Audeze speaks with composer and producer Jan Simons

October 03, 2023

Jan Simons is a Television Music Producer/Composer and musician. Originally Swedish and born in Finland, Jan has had an extraordinary career in Europe, working with many of the world's most influential musicians in jazz and pop. He has also composed and produced music for a multitude of American TV shows of international repute.

Jan Simons in the studio with his Audeze MM-500 headphones

"It is a little bit like finding home... but the MM-500 I just feel I have a relationship with"  - Jan Simons
 Here's our chat with Jan:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?

Composing and producing specific music for some of the world's biggest TV shows, like This Is Us, Pretty Little Liars and Modern Family.

Making my own album Travellers for a label who gave me the opportunity to work next to Jan-Erik Kongshaug, at Rainbow Studio in Oslo, where so many Pat Metheny, Keith Jarrett and other albums have been mixed on that same Harrison console. This album was recorded all in one room with loud drums and a grand piano.

Spending time mixing with the late mr Kongshaug was incredible and he was so open to working and experimenting. For a great example of the dynamics, listen to A Sunny Day.

Jan Simons Band "Answer" 1999, featuring legendary ECM trumpeter Kenny Wheeler.

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

I am right in the middle between the talent and production. I get to put all the best people together in one room and deliver such great material. It gives an openness to how you write - I always write giving room for the musicians.

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

I have been crazy about music since I was 2. Groovy music was always my thing, Earth Wind & Fire, Tower of Power, The Jacksons. From that it was easy to develop a liking for strong performers. True heroes are Michael Brecker, Whitney Houston and Jeff Porcaro. Wide range, I know!

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

I was 20 and I read Miles Davis' autobiography. I had just moved away from home to study, and just had this AHA-moment, realizing something so profound: The self rewarding content of music. What did they do back in the 50's, if they didn't have a gig one night? They went and played. So, I went down to the closest small music venue and asked them if I could play every night for free. That's how my career as a producer and musician started. Paying dues, I guess!

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?

I look back at the countless hours starting out, writing, producing, editing, mixing. Like, insane hours on one song. Somehow, this made me very very fast, but that was so difficult to see where it would lead back then. Another thing is I used to want to do most of the work myself, and now delegating is one of the most wonderful things about my work.

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

Wow, so much to say here! I must answer this by saying I use Pro Tools and an audio recorder with a big sample / loop library. Even if I get an urgent job while I'm somewhere with only my little MacBook Air i7, I really feel I take the job very far with only that.

When it comes to instruments, it's all about if you get stuck playing something, because you just can't let go. My latest awesome instrument is the Korg Wavestate. Such a groovy synth with great sounds and functions.

In the Pro Tools world, syncing any peripheral machines accurately can be tricky, and I use both the MPC 3000 and MPC X. Australian sync wizards Innerclock Systems have made tools that are so important to me. Will not be off by more than 4 samples, ever. Try to beat that!

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

NEVER be afraid to ask. I am saying this specifically about working with someone you admire. I am grateful for every time I had the courage, and it sure has brought me where I am today.

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

Based in California, but working so often in Europe, I have become used to working on headphone while traveling for many years. Whenever in my studio, or in any studio, I tend to work pretty much 50/50 between speakers and headphones.

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

Yes, this is the forum where I finally get to say this! Converters and amplification matter. I feel many in the music industry want to follow the hype with some upper midrange gear. Often, that's great, but I think many don't know what they are missing out on.

I find this suitable to say in an Audeze context: When you have tools like the best headphones or speakers you can get, you get to see the difference when you try out the highest range in converters and amplifiers.

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work?

Pretty dramatically - I listen at such low volumes now. That’s not only thanks to the MM-500 that I use in the studio continuously, but also to the Euclids, that I take with me everywhere, literally.

It is a little bit like finding home. I have had so many great pairs of headphones over the years, but never really ended up just being 100% happy. Calibrating goes a long way, but the MM-500 I just feel I have a relationship with - need no EQ correction here.

Can you tell us what you've been working on with them recently?

Cues for many TV shows, to mention one, let’s say "Welcome to Chippendales”. For the Euclids, I use them on stage, too. Just recently with a band on a 2 hour live TV gala. Pure amazement. Looking forward to the boom when more musicians realise the clarity you can get with these on gigs.

 Jan Simons's Audeze MM-500 headphones