Jannek Zechner is a skilled musician, producer and engineer based in New York, and is currently Tony Visconti's assistant at Human Worldwide studio. Jannek has worked on some historic Bowie projects and others with Tony, and is recently focusing his energies on several contemporary projects, including his own solo album being recorded now.
Here's our chat with Jannek:
Can you pick out any favorites from your work that you're particularly proud of?
Absolutely. I worked with a wonderful artist called Jess Adams for many years now and last spring we released his debut record. There’s a track on there that makes me smile every time I listen to it. It’s called “Hymns of Glass” and it makes me feel like I could fight a bear.
Other projects I’m proud of are the recent Remixes of David Bowie’s Space Oddity and Metrobolist albums by Tony Visconti. I was heavily involved with the audio restoration and mix application for some of those mixes and it was an incredible experience to be part of it.
What's the best place for those new to your work to become familiar with what you do?
Search for Jess Adams and listen to his debut record “Riverstone”
I also worked on a record with Marc Malsegna this spring. Listen on Spotify here.
There are socials to come once I start promoting my upcoming album.
How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on?
“Enabler”. I am here to make projects come to fruition. It’s my job as the producer and engineer to enable the artist to perform to their fullest potential. I spend a lot of my time thinking about solving technical issues before they arise which is incredibly important because you don’t want the creative flow to stop just because something is not working right. In my eyes being able to fully understand every part of your studio is a must if you want to succeed as a producer. That includes everything from your cable connections to room treatment and lighting design. No artist feels comfortable in a halogen-lit recording box. This applies to working with myself as an artist as much as working with other artists.
How did you get started in music?
In the beginning I was highly focused on playing guitar and playing live. I toured a lot in Germany and was mentored by Supertramp guitarist Carl Verheyen. For 7-8 years all I wanted to do was play blues rock on stage. Then, during my time at Berklee in Boston I found my love for composition and music production. I started falling in love with writing for strings, writing instrumentals and exploring the endless worlds of music production and creative exploration outside of the guitar-world.
New York has brought out a very different musical side of me. Through Tony I’ve been getting into Brian Eno’s work a lot more. I was blown away when I heard his isolated tracks in Bowie sessions. The mix of Eno’s ambient music with the minimal techno scene in Brooklyn has inspired me to dive into the electronic world and combine my skills in a new territory. Going through a musical transition is exciting. It allows me to learn like a child again. The excitement of experiencing something new is part of what makes music such a constant source of nurturing energy in people’s lives and I personally can’t get enough of it.
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?
Room reflections, a lack of understanding of what I’m hearing, and insufficient monitoring equipment has caused me some frustration in the past. I don’t think I would give my younger self a recommendation on how to solve that problem differently. I very quickly realized that being able to hear properly is significantly more important than using a fancy compressor. Invest in your listening environment. It’s just more fun to make music that way and you’ll gain skills all around. A good room trains your ears.
Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite instruments recently?
A summing box. I’ve acquired a 2Bus+ from Dangerous Audio this spring and combined with high end converters they allow me to understand what true stereo width can really accomplish.
In terms of instruments I’ve been absolutely loving my Juno 60 with the Echofix tape echo. It somehow feels like such an organic combination of instruments and I enjoy playing it just much as playing guitar these days. There is something very meditative about having a few alternating notes being played on a synth and making music through improvisational sound manipulation, rather than playing fancy lines.
Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire to get where you are in their own careers?
Be open to knowledge of all flavors and meditate. An open heart allows for open ears and open ears allow for beautiful music making.
Through Tony I am currently working on a project with the Bowie foundation where I am re-creating Bowie songs from multi-tracks to prepare grouped stems. It’s an unbelievably fascinating process, as I get to understand the mix choices that Tony, Bowie and others have made over the years and follow their footsteps within the song.
I feel grateful to have been handed this project because people have placed their personal trust in me. I’ve learned that being the best at mixing or having the best ear is less important than showing your collaborators that they can rely on you.
How long have you been working with headphones, and what inspired you to start including them in your workflow?
Due to having to abandon our studios in New York I’ve been working remotely for a few months now. I moved into a location that had zero room treatment and I went absolutely crazy as I couldn’t hear at all what I was mixing. I took my small Neumann Speakers with me that I’ve used a lot until I got my ATCs. I usually love them, but in this room I was rather close to throwing them out the window. Doing any composition work was also terribly frustrating has it was just boomy.
I immediately reached out to Audeze and a week later I started mixing on headphones. It really is a joy to have a pair of headphones that you can rely on. Actually, I just finished a mastering job that I was able to do ONLY because I had the Audeze. I was hesitant about taking on the gig... but after I sent them the result, the client was stoked!
Working with headphones shouldn’t feel like a compromise. With Audeze, it really isn't!