Audeze interviews musician, producer and engineer Antonello D'Urso

Antonello D'Urso is a guitarist, producer, arranger, composer, sound engineer and teacher based in Italy. Since 2013, he has toured and recorded all over the world with major Italian stars such as Franco Battiato, Alice, Luca Carboni, Angelo Branduardi, and Giusy Ferreri. He is an AFAM University Professor of Pop Rock Guitar since 2018 at the State Conservatory of Music "Antonio Scontrino" in Trapani (TP).
Antonello has collaborated with artists such as Lucio Dalla, Jovanotti, Elisa, Tiziano Ferro, Gianni Morandi, Biagio Antonacci, Ron, Morgan, Gianna Nannini, Carmen Consoli, Max Gazzé, Gaetano Curreri, Samuele Bersani, Colapesce, Dimartino, Mahmood, Diodato, Riccardo Sinigallia, Beppe Quirici, Eugenio Bennato, Zibba, Guido Elmi, Knagui (Gospel Usa) and Chadwick Brawley (Gospel Usa).
In parallel with his music productions, Antonello works on soundtracks in the field of advertising for brands such as Clementoni, Disney and BMW. He also cooperates with historical Italian studios such as Fonoprint (Bologna), Ex-Cantine (Imola), Over Studios (Cento, Ferrara).

 Antonello D'Urso plays guitar in the studio with his Audeze LCD-X headphones

"As a pro musician I am traveling a lot and I need a stable reference to continue my production and mix work. I found in the Audeze LCD-X the right tool to do this.. Now I can't work without it." - Antonello D'Urso
Here's our talk with Antonello:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?

I started to have my first guitar lessons at the age of 6. I remember that at my first guitar recital I played the song "Alla Fiera dell'Est" by Angelo Branduardi (a song known all over the world) and I was surprised when they called me (25 years later) to replace his guitarist. I remember that I was very excited and happy when I returned to play the song again. I never thought something like that could happen to me. Angelo congratulated me a lot because in that concert I arrived without doing any test, but directly on the date of the concert and from that moment I am a part of his band... I'm so proud for this. I am also proud to play in the most prestigious concert halls in Europe with amazing musicians. I am proud to have composed the song "La Nostra Strada" for the pop star Luca Carboni and to produce his new album. I am proud to have recorded and mixed the unique album "La mia Legge" by Guido Elmi, one of the most important Italian producers, historical producer of the great Italian rock star Vasco Rossi. I am proud to have played with the best Italian songwriters. I am proud to collaborate with the best Italian recording studios such as Fonoprint studios and Ex-Cantine studios.

How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on these days?

Most of the time I'm involved in the songwriting phase, arranging harmony, pre-production, and recording of guitars and other musical instruments when my engineering skills help the producers reach the sound they have perfectly in mind or even improve it from the moment the instruments are recorded. Another frequent job is mixing album songs, post production of live concerts for television and radio.

How did you get started in music? What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed?

I was 6 years old when for curiosity I went to a guitar lesson with my cousin to have her company. The teacher gave me a guitar and from that moment this great dream started. I was 9 years old when I had my first audition in a local band in the south of Italy: they asked me if I was able to use fingerpicking and if I could pick guitar barre chords... I was taken instantly... LOL. The band played famous international songs and that feeling of being on stage became the lifeblood.

At the age of 10 I started my first recordings on a Tascam 4-track tape recorder. I had a lot of fun pre-mixing tracks to move them to a track and keep overdubbing. At the age of 14 I was really into computers so I started to use the first DAW to try to record... I remember that I had a very bad sound card and I was fighting with latency to try to play in time... lol! Musicians that influenced me when I was young are: Pat Metheny, Pino Daniele, Tuck Andress, Pink Floyd, David Gilmour, B.B. King, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck. Over the years I have listened to many different genres, from metal to classical, trying to extrapolate what could make me grow. Lately I've been listening to a lot of American and English productions, mainly singer-songwriters, to be updated on sounds and collaborations. However, if I want to listen to relax, I dust off my old favorites... they are my wool blanket :)

Can you name any factors that influenced the course of your musical life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?

