Audio-Technica conducted a Livestream event at the Audio Engineering Society (AES) 2013 Convention where the public had the unique opportunity to ask revered professionals in the audio industry whatever they wanted to know. The questions came from a live audience in the booth and from a Twitter feed following #ATliveAES. The event was as exciting for us as anyone else and we received some incredible insight into multiple levels of sound engineering and the music industry. In this week’s edition, we’ll highlight some of the key responses by Richard Chycki – Toronto-based mixer, engineer and producer.
Chycki is well known in the business for his pioneering mix work in 5.1 surround. His clients include Rush, Aerosmith, Dream Theater, Mick Jagger, Def Leppard, Skillet, Pink, Our Lady Peace and P. Diddy.
Richard’s work with Rush alone has yielded 24 platinum records, and he has 70 platinum records overall. Beginning his engineering career as a guitar player working in studios in Toronto, Canada, Chycki later relocated to Los Angeles. In addition to his technical skills, his humorous studio manner and iconoclastic approach to album making scores strong support from the artists he works with. He is currently remixing Rush’s “La Villa Strangiato” and working on a solo project with Dream Theater’s John Petrucci.
A-T: Hey Rich, in your work with Neil Peart of Rush, was there any unique thing you did or unique challenges you faced miking such a large drum kit in the studio?
RC: The main challenges facing Neil’s kit are isolation and phase. I did a lot of measuring work to make sure that the snare was sitting in center field of the kit and to maintain coherence of sound with about 40 mics and 34 channels of audio. It was important that each piece of his kit didn’t feel segregated, but at the same time it feels like one big kit, while maintaining control over all of the individual elements. His kit really sounds fantastic to start with and he’s a great player, so the main elements are taken care of. It was important to not change that and to also keep mics out of the “strike zone.”
A-T: I saw a couple of videos where John Petrucci was talking about getting the sound of a chocolate cake and he had a picture of a chocolate cake. How did you achieve that sound and have you had any experience with any other chocolaty sounds before?
RC: John came into the studio and his tech came up and took pictures of chocolate cake and he tacks them into the wood on the walls of the studio, and he says, “This is what I want.” But what he really wanted was to have his sound captured in all of the dynamics of how he plays. When he plays heavy, he wanted his sound heavy. The miking system that we came up with focused on a very dry, transient guitar sound. I made a very large ISO-booth, insulated 3 feet thick, so it was anechoic. We put a lot of different mics in there, and measured everything for phase accuracy. Everything pushes when it comes to waveforms, but on this record, the guitars are really transient. We used a lot of different microphones and very little EQ; we actually used the individual mics to EQ. That’s the essence of chocolate cake for John.
A-T: You sound very passionate about what you do. Do you really like your job and if you could change anything, what would it be?
RC: I absolutely love my job. I have been really fortunate in that I’ve been able to travel around the world. I work with musicians that, when I was a kid, I was looking up to. I used to play Rush songs in a cover band when I was in high school and I ended up working with them; that is amazing. You have to love your job because the hours are really long. I did some stuff where I would be awake from Friday until Monday, and then go back to work on Monday. If there were anything I would change, it would be the long hours. That would be about it. Everything else is fantastic.
A-T: What does the future of audio look like?
RC: That’s a really good question. It’s a very dark place, ha ha! The great thing is that there are a lot of tools that are available now. 50 or 60 years ago, it was all about the artist. It was simple. 2, 3, 4 tracks. Then it got into magic tricks, with microphones, etc. These days, a lot of tools have become available and affordable, and it’s leveled the playing field. A lot of it has to do with interpretation and the person. The more technology develops, it’s going to become more and more about the person and what they know. Knowledge is going to be the commodity.
A-T: What is your best career decision to date?
RC: My best career decision? To not give up. That’s my best career decision.
Thanks, Mr. Chycki! What can we take from this interview? Never give up! It pays off.