In the second of a series of Avid Blogs Music articles celebrating the nominees of this year’s Music Producer Guild Awards, legendary producer and mixer Andy Bradfield gives us an insight into the exciting projects he’s been a part of during his career.
Starting his journey at Olympic and Townhouse Studios in London, training with many great names Andy became a freelance engineer before moving into the realms of mixing and production. Andy has since put his hand to a wide spectrum of projects, including mixing for legendary artists like Sugababes, Rufus Wainwright, Pet Shop Boys and Alanis Morissette.
Although Andy trained as an engineer, he was increasingly asked to mix projects that made him part of the creation of some of the most historic movie soundtracks in history. Andy has also been involved in the making of a whole catalogue of blockbuster soundtracks, including The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Suckerpunch and Kick-Ass. He was even nominated for a GRAMMY® when he worked as a mixer on the music for Baz Lurhman’s spectacular Moulin Rouge. He also lent his hand as mixer on Lurhman’s most recent box office smash hit, The Great Gatsby.
Q: What is the very first thing that comes to mind when you think of Pro Tools and how has it helped you grow over the years?
Flexibility and mixing are key for me when it comes to Pro Tools. But when I started using Pro Tools, it was just a mere young thing at version 3! Over the years, it’s been able to handle all that I throw at it! I don’t feel I have to fight the technology any more—in fact quite the reverse. Pro Tools brings benefits to the mixing process that I could only dream about a few years ago.
Q: Why do you rely on Pro Tools and in your opinion, what are some of its best features?
My role is to take the pressure off the producer and artists at the critical last stage of creation so that they can concentrate on the music and not worry about how to get there. I work with so many different types of artists and material that Pro Tools makes my work interesting and varied, offering all I want in a music production system.
I grew up with analogue tape machines and SSL Consoles, but by the late 90’s productions were busting out of what could be achieved this way. Suddenly 48 tracks wasn’t enough and tape was becoming too limited with regard to editing, which is one of the reasons I was a very early adopter of Pro Tools. For me, automation is very flexible and means I can work how I want. The control surface support is also great – when I need to do crazy complex editing or re-arranging, it’s never a problem in Pro Tools.
Q: In terms of collaboration and working in various places and situations, how does Pro Tools make things easier?
I have a full 5.1 setup, as well as traditional stereo mixing setup in the studio, so the fact that Pro Tools is always the same is a big plus for me. I can open a session and mix/edit in basically the same way on standard software only up to full on expanded HDX3 running 100’s of tracks, which makes going to other studios, even if just for a short session, so much easier.
Q: How do you use Pro Tools and what’s your process and workflow like?
I mainly mix and produce, so I start by importing the session into a template so that I can use my I/O. This is setup for the system, as I use lots of outward analogue equipment and plug-in’s as part of the mixing process.
If there are ever multitrack edits (straight edits as opposed to tempo stuff) audio is easier to manipulate as I can slide left or right and ‘uncover’ what was there, making it easier to crossfade & make the edits work.
Q: How have the new features in Pro Tools, like the Avid Audio Engine and 64-bit processing, benefited you?
Offline Bounce is very useful. The Disk Cache in Pro Tools HD11 is amazing and it means that with enough memory, you can have the whole session running in RAM, meaning I never get disk errors. Having bigger (16,000 Sample) plug-in delay comp is better for me, which means I’m less likely to hit the limit and have timing issues, which is VERY important!
The main thing is it all works – and stops me having to think about it when I am trying to be creative.
Q: Do you use Pro Tools with other software or hardware? How does that openness and synergy enhance your process?
Yes I use a lot of Analogue Outboard which is hooked up to the I/O of the HDX system.
But the system itself sounds great, and i think the fact that load times are faster on big sessions is a big help too.
Q: What are some of your favourite moments in your career?
That’s such a hard question to answer—I have been extremely privileged (and still am!) to work with many amazing artists and producers.
Some off the top of my head would be Moulin Rouge, Rufus Wainwright, Marius De Vries, Everything But The Girl, Josh Groban, Miguel Bose, Craig Armstrong, The Great Gatsby, Neil Davidge, Halo 4 – but it’s very hard to pick one they are all very different & unique, which is what makes mixing so interesting as a career, and so enjoyable.
Q: As a mixing engineer, how do you stay competitive and ahead of the game?
I try to listen to what people want to achieve. I think as a mixer, my job is to take the complexity of the final stage away so that the artist/producer/director don’t have to worry. I know I can do whatever needs to be done, whether it’s a straight mix, or completely re-working a track – the question is always, “Do I like this? Does it work? Is it what’s required?”
Q: How did you start in mixing and how has the continuous evolution of technology changed the way that you work?
I always liked mixing when I was a young engineer, but I didn’t always get to do it. So when I started to get asked to mix projects, rather than just record it was the next logical step.
I embraced Pro Tools very early on, but I think that when I stopped using tape (multi-track) was a big thing for me. It was obvious that the mixing side would get better and better, which it has and still does. I think being able to come back to very large, very complex mixes fresh is THE BIG ONE! I still like tactile control and analogue stuff, but none of it is any good if you don’t have perspective on what you are trying to achieve.
Q: What advice would you give people who want to get started doing what you do?
LISTEN – and learn! Take as much in as you can. You won’t realise it, but you’re always learning, and that’s a good thing. There’s no right or wrong way – just do what works for you.
Q: How does it feel to be nominated for an MPG Award?
Amazing! The fact that I’ve been chosen by my peers means a hell of a lot to me. It feels great to be recognised for what I love to do.
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