgetting my name or anything - I was pretty excited to meet him though.

K&M: Can you tell us about your plans for next year, will you be touring and can we expect new music?
I'm still working on the details for a few things - but I will be heading to Japan with Avril next week for some promo of the new record. And, hopefully 2011 will show the release of a lot of music I was involved with in 2010. Adam Rader, Ryan Lutz, Kropp Circle, etc. I will also be trying to release more of my own music. I'll keep you updated on that.

K&M: You graduated from Berklee in 1995 in Audio Engineering and Production. Berklee offers many other courses. Why did you choose this particular one?

Jim: I wanted to be a studio musician. At the time, there were only a handful of studios at Berklee - and you had to be in the MP&E program (K&M:Music Production and Engineering) to use the studios. So, I used the major as a way to get studio time. During the process, I fell in love with making records.

K&M: Back in the mid 90’s when you graduated; the digital technology in sound was practically non-existent.  How and when did you became an expert in the computer software and ultimately do what you do?

Jim: Well, I’m not sure if I’d use the word expert - but I starting working with Pro Tools around 2000 and just found my way around. I still learn new things about it every day. Lately, I have been working in a program called Melodyne which I mainly use to tune vocals. That is a whole new challenge. 

K&M: Stemming from that - do you prefer digital or analog sound (i.e. software or hardware?)

Jim: Well, analog will always be warmer and bigger - but our ears have become accustomed to digital music now. But, I have never been an audiophile. To me, it’s still about the song and the performance.

From a producers standpoint, I enjoy the flexibility and editing that the digital domain gives us. For most projects, I can’t imagine making them without the computer. That being said, there is still a part of me that loves the idea of 4-5 musicians getting in a room together and playing to tape - having to work under those constraints. Amazing recordings were done that way for almost 100 years. 

K&M: Are you using mostly software or hardware these days?
Jim: I’m not sure I understand the question. I guess it would be both. I use Pro Tools as my main DAW (K&M: DAW = Digital Audio Workstation) software and interface - with outboard mic pres and compressors.

K&M:  What kind of artists do you prefer to work with? The ones that have an idea of how they should sound like?  Or the ones who come into the studio and just sit there, expecting you to figure it out for them?

Jim: It’s always great to work with someone who has a vision of what they want. It doesn’t have to be complete. Sometimes an artist will just say they like this drum sound - or live strings, etc.

K&M: Stemming from that: how do you see the role of a producer?

Jim: To help facilitate an artist’s sonic identity. From the blank page of a song, to when you press play and hear sound. The producer is the “director” of a project. He or she is responsible for the outcome.

K&M: Have you ever disagreed about the musical direction with someone to that extent that it was impossible for you to continue working with them?

Jim: Not yet. But, there will always be disagreements.

K&M: On the same topic: apart from scheduling conflicts - have you ever said NO to producing an artist? What would drive you to that?

I would say no to a project if I didn’t feel like I could contribute to it. There are styles of music in which I am much more confident. Example: I probably wouldn’t be the guy to produce a metal record. Hair band metal, maybe???
Hall & Oates vibe: definitely. 

K&M: Say, you are producing and you think, “This song stinks!” What would you normally do? Is it hard to be sincere in that case?

Jim: I would try to make the song better. Sometimes that’s all you can do. You do the best with what you’ve got.

K&M: You wear two hats - you are both the producer and the recording engineer. Any conflicts of interest (if we can say so) or it works to your advantage?

Lately, I haven’t been engineering as much. On demos, I will do a lot of it myself - but once it gets to the making a record stage - I like to just focus on producing and playing (since I am almost always playing on the records I produce).

K&M: If you had to choose between producing and engineering what would you choose?

Jim: Let’s get this straight. I am not an engineer. You wouldn’t hire to me engineer a drum session or to mic up violins. The only time I engineer is when I can’t afford to pay one.

K&M: Is being a musician yourself helped you as a producer?

Jim: Absolutely. Are there any non-musician producers? Anyone who can produce a record is a musician - whether they are a player or not.
K&M: Are there any records that you listen to and think that have great songs but the production is bad?

Jim: Not as much as I feel there are great songs sung by not great singers. Leonard Cohen is a great songwriter. But, if you listen to Jeff Buckley and k.d. lang sing their versions of his song Hallelujah - it’s a much different experience.

K&M: Which song that you’ve produced are you particularly proud of?

Jim: There is a song I wrote with a new artist named Ryan Lutz - who I have been working with. It’s called She Knows. We are still working on the mix - but there is a version on my website. I really love the song and the production. The bridge is my favorite part - and his voice is so engaging.

K&M: What old record from any era/genre would you have liked to produce?

Jim: None. If there is an old record I love, I probably would not want to have produced it, for fear of messing it up.

K&M: Could recording studios become obsolete since allegedly (we don’t know!) people can make good recordings on computers nowadays?

Jim: Well - the idea of a studio has changed. Bedrooms, garages and attics are studios. High school gyms are studios. A “studio” is just a place where you set up some mics and record them. Of course, top studios have endless amounts of gear and perfectly tuned and low noise environments - but it’s all about getting to a place where you feel comfortable to be inspired and deliver a great performance. 

K&M: Over the years you have worked with a host of many recording artists. We find the process incredibly interesting how a broad range of artists learn about you and the ability you have to work with everyone. Wondering if you can share some insight on the different avenues you find useful in networking your professional services?
Jim: It’s pretty much all word of mouth. Musician to musician. Manager to manager. A&R to producer. And round and round. I have been very fortunate to get in a circle of professionals that are always looking to connect people.
K&M: Why did you include the instrumental tracks of “Inside of My Head” on your website?

Jim: Many music supervisors look for instrumental tracks for commercials, TV shows, etc.

K&M: Do you own the Guitar Hero game and if you do – how good are you at it? Actually do you own any game consoles (Xbox, PS3 etc...)

Jim: We have PlayStation and Guitar Hero, but to be honest, I have only played it a few times. I was pretty decent for not being a gamer.

K&M: As an animal lover, we understand you donate your personal time as an advocate and voice for animals.  What types of activities and fundraising opportunities are you involved with through your work?

Jim: My wife works for The Rescue Train - a non-profit/no kill organization dedicated to eliminating animal suffering and euthanasia. They have a race every year at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. This year, I was the DJ for the dog fashion show. I have also offered my time in auctions where you can get a demo and a free guitar for donating to the Rescue.

K&M: How do your dogs get along?

Jim: Great! They are both girls, which they say you should never have in the same house, but they get along. They rule the house.

K&M: What’s your favourite current TV show, the one that you do not miss?

Modern Family - my favorite show since Seinfeld.

K&M: What kind of stuff do you buy on your travels to bring home? Was the Glowing Buddha one of them?

I’m not much of a traveling spendthrift. I think the Buddha is from Border Books??

K&M: How did you become a self proclaimed “Yahtzee genius?”

Jim: I think my web designer was having a little too much fun there.

K&M: Living in LA do you miss spending Christmas with snow?

Not really.

K&M: How did you spend the holidays this year?

Jim: With family eating sweets.