Audeze chats with producer, mixer and musician Jamie Ward
November 26, 2022
Audeze chats with producer, mixer and musician Jamie Ward
Jamie Ward is Producer/Mixer/Musician based in Leicester UK. He makes music and does remixes under the guise Dark Dark Horse and plays in and produces instrumental act Maybeshewill.
"Having the Audeze LCD-X's has really helped the headphone reference part of my mixing process..." - Jamie Ward
Here's our talk with Jamie:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?
One of my personal favourites is the Gallops album “Bronze Mystic” that I produced and mixed. I really love that record and that band. Another one would be getting to do a remix for the Album Leaf. I’d been a fan of the band for around 10 years so getting to peer under the hood of one of his productions was a real buzz for me. The Bury Tomorrow record “Cannibal” I engineered going top 10 in the UK and #3 in Germany was a proud moment and then the 3 albums I produced with my band Maybeshewill and worldwide touring we did with those very much shaped me as a musician and producer. Ohhhh and CJ Pandit’s latest EP “+44”... is my best mixing to date I think!
How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on these days?
I am the yin to the project’s yang. I find I get hired for a real range of roles these days, be it mixing, producing, purely engineering, remixing or even just editing. I’ve hopefully got a range of skills and try to facilitate each project with what it needs. I try not to be a big ego person or try to imprint too much of myself onto a project unless that’s what’s asked for. That being said I definitely have sonic preferences and people generally hire you as they dig your sound, but I generally view my role as using whichever part of the skillset is required to bring an artist’s vision to its fullest potential.
How did you get started in music? What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed?
A friend of mine got an electric guitar for Christmas when I was 15 and that basically started me off in a string of bands that continues to this day. I had planned to pursue graphic design as a career as music never really seemed viable but I picked Music Tech as an A level since I thought it might be fun/a bit of doss. Once I saw the Soundcraft Spirit the school kept in the studio I was hooked and haven’t looked back. I find the creation and process of producing music endlessly fascinating.
As a child my parents played us loads of good music, things like The Stones, Neil Young and Toots and the Maytals but I remember at my early cultural experiences (school discos etc) finding the music to be total wallpaper. We’re talking late 90’s here and all I can remember from those events is Whigfield, The Macarena and the Spice Girls. Korn was the first band that I really became obsessed with and I felt was my own. They just sounded so radically different to anything else I had heard. The aggression and outsider themes in the music appealed to angsty insecure teenage me. From there I got into the US punk rock acts that were popular in the early 2000’s and spent my first forays into bands tuning my snare drum very high and trying to drum like Travis Barker.
After catching the music production bug at the end of high school I went on to study a degree called “Music Technology and Innovation” which had a lot of focus on art music of the 21st Century. That course really opened my worldview and around that time I got into more leftfield alternative acts like Sigur Ros, Mew, Radiohead and Aphex Twin that shaped the kind of music I’m into, make and produce now.
Can you name any factors that influenced the course of your musical life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?
When I was in high school I was very lucky that the local council ran a music programme where bands could go and rehearse in the school after hours. (I think for free!) We were mentored by a local blues musician named Rollo Markee who really lit a fire in me. That time to rehearse and his guidance were absolutely pivotal to me making a career for myself in the music industry. I’m a big advocate of funding music programmes. They change lives.
Can you briefly describe a moment of frustration from your past work, and what you may have done to overcome the obstacles? Would you approach it differently now?
Probably not assigning a break between recording and mixing on big projects where I’m producing and mixing. Head space is so key when you’re wearing all the hats. Deadlines are deadlines though and with any recording you always use all your time and a bit more so it’s rare to have that luxury to be honest.
Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favourite tools/instruments recently?
The one item I own that probably gets the most use on my records is my Ludwig Black Magic snare drum. Getting good snare sounds is hard and sometimes quite mysterious. For some reason that drum will often do the trick. It’s a bit of a lucky drum, not the fanciest by any means but it seemed to sound better than any other drum in the shop on the day I bought it.
Lately I’ve really been digging the UA Ampex tape machine plug in. Slam that thing on drums and for the right thing the distortion is golden. Drop it on the mix buss and you’re onto a winner. Careful with that low end on the 15 ips settings though. A 3 db boost at 40hz across the whole mix is a hell of a drug.
Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?
Probably one most hard hitting bits of advice I’ve heard is from Brain Eno who suggests to people that if you want to go into a career in the arts then one of the most crucial things to do is not to get a job. This is of course deeply problematic as not getting a job is a luxury that most people cannot afford but he doesn’t mean that entirely literally. That being said I think there’s a period in your early 20’s where you need to be eating, sleeping and being totally immersed in music and the concept of doing that professionally to have a shot at that sticking. I’m sure we’ve all seen deeply talented people not being able to make a go of it because their jobs, responsibilities and situation have pulled them away from being able to do so. It’s a big problem that the realities of the streaming economy are potentially making a career in music only viable for people from affluent backgrounds who can take that initial hit.
How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?
I’ve worked in a fair few studios over the years and I’ve found having a different environment you can plonk over your ears to be very useful when you’re not quite sure if the monitoring is giving you the whole picture. I tend to use headphones for referencing when mixing too. There are some spatial treatments that sound great on monitors but don’t quite feel right on headphones. With so many people consuming music on headphones it’s important to tailor things to that. Also, a good set of cans is a nice way to check if you’ve over egged the low end.
How have your Audeze headphones affected your work? Can you tell us what you've been working on with them recently?
Having the Audeze LCD-X's has really helped the headphone reference part of my mixing process and given me a more reliable headphone to use when I’m out tracking at studios that I might not be too familiar with. I occasionally find that when I reference a mix on headphones I end up not liking the changes I’ve made on them on speakers and going back to where I had the mix previously or a bit of a halfway house. I’m finding myself doing this much less on the LCD-X’s though. Generally any changes made are translating great on my monitors.
Lately I’ve been using them while recording or mixing the artists Gallops, Cyrano, Mountains, Luka Powell, Rich List, Chief Springs and N-Dubz.