As a seasoned professional producer, mixer, and engineer, Toronto-based Richard Chycki has worked with a vast array of musical artists, such as Rush, Dream Theater, Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, and Jeff Healey.
How did you get into recording?
I was the proverbial "young kid starting a band." I began recording myself because I thought that was a part of what musicians did. There were no engineering/production schools at the time. The formal "work your way up in the studio" hierarchy was the de facto standard in those days. I started reading and self-educating about signal flow, microphones, and learning the staples of recording. I still have the demos of the first recordings I did back then. They're absolutely terrible, but they taught me about project management at a young age, i.e., learning the task and being able to get the job done and out the door. I started subsidizing my income by tracking other artists while I was trying to get a record deal for my own band. I was working at a recording and rehearsal studio with a lot of band traffic coming through. They would listen to me doing my own music and say, "Hey, do you want to record us?" Local bands were sending music to labels, so there was this grassroots circulation of my recordings developing. Labels started to call and say, "Hey, did you record this? Well, we have a band that we need to track. Interested?" It started off by being the pre-production [demos], where they just wanted to get some song ideas down, but that quickly turned into records to cut. I ended up working with this guitar player named Jeff Healey. The Jeff Healey camp always used top-end producers, so I was exposed to guys like Thom Panunzio and Joe Hardy. I also worked with a young songwriter/producer named Marti Frederiksen on some Jeff Healey tracks. At the end of our work with Healey, he said, "I really like working with you. We're going to work together again in the future." That's always a really great thing to hear! I told him to call me anytime. I went on my way and did some other recordings. About eight months later, my phone rings, "Hey man, it's Marti. I'm working with a band and want you to come record some drums." All I knew was the gig was in the Boston area, and that it was five days of recording drums. At the end of our conversation, I asked, "Who's the band?" Marti answered, "Oh, it's Aerosmith!"
It was amazing. He had called me on a Wednesday. Monday I was at Long View Farms Studio setting up drums and mics for Joey Kramer. That was a record called Just Push Play. Steven [Tyler] and Joe [Perry] asked me to stay on for the entire project as head engineer for the 11 months the album took to complete. It sold just shy of two million records in America. The single "Jaded" was number one on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. That album was the dividing line for my career.
Did you travel around a lot in the early days?
I traveled, and I still travel all the time. I have clients in Europe, New York, and Los Angeles.
You do a lot of tracking and mixing.
I wear all hats. I do track. I do quite a bit of mixing, and I do production. It varies, from project to project. I recorded and co-produced vocals for a new Dream Theater album a couple of months ago. I mixed Rush's Hemispheres in surround for their 40th anniversary box set release. My involvement really varies from project to project. I have my separate bag of tricks, and I pull them out depending on what the project needs of me.
Do you carry gear to sessions?
I have some tracking gear, but I am a complete computer guy when I mix. I used to carry around racks and racks of equipment, and now it's just a computer with lots of software and hard drives. Lots of computing power. That's how I do my work now.
Cool. You mentioned the Hemispheres remixes. How did you approach them and keep the...
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