Jonas Westling's client list shines with megastars such as Lady Gaga, Usher, Paul McCartney, Rihanna and many others. We've met him at his studio to talk about his work and Sound Radix plug-ins.
I was lucky enough to get a job at Metropolis Studios and worked there for 3 or 4 years, working my way up from tea boy to assistant engineer, and then did engineering as well. After that, I got an opportunity to take over this place for Peer Publishing and that's where I am now.
WHAT KIND OF GEAR DO YOU USE TO MIX WITH?
I use a hybrid system. I have analog summing and I use analog gear on the most important part of the mix, like vocals, bass, kick and snare, mix bus, drum bus maybe. That's about it. The rest is plug-ins.
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO CONSIDER WHEN MIXING?
The emotions of the song I would say. People get too technical about stuff. I mean, people say "I need to have a special sound on a snare, I need to have a special sound on a kick", and then they forget the emotions of the song and forget to deliver the song in the best way. That's why I always start mixing the vocal in pop songs. That's obviously the most important part. The vocal, main instrument - and then I start with drums. Most people start with drums, making the drums really big blah blah blah, but the main instrument and the vocals, when they sound really good together, then you can start mixing in other stuff. Obviously, drums have an emotional value as well, but being too detailed like "oh there needs to be a swoosh sound there", well, that can also have an emotion, but the core of it is to get the emotions right and also verses, the dynamics of the song, get the verses softer, the choruses bigger, the second chorus bigger than the first chorus, the third chorus even bigger, to kind of have a nice progression. If you mixed all the choruses exactly the same, you'd kind of heard it before. You want the song to progress and have more emotions, and when the last chorus hits, it's like "Ooh, I have to hear this song again".
WHY DO YOU USE SOUND RADIX PLUGINS?
Sound Radix's gear is unique because no-one else does what they do. They help me with getting the sound right before I apply analog gear.
HOW DO YOU USE DRUM LEVELER?
I like using Drum Leveler to make bad players play more consistently. Mostly I don't even have to use drum replacing anymore, because I can fix the performance so much easier with Drum Leveler.
WHAT DO YOU USE AUTO-ALIGN FOR?
I use Auto-Align on everything, on all acoustic drums, Auto-Align is the first plugin that goes on that. Everything that needs to be in phase which we recorded with more than one microphone. Pianos! It's amazing on pianos. I got a piano the other day and you can hear it's phasing and you've got a hole in the middle; put Auto-Align on, and it's like "Wide! The bass is there, everything has opened up". Amazing.
WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION WHEN YOU FIRST TRIED AUTO-ALIGN?
Went for my credit card and bought it straight away. When it finally came out for AAX, I was like "ok, I've got to give this a go" and bought it 10 seconds later.
ARE YOU USING SURFER EQ?
I've used it on a couple of mixes now and it's fantastic on bass. That's the only thing I've been using it for so far. I'm sure there's loads of other stuff I can use it on, but I really, really like it on bass, especially bass that's not recorded really well, when you don't have the nice low end and you have a few resonants here and there, and you can notch them out and add a few, and it swerves around following the key of the song. What's not to like?
HAVE YOU TRIED USING PI ON A MIX?
I've always been really careful with phase stuff, that's why I love Auto-Align so much. When it came out, I was blown away. But I'm equally blown away by Pi now, having used it for maybe 5 or 6 mixes, it's blown my mind again. It's more subtle, but it just feels more solid. The lower end comes together much quicker, you don't have to fiddle around as much. Loads of people like layering kicks and stuff nowadays. On this track, there's 3 layered kicks. Before I put Pi on them, I tried to EQ them and get them to sound nice together, but I always get those small phase cancellations, especially if you have loads of quick hits and stuff. But Pi sorted that out, so now everything is in phase in the low end and it's just beautiful.
WHICH SOUND RADIX PLUG-IN WOULD YOU RECOMMEND TO TRY FIRST?
If you're more of an electronic producer, I would probably start with Drum Leveler. If you record drums, Auto-Align is the first one you need, that's just how it is. Try them! Try them now! Because it's revolutionized the way I think about stuff, especially Drum Leveler I would say. You can do so much more than just control drums with it. You can put it on room mics to bring out snares, you can use the boost mode of the gate to really get smashing... there's too much.