Audeze jams out with Metal Mastermind's Ken Candelas

April 27, 2024

Ken Candelas is a passionate artist who has been teaching audio technology to students in New York for several years. "My upbringing encouraged me to work on creative projects whilst allowing me to explore the technical prowess to serve my imagination. I love video games, making music, and expanding the minds of my students."

Ken Candelas wearing Audeze MM-500 headphones mixing
 "I've used the Audeze MM-500s to make the final decisions on my album's masters. It was actually stunning how quickly I was able to point out subtle nuances." - Ken Candelas
Here's our chat with Ken:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?

My album, Homerik (self-titled), holds a very special place in my heart. The song titled "Wendigo" is a fan favorite! 

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

Most of the time, I teach at SAE Institute of New York and The Sonic Arts Center @ The City College of New York. I also operate as one of the co-founders of my educational website for metal musicians, Metal Mastermind along with my partner Jason Stallworth. On the side, I like to master other people's mixes. I also am a very involved drum technician for my colleagues in their recording sessions as well as engineering my own sessions. I mostly like to work on projects that I enjoy. For a while, I did a lot of live sound and broadcast on shows like ABC's Good Morning America.

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

I was actually very dead-set on becoming a visual artist for video games. One day, I stumbled upon Guitar Hero III and Rock Band. The rest is history! I grew up listening to classic rock, prog, and metal mostly. However, my family is very diverse in their musical taste. Everything from new age to salsa, jazz to country... it's all in there.

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

For sure it was my father. He has a strong musical background and influenced me in ways I'll never forget. He always had a way of bringing out my inner musical persona and enhancing what was already within me. Another moment in my development was the breaking up of my initial band for Homerik. That changed the entire trajectory of the project. It was necessary for my growth and I am glad it happened. It's so much better now for it.

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?

What led to the breakup of the band was really giving clout to other members of the band that weren't on the same page. As the lead composer, I needed to put my foot down. It actually was an epiphany after I went on tour for a band called The Cringe as their monitor engineer. The lead singer told me, "It doesn't matter if they're your friends. If they're not putting the work in, you fire them." It was a difficult decision to make, mainly because I was living with one of them in an apartment space. I fired them all and I was the one who had to move out! If I were to change anything, only wish I did that sooner. Might have saved me a lot of heartaches. I have content on my Homerik YouTube channel explaining this in greater detail!

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

I am currently an endorsed Antelope Audio artist as well as an endorsed Soundtheory artist. I'm a huge fan of developing a powerhouse of an in-the-box studio. It is certainly the future of this industry. If I were to choose analog hardware to work with, I think I'd resort to a summing mixer.

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

Follow your north. You will probably take several detours to get there, but don't lose sight of what it is you really want. I went through five internships only to realize that engineering is something that I wanted to do to serve my own artistry, and that's perfectly okay. The beautiful thing is that it's a trade and can serve you outside of your creative zone, too!

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

I think headphones were one of the first things I decided to invest in. I usually use headphones for recording sessions to hear transient detail and also like to check my mixes on headphones as well. One thing that I really recommend is taking the concept of "hearing your mix in the car" to more than just the car. Where do you listen to music the most? That's where you should really critique your mixes. If it's on Apple AirPods while on the subway, then the car test doesn't really make a lot of sense. To add to this, it's important to walk away from the DAW and listen without being able to control the mix infinitely so. You will find that you produce better mental notes about your mix.

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

Don't be afraid to take the plunge! It's the brave ones that enjoy the benefits that life has to offer. As they say, "to the victor, the spoils!" Also, really take the time to figure out your own rhythm in scheduling time to work on your craft. Hustling is great, but if you do too much you are always operating at lackluster energy levels. Find a balance in your life that works for you, whether that means you are an early bird or a night owl, too!

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work? Can you tell us what you've been working on with them recently?

I've used the Audeze MM-500s to make the final decisions on my album's masters. It was actually stunning how quickly I was able to point out subtle nuances. I got my new masters back and loved every part of it. Right now, I'm working on my accompanying audio book that will be released with a novel alongside the album. These Audeze headphones are definitely elevating my performance!

I’ve been recently working with the Audeze Maxwells and have been incorporating them into my workflow for head-tracking decisions. For an audio book in Dolby Atmos, this really adds another layer to the experience for me to discern how objects move in space. I want to make the listener feel like they are in the midst of a conversation between characters, as though they can turn their heads to look at the characters speaking to each other.

Audeze MM-500 headphones on mixing gear