Audeze interviews producer, engineer and musician Pip Norman

Pip Norman is a celebrated producer, co-writer, collaborator, beat maker, engineer, and multi-instrumentalist from Melbourne, Australia. He runs a rad studio in Northcote full of beautiful instruments, vintage gear, sunlight and other cool shit.

 

"Working on these (LCD-Xs) has changed the way I go about perceiving and mixing my creations, I'm finding I can get a lot more useful work done quickly, in separating parts and placing things in space..." - Pip Norman
Here's our chat with Pip:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?

I’m always most into the work I’m on the cusp of doing hahah, but yes I’m really proud of my work with Jarryd James on his album 31 and Troye Sivan’s Fools and some of the early work with TZU and Urthboy has a special place in my heart.

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

A Collaborator. I’m just constantly collaborating, cross-pollinating skills and instinct with artists and producers. Whether as a writer of lyrics and song craft or a more technical engineer role, I think people come to me for my broad skill set and my vibe as a personal collaborator.

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

I started playing a shitty Stratocaster when I was 13 and it all slowly grew from there, I was a bit of a stereotypical rebellious grunge teen and found that making music gave me somewhere to channel my restless teenage weirdness. I was listening to Soundgarden, Primus, RHCP, Beastie Boys and that kind of alternative 90’s music... from there I got into more classic funk and soul music as well as more progressive art rock and electronic music. These days I keep across all the incredible Indy pop and all its sub genres that is coming out, as that is where most of my collaborative work is located, and there’s so much crazy colliding of genres and talent going on at the moment it’s really fun. Though when it comes time to listen at home and really enjoy being a consumer of music, I’m really into Bandcamp and discovering and devouring ambient and textural work or experimental material, that often feeds me weird ideas that leach into my pop music collaborations.

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

Like many others, I’ve always found the artistry of acts like Radiohead to be a great driving inspiration, in that they are acts operating on that level of an album being a deep dive art exhibition or body of work that explores a particular collection of emotion and craft /tech and aesthetic. That said, some memorable moments of my musical awakening were: hearing Blackalicious and Mos def in the late 90s and realising I needed to make hiphop music; a guitar teacher showing me the jazz modes and then saying 'other than that…. just fake it’; learning to use (Apple) Logic and make beats (Logic 3 if you have to know); my friend and mentor Tristan Dewey early on showed me so much about how engineering and mic pre’s and compressors and gain structures and signal paths work, and that gave me an inbuilt technical confidence which has served me really well.

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?

I think something that’s taken me a long time to learn is when to push an idea further and put in the hard yards until it distills and materialises into greatness, and then when to just call it and hand on the idea to someone else or park it for the beat wreckers of future jams. Knowing the limitations of your own skills and instinct is a massive win.

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

It always changes and evolves but at the moment the most used set of kit would be my Greco P-bass, Blooper pedal, SM7 and the OB6, and in the box I use u-he, Omnisphere, Soundtoys, Permut8, Brainworx and these days Logic is a beast so I’m really enjoying utilising a lot of the built in features.

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

Something I have to constantly remind myself is to treat my own work with respect; if an idea arrives you have to respect it and give it your full attention and let it run its course, or if you’re not feeling the vibe and feel stuck - you still have other people’s dreams and energies at stake and need to respect the work. BUT on the cruel flip side of that is the big one: not to be too precious with it all. Sometimes the art has a power outside of your control and it’s actually not ‘your’ art but the world’s art using you as a conduit.

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

As long as I’ve been making music I’ve used headphones... but now more than ever with lockdown and working from home more and more, I’d say I’m under headphones 80% of the time. I often use them to do the finer detailing work and corrective mixing etc... but also I love using headphones for writing. Sometimes being immersed in the headphones can have you making good choices about the sonic architecture, even in the writing phase.

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work?

Working on these has changed the way I go about perceiving and mixing my creations, I'm finding I can get a lot more useful work done quickly, in separating parts and placing things in space... I particularly dig how the lows and low mids have so much more breadth in the LCD-X's, making it easier to find what's getting muddied and cluttered. I love that they don't flatter either, if something sounds shit in these, it's because it is shit and is clashing or imbalanced, but if it sounds good -- it sounds reeeaaaal good, and will translate across systems very well.

Can you tell us what you've been working on with them recently?

I've just been using these to arrange and mix new work for Shannen James, Baker Boy and Forest Claudette. I've also been developing collaborative work with legendary singer and artist Bertie Blackman which should be released mid 2022, and collaborating with Melbourne producer/ writer Rob Amoruso on a new project which will be announced soon.