Recording Connection mentor Ira Parker on Presenting your Authentic Artistic Self
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With more than 20 years of experience and hundreds of recording projects to his credit, Recording Connection mentor Ira Parker is a solid industry veteran to say the least. As founder of Maximus Music Records in Charlotte, NC, Ira works with a wide range of clients, and in the process he goes the extra mile to make sure his students get a full range of experience. Not just satisfied to teach the fundamentals, Ira also is passionate about helping students learn how to convey themselves professionally and to network in order to get clients. In the following interview, Ira offers some key advice on that topic, shares his secrets on staying inspired—and even brags on a few of his students along the way! Enjoy!
RRFC: Ira, you have a wonderful way of comporting yourself. What can you tell us about the best ways to present oneself in the world or in the studio?
Ira Parker: A professional attitude goes a long way. I tell people to check the ego at the door, keep an open mind, and for me, knowledge is the number one key for me for opening and being professional…Always kind of presenting yourself as confident [without bragging]…I tell people the bragging thing’s not cool. Some people will kind of go more in depth about, ‘I can do this, I’m this, I’m that, I’m this,’ when truthfully the work should speak for itself. So presenting yourself as a professional means for one, again, having an open mind. Presenting yourself to others: “Hi, my name’s Ira Parker with Maximus Music Records Studio. I’m the head engineer here, 750 clients, I’ve worked with eight different labels, major labels, features, production. You name it, I can be of assistance to you. Let me know what I can do.” That’s a really good opener for me when I go to establishments, like going to the legendary Saltmine, which since the 70’s has been one of the most amazing recording studios, from The Beatles probably all the way to Ariana Grande now currently. Going to places like that, how you present yourself is always going to matter. They’re going to look at you and remember you, so how are they going to remember you? How are you going to present yourself professionally to where people are going to be like, “Okay, I like this guy or gal.”
RRFC: So let’s say you want to network, you’re out at a club in Los Angeles and you’re talking to other people. Should you be saying, “Hey, I’m an engineer, this is what I do,” or how does one network themselves in sort of a pseudo-social business environment?
Ira: You need to understand your surroundings, and this is the phrase that your mom or dad always said, “There’s a time and place for everything.”…You’ve got to learn when and where to present…Now, if this is more of an event where you shouldn’t really be approaching people, they’re kind of on a mission, then hold back for a minute. But like I said, it just depends on where you’re at…If it looks like the crowd you’re in front of are a little bit more in the area of performing, they’re writers or producers, then it’s a good time to go up to them and say, “Hey, I see you have interests out here. What music interests you out here?” You’ve got to give an icebreaker… For example, this is my little trick. Take it if you want to, I don’t know. I have a digital flyer on my phone. It’s a two-in-one. It kind of messes with people…My card or my digital flyer on my phone has a $10,000 mike in front of it and my boards. That’s automatically a, “Whoa, this guy is serious.”…It gives me an icebreaker and opening to present myself to them without doing the standard, “Hey man, what’s your number? We do music.” That’s like, no. Everybody is going to look at you like, whatever. It’s being creative, opening people’s minds, and making them think. They’re going to remember you…I’m not saying everybody should do it like that, but at the end of the day it’s how you present yourself at a time and a place.
RRFC: Do you think looking a certain way matters? And can people overdo it?
