Producer, engineer, and mixer Bob Clearmountain is one of the most acclaimed names in all of contemporary pop. Over the years, his contemporaries and musicians have been awestruck with Bob’s mixes. He is the man behind the recordings of iconic artists like David Bowie, Chic, Roxy Music, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Bryan Adams, INXS, and so many more.
It is his brilliant work that has elevated the role of “the mixer” to that of a creative partner in the process of making records. It is due to his efforts mixing engineers started getting called on to save projects or provide necessary improvements. For these achievements Bob finds himself on the list of the ‘World’s Greatest Sound Engineers’.
From a bassist to engineer
Like all younger brothers, Bob was influenced by his guitar-playing older brother. He began playing the bass as a teen but was equally fascinated by recording technology. During high school, Bob and his band recorded a demo at the New York City studio Media Sound but disbanded soon.
He approached the same studio looking for a job and was initially hired as a delivery boy, progressing to be an assistant engineer on a session for legendary composer Duke Ellington.
By the end of 70s, he was well-known in disco circles for his sophisticated work on hit albums from Chic and Sister Sledge. In the 80s, Bob not only produced material for unknown artists like Bryan Adams and the Church, but also engineered records for superstars like David Bowie, Rolling Stones and Roxy Music.
1984 was Bob’s breakthrough year as he produced Bryan Adams’ superhit ‘Reckless’ and Hall & Oates’ ‘Big Bam Boom’. He also mixed Bruce Springsteen’s iconic ‘Born in the U.S.A’. During this time, he worked closely with co-producer Jimmy Lovine, was involved in hits like INXS’ ‘Kick’, Simple Minds ‘Once Upon a Time’, and the Pretenders ‘Get Close’.
Bob’s Engineering Marvels
Bob’s talent to build a soundscape and atmosphere where vocals and instruments co-exist and blend together seamlessly set new standards for mixing.
Bob developed a complex and personalized hardware FX signal chain for creating the imaginary soundscapes where musical elements each have their own space and dimension, but remain cohesive to the whole. This FX signal chain, developed over decades, involves an entire studio’s worth of hardware gear – live echo chambers, delays, harmonizers, de-essers, EQs and a large format SSL analog mixing console. And lots of patch cord. Reproducing this complicated interconnection of hardware using individual plugins in a DAW proved to be almost impossible. With Clearmountain’s Domain, it’s refreshingly simple to achieve Bob’s results with a mere click on a preset.
With the ‘Clearmountain Classic’ presets, you don’t need an Engineering degree to get started – instead.
During the ’90s, he also developed SessionTools, a networkable studio management database application designed to aid in all facets of the day-to-day operations of modern recording or mixing facilities. A series of CD-R collections of sampled bass, drum, and percussion sounds was also released under his name.
Rolling Stones, Ricky Martin, Bryan Adams and more
Bob’s mixing/engineering work during the 2000s included Simple Minds’ ‘Black & White 050505’, Bryan Ferry’s ‘Dylanesque’, the soundtrack to Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Stones concert film ‘Shine a Light’, Bryan Adams’ ‘11’ as well as Ricky Martin’s MTV Unplugged, the latter of which won a Best Male Pop Vocal Album award at 2007’s Latin Grammys in 2006.
Bob Clearmountain is also famous for being the first mixing engineer to negotiate a royalty for his work. Despite taking advantage of advancements in digital technology, Bob still relies on his analog mixing deck, treating his Pro Tools software like a tape machine and keeps influencing an entire generation of mix engineers.