Mastodon Producer Shares His Guitar Tips
Atlanta, GA – Matt Washburn has run LedBelly Sound studios in Atlanta for so long and clocked up so many clients, that it takes ages to scroll down the full list on his website. His clients are an eclectic mix of all genres, and for the last 15 years all of them have been recorded with his Audient ASP8024 analogue console - without which, he says he’d be lost.
The LedBelly Sound studio website says, "Anyone can own ProTools, but it takes years of experience to develop how and what you hear. Since 1983, hearing back for the first time what I had just recorded, I’ve been obsessed with capturing sound as purely, accurately and creatively as possible,” - a great quote, we thought. So we asked Matt for some insider tips.
You've worked with metal heavy weights such as Norma Jean and Mastodon, both pretty technical bands. Do you find this makes the production process more tricky?
Not especially. My clients are all over the spectrum: heavy metal, jazz, punk, gospel, country, R&B, hip-hop, bluegrass, etc. I believe that if you know your rooms and your equipment, you can record anything. As long as the clients can play well, I can capture the sound and make it sound bigger and better.
What is your approach to guitar sounds? Do you double track?
It really depends on the band. I have several classic Marshall, Mesa, Orange, etc. amps and cabs available for use...plus a Kemper Profiling Amp (which is badass by the way). I usually use 2 Sennheiser MD421s on one speaker. One on-axis, one off. Run those to the Audient, and then compress with a couple of EL-8 Distressors. Double tracking is typically done on heavy rock and metal projects.
How do you tend to pan your guitars?
If I'm working with a heavy band, I'll usually track 2-3 pairs of rhythm tracks (different guitar rigs), pan those hard left and right. All melodies, leads, and solos closer to, or in the center.
Your testimonials are brilliant. One of the best is the fact that you have "...a big fat analog board [...] which makes things sound better and work faster". Would you agree with this?
Absolutely! I learned the trade 34 years ago, on 2" tape and an old Harrison desk. It's what I know...and love. Tracking a band live through the Audient's amazing pres and EQs feels like home, and so easy to navigate.
What is the best thing about your work?
I'm one of the lucky ones...I have a job that I love, so it never feels like 'work'. Having the ability to hand select the tools I use is just one of the perks.
What is your proudest moment?
Like I said...I work with a lot of younger, unsigned groups who are used to recording their own demos at home. When they come to LedBelly Sound for the first time, and they hear the playback....to watch their faces light up, and hear their comments..."I never thought we could sound this good!" that makes me proud every time.
What piece of gear can't you live without?
My Audient ASP8024! [Nobody told him to say that ~ Audient] It's the heart of my studio. Everything runs to, or through it. It's been with me for 16 loyal years. I'd be lost without it.
Who inspires you?
I'm an old school engineer....that just happens to be a whiz at Pro Tools. I get my inspiration from old-school engineers like: Glyn Johns, George Martin, Andy Wallace, etc.
What's coming up next at LedBelly Sound?
I just finished building the fifth location of the studio, so I'm very proud about that. The schedule is booked up 3 months in advance, and I make sure my clients leave happy with the end product. So I guess more of the same.
You've had your Audient desk for 15 years now, do you remember the reasons why you chose it originally? Would you choose it again now, with the benefit of hindsight?
A very good engineer friend of mine (James Majors) had just purchased one. I was very impressed with it. I had had enough of my Mackie 32/8, and was trying to figure out the next step. The sound was/is amazing, the work flow is perfect, and the price point was right where I needed it to be. Yes, I would choose Audient again in a heartbeat.
With a proud heritage of award-winning audio excellence stretching back to 1997, Audient continues to develop exciting and innovative products for the audio recording market. A philosophy of providing world class, affordable and accessible technology with the aim to capture and enhance creativity has seen Audient build a strong community of creative users in professional and home-studios worldwide. Impeccable performance and reliability can be seen throughout the versatile product range, from the flagship ASP8024 HE Heritage Edition studio console through the iD USB audio interfaces, the ASP series of rack mount mic pres and the compact analogue desk, ASP4816.