Andrew Edgson is one of Studios 301’s new generation of mastering engineers. Over the last 10 years he has mastered for Aria Award winning and multi platinum selling projects including Matt Corby, Sarah McKenzie, Vance Joy, and The Griswolds just to name a few. Recently he has been working with a whole swag of tastemaker bands that have caught the eye of triple j and The Madden Brothers. We caught up with Andrew to talk all things mastering, and to find out what he’s been working on lately.Can you tell us a bit about your recent work and what you’ve been up to?
The last 6 months have been really busy for me. I’ve been able to work with a broad range of artists including Matt Corby, Hayden Calnin, Bag Raiders, A.D.K.O.B, Chase Atlantic, Jack and The Kids, The Lulu Raes, Ben Gillies, Burrows, Drued, The Hamiltons, The Frankner, Warhawk, Georgia Mulligan, DMAs, Pepa Knight, The Great Awake, BRUVVY, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, The Song Company, Pinchgut Opera, The Australian Chamber Orchestra, and the list goes on…
There has been some industry hype surrounding a few of the artists you’ve been working with recently… I’m talking about the triple j Unearthed wins from both A.D.K.O.B, Jack and the Kids, and all the attention Chase Atlantic are getting from The Madden Brothers. Can you tell us what’s going on with these projects?
It’s great to see these bands getting the recognition they deserve, A.D.K.O.B were one of the winners of the triple j unearthed competition late last year, winning a slot on the St Jerome’s Laneway festival. In a similar vein Jack and The Kids won the more recently announced unearthed competition getting a spot on the Groovin’ the Moo festival. Chase Atlantic have been picked up by The Madden Brothers, and are currently in talks with international labels.
What these sessions were like?
All of the sessions were actually unattended, so in these cases I was working alone, simply hoping that any changes I made were helping bring the artist’s vision closer to fruition. It’s a tough call as to whether I prefer this way of working. In one way it’s great to not be on the clock, so if I want to listen to 30 mins of Beyonce mid session I can, however there is the issue of delayed feedback. In the end we are working on art, and that is something that shouldn’t be rushed for the simple point of saving a few dollars.
Wow that’s a big 6 months. How important is it to stay connected in the industry and have close ties with management and artists?
The international music industry is surprisingly small, so I try to keep relationships with people in all roles, at all levels, across the globe. I wouldn’t recommend spending too much time concentrating in one space, as it’s so easy to reach a point of diminishing marginal returns. This concept can actually be applied to a lot of things; for example why become an expert mixing engineer in a specific genre only to find a year later the genre is out of fashion, along with your career. Be smart with your time, it’s pretty much the most valuable thing you own.
Looking through your discography you have a keen interest in jazz and classical but also mastered all the way over to indie and dance. How do you manage to stay across genres and not get pigeonholed?
As much of a cliché this is; I honestly enjoy a broad range of music, the variety is what keeps things fresh for me.
How do mastering engineers get their work?
To a degree it is a popularity contest, but this is predicated on a consistent level of quality work. This platitude seems appropriate, “you’re only as good as your last record”.
Are you an analogue or digital guy?
My mastering is usually a combination of both digital and analogue. There are however certain genres and even specific recordings that benefit from an entirely digital approach, much in the same way there are some recordings that scream out for the vibe soaked analogue treatment. It’s a matter of assessing a recording on its merits and choosing the appropriate approach to bring out the best in the music.
How did you get into mastering?
It’s a matter of having good ears, a habit of working hard and a being in the right place at the right time. I have come up through the ranks at Studios 301, so I have a good understanding of how to do all of the jobs available in a recording or mastering studio. Mastering is where I found the right balance for my personality; it has absolutely developed into a passion of mine, and is something I would be happy to dedicate the rest of my life to. There is a great piece of advice I picked up along the way – happiness in life is finding something you really enjoy doing, and doing that every day for the rest of your life. For me, this is mastering.
You’ve been mastering at Studios 301 for 10 years, what are the biggest changes that you have seen happen in music?
The biggest change is the change in distribution strategies that are now open to artists. When I started out, CDs were the primary method of getting music out into the world, now there is a multitude of formats and file types. The relevance of this to a mastering engineer is we need to be across all the different codecs and how they impose their own sound onto a recording, and how best to get around their shortcomings.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give someone wanting to be a mastering engineer?
If you want to become a mastering engineer, get yourself setup with a good quality monitor controller, a great DAC, and a set of speakers that you think sound great in the space you have available to listen in. Your speakers are the tool that you make all your decisions through, so if they are not setup right you are already handicapped, and it will be very difficult (almost impossible) to produce results at the consistency you need to. Once you are setup in the speaker department, you need to spend as much time listening to music as possible; your aim is to teach yourself what sounds good and what doesn’t sound good, this should turn into a pursuit that lasts a lifetime. Lastly get practising on the tools, mainly EQ and compression, which should be developed to the point of being second nature. I think it’s worth pointing out that the brand of tool is almost irrelevant, it’s what you do with them that counts.
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A.D.K.O.B – Glue
Matt Corby – Knife Edge
Hayden Calnin – Cut Love
Chase Atlantic – OBSESSIVE
PEPA KNIGHT – Eventually (Tame Impala Cover)
The Lulu Raes – Burnout