Plugin Alliance: First and foremost, thank you so much for joining Plugin Alliance as a contributor. We’re really excited to have other Alliance benefit from your experience.
Craig Bauer: Thanks, I’m excited too.
PA: Some producers like to keep their best tricks to themselves. Do you ever worry about sharing some of the secrets to your success?
CB: I’ve have shared many of my favorite tips and tricks over the past year on my various social media pages. Frankly, I’m not overly protective of these tips for several reasons. The reality is that even with very specific instructions on how to do any of the tips I post, the source audio it’s applied to is always a huge variable. It takes years of practice and training your ears in order to perfect the craft of mixing. I’m always happy to share the knowledge I have with a younger generation. I wasn’t fortunate in my early days to have a mentor so I know how valuable getting a hold of this information can be. My peers that make a living mixing most likely don’t need my tips and tricks as we all tend to have our own.
PA: What can Alliance members expect from you over the coming months?
CB: I’m looking forward to sharing more tips and tricks…not only with regards to plugins but also general recording, producing, and mixing tips. I’m always discovering new techniques and new ways to get to the goal line with better results and quicker. I’ll share those as well.
PA: You mix a lot of projects which have been recorded by others, what are some of the most common mistakes you see people make when tracking?
CB: The single most common mistake in the recordings I get is always related to the misuse of compression. Specifically, over compressed vocals and distorted vocals.
PA: If you could tell someone who is trying to improve the sound of their mixes one thing, what would it be?
CB: If it had to be limited to just ONE thing, it would be to study the mixes of the mixers you admire. So much can be learned just from listening to the details in their mix, the relationship of the balances and how EQ and effects are used correctly.
PA: You use both analog and digital equipment. Can you tell us a bit about when you might select one technology or the other?
CB: From where I sit now, I don’t actually see going completely digital and mixing totally in the box. Plugins these days are phenomenal, but I still prefer to mix hybrid. I have a totally analog back end with my use of 48 channels of SPL Mix Dream summing amps and Lavry AD conversion. I print my mixes digitally back into Pro-Tools that way.
PA: You worked with Kayne West when he was unknown and continued to work with him through some of his best known albums. Is there anyone you’re currently working with we should be keeping an eye on?
CB: I’ve been developing a young singer/songwriter by the name of Aleem for the past year and a half. Aleem is the first signee to my production company and we plan to release his first single to radio in time for spring/summer.
He has an incredible voice and we co-write the songs together. I handle all of the production/mixing and we’ve gathered some of the finest musicians on the planet for this project. So, Aleem is definitely worth keeping an eye on.
PA: Do you think you have a sound? If yes, how would you describe it?
CB: I’ve been told my mixes have an identifiable sound. The words that I almost always hear are “clean with width and depth.” It’s not unusual for me to hear an artist say “I never knew that part was there.”
PA: How do you balance musical creativity and objective engineering? Is there a danger of over-emphasizing the technical aspects of the recording process at the expense of the music?
CB: I always approach my mixing from a musical point of view, not a technical one.
The technical part is inherent at this point, so I’m only focusing on the song and what the best way to bring it to life. Being a musician long before I was a mixer was imperative to my growth over my career.
PA: When did you start using PA plugins?
CB: It’s been a couple of years. It started with replacing some SPL hardware with SPL plugins. Transient designer was the first if I’m not mistaken.
PA: Do you have some favorites? If yes, how do you use them?
CB: Are all of them an appropriate answer? The Brainworx bx_digital V2 EQ is a frequent go-to. The Vertigo VSC-2 seems to make it on to my drum bus all the time. I’m just getting started with the Dyn EQ. It’s incredibly powerful.
Name one piece of gear/effect you could absolutely not live without.
That’s tricky. I’ve paired down my outboard gear to the absolute necessities so I can’t imagine living without any of them. However, my most recent purchase of a piece of gear that I’ve found to be indispensable is my Vertigo VSM-2 mix satellite. I’m looking forward to using the VSM 3 plugin when it’s available from PA.
PA: Is studio production a learned trade or an inherent talent? Do you feel like you were born to mix records or did you learn how to do it?
CB: I think it’s both. Raw talent has to be nurtured. It takes years to master…if that’s even possible. I never stop learning new things. I never stop experimenting. I do think I was born to mix records. It’s a process I thoroughly enjoy. I remember dissecting records in my late teens and reading the credits to find out who produced and mixed them. I think I started that education process before I ever knew or understood the term “mixing.”
PA: The music business has changed a lot in two and a half decades you’ve been mixing. How are you adapting to these changes? How has what you do changed?
CB: My process hasn’t really changed. What has changed is the clients expectations and the lower budgets. Like most professional mixers, I am often expected to deliver mixes faster, with sometimes-endless revisions for budgets half of what they used to be a handful of years back.
PA: What do you hope to teach rising producers and engineers with regards to the content you will be creating on Plugin Alliance?
CB: The tips and tricks speak for themselves. What I hope to “teach” the younger generation is that regardless of all the tools, it’s really the guy, his ears, and the song that are key. The music…and the accomplishment of doing the job really well are self-rewarding. If you’re not getting joy from the process then it’s time to think about a different path.