Adam Matza of Magic Ears Mastering: Infidel Interview #66


First of, just want to thank you for participating in this edition of Infidel Interviews. Could you start off by giving a little information about where you to the audience? Whatever you feel comfortable with, but name, age, and where you live would be pretty standard?

My name is Adam Matza and I’m the founder and owner of Magic Ears. I'm a little more than a week away from turning 50 and I live near Miami, Florida. I’ve been mixing and mastering music since 2003, but my involvement with music has been a lifelong love affair. My early training was as a trumpet and baritone player in middle school and I’ve created and fronted bands since the early 1990s. Known as a poet, a music journalist, a spoken word artist and most recently an experimental, improvisational ambient soundscape and noise musician, I’ve never stopped recording, mixing and mastering since the first time I sat in front of a DAW (it was Cubase) with absolutely no clue what I was doing. After making and learning from my mistakes, I know my way around a DAW now, as I have become effective with Pro Tools and other DAWs, including Auria on the iPad. Since 1997, I’ve released seven albums as both a solo artist and with my ever-changing band, The Weeds. I see mixing and mastering as a collaboration and a highly personal relationship, and I am a resource you can tap if you get stuck or just want to bounce an idea.

Interview continues after music streaming!

What inspired you to start up your own home business?

I was living in Asheville, North Carolina for eight months in 2015 and couldn't find a job in public relations, which wasn't the end of the world because after 25 years doing it, I was over it. My roommate had some songs and I mastered them. He was blown away with the results, telling me I have the magic ear. I had only mixed and mastered my own music up until that point, but had worked with the audio for radio and television commercials from 2013-2015. It seemed like a good idea to start my own business. It wasn't easy to get Magic Ears off the ground, but a lot of hustle and hard work laid the groundwork and here I am almost two years later making a living from mastering and mixing music from all over the planet.

Did you have prior experience working in a studio beforehand, or are you self taught?

I started in 2003 by working on a spoken word/music album called "In Between Stations," for my band The Weeds. I pretty much did everything on it, including the mixing and mastering. In the years that followed, I evolved into an experimental musician and continued producing my own music, which was quite noisy and challenging. In 2013, I started mixing and mastering audio for radio and television. I'm self taught, having spent a ton of time researching the subject. I never stop learning and improving.

What have been some of the biggest obstacles you have had to face in setting up your studio and business?

Getting clients. It's the most challenging part of getting any business up and running. Everything is highly competitive in 2017, so you have to be good at what you do and you have to work your ass off to get the word out about what you do. You have to be aggressive and shameless in self-promotion and marketing. As time moves on, it gets a little easier. But in the beginning, it's just you, a bunch of equipment and not much else. Magic Ears was an idea one moment and fledgling business the next. Between then and now, I have hustled for every client I have gotten.

What have been some of the most interesting, or technically challenging, projects for you to mix or master?

They are all interesting and they are all challenging. The biggest challenge is working with less-than-stellar mixes. I wind up having to mix a mix, which isn't what you want from a mastering engineer. If I can make suggestions about the mix, it is always better for it to be fixed there. People are monitoring on all sorts of sub par equipment, so it helps when I can listen through my Genelecs and Focals and provide an objective opinion about a mix. It's one of the most important elements to my job, and it seems to help improve everything that comes across my audio desk.

I just finished a rather rewarding project. It was a tribute album to a South Florida songwriter named Jim Wurster. It was 17 songs recorded in several studios and mixed by five different engineers. The double CD is called "3 Chords & A Chorus Of Lust," and getting everything to sound consistent was a fun challenge, as was bringing out the best in each mix.

Do you find that when you are working on projects where you ended up learning new techniques during the process?

I learn something new on every project. Sometimes it's something small, sometimes it's a complete reworking of my workflow or signal chain.

Do you manage to incorporate any hardware gear in your setup? Or are you completely in the box? Did you start mixing in the box, or did you start with hardware and transition? What's your thoughts on the analog versus digital debate?

I work entirely in the box and work to achieve masters that sound like they were engineered with analog equipment. I grew up listening to music that was mastered with dynamics and that creamy analog vibe. As for where I stand on the analog versus digital debate, I am only about one thing: results. If the finished product sounds great, I really don't care if you mixed a d mastered it on the most expensive SSL or Neve analog console or with Auria on an iPad.

What are some of your favorite plugins to work with and why? Are there any cool plugins or hardware that you have on your wishlist?

I love the Abbey Road suite and Slate's plugins. I'm also a big fan of Izotope's Ozone 7, especially the analog emulations. I am constantly looking for ways to make the box sound analog. I'm not one for plug-in lust. The truth is that everything you need comes with your DAW. That said, I have far more plugins than I use. The last one I purchased was Abbey Road Vinyl. I love what it adds sonically. It's subtle and musical, and it add dimension to a mix.

What's your favorite genres to work within?

I’m a voracious consumer of all types of music; my music collection consists of more than 65,000 songs (and counting). If I pushed play on the first song in my iTunes collection right now, it wouldn’t reach the final song for more than six months. That musicality is the foundation for my mixing and mastering choices and is why I’m comfortable working with any genre and any style. This doesn’t mean that I’ve heard everything, but it does mean that I absolutely crave hearing sounds I’ve never heard before. My musical production enthusiasm is infectious and I am happy to get involved with your music as much as you want.

If you could work with any artists in the world of your choice who would it be?

Living artists? Radiohead, Brian Eno, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen...the list goes on and on. Deceased artists or defunct bands? That list is even longer.

What's the ratio of work that you do locale versus online? Do you find that there is a good local scene? Or do you enjoy the work you do for people across the world more?

Most of the work I generate comes from hustling online to build relationships. I have clients from as far away as New Zealand, India, Pakistan, the UK, Mexico and many other locales. There is also a vibrant local music scene in South Florida, and a large and ever-increasing part of my clientele is based here. I enjoy working with recording artist, no matter where they are. It's a kick to work with people I'll probably never meet, who come from a completely different culture and are often living in a completely different day from me when we communicate via email. But I also love working with people I've known for 25 years, artists I can go hear live.

Do you do any of your own music? Or are you purely an engineering guy?

I have done spoken word/music and experimental ambient and noise. After releasing five albums in three years and gigging regularly, I'm taking an artistic break and focusing on helping other musicians realize their artistic dreams.

Thank you so much for participating in this episode of Infidel Interview. Any parting words for your fans, or my audience?

Thank you for asking me to be part of Infidel and interviewing me. Parting words? Work hard, be creative and don't let anybody get in the way of you doing what you love to do. As Billy Joel says at the end of every concert: "Don't take shit from anybody."

Link to Adam's music: https://adammatza.bandcamp.com/

Link to Magic Ears sample works: http://www.magicearsmastering.com/audio-samples/ Magic Ears Mastering is proud to debut Magic Ears Radio, which features 20 songs by Magic Ears clients. http://www.magicearsmastering.com/magic-ears-debuts-magic-ears-radio1/

Check out Magic Ears on their official website: www.magicearsmastering.com

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