Cut To The Chase with Mike Indovina from MASTERYOURMIX
MASTERYOURMIX - Mike Indovina (CA)
“ Demystify how to use EQ and compression on drums, bass, guitar, piano and vocals - so that you develop a workflow to get better mixes with less effort (even in an untreated room at home).” Check it out here
Mike Indovina is a recording, mixing, and mastering engineer who has worked with hundreds of artists throughout his career. He has been fortunate to work alongside many major artists, including KISS and Collective Soul, Ed Robertson [Barenaked Ladies],David Usher and labels such as Universal, Sony, Republic, Roadrunner and more.
He also runs MASTERYOURMIX, an educational website with free lessons and additional in-depth training, where he has helped teach thousands of aspiring studio engineers to create pro-level mixes from home.
MASTERYOURMIX is also a podcast, in which Mike hosts interviews and Q&As to share recording tips and techniques to help engineers, artists, and producers improve the quality of their recordings and mixes (even from a home studio).
Mike is the author of the bestselling book “The Mixing Mindset: The Step-By-Step Formula For Creating Professional Rock Mixes From Your Home Studio”
Let’s cut to the chase...
1. Mike, would you introduce yourself as brief or as extensively as you like? Where are
you from, your age if you would reveal it and what is your educational background?
Thanks for giving me this opportunity! My name is Mike Indovina. I’m from just outside of Toronto, Canada. I’m a recording, mixing, and mastering engineer who has been doing this for the past 15 years or so.
I originally got into music as a drummer who played in a bunch of different bands (mainly punk music). I was fortunate to have a couple bands that took the gig very seriously and we were able to tour a bunch, get major distribution deals, and make some fun music together.
Through playing in a band, I started to get exposed to the world of recording studios, recording equipment and mixing engineers and I became fascinated with the technology that went into it. As time went on, I started to learn more about it and eventually started doing my own recordings.
Since then, I’ve been very fortunate to use my audio skills in various areas of the industry (from studio work, live sound, audio post production and more). It has been a lot of fun and has given me some very cool opportunities to work with a bunch of great talent and artists that I admire. I’m very lucky.
A few years ago, I decided to launch masteryourmix.com as a way of giving back to the community and share some of my knowledge with musicians because I truly believe that great recordings can be done from a home studio. I just want to help people create more music and produce it at a quality that they’re proud of.
2. Let me ask what I ask every “guest” on here: Which are the first memories that you
have of music?
My uncles were really big into music and they would always play me whatever bands they were into (even when I was like 6 years old). So very early on, I was exposed to bands like The Ramones, Queen, The Who, Green Day, Guns & Roses, and a bunch more. I was always super intrigued by how excited they were about the music. I learned very early on how important music is and how big of an effect it can have on people. So I just started to dig into my uncle’s music collections more and learn as much as I could.
Then when I was 10 years old, one of my uncles took me to my first concert (Green Day) and it blew my mind that bands would perform live in front of thousands of people. That’s when I knew that I wanted to grow up and work in the music industry. I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do at the time, but I knew I just wanted to be around it as much as possible.
3. Somebody who is working with music day by day, do you listen to music in your free time? Do you have any favorite genres? And do you enjoy working on some music genres more than others?
I always try to listen to music as much as possible. I think it’s important to keep up to date on what is current. It’s great to discover new music. I’m not too biased in the genres I listen to though. To me, there’s good music and bad music. It doesn’t matter what the genre is. I either like it or I don’t. So I try to keep an open mind. But that being said, I mainly listen to a lot of punk, pop, and metal. Those are the genres that excite me the most.
4. You are a drummer, how did you come to pick up a music instrument and what kind of drummer have you been early on when you discovered the drums for you? Were you thrashing away on pillows, buckets and then on your first drum kit, kind of learning by doing? Or have you received actual instrument training?
When I was 5, my uncles gave me my first drum set. I started to bash away on those for fun and I guess that started my love of drums. Though it wasn’t until I was 10 that I started to take the drums seriously. I got into them as a result of a friendly competition with a buddy of mine who was “the cool kid” in school. He was the guy who the girls were crushing over and he was a drummer. He just thought he was super cool because he played drums in a band so I (in my childish jealousy) decided to start playing drums so I could show him up haha. That’s when I started taking lessons. It wasn’t until I was about 14 that I started playing in my first bands.
5. Do you still play? Are you drumming on recording sessions or are you playing gigs?
I don’t play as often as I’d like these days. I don’t have a regular band (but I’m hoping that will change soon). I try to sneak in some practice time each week whenever I have some downtime.
6. What sparked your interest in the world of audio/music engineering?
At some point along the way, I got frustrated with the process of writing music. What would happen is that my band would get together, we’d write songs, spend hours workshopping them and refining them to sound awesome, and then we’d leave practice relying on only our memory to piece together the songs whenever we’d practice next. Very frequently, we’d forget a lot of great ideas. So because I was tired of spending so much time trying to remember all the good ideas, I got into recording as a way of being able to capture the songs as soon as they were written.
