The sound of
The sound of
Like many modern producers, Tim Bazell started his journey as a player. Now a seasoned engineer and producer on the UK circuit, it was his love of the sounds of his favorite records that tipped him over the edge.
We sat down with Tim at his London studio to discuss the ever-greater needs of modern producers, the fine line between hardware and software, and how he incorporates FX Collection into his process.
_Adapting a process
With credits including Duffy, Roller Trio, and Shingai Shoniwa, Tim Bazell’s experience is eclectic to say the least. In audio production, it seems that diversity helps - it’s all about a deeper respect for sound, regardless of style.
And as with many modern professions, it’s also about keeping up with technology. For Bazell, the passion for sound came first, and the engineering knowledge came afterwards - and with that, learning the tools of the trade. He notes that one of the biggest changes he’s seen is the quality of the sound of plugins.
"They’ve gone from being kind of an approximation - adding all sorts of problems and strange artifacts - to being almost in some cases indistinguishable from hardware."
_Technology, sound, art, and emotion
Further to this, the adjustment to working with plugins in a virtual studio environment was crucial to keeping up with modern production demands. He recalls taking photos of the settings on his studio desk to revisit the mixes later - something that sounds surreal when compared to the instant results of a modern DAW workflow.
"The reality now is that you have artists that need to earn money from sync, or some computer games company that needs stems from a track within 24 hours - working in the box is pretty much the only way that you can reliably do that."
But being a producer goes far beyond technical knowhow and having a good ear. A producer has to be an emotion interpreter, a translator of what the artist is trying to say; the role of a producer is an artistic one as well as a technical one.
“If you just do what's technically correct, you’re not making music.”
_Behind the scenes
We were lucky enough to sit in on a mixing session with Tim to see his process in motion, and his choice of FX Collection plugins. The subject matter: a live recording of a 3-piece rock band. With this mix, Tim wanted to retain that natural ‘alive’ feeling, while giving it the polished punch of a detailed studio recording.
Snare - Comp VCA-65
"This is a model of a very nice DBX compressor that’s fantastic on drums.""Sometimes snare drums and overhead mics don’t get along. To tame any unpleasant ‘boink’ sound qualities, Tim opts for Comp VCA-65. This ensures that the snare sounds direct, punchy, and neatly tucked into the mix.
Drum kit - Rev PLATE-140
"I don’t often use reverb on drums, but when I do, a 140 Plate is often a really wonderful place to start."Setting Rev PLATE-140 to a surprisingly long 2.5 seconds actually brings energy, warmth, and a touch of mix glue - with the material quality of classic plate reverb.
Guitars - Chorus DIMENSION-D
"The fact that there’s less symmetry in what the oscillator is doing means that the modulation responds in a more rhythmic way - which is really cool."To add contrast to the guitar parts in the verse of the track, Tim opts for some modulation - Chorus DIMENSION-D. By using the newly-added Random Smoothed waveform and mode 4, he’s able to add varied movement while retaining the classic BBD color of the original hardware.
Guitars - Flanger BL-20
"The really cool thing about the Bel Flanger is it has this Manual button on it...I love it!"To emphasize that pure wall-of-guitars power in the pre-chorus, Tim opts for the chunky sweeps of Flanger BL-20 - as an original Bel Flanger owner, it’s familiar modulation territory.
Backing vocals - Delay ETERNITY
"A ridiculously advanced delay that you can do all sorts of crazy stuff with."Just cycling through presets and looking for some unexpected magic, Tim spends some time experimenting with how the BVs sit in the mix - from interesting modulation to broad stereo textures.
Working with the music
Seeing Tim caught up in the momentum of his creative flow, it’s clear that his process is one involving synergy. A marriage of technical experience, artistic open-mindedness, and an awareness of what his project is trying to convey. But the final test, the remaining crucial ingredient, is how a sound sits in the mix.
For Tim, the FX Collection plugins strike a delicate balance between capturing the feel and character of classic hardware, and delivering the sonic goods under any circumstances - ensuring that everything finds its place in the mix.
“You don't need side by side tests, they sit and work with the music in the right way - and that’s what really counts!”