Artwork for podcast Progressions: Success in the Music Industry
Exploring the Wild Side of Plug-Ins with Noam Levinberg
Episode 105 β€’ 7th February 2024 β€’ Progressions: Success in the Music Industry β€’ Travis Ference
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Noam Levinberg is a veteran mastering engineer and the founder of Safari Pedals, which has quickly become one of the most talked about new plug-in companies in recent times.

In this episode, you'll learn about:

  • How a plug-in designers' sonic preferences shape a plug-in
  • The parallels of releasing plug-ins and releasing music
  • How JUCE Framework has opened the door for a lot of new plug in companies
  • The importance of moving forward quickly to learn what resonates with people
  • How the passing down of audio knowledge has changed
  • The overwhelm of solo music entrepreneurship
  • Noam and Travis's experiences in commercial studios

Connect with Noam:

🌐 Website: https://safaripedals.com/

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https://www.youtube.com/@progressionspod

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Credits:

Guest: Noam Levinberg

Host: Travis Ference

Editor: Stephen Boyd

Theme Music: inter.ference

Transcripts

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There was something in me that was really wanting to kind of get out and

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express myself and do wild plugins. That's mastering

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engineer Noam Levenberg, the man behind safari pedals. Safari pedals

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has become one of the most talked about plugin companies around. Their unique guitar

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pedal inspired interface has brought the fun of wildly spinning knobs right

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into our daws. In this episode, Noam shares his process for taking a plugin

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from idea to final release. What I like doing is

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starting from the end and not from the beginning. And

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what I mean by that is. Why he chose to echo a modern music release

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schedule by dropping a new plugin every month. It matches

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today's kind of pace, and it's 100%

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inspired by artists and musicians. That I respect the

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importance of creating something that draws a reaction from the user or

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listener. It gives you some sort of reaction, like, you like it, you don't

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like it. The first few seconds, for most people, I think, would probably lead to

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either buying it or not. And why he chose to walk away from a salaried

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audio gig to start safari pedals. And I had to trust my gut

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feeling and just do what I love, which is

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something that a lot of times is like the opposite of what everybody's

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telling you to do. This is a fun one. We hit it all from plugins

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to commercial studios and the current state of audio knowledge on the Internet.

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Stick around for my interview with Noam Levenberg.

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Boutique plugin companies like safari popping up these days, most of

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them were started by talented engineers and mixers that are

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kind of probably still, like, midway through their

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career. Right. We're not talking about people with, like, 40 years of experience. We're talking

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about, like, ten or 15. They're in it right now.

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And I just see so many people loving these small plugins,

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and I'm not seeing as much love for the

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legacy brands that we all grew up with.

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Do you feel like there's, like, new blood in this industry? Is it a revolution

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of plugins right now? Why has everybody got a cool plugin

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company now? It's a really interesting topic to talk about, and it's

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something that I've been thinking about for a long time now. A

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bunch of things led to this situation, in my opinion,

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and I think it's a really good change in the industry.

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I think that the biggest thing that led to

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this new rise of a lot

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of small companies is the fact that technology wise,

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plugins are way easier to program than ever

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before because of juice framework, which is

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a framework made for audio processing, which is

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based on C Plus plus, which is what everything is written on in

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terms of plugins and stuff. And it's just way

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easier to create plugins these days. And that

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combined with the fact that the whole creator economy and

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people now have more access to tools that we

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didn't have early on. So I think when I look back to

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my early career, when the computer kind of came into the

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studio, yes, you had

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some plugins. You had like the q ten from waves. I

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remember that being, like, shocking. I remember being

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shocked by having ten bands, being like, what can I do with

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ten bands? That's crazy. True. I also

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remember having a lot of issues with the computer and

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bugging out about space and stuff, and that was like

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a really expensive, I don't know, like g four. I think it was a g

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four computer that was worth a couple

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of. Couldn't imagine having a

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laptop and just running pro tools on a laptop or

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anything even remotely similar to that. And I think that

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today people have much better access to technology

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tools and cheaper in terms of

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hardware, which leads them to have more

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space in their budget to get creative with plugins

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and other cool tools. You know what I mean? It's totally true.

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The cost ratio between buying hardware,

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gear and plugins is like, obviously massive,

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especially when you talk about using UAD, for example. I can

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have a fair child on every channel for $300 or whatever they want to

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charge for it. So, yeah, that is true. Do you think that there's,

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I think about early audio

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development? Most of the big breakthroughs, I think,

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were they were done with or

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by users. Think about like Les Paul or

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like, you know, just game changing

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devices, and then you've got people that come in like Rupert

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neve, really just electronics and technical side. Do you think

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you need to be an end user to kind of have the

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aha moment and then you got to bring in the brains

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to expand on it? I think that's a good question, and it's

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not a yes and no answer, because there are people

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from both camps. I mean, my camp is

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obviously the end user camp,

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so I don't have a background in programming or

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anything similar to that. And I feel

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like there still is some sort of

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gap between the two. So when I want

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to build a product or a plugin, I

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kind of need to go through a bunch of

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loops in order to even explain

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myself to a programmer, to say what I'm looking for

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and what I want it to sound like. And the other side

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doesn't always fully get what we're talking about. Because

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we might be technical as engineers, but not as technical

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as developers. Right. So when you say something has a

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character or something has even like, oh, I want it

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to saturate. Okay, what is a saturator? Obviously

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that means distortion, but then there's like a million different ways to

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make something distort. And then it's a long journey.