The more I started to learn about recording, editing, and mixing, the more I started to really love production work. So I started to pursue it more and branch out to recording other bands as well.
Once my bands broke up, it seemed like a natural move to fill all of my free time in the studio. And that’s the way it has been ever since :)
7. Besides running MasterYourMix, you are still in the day-to-day business of audio
engineering, right? Do you have a commercial studio or do you work from a home studio?
I still work in the studio all the time. Until July of 2019, I had my own commercial space but I shut it down because I found I didn’t need a big room to make a lot of noise. I was getting a lot of mixing and mastering projects and I was doing most of that work from a mixing room in my house. So I closed the commercial space and now whenever I need to record a band, I work out of local studios.
8. What would you say to somebody who’s trying to decide whether to open a commercial space or a home studio? Which would you encourage and why?
It all comes down to the type of service you’re offering. And everyone is going to be in a different situation in terms of the circumstances. But generally, if you’re doing tracking, then you need a good sized room to make noise. So unless you have the space at home, you might need a commercial space.
Mixing and mastering work don’t require as much space; and often, you don't have clients attending sessions, so you could get away with just doing it from home. But it only makes sense to get a commercial space once you have regular clients. It’s expensive to rent a space, buy the gear, and maintain it. Often you’d be better off renting a local space that has everything you need already.
9. Does your own background as a musician, help you to interact with
artists/bands/clients in your studio. Do you think it’s easier for you, to tickle good performances out of musicians at a recording session, because you can relate to them?
I think it’s important to know how to communicate with artists. Without knowing how to speak the same language as them, it can be very difficult to make suggestions to improve the songs and performances. So if you know an instrument, it definitely gives you an advantage over someone who isn’t musical.
10. Are there traps, which people who are just starting out, dealing with artists in their studio, should avoid? And is a client in the studio basically “king”?
The golden rules I subscribe to are:
1. Don’t be a dick
2. Be cool.
A lot of people get an ego about being the producer. Having that sort of attitude doesn’t help. At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to make great music. So I think it’s important to know how to communicate with people, be open minded and just be a friendly person who creates a great experience for your clients.
As a producer, if you have suggestions, make them known. But also explain to the artists that they’re just suggestions. Try them out and see if they sound good. If they do, that’s awesome. If they don’t, well then at least you tried.
And you need to have the same approach whenever an artist has an idea. Try them and see what works.
5 free plugins to help you make better mixes, by Mike Indovina / MASTERYOURMIX
11. I would assume that for a music producer, it won’t hurt knowing how to play an instrument and knowing about notes and also song structure. For aspiring producers who don’t, would you recommend to learn a particular instrument or musical skill?
Absolutely. The more you can speak the same language as people, the better. And if you have the ability to perform the ideas you have, sometimes that makes it even easier. Just be respectful of other musicians when you’re doing that. You don’t want it to seem like you’re better than someone else or trying to replace a member.
12. Do you think mixing and mastering engineers with a musical background have
advantages for doing “better” work?
Being a musician doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll make better sounding recordings and mixes. When you’re talking about that sort of thing, quality comes from understanding how to use the gear and mastering the tools.
That being said, from a production/songwriting standpoint, it definitely helps if you’re able to assist with shaping the songs and individual parts. Without a great song to start, all mixing and technical skills are irrelevant. Nobody is going to listen to a horrible song (even if it has the best mix on earth)
13. On that note, we know that people can learn and train playing instruments, but would you say that learning to play and being musically talented are two separate things? Is the skill of guitar playing, separated from the attribute “being musically talented” or does one normally just follow the other?
There are different musical skills people can learn. And just because you’re good at one, doesn’t mean you’re good at the other. There’s the performance piece and there’s also the songwriting piece. There are many people who can play an instrument technically well. But playing an instrument and being a good songwriter aren’t always related.
Songwriting is an art in its own. It takes skill and practice to know how to craft a song that is good. And writing lyrics that people can relate to and enjoy is a whole other challenge that takes time. Some of the most talented musicians I know are horrible songwriters.
I started making free content for people to learn from well before I started making any courses. I think it’s important to always provide value and build trust with people first. So for that reason, I started with free tutorials, the podcast and a bunch of other great resources for people to learn from. The courses just take it one step further and give people an opportunity to do a deep dive into their skills and get more direct support from me
15. How did your attraction to podcasting come about?
I love podcasts. I have always been someone who loves learning. So once I discovered podcasts, I thought they were such an awesome way to learn new things on the go. It only seemed natural for me to make a podcast to share some of my knowledge with others. Plus, it’s a fun way to connect with other like-minded people.
16. And up until now, does MasterYourMix turn out to be how you had envisioned it early on?
The results have been amazing! I love helping people and it has been so awesome to have had many of my students finding success with their music as a result of the things I’ve taught them. To me, seeing others succeed is the most important benchmark in my business. Whether it’s seeing students finally release songs that they’ve been sitting on forever, or seeing my students open up their own studios and go full-time with it... I really do celebrate every one of those victories. I just love helping people follow their passions. It has been very rewarding helping them along the way.
