Over the years Charlie Waymire has worn many hats within the music industry.
From touring the world to opening his own recording studio, Waymire has seemingly done it all. These experiences have provided him with a wealth of knowledge that he’s shared in our ongoing Basic Recording Techniques series. Recently we had a chance to talk with the man himself and gain some insight into the recording industry.
Read on to find out what drove Waymire to open Ultimate Studios, Inc. and what advice he has for those just getting started in the business.
Audio-Technica: How did you get started in the business?
Charlie Waymire: My journey into the business started at the ripe old age of 10. I started playing drums and piano when I was nine but bought my first Mötley Crüe album when I was 10. Tommy Lee just blew me away and I knew right then and there that music was my life. I’ve never questioned it since.
All of my formal training is on drums. I attended Music Tech of Minneapolis (now McNally Smith College of Music) and Musicians Institute in Hollywood. I played and recorded with anyone and everyone during my time at school. At one point I had 11 bands and would spend all of my nights in the studio recording. It was a wonderful time where I was able to really build my playing chops, both live and in the studio.
After school I spent a lot of time touring the U.S. and Europe and, oddly enough, this is where my journey into being an engineer and producer started. On the road I had a lot of free time on my hands and I could only practice for so long. During a U.S. tour I spent most of my hours in the back of the RV with an early demo version of Pro Tools. It only had eight tracks and didn’t allow you to save anything. I put together new intros for our shows and, since I wasn’t able to save anything, every show had a new intro. I used anything I had to record sounds and shape sounds. Little did I know, that was the beginning of me being a studio owner.
A-T: What’s the biggest challenge you find in the industry today?
CW: That’s a loaded question! On the production side I think it’s educating people on the actual recording process. There is an endless amount of information on the Internet, but so much of it revolves around learning how to use a DAW or plugins, or mixing. It just seems to me that there is less focus on the actual recording process. How can you expect to record a good guitar or drum sound if you don’t understand how the instrument works? Sure, I can tell someone where to put a mic to record a good guitar sound but that doesn’t mean it will be the “right” sound for the music. To capture the “right” sound you have to understand the instrument and the context. So I think it’s really important to experiment and really learn about the instruments that are being recorded and not just the gear that is doing the recording.
A-T: When working on a TV show, how does that process differ compared to working with a music artist?
CW: When I’m working with a music artist there tends to be more room for spontaneity, for the process itself to guide us to our end goal. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a direction. We do pre-production to make sure the songs are ready, everyone knows their parts, discuss the overall sound and vibe we are after. However, during the process songs can take on a life of their own and bring out ideas we hadn’t thought of during pre-production. This is the beauty of creating music. If we listen, the music will tell us what to do.
Doing a show, like FullOnDrums, it’s completely different. We know every move before we shoot or record a note. We know what we’re recording, how long it will be, camera angles, and dialog. Every detail is predetermined. Any experimenting is done way before we begin shooting.
A-T: When do you decide to start Ultimate Studios, Inc.?
CW: I decided to do Ultimate Studios, Inc. (USI) around 2005 when I put my first studio together. USI was mainly put together for me to record drum tracks for artists, producers, and composers. That was my intention anyway. I was capturing great tones in a pretty small room, and after about a year or so of being in business I started to get drummers and bands asking if I could record them at my studio. So I started engineering other drummers, which led to engineering other bands, then mixing and mastering. The next thing I knew I was recording full bands live and I was the engineer and not the drummer. After about seven years in that studio I had completely outgrown the room and needed more space. That’s when I decided to actually build a studio that would fit my needs, which is the current USI. Now I have a nice large control room, a 600 sq. ft. live room, and an ISO booth. It’s great for bands.
A-T: Who was the most memorable artist you’ve worked with over the years?
CW: This is a tough question to answer. I don’t know if I have a clear “most memorable.” Some of the artists that stand out are Vinnie Colaiuta, Chad Smith, JR Robinson, Ray Luzier, Glen Sobel, and Josh Freese. The Chad Smith sessions were pretty special because we were also tracking with a fantastic bass player named Kevin Chown. Chad and Kevin work together a lot and have a great chemistry. That makes for a magical session. Working with guys like that makes every session memorable.
A-T: What inspired you to start FullOnDrums.com?
CW: FullOnDrums.com was actually the brainchild of my partner Scott Francisco. We had worked together for many years on all sorts of projects, including his band Felt, as well as TV shows like Malcolm In the Middle, Help You Help Me, Zeke and Luther, to name a few. I also recorded many sound libraries with him as well. Scott had a huge influence on me as an engineer early on. We both love recording, and one day he called me with the idea for FullOnDrums.com.
We wanted to shoot a show that was informational and entertaining, but also exciting and inspirational. We felt that a lot of the information that was available was dry and not necessarily about the “sound” part of recording. It was just a lot of technical stuff or the exact opposite by being all about the sound while not explaining how it was captured. We set out to educate people on the technical aspects but always make sure it related to a specific sound or context. It’s been a lot of fun.
A-T: What’s been your proudest moment in growing FullOnDrums.com?
CW: Getting feedback from viewers about how the show has helped them in their recordings. When I go to AES or NAMM I have people from all over the world telling me how much they enjoy the show and how it’s helped them. It’s very humbling and inspiring and it shows how modern technology can have a positive impact on our industry.
A-T: Do you have any advice for someone just starting out in the industry?
CW: If you’re serious about being a musician or recording engineer then you have to be willing to devote lots of time and energy into learning your craft. Always seek out information. I would highly recommend finding a mentor, that’s one of the best ways to learn.
Learn to play an instrument if you don’t already. Recording music isn’t about key commands and plugins. You have to understand the instruments you’re recording and learning how to play one is an excellent way to discover how it works. Use your friends too. If you have a friend that plays an instrument that you don’t, invite them over to the studio to record so you can practice.
But above all remember that recording is about people. It’s about relationships and understanding people’s motivations. As a studio owner I provide a service to my clients. To make that service the best it can be I have to pay attention to the needs of the artists. It’s about the people, so make sure to develop good people skills!
A-T: What big changes do you see ahead in the industry?
CW: I see more and more artists wanting to record live again. Over the past year more of my work has been with younger bands recording together even though most of them have recording gear at home. There is just something magical about having a group of musicians in a room together feeding off one another. Technology will constantly develop, but I see the human element returning to the forefront of music.