Signal Path Podcast: Mikey Young
Hear the stories behind the music with the Signal Path podcast. Tapping a global network of musicians, producers, engineers and other sonic innovators, Shure brings you exclusive interviews with the people shaping the world of audio.
Episode 38 – Mikey Young
For the latest episode of Signal Path, Andrew Anderson spoke with Mikey Young, alternative music’s ultimate multitasker. After making waves with garage rock heroes Eddy Current Suppression Ring and synth-punk outfit Total Control, the Australian has forged a second career as the mixing and mastering guru for a slew of cutting-edge bands. In the podcast, he discusses and how he managed the transition from stage to studio, his novel approach to recording, and how he overcame his addiction to vintage gear.
Andrew Anderson: How's life in Australia right now?
Mikey Young: I hasn't gotten quiet at all, and I'm pretty used to like not leaving the house. You know, I get out of bed. I have a coffee. I go into the studio. I work till six. I make dinner. So six days out of seven, I'm probably just home kicking around anyway. It hasn't changed my life too much. And strangely, I got busier even. People are sending me more records to work on.
I want to go back and start when you first began making music and recording it. You were working a record pressing plant for a bit more context.
When I first moved out of the suburbs to the city, I bought a four track. I could do that I think was the first digital four track, a Fostex. And I bought one microphone, a SM57 and an Alesis compressor and Yamaha DJX keyboard and just started making music by myself, by just really poor man's kind of like trip-hop.
And then I had a buddy, who was a DJ and he had some of my demos and played it to this label that called Modular. It was kind of a big-ish indie label over here at the time. And they signed me for some reason. They gave me some money to buy stuff and develop my craft. I was like seven and a half grand. I didn't know anything. And so I bought like a Mac and Pro Tools and a Wurlitzer and a synth and then I just taught myself a little bit about recording. Fast forward a few years. I'd got my job a at the pressing plant. The boss turned up to work with an eight track and I a big old British mixing desk, a Chilton and he was like, “You know to record bands, don’t you Mikey?” And I was like, “Nah.” And he's like, “Yeah, you do. I've got this band coming down frome Brisbane this week. You're gonna record them.” And I kind of had to make it up that weekend to record this band. I had one SM48 on the drum kit, like not even facing the drummer. I just didn't know what I was doing at all. It was definitely trial and error.
And a lot of times, the day after we recorded the first Eddy Current Suppression Ring, I had my first paid job, probably like a friend's band wanted to record. Like I was like, “Oh, I've got all the stuff set up. I just need to come in the next day.” And so I recorded that and I think word just got around, because I guess when was this, 2005? Even though it doesn't seem that long ago, like people recording themselves was not a common thing then. Most bands now were still going to studios in the early 2000s.
And I think word just got around. This dude’s got an eight track and you go around and record your band. So, I just became like default person. But, yeah, I definitely just learned on the job and sometimes I wish that I actually learned a bit more professionally, you know, like I actually got some kind of lessons or insight in how to do these things because there's a lot of mistakes I kept making for years just because I didn't know any better.
Could you give me an example of some of those things?
Yeah, mainly I'd say drum sounds. Like you can put them in front of a guitar. And if your amp sounds okay, it's probably gonna sound okay. I know that's not quite true, but it's relatively true compared to a drum kit. I think even just things like, oh, if I flip the phase of one of the mics, it might make the whole kit sound better. You know, I didn't really understand about that.
Sometimes I'm just amazed how long it took me to learn simple things like that that I probably should have known, if I went to school or something. I mean, it's nice that I've developed my own way of doing things, I'm sure, in some way, but sometimes I just feel like an idiot.
Did you ever watch anyone else? Sat in on anyone else's sessions to pick up any tips?
It was entirely working it out. My main driving force was that there was these bunch of great bands in Melbourne in the early 2000s when I first started going to gigs and stuff and I'd go buy their CD and it just didn't sound right.
This episode was recorded with the MV88+. Listen to the full interview with Mikey Young and subscribe to Signal Path with the podcast provider of your choice below.