Johann Scheerer wears a lot of hats. When asked about how he'd like to be introduced, here was his response:
Even though I’m busy writing books and running a world-wide indie label, I see my main job as a music producer. Mainly in my studio Clouds Hill Recordings in Hamburg but I’m happy to travel anywhere to find the right sound.
I’m a father of four. That’s how I learned to listen and to acknowledge that good things need time to grow.
I love to learn and use my expertise to produce music that surprises the listener with unexpected soundscapes.
The Clouds Hill Studio is also a rental studio for anyone who likes vintage gear, and has hosted productions of The Beach Boys, The Killers, Teenage Fanclub, Elbow, Die Ärzte and many more.
Johann also recently made a short video about listening with his LCD-MX4 headphones.
Here's our chat with Johann:
Can you pick out any favorites from your work that you're particularly proud of?
With our label Clouds Hill we recently released Omar Rodríguez-López triple solo record The Clouds Hill Tapes Pt. I, II & III. I recorded, produced and mixed the album, which features three different styles of music released on 3x12“ vinyl in a boxset. Actually my Audeze LCD-X helped me a lot during mixing.
We recorded it in only 5 days (21 songs!) and as you can imagine I had to do some additional work during the mixes.
We also just released The Mars Volta vinyl boxset La Realidad De Los Sueños. A project like this takes time. You’d think that doing re-issues is a quick thing: reprint, repress, done. But that’s not the full picture.
It goes back to what I said in my video for Audeze: the main part of the process is listening. As a label and producer of a retrospective, career spanning boxset like this your main job should be to listen to the artists. Listen to what the artist wants to change and what he or she wants to keep. Find out what mistakes have been made in the past and correct them precisely without negotiating the past. Always listen to every single detail. I just can’t state this enough. The same goes for the remastering process. You see, in this case the old pressings from Universal were done using the digital masters that sounded great in the digital world but certainly not on vinyl. We had to correct that but instead of messing around with the original mixes we just, very very carefully, kept them as they were. Because those mixes sounded absolutely fabulous on vinyl. Lots of dynamics, super transparent. Everything you want for a vinyl record. And that’s what I mean when I say „the most important thing - always - is to listen“.
Listening always comes first. It’s a process you learn through your entire life because -as always- the devil is in the details. In the nuances, in the subtle overtones. The band will have to live the rest of their artistic lives with this retrospective. As a producer and label CEO it’s your obligation and responsibility to listen!
You can read the full story of both these and other releases in my Blog. (It's a fascinating read! Audeze)
How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on these days?
I am lucky that I’m able to work on various very different projects. My role has to be defined new every time. Sometimes, when I think the production needs it I’m involved in the songwriting process, making a record from scratch. Sometimes my role is just to do nothing and let the artist do his or her thing. In my opinion knowing when to be silent is one of the most important skills of a music producer.
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 as a musician. Played guitar in a band, was one of the two main singers and songwriters. I signed a deal with Sony/Epic in 1999, when I was 17.
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?
Good things need time. Sometimes it‘s best to leave the room, go out and give it a fresh start.
Frustration is nothing I usually worry about. It‘s part of the process. Excitement, frustration, anger... as long as the music you‘re working on is able to finally heal the wounds of the process... That‘s just the way it goes.
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‘s always the weird stuff. I love tape. Tape echoes, tape machines, cassette players, Nagras, Uher, Copicats, Space Echoes. Every machine that struggles like humans do.
Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?
Never take advice from people you don’t wanna change positions with.
How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?
I work on my ATC speakers, Auratones and Audeze. All equally important.
How have your Audeze headphones affected your work?
I love to make „headphone“ recordings. Hide little things in the background, use panning, echoes on one side, original signal on the other side...
Audeze headphones are particularly great for choosing the right reverb. That‘s something I only do with headphones. Choosing the right color of a reverb and the right amount of pre-delay....