People always say, "find something you love to do, and you'll never work a day in your life." If that's true, Tobias Lindell may be one of the most productive non-working people around.
Messing around with DJing as a kid lead to making remixes and beats as a teenager. Then that lead to producing commercial loop collections and building a studio. Outgrowing that studio lead to becoming a resident producer and mix engineer at Bohus Sound Studios in Sweden. From there he decided to begin Lindell Audio in 2010 to create high-end pro audio hardware with features he wanted that no one else provided. Now, in less than six years, Lindell Audio has 16 well-reputed and well-distributed products on the market.
It wasn't much longer that Lindell Audio expanded into plugins, and Plugin Alliance swooped in to bring them into the fold. Lindell's ChannelX channel strip, 7X-500 FET compressor, PEX-500 passive EQ and 6X-500 Class A preamp plugins are all based on Lindell Audio hardware. Then last August, Lindell released the 254E compressor/limiter, its first plugin emulating a piece of classic third-party gear: the Neve 2254 from 1969.
We pulled Tobias away from his busy schedule of recreation to grill him about his audio endeavors. It was kind of like the job interview he'll never have.
Plugin Alliance: How did you first get involved in production?
Tobias Lindell: My interest in music started when I was around 12 years old. I was given a bunch of 7" records from my neighbor, and immediately started to play them on my mother’s turntable. Not long after that I got her to buy a second turntable and the cheapest 2-channel mixer, and off I went playing my first DJ set at my school’s prom party.
PA: What was your first paid gig in production/engineering?
TL: I moved to my own first apartment when I was 17 years old. By that time I had already bought my first PC 486 dxII-50 with Session 8, Cubase Audio and SampleCell and started to mess around with remixes and extended edits for my DJ friends.
I also had a huge interest in beats and loops that I created for my remixes. I wanted to make some money from my beat making and contacted Swedish company e-Lab. My good friend Eric Swan at e-Lab liked my stuff and together we released Nu Groove RnB, Stricktly RnB, Stricktly HipHop, Stricktly 12", Stricktly House, X-static Goldmine 3, and more. So that was my first paying gig.
PA: Did you have any early life experiences that sparked your interest in production/engineering?
TL: Definitely, getting those records from my neighbor.
PA: How did you become the staff producer at Bohus Sound in Sweden?
TL: I’ve had my own studio for a couple of years. Harrison Series 10 console (I was doing mix recall very early), Pro Tools, a lot of outboard gear. But I wanted more, so a logical step was to merge with a bigger studio. So I sold my console, packed my gear and moved to Studio Bohus.
PA: Was the studio analog, digital or both?
TL: At that time it was both: Euphonix CS-3000 console, Pro Tools, [Mara Machines] MCI 2" [tape machine], Quested main monitors.
PA: What were some of your most memorable sessions there?
TL: I really enjoyed producing and recording Mustasch's “Double Nature,” where I incorporated a 20-piece live string session orchestra. The arrangement was something new in heavy rock and quite a breakthrough for me as a producer.
PA: The Neve VXS console at Bohus is now at Brainworx, correct?
TL: Yes, Dirk bought that console some years ago. It was replaced by a 60-channel Neve 88R.
PA: It’s the console bx_console is based on, right? Have you checked it out?
TL: Yes, the bx_console plugin is all of the VXS 72 digitalized. They’ve done a nice job emulating the console. I like the way their TMT technology recreates the natural channel-to-channel variation found in the real console, so you don’t have just a static single channel. The GUI is the best I have ever seen in a plugin.
I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit on my last mix. I wish they did the master mix bus section as well… Maybe it’s next? J
PA: What music do you like to listen to?
TL: All well-produced and mixed music: rock to hip-hop to EDM.
PA: Are there any specific producers, mixers whose sound you particularly like, or have been influential?
TL: I was totally blown away and really scared the first time I heard and saw Kiss. I love it loud. What a mix! Bob Clearmountain at his best. After that I discovered Zeppelin and Sabbath.
PA: Do you ever have the experience of listening to an album and thinking, “I would have produced this totally differently”?
TL: Yes, many times.
PA: Who are your favorite musicians to work with?
TL: Mats “Dojan” Hansson—the best drummer in Sweden. He is the drummer in above Mustasch track.
PA: What are your feelings about the industry’s transition from analog to digital in the last 30 years? What are the positives?
TL: Many things: Editing is faster and better. Sound quality is better. More people can get into music thanks to cheaper home DAW systems.
PA: What are the negatives?
TL: Nothing really. There is still a choice for us how to work. We can do 100% analog or 100% digital. It all sounds good if you know what you are doing.
PA: How did you get into designing and building audio hardware?
TL: I built my first speaker when I was 13 years old out of an old closet. After that I have always been fascinated by gear. I started Lindell Audio a couple of years ago, where I designed gear for my own use, having particular functions that did not exist. The 17X compressors have a parallel mix knob and sidechain high-pass filter, which the original 1176 does not have. After that we moved into the 500 series products, which are now our main products.
PA: When did you decide to start making audio plugins?
TL: Everybody is moving into the DAW world. So it’s a natural progress to make plugin emulations of my own hardware. I want more people to enjoy my sounds, and plugins are easy to “try before you buy.”
I contacted Emmanuel Dubecq and asked if we should start Lindell Plugins. I sent him my 500 series modules, and he did a couple of prototypes. I was blown away with the sound. So we started it up, added some more features, which is so easy in the digital world, and here we are.
PA: How is it different from designing hardware?
TL: For me it is about listening and making sure the plugins sound the same as my hardware. Emmanuel is so good at programming the algorithms. It’s then up to me to approve the sound and make the GUI I want.
PA: How did the 254E come about?
TL: We discussed what new plugins we should make and came up with the [Neve] 2254. Others had made half-assed plugins that I didn’t like. So I knew we could make it better and truer to the original hardware. The result is pretty spectacular. It sounds like I want, and I use it on every mix I make—inserted either in the main mix, lead vocal or drum bus.
PA: What made you decide to team up with Plugin Alliance?
TL: Matt Ward and Dirk approached me at NAMM this year and presented Plugin Alliance and how they operate. I like their setup very much and jumped on the wagon. It’s a big difference selling hardware and software, and PA really knows the plugin world. Their copy protection and demos are perfect—very easy for the customer to try the plugins before buying them.
PA: Do you use other PA plugins?
TL: Yes. The Millenia NSEQ-2 is my favorite EQ plugin of all times.
PA: Can we expect new plugins from Lindell in 2016?
TL: We’re working on some new cool stuff for sure, so keep your eyes open.