Kim Rosen built up her mastering skills and reputation at West West Side Music, before branching off in 2009 to set up her own Knack Mastering in Ringwood, NJ. Since going out on her own, she' s worked with Title Fight, Sarah Jaffe, Jeff Bridges, Braid, The Barr Brothers, Bettye LaVette, Basko Believes, a vinyl remaster for Superdrag's Headtrip in Every Key and even a Johnny Cash remake of " Bitter Tears".
I'm just always amazed by how much people rely on turning up frequencies as opposed to really examining what's going on.
Well, that happens when I get a mix with a ton of low end, like what happened? I never EQ this much, but I'm EQing out 5 dB of low end. When you do that, you're also affecting everything else on the top end. They've been over-compensating on their end, most likely because their room is not accurate and they can't hear what they're really doing, so they add low end and then they add a bunch of top end. It can be a mess. I have to get over it when they can't change the mix, work with what they sent and take out that low end. I also have to cut the top end, which is so counterintuitive to me. I have such a hard time even doing it... it's like, "Oh, the air, the breath, the life of the track!" I'll sit back and listen after I've made the changes, and it's still good. It's as good as it'll get.
I know clients will be like, "It's not as bright," even though you've fixed a lot of problems for them.
It becomes a dance. Sometimes I'll be rolling off a shelf at 7 or 10 kHz. That's crazy. It might just be a half dB, or not quite a dB, and then I'll try to bring a little bit out at 4 kHz to kind of give a bit of sparkle back. There are all these little things that you can do that end up adding to the big picture.
What are some of your favorite projects you've mastered in the past few years, as far as musically or as a job too?
Prior to this year, I mastered a great album for a band called Title Fight. They're in Pennsylvania. This engineer's name is Will Yip, and he works at Studio 4 in Philly. He's a young kid who works with all these punk rock and hardcore kids. He has amazing sounding mixes. He wants to keep recording these bands that have little money in this awesome sounding control room. Title Fight's Shed, that was a really great album. Another project from McKenzie Smith at Redwood Studios was Basko Believes which sounds really great. I did another project Ryan Freeland for The Barr Brothers, and of course this amazing project with Bettye LaVette which was just mind-blowing. It's still on repeat in the car.
I've seen her live. I bet that was fun.
I try to do my research on someone who I'm not totally familiar with before I start working on their project. I saw a video of her online at the inauguration for Obama. I was just looking at her like what? An amazing voice coming out of that lady.
What's the most unusual or atypical thing you've ever had to master?
I'd have to really think. I have this gentleman, who's a repeat client, who records and writes by himself, mixes all his own songs, isn't even going to sell the album to anybody but just has all this stuff. I think this past album he was really excited, because he had someone help him mix. He said the mixes sounded perfect. He's just doing it for himself, not for anybody else, so it's kind of out there with the lyrics and the sound. But you try to connect with them and do right by them. Obviously he's able to recognize that mastering is important, which is unfortunately becoming rare these days.
We mentioned credits on our panel earlier. What steps do you take to let people know you'd like to get credits?
Maybe I make too much of an assumption that they just will. Maybe I'll change my ways and become more vigilant about it. People are nice, and they'll say yes, but they might forget. Then what do you do? They apologize, but there's still nothing they can do. That happened with a recent vinyl release. What do I say? "I'm never working with you again?" No, I'm not saying that... I do what I can to promote my work...