Plugin Alliance: Where did your love of music begin?

Rafa Sardina: It did at a very early stage, being only 5 years old… I had a cousin much older than me that would always play all the new stuff that came out. I was also in love with playing guitar and would fool around with my sister’s piano… I was convinced I would be a musician and make a living at it.

PA: You attended four years of Medical school before deciding to pursue a career in music. Was there a pivotal moment that led you to drastically change your career path?

RS: It had always been clear to me I wanted to work in music, but at the time it looked like a very distant dream because of the reality of living in Spain. Being part of such a small market made it look nearly impossible… but one day I thought I might only stand a chance and medical school was in the way. I went for it…. abandoned any other plan and focused on it!

"I really really dig so many of the bx plugins. Can’t live anymore without the bx_digital V2 and bx_saturator V2 among others…." - Rafa Sardina

PA: How did your family react?

RS: They were understandably worried… hahaha… but it was about my life and my dream….

PA: How did you find your way from working live sound in Spain and the south of France to the US?

Afterhours Studios Outboard Gear

RS: As part of my fight at getting into live sound and anything that had to do with music were I lived.
I am from the Basque area in northern Spain and there are a lot of folk bands that play in festivals with French, Irish, and British bands. I became part of that circuit.
It was a very interesting part of growing up as a music lover because it opened a new window for me.

PA: Can you tell us a bit about how you landed your first engineering gig in the states?

RS: It was at Ocean Way Recording in Hollywood. It was my dream studio to work at… the roaster of artists that went thru that place was impressive. I asked for a position after going to Full Sail in Florida and landed an internship. They had never offered an internship before but I think I was so obnoxious that they went for it and I became an intern.

PA: Which project landed you your first Grammy?

RS: It was an album with an artist called Luis Miguel.
I am very proud of that one because I did most of it, but Al Schmitt did some recording and we went up together to receive it. He is my ultimate hero and it was a very special moment for me.

PA: How do you prepare a new project to be mixed?

RS: First I make sure I am not missing anything, and for that, I ask for a recent rough mix with all the elements that should be in it. I never listen to that rough mix and let my assistant clean it and compare to the rough to make sure we are not missing things.

Later on I open it and start listening to things as a whole and in sections to determine what makes the song, what makes it special and how to maximize that aspect.

At the last stages of my own mixing I listen to the rough they provided to see where I stand, how far I am from their vision, and to see if I can incorporate any of their ideas.

Rafa Sardina in the Afterhours main room

PA: Are you selective when it comes to taking on new projects?

RS: I am, because they need to make me feel good, I need to feel I can be part of the team and their vision.

PA: What was the inspiration behind setting up your studio, AfterHours Studios?

RS: It came at a time when things were changing in the industry, budgets were going down, and I wanted to keep my independence when it came to taking new and upcoming projects.

PA: You have an extensive collection of outboard gear. How do you blend the use of hardware with software tools?

RS: I combine them 50/50. I even use both simultaneously… I hear sounds in my head and there might be some aspects of both tools I need to use to achieve that result.

PA: How do you use Plugin Alliance plugins in your work?

RS: They are an irreplaceable part of my plug in army. They get used in every mix I do.

PA: What led you to join the Alliance?

RS: How relevant the plug-ins are. They are not only usable, but very in-depth tools.
Some of the best out there!

PA: Earth is doomed, you can bring 3 pieces of audio gear with you to our new home planet. What are they and why did you choose to bring them? (computer doesn’t count)

Rafa Sardina in the main mixing room

RS: Speakers, a good all around microphone, plug-ins folder.

PA: In addition to being technically proficient, what other skills do you think it’s important for an engineer/producer to have?

RS: I think it’s basic to have an understanding of artist’s, musician’s, and producer’s mindset. Be able to connect with their feelings and their creative process. You always need to be part of the solution to their quest, and not become an obstacle in any manner.

PA If you could give aspiring musicians, producers and engineers one piece of advice, what would it be?

RS: Spend as much time into developing your people skills as you do in learning the newest piece of gear. Read some psychology books… understand people!

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