From spools to disk drives, from old technology to latest softwares, mix engineer Adam Whittaker has been there and done that.
Adam Whittaker has worked on projects for diverse artists including Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson, Doves, The Damned, Salaam Remi, John Leckie, The Saw Doctors, Starsailor, and many more. His career highlights include earning four platinum certified albums, mixing assorted number ones in several countries and over a billion streams in India. However his real passion lies in developing new independent artists and helping them achieve success using his experience, providing high level but affordable mixing.
He has also worked on 20 plus Indian projects, ranging from working on a Bollywood soundtrack for esteemed director Suneel Darshan, mixing half an album for Roop Kumar Rathod’s daughter Reewa, and most recently a hip hop track for the cool producer Jakes Bejoy called “Naade Naatare” which was in a feature film called ‘Operation Java.’
I caught up with Adam for a short interaction about, well, sound recording and mixing for our segment Behind The Recordings.
“Well, I often work with a great mastering engineer called Donal Whelan at Hafod Mastering, who has worked on some very high profile projects, and he suggested to some clients that I mix a project that wasn’t quite mixed as well as it could have been. So I did and it went well after learning what the Indian ear likes, but with a Western twist,” recalls Adam.
He started off as a musician, but on entering the recording studio, Adam instantly knew what he wanted to do with his life. The love of music, combined with technology was irresistible for him. Adam considers himself lucky to have been one of the last generation that started out on analog and grown through each generation of digital so far.
“I had the opportunity to learn the old way, and not via sketchy YouTube tutorials! I was an engineer, then producer, and during that time worked with hundreds of artists from the most obscure to a few household names,” said Adam.
“I got to work on a failed James Bond movie theme, made albums in the middle of nowhere, have had a few hits around the world and have loved every minute of it. Eventually I decided to mix full time, which I have been doing now for some time via the internet.”
Technology has helped Adam to work with artists from all over the world ranging from locations like the UK, Congo, France, Chile to of course India. Most mix engineers have been using a digital audio workstation (DAW) for some time. DAW is a software program used for composing, producing, recording, mixing and editing audio and MIDI. DAWs facilitate mixing of multiple sound sources on a time-based grid. The changes in technology have made access to the tools to make records more widespread than ever.
Some more recent innovations that are becoming common are the use of room correction software, such as Sonarworks which helps people in less than ideal monitoring environments improve the situation.
The Old School Mix Engineer
Adam views the use of technology as a vital clog but also believes human intelligence is as significant.
“Technology wise, I am using more dynamic convolution based tools, like Acustica Audio’s products, which as far as plugins go are the closest to analog possible. Recently I have also been using their new headphone reference system Sienna. I also think modern monitor speakers are better than ever, and the quality of even affordable digital-to-analog convertors (DAC) are amazing compared to a decade ago,” expressed the mix engineer.
A digital-to-analog converter is a system that converts a digital signal into an analog signal.
Though a firm believer in the thought of technology advancements aiding better production, Adam remains sceptical about a few of them. He believes surround sound is definitely not an advancement for the studio and is better suited to the cinema houses or living room.
“It is a wonderful thing for movies, but as far as music is concerned, I am not so sure. While Atmos uses different technology that makes things easier for surround, the room still has to be set up for it. I don’t think the way people consume music, and will consume music really lends itself to surround formats and it always seems a little gimmicky to me. Personally, I don’t want to hear classic albums remixed in Dolby Atmos,” asserted Adam.
Music to Adam, like most of us is the universal language. Different songs and several genres keep mix engineer Adam Whittaker on his toes. Along with an affinity for music, Adam considers himself lucky to have had the opportunities to work with global artists and experience a new sound on a daily basis.
So what does Adam want to change in the near perfect world of his?
“The standard of projects I have been lucky to work on are pretty high. I am grateful to have the opportunity. But I would like the technology to move more towards high definition. That’s a combination of internet infrastructure, bandwidth and affordable but great quality playback devices, all of which I think are inevitable. We also need to see some adjustments on the business side so artists can make money and keep making records,” said a very thoughtful Adam Whittaker.