Audeze talks to musician and engineer Tony Paeleman

May 23, 2023

Tony Paeleman has created a vast sonic palette on piano and fender Rhodes, ranging from introspective jazz to reckless fusion. After two acoustic albums in quartet highlighting the depth and sophistication of his writing, his latest trio offering “The Fuse” is an electrifying tribute to the 80s. It was acclaimed by French critics as “addictive and thrilling” and “feverish”. An essential sideman and producer for the most in demand artists on the European scene – Vincent Peirani, Youn Sun Nah, Emile Parisien, Anne Paceo - the Nice born keyboard wizard is also the recent owner of the Studio des Bruères near Poitiers where he records and mixes various artists and his own projects.

Tony Paeleman in the studio with his Audeze LCD-X headphones
"They are really accurate, and I feel confident when I make decisions in the mix.
But I use them also when I’m composing, creating sounds with synths or anything else, and it makes my choices easier."  - Tony Paeleman
Here's our chat with Tony:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?

Regarding the sound engineer part, I would say the last Vincent Peirani’s album « Jokers » and also Anne Paceo’s « Shamanes », both released in 2022. I had the opportunity to push things a little bit more in those albums because I felt very free. The first is more electric and the second more acoustic, so I could explore a lot of different new thing in the mixes.

For the musician side, my last album "The Fuse" is a good image of where I am in terms of compositions, groove and sounds that I like.

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

I’m trying to bring something personal and special to the project, as I would do as a musician (sometime I do both at the same time like with Anne Paceo). For me, the first part of the work is to react very freely and instinctively with the music trying not to overthink, and then, when I have a base that I like then I start to go into the details with a more technical aspect. But I always try to keep the original vibe of the track throughout the process.

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

I’m playing piano since I’m five. I started with the classical piano as often and I was introduced to jazz around 11-12 years old. My teacher showed me the basics and piqued my curiosity. I then took over as an autodidact, especially on the theory part. And then I started playing in a group around 17-18 years old. I entered the conservatory of Nice then I continued with the National Conservatory of Paris.

We listened to everything at home, rock, pop, classical, radio, French stuff. For my part, I went to look for new records every week at the media library to methodically discover the discography of my idols.

I have always remained very open and I am interested and I listen to all styles of music. I really need to dig into the classics and listen to what current musicians are doing too, it all blends together. I have the impression that one life will not be enough to listen to everything I want…

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

I think meeting great teachers is an important thing that has always motivated me to work harder, look for myself, make mistakes and start over. Having had the chance to work and play with talented and inspiring musicians is another determining factor, which always pushes me to question myself in a positive way and look for new things to play.

Some musical heroes who have been with me for a very long time, who allow me to find inspiration, to see things from another angle. Just to name a few: Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Oscar Peterson, The Beatles, Quincy Jones, Bach.

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?

Since I'm still a "young" sound engineer (I've only been doing this professionally for 8 years), I continue to learn a lot between each new album. So it's frustrating to re-listen to an album from 5 or 6 years ago, and to hear lots of little not-optimal things that I would do better today... but that's what's exciting too, we learn throughout life and each new album is a new experience.

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

On the mixes, I use the UAD, Fab Filter, Soundtoys plugins a lot... I'm a big fan of the Goodhertz plugins too, which are super creative and intuitive. In general, I tend to prefer tools who add a special vibe to the sound. It’s just cool to choose them right.

I mainly mix in the box but I have a Kerwax Replica and a Manley Varimu on my mix bus which I love. On the guitar pedal side, I use a lot of Strymon's and the Red Panda Particle and Tensor which are great too.

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

Be open, question yourself, learn and listen, and have fun :-)

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

I always use headphones. Either when I'm on tour to keep listening to ongoing mixes or music, or at home for fun. And especially to have a critical and complementary listening during the mix and to have another perspective on the stereo, the effects, the small details. It is therefore super important to be able to trust the headphones. During a working day in the studio, I will regularly alternate between speakers and headphones for this reason.

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work?

I use them mainly when I’m mixing, I like to go back and forth between my monitors and them. It’s complementary and I can feel different aspects of the music, especially depth and width.

They are really accurate, and I feel confident when I make decisions in the mix.
But I use them also when I’m composing, creating sounds with synths or anything else, and it makes my choices easier.

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

Different things :-) mixing, recording in my studio, but also I’ve started to compose new music for my next trio album, so I spent a lot a time with them looking for sounds, trying different synths and guitar pedals.

Also, once or twice a week I take some time to listen to great records that I like and re-discover them. I can hear so many details that I had missed before.

Tony Paeleman's Audeze LCD-X headphones