Turn on the radio; you know, the one that's playing the hit songs of today. It won't be long before you hear something mixed by Manny Marroquin. With his touch gracing truckloads of top ten and number one songs, plus over 250 million albums sold worldwide, we've all heard his work. Artists like Bruno Mars, Whitney Houston, 2Pac, fun., Pink, John Mayer, Shakira, Maroon 5, Rihanna, Ludacris, the Rolling Stones, Duffy, Mary Mary, Kanye West, Imagine Dragons, Lana Del Rey, Alicia Keys, and John Legend have all benefited from his skills. I met up with Manny at Mix With The Masters, a weeklong seminar hosted by various recording luminaries in the French countryside of Provence. I was able to watch him lead the workshop for most of the day and picked up some cool techniques before our "live" interview. It was great to catch Manny in an "educational" mood, and the resulting chat was a blast.
How are you doing, Manny?
It's always great to be here. I get here, meet these guys, and remember this is why I do it. It's fun. When I was growing up we didn't have this. Guys were very closed up. There was no sharing of information. They called it "secrets." It seems like today there are no secrets. I figure that as a mixer it's a level playing field. We all have the same plug-ins. It's not really about the equipment that we're using; it's about your taste, your gut, your heart and soul. I think that people are becoming more comfortable talking about it. Programs like this, and magazines like yours; those are how we keep it going. This is our little subculture that we want to hold on to, and hopefully help someone achieve what their full potential is.
I look at GarageBand, and I think if I were a teenager today that I'd feel so lucky. When I was young I wanted more than my 2-track cassette recorder.
When I was in high school I saved every penny just to get a 4-track. You can get anything now and be producing music at any age. I'm extremely lucky that I came at the time I did, going from tape with big budgets. We used to spend a week getting drum tones!
Yeah, like ten or twenty different snares with different combinations of mics and rooms. Then making that transition from tape to Pro Tools. That transition unfortunately killed a lot of careers. We're creatures of habit; we didn't want to change. I'm so happy that I have knowledge of that to take to this new generation. Just from learning as an assistant to mic a kit, it gave me so much confidence and knowledge of how to EQ things and how to listen.
Earlier today you discussed how to layer samples for a kick drum. If we were dealing with a live drummer, we'd be finding a way to get that sound from the kit. But here you are trying to make that sound by sculpting these layers.
Exactly. Nowadays when people send me sessions to mix and they have a bunch of horns, they're usually all zeroed out in the session. I'm like, "Why did you do that?" Back in the day we'd track the horns, and the producer would be in the room saying, "A little more trumpet." That's part of production. You bounce it to two tracks. Nowadays they're like, "No, we want to see what you can do with them." I'm like, "What do you mean? You did the work already that you like. Why would I have to redo everything you've already done?" It's probably going to sound the same. I feel like we're still in the Wild West of how to send proper sessions to people to mix.
They come in all kinds of different shapes.
My poor assistants spend so long just organizing. Sometimes people will send stuff that's not even the right song. Hopefully someday those will be the good old days.
Currently you work out of Larrabee Sound Studios [in Los Angeles]?
Yep. It's a great place. It's one of the best studios in the world. When I was beginning, I always wanted to have a room at Larrabee, because all the guys I looked up to had a room there at some point. I've been there for about 15 years now, and it's worked really well. They've got different rooms where they have a G, Duality, and a K [SSL consoles]. If I want to do some grimy stuff with the G, or some poppy, cleaner stuff, I'll go to the Duality.
You can book rooms as needed?
Exactly. It's really cool and unique. I just haven't been able to do the whole in-the-box [mix] thing. I don't know if I ever will. I'm still old school, using the desk just like when I started. I grew up watching guys "perform" mixes. That's what we've been talking about this whole week. Perform a mix, as opposed to visual mixing. I think there's something to be said for both. I've had way better...