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Yeah. And I feel like the best kind of

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goal is to get to a point where either

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there's two people and they're having a conversation.

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And what I mean by that is like an end user and then a

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programmer and they can kind of create

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something together. Or there's these type

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of superhumans that I've met, a

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few that can just do everything, and that's

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just like a next level thing. It's kind of like when there's like a

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producer who can play all the instruments and mix, and you're like,

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oh, that guy. That's insane.

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Yeah. So there's like an equivalent in the plugin word, like somebody

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like Mir, for example, who's like a friend of mine who

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has a company called Modelix. So he's like

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amazing piano player, but then also an amazing

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programmer and an engineer and like a bunch of other things.

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That's amazing. He has it all, I guess. What's the process

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of determining whether a plugin

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is working for you? Obviously

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you're going through different versions. You're probably using it in your own work, maybe sharing

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it with some friends. Take one of your plugins that's out, maybe like gorilla drive,

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right? Yeah. What was the process like getting that

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to market from the audio standpoint? Like, how many

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iterations of the plugin did you go through? I think I'm still

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learning the process, to be honest, and I'm trying to improve it

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in general. I will say that I did get to a point right now

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that I feel like is kind of a sweet spot in terms

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of the way it works. And

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basically what I like doing is starting from the

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end and not from the beginning. And what I mean by that

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is I'll usually sketch out the gui

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myself before having anything. Okay. So I'll

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just paint a picture and try and kind of decide where I

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want the knobs and what I want them to look like and

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kind of match whatever I have in my

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head to a picture. And I think that really helps my

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process because once you do that, you realize like,

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oh, there's not enough space for like a blend knob. Maybe I should

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make the knob smaller. But then I want

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it to look a certain way. And by the end of

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it, you kind of have like a visual representation of

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something that you want. And what I like

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doing after that is I actually show it around. I showed it around to

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a bunch of people and try to explain them what I wanted to do.

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And I look at people's faces when I do it, and

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just friends and other engineers and stuff, and I want to

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see they understand the concept of the plugin

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before it even lands on an actual

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audio file. Right. That's kind of the beginning. And

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I will say that the gorilla drive was the first one I did, and

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I didn't do that on the first one. And I kind of learned

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as I went along. But some of them did have some

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major changes done to them, following what

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people said. Because a lot of times you have something in your head, you're like,

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oh yeah, of course this tone knob is going to react this way, but then

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when you ask somebody else, he's like, what does a tone knob do? And you're

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like, oh, yeah, it

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doesn't say. So maybe I should label it some way.

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So a good example for that is like, I'm going to release next month.

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I don't know when people are going to listen to this, but in late

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October, early November, there's going to be a compressor coming out. And I

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have a knob there called speed, and

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it's a long thing, but I won't get into it right now. But the whole

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idea is to link the attack and release in certain

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ways that fit the ratio of the compressor. That's cool.

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Yeah, it's a pretty fun compressor to play

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around with. That's fun. But when I showed it around to friends, they didn't really

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get it. They were like, what do you mean, speed? Where is this going? So

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what I did was I kind of drew this thing where you can

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see slow and fast, and it kind of

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represents it in a visual way. Those kind of things really help

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me. Nice. But then after that, what I usually do in

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terms of developing the plugin is

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I'll take that gui and then I'll show it to

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the developer that I'm working with, which is usually a guy

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called David, who's a super talented programmer.

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He's a freelancer, basically, and we'll go through the features and

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stuff. And something that David is a genius

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because of this thing is

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instead of me explaining to him what I want,

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I basically have sort of like a back office of sorts

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of plugins. So I have a library of

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compressors and eqs and a bunch of other things

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that I can make it sound any way I want

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on my end. It looks terrible. Like, the

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Gui is very non user friendly. It kind of looks like

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a mix of, I don't know, like a bunch of stuff, right.

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But it's a tool. It's a tool, and I can basically

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do whatever I want with that, and then I can kind of send it

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the vids way with the Gui, and

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he takes the two and makes it one. That's awesome.

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That's like a very long answer

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to your question. You said

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speed talking about that compressor plugin, and I

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immediately thought to myself, I bet that's controlling attack and

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release at the same time in some kind of

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musical context, which kind of made me think about the idea

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of, like, you're making sonic choices based on your

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taste and your musicality. So

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what you choose to do with an EQ curve could

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be musical to you and not to me, in the same way that

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some people prefer this EQ over that EQ in the analog

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realm. Do you think your experience as a master engineer

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working in a bunch of different styles kind of has

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developed your taste in a manner where

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you might have a musical taste for

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your choices that maybe fits the broad range

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of ears out there? Does that make sense? It's kind of a weird

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question. Yes and no. I mean, yes, 100% yes.