17. I would like to know something else regarding podcasting. Same as with music-making, pretty much everybody can start a podcast. What do you say to somebody who tells you “Hey I want to start a podcast about [fill in the blank]. Do you think I should just start it or should I make a roadmap for where I want to go with single episodes and also with the podcast in general?”.
Podcasts can be a lot of work. Especially if you’re trying to create weekly content. The workload can really vary depending on how you structure your show. If you interview people, it can be difficult, coordinating schedules or finding guests. I imagine that if you’re doing a solo show, it would be much easier. But at the same time, if you have content that you want to share with the world, try it out and see if you enjoy it. It is a lot of fun.
18. Clearly technology has helped people to record and mix/master music. As somebody who is working professionally in and for the music industry, are you trying to keep up with a Music production & engineering innovations (gear, plugins, AI assistance, etc) and b with how music distribution is evolving?
I think it’s important to always keep up to date with technology. But at the same time, I think it’s important not to get distracted by it either. I try to keep focused on the things that allow me to work more efficiently in the studio. I don’t need to keep up to date on the newest 1176 emulation. That’s not going to help me work faster or smarter. But if there’s a new tool that will help me shave off some time from my workload, then I’ll pay attention. 19. When you realized that everybody can make music in their home nowadays, besides taking the chance to target an educational channel (your own MasterYouMix) at that, were you also a little concerned that studio businesses could suffer from declining numbers of clients?
I’ve never been concerned about people making music from home. I think it’s great. But that being said, there will always be a market for audio professionals. People will always want to work with someone who can help them do a better job than they can do on their own. And a lot of times, people don’t want to work on their own projects. Having a third party working on their music can be very beneficial and provide a new objective insight into their music.
21. Considering that you are running your studio, therefore managing a business, and on
top of that a podcast and your training program, is it difficult to schedule time for each?
That’s something I battle all the time. I always have a laundry list of goals I want to achieve so it can be difficult trying to prioritize. Luckily for me, a lot of the recording studio work I do, gives me new content to work on for my online content. So it all feeds off each other.
22. Are you using scheduling and project management tools? Which are they?
The biggest tool I use is a CRM. I use one called Salesflare that is amazing. It allows me to keep on top of all of my projects and clients. I’m always juggling a bunch of things at once so Salesflare gives me the opportunity to organize everything in one place.
23. Talk about work-life-balance. Is that a struggle sometimes?
Always. When you run your own business, there’s constantly things you feel that you need to get done. I just try to schedule my days so that I dedicate them to certain areas of my life (masteryourmix, studio days, date nights with my wife, etc)
24. I would like to know, which are one or two pieces of equipment or software, which you would not want to miss at the moment, for recording and also for mixing?
My Universal Audio Apollo is the one piece of equipment I definitely wouldn’t want to go without. I can do everything with it...recording, mixing, mastering...Plus, the plugins are awesome too. I’m also a really big fan of Keyboard Maestro since it lets me make macros out of various key commands so that I can work faster.
25. I assume you are work with digital tools as well as analog gear, but I would still like to know, where do you personally stand on a seemingly eternal argument of “analog vs digital” in music production/recording, mixing or even mastering for that matter. Although I believe we’re over the hump :)
Analog gear is fun to play with but it’s not necessary. These days I pretty much only use it for tracking purposes. But once I’m in the box, I stay there since it gives me a lot of flexibility with recalls. I think a lot of plugins that are out there sound amazing. And in the shootouts I’ve done with my hardware, I think the plugins sound pretty damn close.
26. Something that I wonder about - although really maybe soley I. You are from Canada, is there a city in Canada which is considered a music metropolis, like for example Nashville or Los Angeles in the USA.?
In Canada, Toronto is definitely the biggest music city. Next to that would probably be Vancouver.
27. Who are your favorite personalities in our industry?
There are a lot of people I draw inspiration from. My favorite musician is Dave Grohl. I just love his approach to everything he does. From a production standpoint, I love the work that Jerry Finn did. He worked on all of my favorite records and helped shape them into hits. From a mixing standpoint, the Lord-Alge brothers are definitely the people whose work I try to get mine to sound like.
28. Looking back at how you got here, do you have advice for young Mike from 10-15 years ago?
Follow your passions and get good at networking. There are a lot of people I lost contact with over the years. If I had done a better job of following up with people back in the day, I’m sure I’d be even further ahead. Relationships are crucial in this industry so you definitely want to maintain them.
29. What are you most proud of?
I’m proud that I get to work with music everyday. It’s the thing that fuels me and brings me so much joy. This industry can be difficult to get started in, but it is super rewarding when you stick with what feels right.
Mike, thank you so much for your precious time.
Until next time.
Author: Robert Hundt // Date: February 25st, 2020