Matt Cohn is an engineer and mixer based in NYC who works in a diverse range of genres. His recent work includes recording and mixing the score and original soundtrack release for the film Uncut Gems, as well as recording and mixing songs from The Weeknd’s newest album After Hours. Matt works out of Gaia, the Brooklyn-based studio of Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never), and spends most of his time working on projects with Daniel.
Here's our chat with Matt:
Can you pick out any favorites from your work that you're particularly proud of?
The Uncut Gems score / soundtrack is one I’m particularly proud of as of recently. We had about three weeks to do all of the recording (in conjunction with the writing) for an hour of music, and a near impossible mixing deadline which overlapped with those three weeks. We were working crazy hours and running back and forth between multiple studios to make it happen. Despite time not being on our side, the final result ended up being something really special and beautiful both musically and sonically.
What's the best place for those new to your work to become familiar with what you do?
My website has my partial discography with details of my role in each project and associated links. I’m not very active on Instagram, but I do try to promote the projects I’m working on when they’re released. You can find me there @Complexmagazine (Yes, not a typo- No, not affiliated with the magazine).
How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on?
My main role on a project almost always falls under the umbrella of engineer. Sometimes I’m the engineer, sometimes the mixer, sometimes both- and recently more than before I’ve been stepping into the role of producer for a few projects that I’m really excited about as well.
How did you get started in music?
I started playing guitar around 11 or 12 years old and was really interested in recreating the tones I heard on my favorite records. Of course being that young I didn’t have a ton of money to drop on pedals, so instead I saved up and bought a used M-audio interface for $60. I pirated some recording software as a way to access things like reverb, delay, and distortion for free, and quickly became way more interested in DAWs and studio gear than I did in guitars. From then on I was recording friends in my parent’s basement and began making beats, and by 17 I was working as an engineer at a local studio in Columbus, Ohio where I grew up.
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?
There are constantly frustrating obstacles to overcome as an engineer just by the nature of the job, too many to name really. Plans change often, as do people's minds and you just have to brush it off and roll with it in order to meet the goal of making the best record possible for the artist.
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 LCD-MX4s have become the most consistent and reliable piece of gear I have with all the travel and work in different studios over the past few years. They’re a fantastic reference tool if I ever have questions about something in an unfamiliar room or monitoring setup. The bass response is incredibly clear and accurate, and they always play a part in my mixing process now.
In terms of instruments, the Moog One has really been keeping us busy at Gaia. We have a nice little collection of analog and vintage synths, but I can’t think of another modern polyphonic synth with that much flexibility and ease of use. Plus it sounds ridiculously great. I don’t think anyone’s ever purchased a Moog of any variety and regretted it (except maybe in their bank accounts).
Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire to get where you are in their own careers?
There’s a lot of great new resources available online now, but nothing replaces real life experience at a good studio under a good engineer. If you’re fortunate enough to find such an opportunity, take it and pay close attention every day.
How long have you been working with headphones, and what inspired you to start including them in your workflow?
I had never incorporated headphones into my workflow until the LCD-MX4s. I was interested in having a reliable mobile reference tool that was on par with a good set of monitors, and the MX4s really checked all the boxes. I find myself reaching for them daily lately, even when I’m working in my own room and mixing on my monitors. They really help to unveil things that you might not hear otherwise. It’s like having a microscope for your mix, I can’t work without them now.