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I feel like the subject you're touching on, I think, is

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the change that we're seeing in terms of the small companies and stuff. Yeah,

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because if you look to the early days

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of plugins, it was mainly kind of a

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utilitarian device or like a very

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technical device where like you have, if you take like an

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EQ, for example, you have like a frequency, a q and. And a

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gain knob. And that EQ either is trying

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to sound as transparent as possible, which a lot of the early

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digital plugins tried to achieve, or it

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has a sound, but the sound is usually kind of modeled after

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one particular outboard EQ that

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everybody wants, like a pulltech or like an SSL or something. And

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I feel like we got to a point where everybody has

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all those tools. It's built into all the programs.

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You get it for free. Sometimes it's just there for everyone.

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And I feel like that's a great thing, because now we're at a point

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where we can really go crazy. And that's kind

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of what I was aiming for with safari is, to answer your

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question, it has, like, a sound. It's tailored

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to the sounds that I like, and I hope other

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people like, but it feels to me more like, I don't mean

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to sound full of myself, but to me it feels more

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like an artist releasing music these days than

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a company trying to create an EQ

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that works for everyone. Yeah, I

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feel inspired, and I like other people doing that same thing. Like,

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when I open up a plugin and it has a specific

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paste that somebody put in there, I feel that

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is much more inspiring and fun to work with than

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these kind of very

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professional and bland sounding plugins. Yeah, that's

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just my opinion. Yeah, I think

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a lot of the engineers or mixers that I know that have done a

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plugin, it's somehow related to

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them wanting to do something that fits into their

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workflow. So it's like exactly what you're talking about. It's like, this is very

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specific to the way that I like to work, and it's kind of cool.

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So I'm going to share it with other people and if they like it, that's

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cool. If you don't like it, that's cool. So I

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think it's an interesting comparison, the artist releasing

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music thing, because, yeah, I like that. I like that idea.

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Makes me want to make a plugin. I feel like, as an

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engineer, to be honest, up to the point where I released the

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plugins, I didn't have this concept in my mind, but once I released

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it, I kind of felt like an artist because it was like

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I worked on this thing for a bunch of months and

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nobody kind of knew about it. And then I released it. And

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sort of similar to artists releasing their

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first kind of album, they're always

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kind of really keen on releasing. And then they usually think

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that, oh, the world's going to kind of listen to this

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great album that I've been working on for months now. And

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usually the reaction is way slower in terms of

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exposure and getting reactions from people and getting

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plays and stuff. And I felt the same way. I was like, the plugins

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are out, just out into the abyss

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and nobody cared. It was like

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just like two website views per day for the

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first week or something, and it took time.

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It still is like a small kind of

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exposure. But, yeah, it was a really interesting experience for

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me because I swear to God, I looked back at all

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those albums that I made with indie musicians

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releasing their first album and I felt like, oh, I have a

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much better understanding of what you went through. You know what I mean? Yeah,

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totally. I feel that way about the podcast sometimes. And, yeah, when you

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start putting something out there, you start to relate more with these

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quote clients that you've maybe mixed or mastered for over the

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years and you start to feel what that journey is like.

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But something that I've noticed that you do, that maybe this is a little

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inspired by this parallel to releasing

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music. You've been consistently putting plugins out, like

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every two or three months. I feel like you've been moving fast. You keep

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giving people something new every month. Every month? It is

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every month. I didn't want to say every month because that feels a little crazy,

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but I know it's been fast. Is that partially inspired

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by the Spotify release? You

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got to keep giving people stuff, keep spreading word. Yeah, you're bang

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on. I mean, I felt like that was a strategy I wanted

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to take early on. I didn't know if I could make

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it that fast, but I planned on doing that

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before I even started releasing the first plugin. And I feel

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like it matches today's kind of

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pace and it's 100% inspired

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by artists and musicians that I respect that release music

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on a constant basis. And I feel like a lot of times you feel

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that movement from artists or even from podcasts as

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well. There are a few podcasts that when you see the

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amount of releases, you feel like you want to be part

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of that kind of wave of things happening.

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Yeah, it's fun. Yeah. I mean, I guess as you're

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releasing more and more, I talk about on the podcast all the time, you're growing

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with every plugin. What you've learned over the last

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year, putting out five plugins, you've probably accelerated years

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of growth that other people who have just done like one plugin a

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year. I get what you're saying. I think that a

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big part of it also relates to my experience as kind of

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a music facilitator of sorts, somebody

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that was around a lot of musicians and was around a lot

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of creators. And you kind of get

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this sense of, like, I could spend

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another even year on a specific

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project, or I can release it

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and kind of see what people

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reactions are and then kind of try and

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improve after releasing it. And I think that's another

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amazing thing that plugins have, that even music doesn't have.

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Just for example, I released the fucks echo chorus and then I got

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like 20 emails of people saying, like, why isn't

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there a width knob? I wish there was a width knob and

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I added a width knob and it's there now. That's awesome. I

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guess I could have thought about it earlier, but I feel

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like as long as you don't do something terrible and release it. It's

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better to just go with the flow, release something that you

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feel is right early on and then change it if

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needed. And also kind of, like you said,

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learn for the next plugin and kind of get

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more. It's also like a business strategy

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because I get a better sense of what the customers like and

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what they don't like. So the flamingo verb, for example, is my best

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seller. So I'm thinking about making another reverb.

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It's a lot of really good insights, I feel.

