Wayne Peet is an accomplished pianist/keyboardist and a first call player in the jazz/new music/avant-garde scene in Los Angeles, but he's also known as an excellent recordist, mixer, mastering engineer, and studio owner. The list of artists he's recorded spans genres and styles, including: Vinny Golia, Bobby Bradford, Nels Cline, Kenny Burrell, Bennie Maupin, Thurston Moore, Steuart Liebig, Mike Watt, Alex Cline, G.E. Stinson, Gregg Bendian, Lydia Lunch, Carla Bozulich, Scarlet Rivera, James Gadson, Louie Bellson, Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste, Jubilant Sykes, Robert Edward Thies, Pat Metheny, and Hubert Laws. Nestled in Mar Vista, between Venice and Culver City in Southern California, his Newzone Studio is conveniently located on the property behind Wayne's home.
You are an accomplished musician, but how did you get into engineering, mixing, and mastering?
Well, it started with having gear to record myself. When I was in college I got a TEAC A-3340S — a 4-track, 1/4- inch machine — and I started using that to record groups and live gigs. When DATs came out it was the turning point for me to start becoming an engineer, because it allowed me to make quality recordings in a somewhat affordable way. I found I could record people, and get paid for it — I didn't intend to become an engineer. Because I am a musician, people would come to me for studio jazz records mixed live to 2-track. They were going into these rock 'n' roll studios, and these engineers had no clue how to mix this kind of music. They'd walk in with an acoustic bass and the engineer would call it a cello. When you're doing a live mix you need to know when the solos are coming, because you do little changes. [For a] bass solo I'm going to turn up the bass and put a little reverb on. If you're a technical engineer, you may or may not have a feel for that. I'll flag mistakes for them too. They'll say, "That was a great take!" And I'll say, "Wait a minute. Let me check the bass going right into the bridge." I've got a reputation amongst the jazz musicians for that. I guess that made up for the fact that I was learning as an engineer, because everything that I mostly learned was not "officially" taught. I've learned by myself. I've also had the opportunity to hang out on sessions with notable engineers, like Roger Rhodes and Bruce Botnick [Tape Op #74], as well as mastering engineers like John Golden, and pick their brains. A couple of colleagues of mine — drummer Jim Watson and bass player Vince Tividad — we played together and we were also engineers. We were working together in the '90s at the [Local 47] Musicians Union that had a recording studio. They came into some gear and built this self-contained, modular control room on the stage looking out into the auditorium. They had set it up with ADATs, DATs, and a Mackie 32x8 console, which later got upgraded to a Trident Series 80 40x24. The guy that was running it, Joseph Armillas, built drum and vocal booths that you could roll out. [Armillas also built the rooms and A/C system in Wayne's studio.] We had the opportunity to record everything, from solo instruments to whole orchestras.
Were you the in-house engineer there?
There were a number of engineers that were on a roster, because it was basically open 24-hours a day. You had to be a union member. It was one of the benefits.
It sounds like you cut your teeth there.
Yeah. I had been recording at my home studio, and had done small groups to DAT, but this was a real recording studio situation. I was learning how to mic all kinds of configurations.
With the recordings you'd been doing live to DAT, were you essentially "playing" the board along with the performance?
Yes. But this is how people did [recordings], until multitracking and mixing later came in, of course.
Is that how guys like Rudy Van Gelder [Tape Op #43] were tracking?
Oh, definitely! I mean you can hear it on the records. Listen to the difference between the head of the song and the solo. With a good mix like that there are parts that become featured, without you knowing so. I grew up listening to certain records and you never think about it. I can't remember which [Charles] Mingus record [it's on], but there are some edits that are like, "Whoa! We're in another studio, on another day," when you hit the bridge! It's like you opened the door into another room. But I'd listened to that record for years and never noticed it.
And those Miles Davis records, like Bitches Brew, had lots of editing.
I hear edits all over those Blue Note records that I never heard before. You'd pick solos. That's obviously...