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London based Dan Weller is an award winning producer/mixer, writer and guitarist, known for his work in rock and metal as co-founder of the band SikTh, but with credits as diverse as Children's BBC to his name. When asked for an introduction, here's what Dan had to offer: "British, ginger, music loving, obsessive, workaholic. I live inside Pro Tools and have done since 2001."

 

Here's our talk with Dan:

Can you pick out any favorites from your work that you're particularly proud of?

I would say my most recent works are my faves. Cody Frost’s new music which I co-wrote and produced. The new Holding Absence album ’TGMOML’ and the forthcoming Caskets records are special. I’m very proud of all of the Enter Shikari stuff we’ve done together too - it’s always a challenge creatively.

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

Haha.. well it varies but generally I’m the Project Manager, (unqualified) therapist, fixer. My approach to Production is to be completely invested in all areas of the band/artist - I want to be mates with them and earn their trust. I work late and hard to make sure the artist leaves with the record they wanted.

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

Well, it was Metallica that got me into production and band stuff. Watching ‘A year and a half in the life of’ documentaries changed everything. I formed my band (SikTh), signed a record deal and it all snowballed from there. It was a pre-internet era where budgets were larger and we were able to record in lots of fancy studios. I was lucky to be able to sit with Colin Richardson and shadow him. I picked up a cheap Pro Tools setup and never looked back. The problem I have these days is to shake my ‘metal guy’ image - as in my heart I’m a pop guy.

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

James Hetfield, Dime-bag, Nuno Bettencourt, Jerry Cantrell all influenced my Guitar playing/song writing. But when I’m on the Piano it is Billy Joel that’s had the biggest impact on me - the way he was so expressive with his chord progressions. Most of my producer career progression has been driven by a desire to make records that sound as good as - if not better - than many of my favourite records… that's a never ending journey that keeps me up at night.

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?

It always relates to trying to rush to a deadline for a label. Quality is compromised. When I’m printing mixes at 4am the record suffers. These days I just openly say “that’s not possible”. Labels and managers often have no idea how complex recording is. Not just the technical side - but the dealing with many differing personalities.. schedules are very often fluid and contingencies are regularly implemented :-)

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

When I’m tracking a band I find that the over head mics/quality of the cymbals are ESSENTIAL. Crappy cymbals/sound can ruin a record. I tend to use (AKG) 414’s or my Aston pencil condensers. In terms of software I would urge the world to have the Slate bundle and Trigger 2. I literally can’t live without them. Fabfilter changed the game too. Looking at the bigger picture - I owe my life to AVID - Pro Tools is my world - can’t even imagine not having it.

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

Focus purely on your own path. Meet people, be respectful. Most opportunities that come your way at the beginning of your career will arrive because someone thinks “I like them, I want to help”. I’ve given work experience to some folk that got the gig purely on their attitude alone. Being a smart arse who’s watched a million YouTube videos but can’t communicate with humans won’t help you in this game :-)

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

They are essential, In fact - I’d say 50% of my mixing workflow. Sometimes you aren’t in the best sounding rooms and you need something you can rely on.

I work across many genres of music. As anyone who works in audio knows - this is a job where confidence in your convictions is everything. I’m regularly having to print/recall mixes in different places - let alone Mix in different rooms. I can (hand on heart) say that I would choose to mix a song from start to finish on my Audeze over mixing through monitors in a less than perfectly treated room. My LCD-X have completely changed the game for me and I’m just really annoyed at myself for not having picked them up sooner.

Do you have any additional comments or stories you want to share?

I often to forget how fun working in music is - so try your hardest to work with a smile... otherwise what’s the point ?