Audeze speaks to sound engineer Jurij Gianluca Ricotti

March 04, 2021

Jurij G Ricotti is an award-winning Italian sound engineer who's worked with Andrea Bocelli, Queen, Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa, Ennio Morricone, Rita Ora, Celine Dion, Michael Bublé and many many more. Jurij's full discography is on his website.

Here's our chat with Jurij:

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

I'm so proud of a Tony Renis song "E più ti penso" sung by Andrea Bocelli and Ariana Grande, I love that song and we produced it two times in the years before this final version, a long beautiful work together with Ennio Morricone and William Ross. But I'm also proud about other productions with Tony and Humberto over the years such as IL VOLO (2.5 millions copies sold), the Cinema album with Andrea Bocelli, where I worked on all songs, and the last one "Si". I'm also proud for the awards received for the project "Chrysler: The Performer" in Dubai, was a huge project with Eminem and other artists.

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

Most of the time I'm involved in the pre-production stage, when my arranger skills help the producers to reach out the perfect harmony and rhythms sections before and after the orchestra recordings. Some of these tracks remain in the final versions of the albums. Another frequent work is remix, or live mix on TV shows for the album songs performances, TV commercials, etc.

How did you get started in music/audio production?

I'm an old boy (49 now), I came from the nineties where the old school was, so I've started as a musician in several metal bands, some CDs etc, then to audio engineer street school with the same metal bands, some Yngwie Malmsteen experience tour in Italy, and other International artists in Italian shows such as David Sylvian, Bireli Lagrene, Richard Galliano, and other jazz artists. After 1994 I moved to Boston to study HD Recording and Guitar at Berklee, with Pat Metheny and Scott Henderson, and I've finished my Jazz school in Italy as guitarist with other amazing teachers. Those skills were crucial for me as an audio engineer with interactions and speaking with the musicians. I was a strange sound engineer :-)

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

I was very lucky to meet amazing people-- I've met bad ones of course, this is part of life, but I was influenced a lot from the best of them: Malmsteen not only as a guitarist, from other great musicians such as Dominic Miller, and Steve Vai. I was musically influenced by Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Ozzy Osbourne, Queen and Pink Floyd, there are traces of that in all my productions. I never met some of them except for Malmsteen, Vai, Miller, Brian May and Ozzy. I would like to meet Roger Waters and David Gilmour one day, never stop dreaming, never say never, ahahah.

My Guitar Heroes were part of my job in the past, I met Vai and May again some months ago in Zurigo. My producer heroes are now my producers: Tony Renis, Humerto Gatica, Quincy Jones, they taught me a lot and I still learn from them every time. I will thank them forever. As you can image, I've tons of stories and moments to remember, all were great moments, unbelievable moments in studio and out. I was involved by Tony Renis in 2008 for Il Volo production, he was looking for a pro arranger and computer loops style experience with orchestra, and of course English to collaborate with Humberto Gatica and the other guys in LA. At that time I was on tour with an Italian metal band in Eastern Europe. So we met, we spoke about arranging only four songs in pre-production stage, they loved my work and I finished the album, I did the music direction also for the American and European tour. It's all about how to handle the problems and solve them.

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?

Obstacles are part of the work, and most important skill as I said before, is how to handle problems, obstacles and people. There are always obstacles and problems even if you planned for all :-). Sometimes they are old problems, sometimes they are new. Living with frustration is the most hard thing to manage, but It's possible to learn how. Keep calm and divide the big problem into small problems, then start to solve one by one, seems simple and stupid but it's the best solution. When the producers know that about you they will keep your side every time. So there are Studio Problems: cables, arrangements, tonality, microphones, singer stress, etc etc, and Live Problems with non professional sound engineers, or bad riders, or bad management, every step has its own problems.

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

Coming from the old school, I was lucky to use the real hardware and consoles and tapes. So I know what to expect from the plugins and the instruments. I love Maselec products, SSL, Neve, RME, and my secret weapon with singers, the Ribera R251 Microphone. Microphone and preamp are the best part of the singer chain, if the singer hears badly he or she will perform badly and vice-versa. My new tool to speed up my productions is Studio One Pro from Presonus, the best DAW I've ever used.

Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire to get where you are in their own careers?

Every day is a new day, for me as for everyone else. I have to face the same new sound engineers, new technologies and new mixing techniques as the others. This means the learning process will never end. I spend 1 hour every day in the morning to listen and try out all the new hardware and plugins on the market to be prepared and offer the best solutions to my producers every time they ask. Thanks to my work I'm in touch with the factories and the software houses and I'm involved in some of these projects. The best wish I can give to everyone is to study hard and don't give up, never give it up, because there are more failures than goals. Be prepared for that. Stay calm and start again :-). Don't forget to be original, if you copy you will be always the second one.

I'm very thankful for some people who taught me this job, to play, to listen and create. I love to share my experiences trough my YouTube channel for free, because I want to give something back to the universe. I'm still learning and I think it's very important to not feel you arrived.

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

Headphones are a great part of my work, I use them for tracking of course, to hear what the singer and the musicians are hearing. During the mix I prefer to use headphones to focus listening on the SIDE parts of the (stereo) mix: even though my studio is well treated, reverbs, delays, and low frequencies are always a critical part; mixing with speakers gives you the best MID reference but the combination of both systems are the key. I always use headphones when I travel of course, in hotels, and other studios where I'm not familiar, it's my portable reference. I've mixed a lot of tracks for TV with headphones.

As a pro sound engineer I'm traveling a lot and I need a stable reference for my daily job. Audeze LCD-X are the right tool for this, impressive frequency and dynamic response with lower volume, perfect as a reference for Pro Mix and Mastering. My setup is very simple, SPL Phonitor D as preamp + Sienna correction. I can't work without it now. Thanks a lot to Audeze.