major label mixing for independent artists

Ken Lewis Mix Engineer

Mixing Philosophy

I've been mixing records on a major label level for 15 years now, and in that time, I've extensively used just about every piece of studio gear ever made. I've done hundreds of mixes (and still do) on big analog boards like SSL, Neve, Focusrite, API, and large console digital mixes on Oxford and the Neve Capricorn. I've also done several hundred mixes completely 'In the Box', all within the computer. I've won Grammy's for songs that I mixed completely "In the Box", and I've been Grammy nominated for songs I mixed on big analog boards. The Gold and Platinum I've earned over the years is pretty evenly divided between work done on analog and digital formats. I'd like to think I have about as wide a range of experience working on different formats as anyone in the world.

I've had a very long time to think about how I like to mix, and what mixing setup works best for me. I believe the mixing environment I have right now is the best I've ever had for many reasons. It is a true Analog / Digital Hybrid mixing setup.

Digital World

I have a massive Pro Tools / Logic Audio system running an HD Accel 4 with just about every plugin available. The power that this system gives me alone is quite scary. I love the editing capabilities of digital as well as the ability to sculpt sound digitally in a way that analog never provided. Not only are there dozens of powerful new digital audio tools that analog never provided, but the precision with which you can manipulate audio is unrivaled. Perhaps Digital's best quality is its instant recall capability. I can build a mix over time, build a project over the course of months, and every time I come back to it, it sounds exactly like I left it, instantly. Analog never did that. This feature makes revising mixes simple, fast, and predictable. If a client wants changes to a mix, it's an easy task for me to quickly pull up the mix, make the changes and upload the new mix to my client.

Analog Heart

As much as I loved the positive features of mixing in the box, it was always a different thing than analog. I always felt that the added power digital gave you offset the fidelity that analog provided, but I still longed to find that perfect analog/digital hybrid, and this year I found it. I recently purchased an SSL (Solid State Logic) AWS 900+ mixing console with full Automation and Recall.

What's so great about my SSL? Not only does it give me those amazing SSL EQ's, compressors, and mic pre's, the AWS also can control every function of my DAW, whether I'm in Pro Tools or Logic. The best part of this is that I don't have to mix with a mouse or look at a screen. I can simply listen to music without distraction, and mix! I don't have to split my brain into audio and visual, I can focus purely on mixing. I can even control all of my plug-ins directly from the console and turn knobs to change plug-in settings instead of move a mouse. Listen instead of look. So, now, I have all of the great power of digital, controlled from the console, meshed with the amazing analog sound of the SSL, the crown jewel of console makers.

Now I'm not asking the computer to do the massive extra calculations required to combine all of those data streams in the box into a digital stereo output. Believe it or not, this makes a HUGE difference sonically. I was a non-believer until I heard it for myself, and the difference is staggering.

Analog Toys

The other wonderful thing that my SSL console does is it allows me to use all of my wonderful analog gear accumulated over many years of my career. I can once again easily insert an Avalon Compressor and a GML Equalizer across my lead vocal, then give it space with my Lexicon 960 Reverbs, or use my vintage Nuemann Mastering EQ's and my Manley Tube Compressor across the entire mix buss (just like the old days). The difference is astounding. I have as much control over sound again in the analog world as I did in the days of 2 inch tape, before Pro Tools (yes I've been making records for 15 years). The best part? RECALL!!! It takes me about 10 minutes at the end of a mix to completely and precisely document all console & outboard gear settings, and if I need to bring the mix back up a week later and make revisions, it takes me about ten minutes to reset everything. Then I can focus my time on making mix changes and implementing client requests (this keeps you very involved in the mixing process no matter where you are in the world, and it ensures that I can guarantee you'll be a very happy client!).

I've drawn on 15 years of experience to put together my own dream setup. I have combined the best of what digital has to offer with the best of what analog has to offer. Check my credits and you'll see that I still regularly work with the biggest artists, producers, and record labels in the world. On the days I'm not making records for John Legend, Danity Kane, Lenny Kravitz, Usher, David Byrne, Atlantic, Def Jam, Kanye West, etc... I'm making records for independent artists. I put the same energy, attention, talent and dedication into every project I do. Find out for yourself.