I met Enrique Tena Padilla when he, along with Eric Bauer, engineered, produced, and mixed the last two Oh Sees records (Orc and Smote Reverser) at Sonic Ranch [Tape Op #94], outside of El Paso, Texas. Over the years I've worked with a lot of different engineers, but I really like working with Enrique - he's coming from a different perspective than me, in both life and art. We definitely disagree on certain things but it's the compromise and the path that makes the results interesting and fruitful.
How did you end up in Texas engineering?
I was curious about making records when I was 17 and was choosing what career to study. My parents really wanted me to go to college. I ended up going to Mexico City for recording school in 2011. I learned a couple of things, but it wasn't until I heard Bloom by Beach House, in 2012, that I became obsessed with the finer details of how that particular record was made.
Did they make that record at Sonic Ranch?
Yes! I remember discovering that by reading the booklet; "Oh, Sonic Ranch?" It was summer break, and when we came back to school, I was talking to one of my friends about what he did in the summer. He said, "I just went to this crazy place called Sonic Ranch." I was like, "Please give me an email of whoever you know there." I emailed them for half a year until they were finally like, "Okay, come on over."
"Stop emailing me!"
Yeah! [laughs] We did a quick interview over the phone, and I was throwing out all my certifications from school. Marco [A. Ramirez, engineer at Sonic Ranch] answered, "I don't even know what that means!" I realized that school didn't really matter. Marco said, "If we like you, you can stay as long as you want." It didn't really matter what I did, or didn't know, technically; it was more about my vibe.
Yeah, the golden rule; "Don't be a dick."
Yeah. So, for my next summer break I went to Sonic Ranch.
What was the first record you worked on there?
It was awesome. We worked with this band, Communión, from Mexico City and producers Milo Froideval and Manuel Calderón, are both really big influences on me. The fact of being there, and making an actual record, was really different. Tony [Rancich, Sonic Ranch's owner] explained to me the importance of being an intern, and how little things -- like changing the perception of the room by turning on a light - can change the whole vibe of the recording.
Were you going between Sonic Ranch and school in Mexico?
Yeah, I was getting into a lot of trouble in school. Any time there was a cool recording session, I'd call in "sick" and fly to the Ranch. I was learning things at the studio that I wasn´t learning in school. The moment finally came when I was asked to fly in for a Beach House mixing session, for Thank Your Lucky Stars. That was huge; it brought me full circle to what lead me to the Ranch in the first place! These adventures away from school let me sit in on recording sessions with TV On The Radio, Davíd Garza, and [the Tejano/Norteño band] Intocable.
Was it worth it to skip school?
Yeah. I took the couple dollars I had and went to the recording sessions. I met David Sitek [TV On The Radio's co-founder, producer] and we really bonded. He was giving me some shit about going back to school. I remember him being like, "Hey, you do realize you can come with me to the Austin City Limits Music Festival and meet all these bands if you want? But keep going back to school, nerd." There was this pressure of, "Why keep going to something that I'm already learning exponentially, and in a place where records are made?" But now that I think about it, the fact I actually finished school feels really comforting. If you can finish school, you can definitely finish a record.
How did you get my email? That's how we met.
I was going to Sonic Ranch more often, and I began to help Tony with some general management aspects of the studio, but I was trying to get back to the recording side. I figured the best thing I could do is what I've always done: Send emails. I remember Sitek was always talking about all his friends, and how he was telling them stories about the Ranch. I was trying to get Sitek's friends to go to there. He used to talk about you all the time, which really fascinated me....