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Yeah, you give instant feedback. That's something I always tell artists, like,

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put a couple of songs out before you spend all this money and time

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making a record. What if your fans really love it when

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it's piano, when it's broken down and they don't like it when

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it's heavy? You get that feedback when something's out in the

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world. I agree with you so much. And I also feel like, I don't

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know, I have this whole theory about intuition and how

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music should be intuition based.

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And what I mean by that is, that's how I used to mix

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when I was doing a lot of mixing, I would try to kind of

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get to a point where the song as a song as

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a whole sounds pretty good after like 30

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minutes of mixing. And then obviously it takes more time

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to kind of hone on different instruments and finish the mix.

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But you're looking at a broad picture of how the audience

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would look at it. I try to get that same approach with the

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plugins because you know how it is. It's the same thing with

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anything like inspired, based. Where you see a plugin,

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you click on it, it gives you some sort of reaction, like you

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like it, you don't like it. The first few seconds, for most people, I think

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would probably lead to either buying it or not. Oh, yeah. And it's the

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same for sure with music. Like, you hear the first few seconds

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and you get attached to it or you want to skip the

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song. Yeah, I mean, I have definitely demoed a plugin

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that has just been perfect and just really

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exciting for the thing that I was like, oh, I'm going to try this plugin,

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and then probably never used it again, but bought it immediately because it

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gave me everything I wanted in that 1st 10 seconds for that moment.

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So, yeah, I totally agree with you. This kind of parallels something I wanted to

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ask you about. I was talking to a friend of mine and we were just

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talking about plugins or hardware gear or whatever. He said something

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which I never really put together. He was like, the audio

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industry is very different from the music industry. And I

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was like, oh, wow. Yeah. Because as an engineer, you think about, like,

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plugins are my tools that I make music with, but you

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never really separate audio products

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from the use of those products. How have you kind

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of walked that line of what works in the

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audio industry versus what works in the music industry? You know what I mean? Are

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there parallels? Are they different? What do you think?

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I think that there are a few differences and there are a few

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similarities. I feel the biggest difference is the

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audio industry, in my opinion, is a much more

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technical industry in the sense that it's tech

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oriented. So there's a lot of innovation and changes

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and things that are happening quicker. Yeah. And I feel like the music

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industry is more like intellectual property when you

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strip it down. Okay. So it's more old

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school and has a lot of rules that never change, like

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mechanical rights, you know what I mean? These things that

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just exist and everybody accepts them because

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it's just what it is. You know what I mean? Yeah. I think that's, like,

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the biggest difference that I feel. But then I also feel

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like there is a middle ground. And that middle ground is sort

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of something that I've been thinking about a lot recently, is the fact

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that so many people are doing so many things

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combined. So, for example, I used to be a mastering engineer.

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Now I'm working as a company owner. There's

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like a vlogger who does mixing, and he also produces, and he

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also writes a song, and there's, like, a mixture that

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is much more mixed than what it used to be. Because

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when I was starting out, a producer was a producer,

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he wouldn't usually record the band, he would produce

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it, and then there's different tasks, and it was

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very separated. And these days it's so mixed

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up that there are pros and cons to it,

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but I just feel like it's a new world

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where the rules don't really apply anymore. Yeah, that is true.

Speaker:

Yeah. I feel like another fascinating thing is in

Speaker:

this new world, there are things that are staying from the old one,

Speaker:

and they're totally new concepts, and seeing

Speaker:

them merge together, I feel like, is

Speaker:

super interesting. I don't know. You're totally right.

Speaker:

There's so many people that are making technical things that are also like

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creatives. There's people that are writing or whatever.

Speaker:

There's so much intermingling. There feels like so many things you have

Speaker:

to do for people that are just coming

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to music and they're just starting their music journey. Do you think the

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fact that everything is so intermingled now is kind of

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empowering to those people? Or do you think it's a little daunting because you feel

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like, oh, shit, I have to produce my own record and record it and mix

Speaker:

it and master my record. I have to make my own artwork? Or is it,

Speaker:

like, exciting because you get to do it all? I don't really have an opinion.

Speaker:

I'm just curious what you think. I have to be honest. I feel like it's

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more daunting, and I'll tell you why. I feel like there used to

Speaker:

be a few types of people that these

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days, kind of, in a sad way, don't really get

Speaker:

to do their craft. Yeah. And what I mean by

Speaker:

that is, I feel like if you're starting out right now, like

Speaker:

you said, you have to know all these things. You could be a songwriter.

Speaker:

That's cool. But you need to know how to record, at least in a

Speaker:

basic level of recording at home. And

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you probably need to know a bunch of other things as well. And

Speaker:

I feel like there are lost arts in this kind of

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blend of things, and one of them, in my

Speaker:

opinion, is mixing, to be honest. I feel like

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old styles of mixing where

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you get, like, a song a day and you really kind

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of just do that. I won't say gone. It's not

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gone. It's still there, but it's not happening so frequently as it

Speaker:

used to be. And I feel like these days, even if

Speaker:

a producer goes to a mixing engineer, it's a different approach.

Speaker:

Where it used to be like, hey, this is the production.

Speaker:

Keep going from there. I'm not done yet. And I feel

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like nowadays it's more about like, hey, I'm done

Speaker:

in terms of mixing as well. I blended everything in.

