Audeze talks with engineer, producer and label owner Robbie Nelson

Robbie Nelson is a multi-Grammy winning engineer, mixer, producer and label owner. He's worked with artists such as The Rolling Stones, Labrinth, Hozier, and Beck. He's recently spent time setting up a label and production team under the moniker Dirty Fader.

 

"I've had them for months now and I still can't get over how fast they are, just how much they sound like speakers rather than headphones." - Robbie Nelson
Here's our chat with Robbie:
Can you pick out any favorites from your work that you're particularly proud of?

My work with Labrinth over a few years has been so much fun, he's a bonafide musical genius and one of the nicest people you could ever meet. The time we spent at his house in LA mixing the track Misbehaving was such a great time. He had all these things coming together and about 3 albums on the go at once.

More recently finishing off the production (with my production partner Mike Horner) on a little Scottish band, Ded Rabbit's debut album has been brilliant and that's about to come out on our new record label Dirty Fader Records.

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

These days I'm mainly mixing, thankfully, as the last year has made recording quite tricky. Although I'll always do bits of recording if it's something good. I've spent a good chunk of the last year getting a production team and record label off the ground while we've all been locked down.

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 out as a runner at the legendary Wessex Studio in London (Sex Pistols, Clash and Talk Talk all recorded seminal albums there back in the day). By the time I arrived the producer Mike Hedges had it and had his EMI TG MK IV desk installed there (the Dark Side of the Moon console!). After that closed I ended up at the equally legendary RAK studios so yeah I had a pretty extraordinarily lucky start. I grew up in the 90's with the resurgence of British guitar based music so to end up working at two of the places where some of the greatest UK bands had recorded was pretty mind blowing.

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

Working for Mike Hedges and learning so much off of him and his engineers at the time, Ger McMonald and Guy Massey were obviously a huge influence on how I record and view music. I certainly wouldn't be anywhere near where I am without the grounding I got watching those three work. Later, winning the Grammys for the small part I played in the Beck album Morning Phase was always going to be a high point. Just being in the studio with the genius of people like Beck or The Rolling Stones still blows my mind, it's such a pleasure. My favourite artist to work with though is without a doubt Labrinth, he's truly a one of a kind musical genius and is rightly now starting to get the recognition he deserves.

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 very rarely get frustrated tbh, as long as people turn up on time and don't leave us sitting around. Going down creative rabbit holes can sometimes get frustrating but if you come out of it with something brilliant then it's all worth it, so learning to have a mutual patience and trust with the artist so that you can both be free to experiment is important.

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

If I'm recording I love API consoles, especially for drums, they drive so well. And I love recording really crap microphones and just cranking it. Stuff like Fisher Price toy cassette microphones or CB radio mics, anything to give the recording character. Computer wise I love all the plug-ins from the FabFilter guys, I'd struggle without those these days.

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

Never stop learning, work with everyone you can even if it's just making tea, watch how sessions work and learn to read a room. The single most important thing you can do as a young engineer/producer is to learn to read the room and be able to alter the vibe if need be.

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

For a long time now, and until recently I was using the Sennheiser HD600 but I just needed something a bit flatter. Even without the last year, the way that works means that you end up tweaking mixes and editing in far from ideal places, whether it be planes, trains or bedrooms. So to have a flat and revealing pair of cans that I can rely on is a must now.

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work?

I can't believe how good these headphones are. The LCD-X are super tight sounding, the transients are so fast they just totally blew me away, not just the bottom but the top end too is so good. I've had them for months now and I still can't get over how fast they are, just how much they sound like speakers rather than headphones. I kind of knew they would be good from the reviews I'd heard but wow. These are already making my life a whole lot easier, I'm doing a lot more of the mix work on headphones now and then using the monitors fleetingly. It's kinda completely flipped the way I work. Amazing.