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Recording Connection graduate Efrain Matias (San Diego, CA) started making music on FL Studio at the age of 12. His lifelong love of music is paying off since he made the choice to elevate his skills by training with Recording Connection mentor Bernard ‘IQue’ Johnson at Noize Factory Studios in El Cajon, CA in our Advanced Audio Engineering & Music Production Program.
Now Efrain has a new job, new projects, and a growing career as an audio engineer and music producer. We recently caught up with him to hear about his journey towards success.
So what led you to signing up with Recording Connection?
“I was a big follower of Pensado’s Place, and I heard about you guys through watching the show online on YouTube and stuff.”
What got you interested in audio engineering in the first place?
“I went to a local studio in Illinois that I got to work at for a little bit and they basically broke it down to me like this, ‘If you want to be a producer, you kind of have to be an engineer too, because otherwise your production isn’t going to have that quality that musicians are after.’ And they kind of convinced me to be an engineer and then I fell in love with the process…you know, just sonically producing a record, interpreting that idea and then completing it.”
What are a few specific things Bernard has helped you with?
“Bernard showed me a way to add production aspects when you’re recording and working with vocalists or musicians…And that was like a big thing for me because…if you’re not an active recording engineer and really paying attention to the artist, it can be pretty mindless, just hitting the red button. But where you can add value is just communicating and finding different ways to get that best performance from them. Even just keeping them in a good mood or saying something funny to lighten it up…Now I’m able to work with people and get that extra 10% on a song…
As far as techniques, he’s also showed me a lot of basically surefire ways to get certain aspects done, whether it may be a simple plugin or little things to listen for. For instance, there was a plugin he introduced to me called Drumstrip from SSL. There’s a lot of ways you can tweak a kick drum, but this is like a ‘one and done’ type of channel strip plugin. He showed me some of the characteristics and how you’re able to just take your regular sound and shorten up your drums, the transience of your kick drums and snares to really have impact… And he showed me some really simple techniques for miking a drum kit. That was really interesting.”
Bernard invited you to attend NAMM in L.A. earlier this year. How was that?
Efrain Matias at NAMM LA 2018 “I don’t know how to explain it. It was almost like a dream for me prior to getting to participate in NAMM. I’ve always watched it on YouTube and followed my favorite companies. To be there and go to all the different workshops, even the business workshops were there, it was just incredible. I drove up every single day for NAMM and watched all my favorite audio engineers that I used to watch on Pensado’s Place. I got to participate and sit in the crowd and watch Dave Pensado do his speech for his TV show at NAMM. I believe they brought Rance from 1500 Or Nothing up on stage. They produced a lot of records and worked with Bruno Mars and Adele, and it’s just great to be in that same exact atmosphere and participate in a community.”
So how did you get hired by Bernard? What led up to it?
“It kind of started with me. I was showing him some mixes that I’d been working on. So I had started taking on my own clients at home and was getting kind of busy at home. He was pretty impressed with some of the mixes that I was bringing him. So he suggested that I help him out and take some work off his back, and [said] I could take care of recording the clients that he has or doing some of the mixes that he may not be able to get to.”
So what are you looking at doing in your career? What’s your focus?
“Right now my focus is mostly on engineering. I feel like engineering is going to help me establish myself as a producer and it appears to be trending. If all I did was write music, I would just have a ton of music. But if I did get to work directly with these clients and…an artist comes to me and tells me what they’re looking for…it’s your job to interpret that and put it in the record or make their vocals sound that way. And I feel like just that connection of just working with artists is going to enhance one’s production skills. If you love producing, then you should probably love most aspects of engineering as well. That’s really it.”
What’s your advice to Recording Connection students on how can they make the most of the program while they’re in it?
“I think really going in and practicing everything they learn or even maybe finding a way to practice in advance, prior to [the lesson], to get the most out of it. The more you know going into it, the more you’re going to get out of it going into the program. Also apply everything you learn right away, because I can only tell you about compressors and how ratios affect the sustain of chords on a guitar so much…I can EQ a song and tell you why I’m EQing, taking out 170 hertz out of an acoustic guitar, but it’s not until you go in and do it for yourself and try it in various instances that you’ll [completely] understand.”
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