Recently Chris ‘Von Pimpenstein’ Carter was commissioned to mix a dance record for Australian recording artist Max Leon.  Chris was nice enough to talk about the process and give some insight into his approach on mixing this record.  To get some background on how Chris thinks as an engineer, you may want to check his interview, Psychology of a Mix Engineer: Chris Carter.

If you would like to contact Chris please visit his website.

BACKGROUND

Upon asking him how he landed an Australian gig, Chris said that almost half of his work now comes from overseas.

“I do a lot of international work. I think it all started when I did a record that did really well in Italy and from there other people starting contacting me.”

With the rise of the Internet, mixing engineers have become more accessible to a large number of artists around the world.  But that’s not enough to secure the gig.  As an engineer you need something more to instill confidence in your prospective client.

“I’ve gotten used to working with people from other countries so I’m good at dealing with issues that tend to come up, particularly with language barriers which I’m good at managing. I think because of that people tend to feel comfortable working with me and that’s why I get so much international work.”

 

THE SONG

Max Leon

Title: Todo Para Ti
Artist: Max Leon
Producer: Sebastian Ivanov
Label: 60 Seconds Music
Mixing: Chris Carter

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PRODUCTION

When the management contacted Chris for mixing, they were pretty specific about the sound they were looking for.

“They actually provided a lot of detail about what they were looking for.  They sent me a reference track with a chorus that they wanted their track to sound similar to.” 

However, in this situation it wasn’t fully possible to achieve the sound without making production changes.  This is why sometimes it pays off to contract a skilled engineer – especially one with production knowledge – because they can go beyond just the sonic objectives to help achieve the overall vision of the project.

“The only problem was that the record wasn’t produced the way they wanted it to sound.  When I listened to the reference, the chorus was a big vocal stack and from the recorded parts that I actually had, it was like a doubled loop.  I had to tell them it wasn’t going to sound like that and they understood.”

With some guidance from Chris the management decided to re think the production.

“I told them from a producers stand point, what really needed to be done in order to get it to sound the way they wanted it to.  So they came to the conclusion that it was better off to just start the record from scratch.  So they hired Sebastian Ivanov to redo the record.

The lyrics, the melody and some of the music ideas stayed the same but the rest of it was completely changed.  When I got the updated record I had to start that completely from scratch and had to re do everything.  I actually have a co-production credit, but it is largely related to some logistical issues and guidance I provided during pre-production – the creative production was all Sebastian.”

MIXING

Chris has a few things in his mixing process that he is very particular about and they are implemented on every mix that he takes on.

“First, you will notice that I use the channel trims A LOT.  I’m very careful about gain structure.  It makes a big difference at the end of the day.  I don’t care what computer scientists say about floating point and unlimited headroom; it makes a difference that is clearly audible no matter which DAW you are using (not to mention essential when interfacing with outboard gear!).  As a result, you will also notice that the bulk of my faders are hovering in the ballpark of -0dB.  Another thing you will notice is that I pretty much only pan hard left, hard right and straight up the middle.  This is a trend I do on pretty much all records, except ones that specifically need an all-over-the-place approach (e.g. recreating a live soundstage, etc.).  I think I only have one effect return that is panned something other than true LCR.” 

When asked about any obstacles when mixing this record, here’s what Chris had to say,

“The biggest challenge was that there were a lot of vocal stacks and they were all doing something different while playing at the same time. I had to make all that stuff meld together and make sure that each part was audible in the way it was meant to be.  Its one thing to have a stack where all the vocals are singing the same thing but when you got 4 different things going on it becomes a lot more challenging.  That was by far the most difficult thing in the mix.”

Chris says that he prefers to receive tracked out sessions without any effects but the stems for this session came with everything already printed.

“99 times out of 100 this will bug me, but Sebastian did a really good job with them and erred on the side of conservative.  He has a surprisingly good ear, so it didn’t cause the kinds of problems it usually does.  The piano track caused a little bit of an issue, but I was able to get the dry version of it and blend it in parallel with the processed one to get the right amount of effect necessary.”

Session Layout

PROJECT

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This session was mixed at 44.1kHz, printed at 24bits and contained 190 tracks.

Tracks 1-7 [Reference Material]  - “I’ve got a David Guetta track, a Rihanna Remix, a dance remix of one of my records, The original rough version of the song and then the producers rough mix of the new version of the song.”
Track 8-43 [Drums and Music]
Track 44-63 [Groups] - “There’s a lot of groups on this record because there’s a bundle of vocals.”
Track 64-100  [Effects Tracks] - “The reason why there is so many effects tracks is because There was very little sharing of reverbs and delays.”
Track 101-190 [Vocals] -Not all 90 tracks are being used, it’s more like 86.  A few of them are turned off because I had outboard on them which got printed back.”

Chris isn’t a stranger to high track counts; in fact it’s the norm for most pop records that he receives.

“The high track counts are what keep me working.  There’s a lot of guys that can mix a rap record and 3 vocal tracks but then you hand them a straight pop record with a billion tracks and they don’t know what the fuck to do – So I get the job [laughs].”

 

Drums

808 Kick
Main Kick (kick thud)
Dub Snare

 

 

Instruments

Wide Dirt Bass (Side Chained)
Dirty Bass (Side Chained)

 

 

Vox

“The vocal tracks are all Max with a few additional vocals by Sebastian, just tucked in there for a little additional oomph.  I don’t know the signal that was chain that was used while tracking the vocals, but it sounded like there wasn’t any compression.  I mean they were recorded well but no special processing as far as I know.  I think they came to me without any EQ or compression; it was just straight mic.”

Lead Vocals (Verse 1 & 2)
Stutter

 

 

Special Busses

All Vox
All Music
2Buss

 

Hardware

Last, the only actual hardware being used at mixdown is the Aphex box.  Whenever convenient, I try and print back my outboard when I get to a point where I think I have a mix for approval.  It makes it easier for me to switch between projects without having to recall those manual settings, or worse, recall them inaccurately.

The reason the Aphex isn’t printed is because it’s on a buss getting multiple tracks, so it’s not convenient to do.  That said, I never change the settings on that box; I haven’t moved them in years. One comment about the Aphex that is important is I set it for +4 operation, but have it connected with unbalanced cables.  It’s a little gain staging trick that turns it from a rather annoying box into a killer box with my “preset” setting on it.