Mastering: The last step of the recording process.
I like mastering. I always call it The Voodoo.
It is where you take your passionately recorded, delicately mixed, painstakingly edited and delightful sounding project, and then mastering envelopes it with a cloak of wonder.
Just between you and me, we’ve been thinking the album is sounding good. But then you take it to mastering, and he just makes it better. It’s glorious (the mastering, I mean, you make your own call on the music… soon).
The true hipsters that we are, we sit around with our cups of peppermint tea and our cheese selection, A’B’ing the tracks, from speaker system to speaker system, from pre-mix, to mix, to master, chatting out the minuscule, yacking away about the endless ideas, lessons, approaches and techniques, casually looking online for the sexiest, sweetest recording mic’s for the next goal we seek out.
Sitting in on the last day of mastering, quietly perched on the outer edges of a master at work, I most love listening to the sectioned off ranges of EQ being played on their own. The lower bracket of EQ booming out; making your album sound like you’re band is playing at the worlds biggest festival, but you’re standing on the outside of the festival fence, as it rumbles it’s bass frequencies out across the smells of warm chai, fish taco’s, misty grass and the dewy, moonlit car park. The higher EQ ranges, being sectioned out and played, sounding like you’re on the worlds’ weirdest, tinny little radio speakers, being played in a mechanics’ back shed, full of cars made of glass and cellophane. The process of flicking through the songs, to compare levels, compression and dynamics, flicking quickly through, the keen ear of the masterer paying ever close attention so the album has a family of songs to live together with, so there’s no weird uncle Bill, while I squirm in the back seat like someone’s flicking through nine radio stations and they’re all playing a different one of my songs…. yeah, one day, If I’m really lucky huh?
Does that ever happen? Where you flick through radio channels and it’s all the same artist, but different songs?
I think in the surreal environment of a mastering studio is the only place you’ll ever get it. Unless you’re the Beatles… but it would’ve even been hard for them to hear that in the mastering process back in the day – they recorded to tape yeah? Gad dam, flick through that. A’B That Mr Hipster. If it ever happened on the radio I sincerely hope someone was taking some great acid and totally spinning out over it. Elvis probably had 9 reel to reel tape machines… in with his squash court, just to serenade his pretty horses nearby…
I would like to warmly thank my Masterer, Michael Worthington, at Soundworthy Studios, for working his voodoo on my album. For listening, and for caring.