An Interview with Joe Barresi at the AES Show 2014

On day one of our Ask Me Anything Livestream Events at AES 2014, we sat down with producer, mixer, and engineer Joe Barresi.

Joe Barresi Ask Me Anything

Joe Barresi has amassed an impressive list of clients over the years, acting as a producer, mixer and engineer on some of the top rock albums of the last two decades. Having worked with such bands as Monster Magnet, Slipknot, Queens of the Stone Age, Chevelle, Bad Religion, Nine Inch Nails, New Model Army, Soundgarden, Jane’s Addiction, Tool, VOLTO!, Weezer, and Hole, Barresi is nothing if not well-rounded. His extensive resume is proof of his value to artists, and he himself is constantly learning and trying new things in the studio.

As part of our “Ask Me Anything” series from AES 2014, Joe took questions from conference attendees and those on Twitter. Here are some highlights from Joe Barresi’s AMA session with Audio-Technica.

Question: How often do you have artists use your own selection of amps and guitars, as opposed to what they bring into the studio?

Joe Barresi: You, as a player, have your own style and sound. If you’re a Les Paul player, I am not going to make you play my Strat. So I always encourage… I’m not saying bring your 4 x 12 that you just played Warped Tour with into my studio, because it’s probably beat up and the speakers suck. But bring your head because that’s your sound. Then I will listen to your sound through your guitar and will modify your sound and add to it. Maybe your sound is too bassy, and it needs some mid-range. Rather than me go and change your amp to some completely foreign thing, this is your sound and I am going to add some of my sound into it. Maybe your Strat is not so good and doesn’t stay in tune. OK, let’s get your Strat set up first because you are used to playing it. Your muscle memory is always the most important thing in the studio. You don’t want to just be forced into playing something that is totally foreign. That’s just bizarre to me.

If you’re a great player, it doesn’t matter. Because if you’re a great player, I can throw a 12-string in front of you and you’ll just go, no problem. Or I can strategically locate something in a weird tuning that you pick up and start freaking out on. Then you come up with new parts. But in general, I’m not going to try and change too much. I am just going to augment.

Q: Your guitar pedal collection is well documented. Do you have a count?

JB: Over 400. I got so tired of buying them, I’m building them now. Why not? You know, when you build something it’s unique, right? I built a guitar pedal and was like, OK, this is my own little thing, my own little spin on it. I put some paint on it and it looks cool. You come to my studio, we record, we plug this thing in, and you go, “This sounds insane, dude.”

Now you got to come back to me and ask, “What was that pedal?” I become an important part of your recording process… 

Q: As an avid student of audio, what recent technology – either equipment, software, etc. – are you most excited about?

JB: I’m excited about two-inch tape, that’s not so recent. I’ll tell you what I am excited about, Electro-Harmonix has a new guitar pedal you can do pitch shifting on. It’s awesome. It does polyphonic pitch shifting. Software-wise, I don’t know… There are so many plugins. They’re all tools, you know what I mean? Software to me is just a tool, it’s not an excuse. I still much prefer the unique sound. For instance, you and I are going to mix a song and we both have the same plugins. What’s going to make mine different, other than my ears, is my gear.

You don’t have to have a million dollars in an SSL. My assistant has a rule that he never spends more than $20 on a guitar pedal. He buys a guitar pedal that costs $20 and he brings me a mix that sounds insane. You don’t need $5,000 to buy whatever, you know what I mean? Use your ears, man, create a sound. I’m much more into the whole weird analog shit. I like using my ears.

For the complete AMA interview with Joe Barresi, please check out the video below!

We would like to thank Joe for taking the time to take part in our AES Ask Me Anything Livestream event!


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