Speaker:

It sounds the way I want it. Please don't change it

Speaker:

and maybe make it, like, 5% better, you know?

Speaker:

Yeah. It's a different craft. It's so different. I

Speaker:

agree with that completely. I don't want to

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demean my own career path, but if you're

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mixing great productions, it's almost like

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stem mastering. I mean, you're just looking to fix some problems and bring some

Speaker:

clarity because it already sounds fucking great. Yeah. So

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what are you doing? The only thing you can do is give that extra five

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or 10%, and then you pass it on to the master engineer that adds that

Speaker:

other two or 3% on top of that. I think that's the tier of

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client that eventually you end up working with. Those people. I think early on in

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your career you're going to find that as a mixer, you can be way more

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heavy handed because everybody involved in the process, they're making their

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first record and they're all exploring what they want.

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Nobody really knows. I think that's a bit more

Speaker:

carte blanche, I guess is an acceptable term to use there. Yeah.

Speaker:

It's interesting what you're saying, because I'm looking back at my career and I'm

Speaker:

thinking maybe I felt that way towards the

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end of my mixing career because I was doing

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great productions and great musicians.

Speaker:

That's a good point. But to go back to the initial question, I don't think

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it's like a lost art. I think when people step into this

Speaker:

industry and they're overwhelmed by the number of things that they have to learn

Speaker:

or start doing, I think it's more of a loss of

Speaker:

expertise. When you and I started,

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maybe I could focus on just being an engineer. I didn't have to worry

Speaker:

about these other things. If I were to leave school now

Speaker:

and start now, I don't think I'd be able to focus on just the one

Speaker:

thing. There'd be too many things that I need to do to really

Speaker:

reach the point that I reached in, like, ten years. It might take

Speaker:

2025 years to learn all those things. You know what I mean? I think

Speaker:

that sucks for people because they can't focus on the

Speaker:

thing. I totally agree with what you're saying. And I also think that

Speaker:

there's another aspect to it where when you're starting out,

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you don't really know to

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differentiate between

Speaker:

people telling you what's right and what's wrong.

Speaker:

And in that sense, I was really lucky because I was working in

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a big studio early on.

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I only had, like, two or three opinions. It was like

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the studio manager, the studio owner, and the two

Speaker:

engineers. You know what mean? Yeah, that was it. And

Speaker:

I feel like nowadays, when you finish school or whatever, you start

Speaker:

working, you go on YouTube and there's so

Speaker:

many different approaches, opinions, things to read about, and you don't really

Speaker:

know what's right and what's wrong. Yeah, I feel

Speaker:

like I'm kind of experiencing that as a side

Speaker:

thing where I'm learning how to edit video just for

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safari pedals and I'm trying to get a grasp of it,

Speaker:

but there's too much information. It's like I don't know who to trust.

Speaker:

And there's like this guy who's saying one thing and then the other guy is

Speaker:

seeing the opposite and I kind of feel like that's probably how

Speaker:

people are experiencing, starting their careers in

Speaker:

music or in audio, because it's saturated

Speaker:

with opinions. Yeah, well, I think most

Speaker:

cases, I don't think that there are

Speaker:

too many rules that have to be followed. There's definitely rules that

Speaker:

need to be followed. But if you're talking about, like, creative distortion

Speaker:

or something like that, I understand there being 10,000 opinions on YouTube.

Speaker:

But yeah, I've done the same thing. I've gone down the rabbit hole of

Speaker:

Adobe premiere stuff and color correction and stuff like

Speaker:

that for the podcast. Yeah, I guess it's daunting. That's

Speaker:

exactly what I'm talking about, man. Right? Color

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correction is heavy shit. Color

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correction is so hard. And I was sure

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it was easy when I started. I was like, oh, yeah, I can do this

Speaker:

color correction thing. Did you think it was like EQ? Were you like, this is

Speaker:

just like EQ? That's how I thought about it. Exactly. I felt

Speaker:

like I got this, you know what I mean? And then it's kind of similar

Speaker:

within audio, where a lot of times you feel like you sound great,

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and then you listen to a reference and you're like, actually,

Speaker:

it sounds terrible. Yeah, I feel that way with color

Speaker:

correction. I feel like I'm doing great, and then I look at a

Speaker:

different video and I'm like, oh, no, this is

Speaker:

so bad. It's hilarious. Well, but then

Speaker:

you get on the rabbit hole of like, oh, is it the camera? Should I

Speaker:

get another camera? It's the same way with gear. You're like, oh, that mix is

Speaker:

so good. Oh, they used a summing mixer. I should probably get a summing mixer.

Speaker:

And then you're just like, there you go. You start tumbling down the hill. I

Speaker:

know this is going to sound dumb to some people, but I've never experienced

Speaker:

that in audio. I don't know, maybe because I started

Speaker:

really early, like, I started as a kid, so I had other

Speaker:

people's opinions laid on me, but I never

Speaker:

felt like this kind of rabbit hole you're expressing where it's

Speaker:

like, oh, yeah, maybe I need a camera, maybe I need a new mic, maybe

Speaker:

I need this, maybe I need that. It was always kind of, I don't know.