I have been very fortunate to meet some extraordinary people in my musical journey. The first one was Beppe Quirici, arranger of the most important Italian songwriters. I had the opportunity to share the last part of his life in the production of his last 2 albums in which I was the guitarist. From him I learned the true sense of bands, the perfect role of each musical instrument, giving the right weight to the lyrics of the songs and looking for ways to enhance them with arrangements and sounds. I worked with Franco Battiato, a futurist singer-songwriter, among the first to use electronic music in pop songs... there are so many speeches that we have made together about music and life above all (which I jealously guard). I continue to work with Angelo Branduardi, an artist who has been performing all over the world for over 40 years... every time his anecdotes are pearls from which to draw musical and life inspiration. I recently worked with producer MousseT and violinist Davide Rossi (Coldplay, Goldfrapp, etc.), extraordinary people who make me grow every day. I've also met some bad ones, of course, that's part of life, however, it's only the best ones that have influenced me.
Among all those who fascinate me the most is Quincy Jones... I would like to meet him in my path to ask him many things, as I would like to meet Gilmour or Waters of Pink Floyd... who knows, maybe one day. Never stop dreaming.

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?

Obstacles, like successes, are part of the job and the most important skill is how to handle problems, obstacles and people. In any job there are always problems and obstacles even when you think you have everything planned. Living with frustration is the hardest thing to handle, but you can learn how. Fortunately for me, I am so patient and even in high stress problems I can keep my calm. I think that's exactly what starts to make you see with clarity the small steps to solve the problem... if a problem is big, you have to fragment it and start in small steps to solve it one at a time. That's the best solution in my opinion. When producers and artists know you for this talent, they will always choose to work with you.
So there are problems in concerts and in the studio: live sequencers, musical instruments, pedalboards, effects, cables, headphone listening (in-ear), arrangements, tonality, microphones, singer stress, etc. etc., and live problems with non-professional sound engineers, managers, labels... every step has its problems.

Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently?

My favorite daw is Pro Tools. I started with Cubase and Nuendo when I was young, but when I first met Pro Tools, I couldn't get enough of it.
I'm lucky enough to use a lot of hardware in the studios I work in. For the most part I am fond of the UA1176, Tube Tech CL-1, Retro StaLevel, SSL 4000 and Neve. Lately, I have been combining this hardware with UAD plugins to create a hybrid configuration. My favorite mic for vocals is the Sony C800G and Neumann M147 paired with Amek 9098 preamp. To record guitars instead opens up a world :-)

Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?

I frequently get this question, especially from my students in conservatory. It's not an easy question to answer today. No one has the solution in his hand, but what I can advise and what I recommend is to listen to a lot of music, listen to different genres to open your mind to different sounds, listen to old songs and modern songs to work on the sound and try to reproduce certain sounds by studying the musicians who played it, the sound engineers who recorded and mixed it. For a musician, try to play with as many bands as possible and see many live concerts and not on YouTube. For a sound engineer instead, the advice that I can give, in addition to follow more live concerts and listen to all the music, is to learn to play a musical instrument, to acquire musicality while working and to work with heart and ears instead of loops, calculators and ears.... ultimately there are more "programmers" than real "sound engineers".
You have to try to be original, because if you copy you will always be the second.

Every day is a new day, for me as for everyone else and that means that the learning process will never end. The best wish I can make to everyone is to study hard and not to give up, never. You have to be prepared to face everything. Keep your cool and start again.

I love to share my experiences with my students in the conservatory and during my master classes because I want to give something back to the future and to the universe. You never stop learning.

How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?

From the very beginning, I have always placed a great deal of emphasis on headphone listening. I've been using them since I was a kid in my room because I didn't have acoustic treatment. I use them to record, mix and listen. In the last few years they became indispensable for my work. I often find myself on long live tours (in hotels or in other studios that I don't know) with recording/mix work to be completed. So headphone listening is very important for me, it's important to optimize the work as much as possible so that I can reopen the session in the studio and confirm that the choices made are right. I rely on listening to the mix through headphones mainly to focus on the SIDE parts of the mix (stereo).

Headphones are my portable listening reference. I have mixed 90% of many tracks and records with headphones in the last period.

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work? Can you tell us what you've been working on with them recently?

As a pro musician I am traveling a lot and I need a stable reference to continue my production and mix work. I found in the Audeze LCD-X the right tool to do this: very impressive dynamic and frequency response. Now I can't work without it. I've recently been working on several mixes for different projects from Jazz to Rock and the LCD-Xs are super! Thanks a lot to Audeze.