In the Studio with Chris Chetland from KOG
With over twenty years of experience and countless local and international awards to his name, Chris likes to keep his work varried. From top tier productions holding the record for the longest lasting single at number 1 in the NZ Single Chart to the more obscure underground artists.
A talented mastering engineer and gear afficionado, Chris Chetland has been working with audio for as long as he can remember. He is one of New Zealand’s most prominent mastering engineers, based in his villa-converted studio in Waitakere Valley near Auckland – the view is absolutely breathtaking.
We’ve caught up with him in between projects to see what he’s been up to lately and have learned some interesting facts other than the already impressive list of credits he has acumulated throughout the years.
Can you share with us what you're working on at the moment?
We're currently working (today) on a new single for Sweetmixkids (Warner Music) which is primarily analog stemming and some producing. They get their mixes as good as they can on their setup and then bring in the stems and we analog mix it and add in any extra production tricks, drum replacement, effects etc to give it the big Pop/Dance feel.
There has been quite a bit of electronic style music coming through recently, which is always fun sonically, and Reggae is always a good regular thing we get, and have 2 Hip Hop tracks to work on this week as well (one analog stem mix, 1 mastering). Just about to start on some more Post Rock stuff shortly as well which is a favorite for big walls of guitars.
We are lucky to get a wide variety of styles coming through, each is like getting to work in a new language which is useful as then you can learn new techniques and borrow tricks from one and apply it to another.
Super specialisation in one style can provide benefits, but from experience I find better benefits from big picture approach. All my favorite engineers and producers keep it broad on what they work with, so it seems to work.
Also working on our Gearshoot.com site, which lets you shoot out hundreds of pieces of analog and digital audio gear and find out what is the best tool for the job (and all our studio's gear is in it for you to hear). It fulfils my analytic nerdy side quite nicely.
What's your favourite stage in the music production process (mixing, recording, touring...)?
Analog stemming of a mix is always fun process, because you can lift the whole mix up in a few hours from good to epic big studio sound, the part where you can make a really big change really quickly and don't have to get bogged down in all the tiny little edits that are often part of the engineering processes.
Adding in all the colour and space of analog is a true pleasure. It's really nice seeing the artist and engineers faces when you show them the before analog gear and after analog gear. Mastering is also my other favorite stage, not just because of what you can do sonically, but also because you get to work at the final crucial stage of the track before it goes out to the world, and that is one of the biggest, scariest parts for an artist or engineer, so it's nice to help them through that.
Favourite piece of gear you used recently?
Buzz audio REQ-2.2 combo'd with a Hendyamps Michelangelo and Manley Vari-Mu - Provides the best of Active and Inductor Solid State EQ (Buzz) and Super Vibey Tube EQ (Hendyamps) and then the Vari-Mu at the end locks the whole thing in. One of the best things about analog gear is the way that you can combine multiple pieces and they become a super organism piece (i.e. it is how they interact with each other that provides something new sonically).
Let's talk influencers. Any other producers, songwriters or artists that you're inspired by?
Joel Little (Lorde), not just because he is a New Zealander (although that is part of it) and super nice guy, but because he has an ability to place a vocal in a mix unlike virtually anyone I have ever heard. His ability to use reverb and all manner of other effects to do what very few other people seem to be able to do is a bit scary. Broods album Evergreen is a good example of this, as is the Daniel Johns EP. There is also lots of stuff from the early to mid 1970's that represents, for me, the pinnacle of audio engineering, the gear seemed to be at its peak design wise, and they had the time/budget to really spend on the productions. Some of it might need a little adjusting to get the most out of modern speaker systems, but there are some really good remasters from that time period I always look up to.
How did you first start producing music?
Probably like most people, we didn't have the budget that we could spend all the time we wanted to in someone else's recording studio or hiring a producer, so we bought our own basic set up and started teaching ourselves from the ground up. After we got that as good as we could we'd borrow some analog gear to put it through when possible, an go into a pro studio to get the last part done that we couldn't do (e.g. mastering). Talking with as many people as possible and getting open feedback from them is the best way to get better I have found (I'm a big fan of peer review for many well justified reasons).
Name your bucket-list piece of production equipment
Logic Pro for producing, while we have Pro Tools, I generally find Logic is faster work flow wise for many of the things I need to do (which is always good for clients). That being said, Pro Tools also has strengths, and is generally the industry standard (with the exception for electronic music it seems).
Ultimately, if you are dealing with the outside world (e.g. recording in vocals, guitars etc) you are going to need a good preamp as one of the first pieces you get. I am a big fan of the Manley Voxbox, it is one of the most open and nice sounding preamps I have used, and having the compressor and EQ is also a bonus. For more in your face styles an API 7600 Channel Strip is a really handy cover all.
Is there a piece of gear you no longer have access to that you miss when it comes to making music?
Pultec EQ, however, it's not so hard to get hold of one if I need to use it as friends studios have them and I can always go there and hire them for a little bit. I have a few other really good Tube EQs like the Massive Passive and Michelangelo so am a bit spoilt for choice really so can't complain even slightly.
Finish this sentence: If I wasn't producing music, I'd be...
A Theoretical Biologist/Philosopher of Consciousness... I'm lucky to have an adjunct university position and am one of the managing editors of a peer reviewed journal called 'Theoretical Biology Forum Journal' that also keeps me busy, so that is my other love. If anyone is interested (probably not) I have a book I co-edited that came out recently called 'The Intuitive Way Of Knowing' which is worth checking out if you want to know what is going on at the cutting edge of theoretical biology and have published in the field (under the super exciting title "Does Biology Need a New Theory of Explanation? A Biological Perspective on Kant’s Critique of Teleological Judgment" ). Yes, my life is weird...but apparently variety is the spice of life.