Speaker:

But yeah, now I feel that way with video

Speaker:

cameras. And I can totally relate to people

Speaker:

experiencing that in audio. Sure. Because the

Speaker:

people with the widest reach aren't necessarily the

Speaker:

most experienced, not necessarily giving bad information either.

Speaker:

But it's tricky when you think about learning online. No,

Speaker:

but that's the thing. When you look at the people

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kind of creating these vlogs and stuff, a lot of them are

Speaker:

great. I like a lot of them, but a lot of them are talking

Speaker:

with no experience. They're like, here's five

Speaker:

compression tips you need to know. And like, dude,

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you're working like on six inch k's that you just

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bought. You started this whole thing like six months

Speaker:

ago, maybe don't

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start with giving other people tips. You know what I mean? Again, I'm

Speaker:

not trying to hate anyone, but I just feel like if you're a newbie and

Speaker:

you really don't know the difference, like, you don't know a difference between a

Speaker:

KRK speaker and, I don't know, like an ATC

Speaker:

pair or whatever, or like a Neumann mic, and I

Speaker:

don't know. Yeah, you're not in this whole world,

Speaker:

you can get really confused. Yeah. And there's things that take a long time.

Speaker:

I don't think there's an engineer out here, out there that would

Speaker:

say I learned compression in a year

Speaker:

right when I started to understand compression.

Speaker:

Exactly. You're talking about years and years and years of experience

Speaker:

just for great engineers. For people that have done this for a long time, they

Speaker:

will admit like, oh yeah, this clicked for me when I was like

Speaker:

29. I just happened to make it that far. You know what I mean?

Speaker:

Yeah, the compression thing, I'll never forget the experience of

Speaker:

sitting behind an engineer and seeing him tweaking

Speaker:

the compressor and thinking to myself, either he's

Speaker:

insane because I don't hear any difference, or I'm

Speaker:

like brain dead or something because I literally

Speaker:

did not hear any difference. And it took me a very long time to

Speaker:

actually understand compression. Yeah, not sure I

Speaker:

do.

Speaker:

Speaking to, like, I'm going to make an interesting parallel. Like,

Speaker:

we'll just say YouTube. YouTube creators that are like sharing tips or whatever,

Speaker:

people go because they resonate with that person regardless of their

Speaker:

experience level, in the same way that they're going to choose a safari pedal

Speaker:

plugin over a insert some other brand,

Speaker:

whatever, because there's something about

Speaker:

that person or that company that they resonate with, which

Speaker:

is also kind of interesting to think about because I think people are just

Speaker:

drawn to different things for different reasons. And

Speaker:

from the outside looking in, it's easy to be like, oh, these are bad tips,

Speaker:

but some kid is getting something out of

Speaker:

that. Maybe it's maybe 20% wrong or something like

Speaker:

that. Yeah. And anyway, just talking about musical taste and

Speaker:

choosing what a knob does and making a plugin, it's weird to think about that

Speaker:

when you think about tips or, like, TikTok accounts or some nonsense like that, so

Speaker:

it's weird. No, I totally agree. And I feel like

Speaker:

also, you touched on something that I really

Speaker:

resonate with, which is you usually relate

Speaker:

to things that you think are. How did you phrase

Speaker:

it? A lot of times, you'll watch something because you feel it's

Speaker:

relatable to you, or you feel like you're

Speaker:

on the same kind of wave of that person,

Speaker:

and that makes a lot of sense. And again, I think

Speaker:

the way people these days, or, like, young

Speaker:

producers, engineers, musicians, approach

Speaker:

this whole world is totally different than

Speaker:

how we, or me, as a bald person

Speaker:

with kids, looks at all these TikTok accounts and

Speaker:

stuff. And I'm not trying to, like, I take back any

Speaker:

kind of negativity because I feel like it's

Speaker:

not my kind of wave. You know what I mean? It's not

Speaker:

something that's made for me, so it makes sense that I don't understand it. Yeah,

Speaker:

well, it's like, I feel like you would probably agree. I'm more drawn to a

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mix with the master style video than I am

Speaker:

a tips TikTok account. I think it's

Speaker:

because that generation, we learned from

Speaker:

people like that. And so when I want to go learn, I want

Speaker:

to go to those people again, when I think now

Speaker:

kids are so self taught, having their iPad in their hand, making beats on garage

Speaker:

band since they were, like, six, that it's all

Speaker:

about their peers for them and who they like. Not

Speaker:

necessarily. Not their idols or their

Speaker:

inspirations. It's just a different

Speaker:

mentality, I think. Yeah, that's so true. It's more of, like,

Speaker:

a social thing than how we look at it, where it's

Speaker:

more of, like, looking up to someone and

Speaker:

wanting to just learn from. Right.

Speaker:

I totally agree. I feel like it's less about learning and it's more

Speaker:

about socialization, which also makes sense because

Speaker:

there are no physical places where you

Speaker:

hang out anymore. It's like you hang out on TikTok or

Speaker:

Instagram. Everybody's got a studio in their backyard, unfortunately.

Speaker:

Yeah. You don't have that same community that you had, like, 30 years ago,

Speaker:

where the only place to make a record was in one of the ten studios

Speaker:

in town, and so that's where everybody met everybody. That's where

Speaker:

you learned stuff. Yeah. And I'm sure you experienced this as

Speaker:

well. I used to work in one room, and then you

Speaker:

open the door to eat lunch, and you see a guy that you.