Ira: That’s a good question…Conrad Dimanche told me something very amazing. He told me that when you’re going to go out and you need to present yourself, you need to give a reason for people to remember you. So yeah, I believe that your image is everything. At the same time, you can overdo it. For example, me, I like to do the cool look. I like to have a graphic tee on, something that’s fit, not baggy, but it’s bright…I’ll have on some fit jeans or something like that. They don’t have to be designer. They could be some ripped jeans or something cool, but they’re fit, not loose…I would have very unique shoes on. I’ll find the coolest Nikes, like pink, gray, and white with a designer tee that’s pink, gray, and white. I have a skinny beard that’s kind of long, and I’ll have glasses to kind of match it—white, pink, and gray glasses, something really cool. When I’m in LA, for example, people will approach me at the airport. They’re always like, “You must be in the entertainment business.”…I’m not saying I wear Gucci every time I walk somewhere or Versace every time I go somewhere. It’s just presenting flavor, presenting who you are, your attitude, your spirit. If you can mimic your spirit on how you look, people will approach you first most of the time. And it’s cool. Be different. I do weird stuff all the time. …Everyone has a look. Everybody has something they’re known for. So you should do your own thing…Whatever you do, whatever your key features are, whatever you do that makes you who you are, you should hone in on that.
RRFC: Can we talk a little about your creative process? Are you one of these guys who, do you hear something in your head and then you want to put that down somewhere? Or are you more like messing with something and then something happens and that inspires you?
Ira: I’m the most random dude you ever met in your life. It’s ridiculous, but I make it work. But I fill up my phone recorders, I’ll fill up two phones with ideas of recording myself. If I’m in a car and I have a feeling, a melody that I cannot get out of my head, I’m going to put a recorder on, and that way I’m not going to get in a wreck, and I’ll hum it and beatbox the drums just so I can get a feeling by the time I get to some electronic goodies so I can actually lay something down…I’ll pick whatever melodies I’m feeling that I have on my phone when I get to it, I’ll drop a good portion of the melodies in my phone, and some way home in my porta-gig or the studio, I’ll at least get the melody out.
RRFC: How do you stay inspired? It seems like for creatives who work professionally, we have to measure our own level of interest and inspiration and know how to keep that well full.
Ira: Right…The thing is how do you keep the flair and fire going? I do weird things…[For example,] if I want an adrenaline rush and I need it on a track, I’ll [rent] a Corvette Stingray, dual exhaust turbo, like something dumb, and I will drive that thing for the weekend and just keep revving the engine, and it gives me ideas. It’s just the feeling in the drive, the rush, it makes me feel that adrenaline, and I’ll take my ideas on my phone and I go to the studio and I put that record down. I’ll start the beat and then I’ll go somewhere.
RRFC: Can you tell us about some of your students and recent grads that have stood out to you?
Ira: Absolutely. Wes Hagy—cool dude. Totally cool guy. Really great. The clients loved him here…The cool thing about Wes, Wes did the program here in North Carolina…We even hired him for a couple small jobs, and he got so inspired he moved to the West Coast. He moved to LA and he’s starting up his own studio out that way and doing production… Julia [Putintsev] is very outgoing…I think it’s super awesome that females get involved in the industry, and I don’t think there should be any type of waiver because she’s a female. I think females are just as great as dudes, and everybody has a great opportunity. I don’t see it any other way, and what she was dealing with at the time was her friends were kind of doubting her because she wanted to do music, and, “Girls don’t do stuff like that,” and I’m like, “Dude, are you serious? Yes they do.” And she was telling them the same thing. So what did she do? She got herself a new set of friends like I told her, and she came in here with her heart, her mind, and her soul like, “I’m going to do this, I’m going to be one of the baddest females ever to step into this business.”… Daniel Katan, which actually I’ve really taken a liking to, and I’m literally training him on my own…I’ve taken him under my wing along with doing the master’s program and training him also in studio management and everything, because he has a background as a financial advisor before he even got into this, and he’s really a good people person, and I need that type of spirit…Chris Hancock is every day going, “When can I come in? When can I come in?” I’ll get questions at all times of the day, all times of the night. I’m really busy but I love the fact that he’s eager to throw questions out, and he always listens particularly a bit closer than everybody else…I’m fond of all of them…Some of them stick out more than others by the questions they ask, the stuff I don’t think they’re picking up, and they pick up on it and drill me on it later…that type of eagerness is exciting because I know you’re learning. I know that the program for the Recording Connection works. I think it’s a wonderful program.