Speaker:

I don't know. Like, met last week, and he's like, you want to hear something

Speaker:

cool in the other room? And you go to the other room, you're like, oh,

Speaker:

yeah, you mic the drums that way. That's cool.

Speaker:

Totally going to try that one time. Yeah. I mean, I used to get off

Speaker:

work at Capitol and just stay. You're just like,

Speaker:

I'm just going to stay here. Exactly. I feel like maybe that's

Speaker:

our equivalent to TikTok. Yeah. Staying at

Speaker:

the studio till 03:00 in the morning, like, talking nonsense with the tech

Speaker:

about how we fix something or going through the other rooms, checking out,

Speaker:

like, oh, that's how they're eqing this. That's cool. Like, looking at the console at

Speaker:

the end of the night, be like, what'd they do? Where'd they move the mics?

Speaker:

Yeah. Well, we're lucky that we had access to that, though, which is much harder

Speaker:

to find these days. Yeah, for sure. And I feel like, for

Speaker:

mean, I did the same thing, but I'm from Tel Aviv,

Speaker:

so I didn't have capital. I had the

Speaker:

equivalent version of the Middle east, which

Speaker:

is not as glamorous, but

Speaker:

still. Yeah, I love walking in my backyard and have a studio in my

Speaker:

backyard. And I follow plenty of TikTok

Speaker:

accounts and I enjoy watching or whatever, but I do miss going

Speaker:

into a studio for six days in a row, hanging out

Speaker:

afterwards, chatting with everybody. I

Speaker:

still like to get out every once in a while and hit one of those

Speaker:

rooms, but maybe I'm just getting old. I also like to sit in my backyard.

Speaker:

No, I mean 100%. I was talking

Speaker:

to a friend before we started the podcast on a

Speaker:

session I did in a really nice room with a Neve

Speaker:

console that we worked on for like three weeks

Speaker:

in a row. Nice. And that just doesn't happen

Speaker:

anymore. No, it used to be so fun.

Speaker:

You finish the session, you go have drinks.

Speaker:

It's like a phase in your life of

Speaker:

few long weeks. Yeah. You make a record with somebody

Speaker:

for a couple of weeks, a couple of months,

Speaker:

you're friends with that person forever because you guys made art together.

Speaker:

And I think people, I have friends that have made records with

Speaker:

plenty of famous people and they still talk to them years later. And

Speaker:

I think if you're on the outside of the music industry, you're like, you text

Speaker:

famous people and you're like, well, yeah, we're friends. We made a record for, like,

Speaker:

four months. It's cool. It's fine. But,

Speaker:

yeah, I did want to ask you before we go. I wanted to ask you

Speaker:

one thing, since we're kind of talking about our studio experiences, you and I

Speaker:

both have had very stable

Speaker:

salary moments in our lives where

Speaker:

we're making music and we know we're having a fixed income, and we

Speaker:

both chose to leave those situations. You at artless doing

Speaker:

mastering and all the audio stuff, do you have any

Speaker:

advice for people that are maybe like, even if they don't even

Speaker:

work in music, maybe they work, I don't know, at a

Speaker:

coffee shop, but they feel like they can make it full time in music.

Speaker:

They're like, at that point where they're like, I think I need this money, but

Speaker:

I also think I need to go do that. Do you have any advice for

Speaker:

people that are, like, right there at the precipice that are like, I think I

Speaker:

want to work for myself? Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I think

Speaker:

two things. The first one is actually

Speaker:

part of the reason why I left my day job and

Speaker:

decided to start this weird company called Safari.

Speaker:

I guess the first thing is I kind of got to a

Speaker:

realization that it doesn't matter the salary that I would

Speaker:

get. Like, even if it is a very high salary,

Speaker:

it still does not compare at all to having

Speaker:

an asset. I think that's, like, a really big lesson

Speaker:

that I wish I learned earlier in my career

Speaker:

where I would always choose having

Speaker:

an asset over fixed payment. And it

Speaker:

doesn't matter. You can make that same mistake as a freelancer as well,

Speaker:

where you'd be like, no, I don't want points on this record. I just

Speaker:

want you to pay up front. You know what I mean? Yeah. And

Speaker:

what I can tell you looking back is

Speaker:

those points and all these different types of assets they

Speaker:

accumulate, and they can really be

Speaker:

a very big investment in your own life and

Speaker:

in your own self. And sometimes you don't see it at the point

Speaker:

of time that you're actually making the decision. Yeah.

Speaker:

So after having a very long

Speaker:

time with the salary, I realized it. I was like, I

Speaker:

don't see how I can keep this thing going for another, like, 40

Speaker:

years or I don't know, like 30 years or whatever

Speaker:

number of years. And I can't guarantee it, but

Speaker:

I can probably guarantee if I can manage to create an

Speaker:

asset that continues to create revenue for me

Speaker:

in the following years. That seems like a better plan.

Speaker:

Yeah. And maybe, hopefully, things that I can even transfer

Speaker:

to my kids. That's awesome. That's one thing. And then

Speaker:

the second thing is just like,

Speaker:

it's going to sound kind of cliche, but

Speaker:

I really believe in going with your heart.

Speaker:

And I feel like if you're honest to yourself and you're

Speaker:

really 100% trying to be honest with yourself

Speaker:

and not lying to yourself, good things happen. It's just like

Speaker:

the way I've experienced life since

Speaker:

early on, and I felt like I wasn't honest with myself

Speaker:

anymore as being an employee. I loved working at

Speaker:

artless till the last day, but I just felt like there

Speaker:

was something in me that was really wanting to kind of get out

Speaker:

and express myself and do wild plugins. So I felt

Speaker:

like I had to go with that, and I had to trust my gut feeling

Speaker:

and just do what I love, which is

Speaker:

something that a lot of times is like, the opposite of what everybody's

Speaker:

telling you to do, usually, people are telling you, yeah,

Speaker:

don't trust your instincts. Go with whatever

Speaker:

is socially acceptable. You have a job. Don't quit the

Speaker:

job, dude. Yeah, have a good job. You know what I mean? That's just

Speaker:

my two points. I agree completely, and I think

Speaker:

you've got to trust your gut. I mean, we started this podcast. I said there

Speaker:

was, like, a glitch in Riverside, and I was like, every time my gut has

Speaker:

said, I need to restart riverside and I haven't, I've had a

Speaker:

chunk of my interview missing. And I don't know. That's something that

Speaker:

multiple producers and engineers that I've worked with have

Speaker:

said. Like, after I've made a mistake, they've been like, what did

Speaker:

your gut tell you right before that happened? And I was like, not to do

Speaker:

that? And they were like, yeah. You're like,

Speaker:

yeah, I don't know. Something of that gut. Something. And trust

Speaker:

in your instincts. Dude. This has been so much fun. I got to ask you

Speaker:

the last two questions before we head out. All right. Which I believe you know

Speaker:

what they are. But the first one, which maybe we touched on a little bit,

Speaker:

is, was there a time in your career that you chose to redefine what success

Speaker:

meant to you? I feel like I kind of answered that, to be honest,

Speaker:

with safari petals, because my kind of goal for

Speaker:

success early on was, I want to work

Speaker:

with these ten artists that I wish I could. And

Speaker:

then once I reached that in my little world,

Speaker:

I was like, okay, now what? And the next kind

Speaker:

of goal change was, I want to have a steady income because I'm

Speaker:

having kids. I want to have a day job, which is something

Speaker:

that's pretty rare as an engineer. It's not something

Speaker:

that you usually experience. And once I got

Speaker:

that, after a few years, I felt like I want to create

Speaker:

assets, which is kind of the thing

Speaker:

that is happening now. That's awesome. Yeah. Is that a good

Speaker:

answer? That's a perfect answer. Yeah, I agree with those. And

Speaker:

then I know you have a company and you have products in the works and

Speaker:

maybe you can't share everything with us, but what is your current biggest goal and

Speaker:

what's the next smallest step you're going to go to take towards it? I

Speaker:

think my biggest goal is

Speaker:

to find a way to kind

Speaker:

of get safari to a point where

Speaker:

it feels like I'm on a safe island,

Speaker:

where it feels like everything is

Speaker:

working and I don't have to push the boat anymore so hard.

Speaker:

Right. Because right now, which is obvious, it's

Speaker:

predictable. Like, I knew this and I wasn't expecting anything

Speaker:

else, but I wake up in the morning and

Speaker:

whatever I do or don't do is going to be the outcome of the fire

Speaker:

pedals. Like, if I don't answer all the emails and if I

Speaker:

don't plan the next plugin and if I don't do the video,

Speaker:

then it's not going to happen. And I guess

Speaker:

my long term goal is to get to a point where it's an

Speaker:

actual company with other people that do other things

Speaker:

and I don't have to do everything myself.

Speaker:

That's awesome, dude. This has been a lot of fun. People should definitely

Speaker:

check out the plugins. I've been enjoying them. Please take a

Speaker:

second. Share with people whatever you want. This is your little spotlight moment.

Speaker:

I'm not good with spotlight moments. Or maybe just the website.

Speaker:

Yeah, you should check out safaripetals.com

Speaker:

and try the plugins. I feel

Speaker:

like if there's a message that I'm trying to

Speaker:

convey and push forward is people should go crazy

Speaker:

and just be creative and do your thing and don't be

Speaker:

afraid of anything. Just be

Speaker:

yourself. Be a studio animal, which is like a line

Speaker:

that I made up for safari petals and it's

Speaker:

great. See you on the other side. That's awesome,

Speaker:

Travis. Yeah, I really appreciate the podcast. I'm a

Speaker:

listener as well, and it was great talking to you and

Speaker:

you're an awesome host and I enjoyed it.

Speaker:

A it. I appreciate it. I don't know if I'm

Speaker:

awesome, but we're trying to have a good time here, but yeah, awesome.

Speaker:

I look forward to this compressor slipping out into the world. I'm definitely going to

Speaker:

check that out and yeah, man, we'll have to definitely keep in touch. Now

Speaker:

that you have a plugging company, you got to come to Nam in California. We

Speaker:

can go get drinks. I would love to meet you, Travis. We'll make it happen.

Speaker:

We'll make it happen. Amazing.