ProFile: The Fix Is In | Josh Fix


Josh Fix
Courtesy Josh Fix

With its lush recordings and prominent use of piano and stacked vocals, Josh Fix's Free at Last (1650 Entertainment, 2008) harkens back to the studio production style of 1970s bands like Supertramp and Queen — but with a decidedly modern twist.

A South African native who now calls San Francisco home, Fix says he loves working with today's technology but that his approach to composition is rooted in more-traditional methods. “When I write, I tend to hear most of the finished production already,” he explains. “The studio is not a place for me to experiment with arranging. I studied classical composition in college; when I mess around — with even the littlest, shortest phrase in music — I tend to hear all the parts up and down.”

To capture his initial ideas, Fix put together a relatively modest rig (based on the Korg D-1600 hard-disk recorder) in what he describes as a bedroom closet. “I had no experience as an engineer, but it had a good preamp on it and the built-in effects were really good,” he says. “I think the early demos I made were sounding pretty good to begin with. The first batch of demos actually became an EP [Steinway the Hard Way; Flop of the Century, 2004].”

In fact, one of Fix's early recordings won a local Grammy-sponsored songwriting contest. “Different people were passing the demos around,” he recalls. “I got a call from Lenny Kravitz one day and he liked it. Steve Lukather heard it and started passing it along to his friends, so I started getting calls from Van Halen and Steve Vai — it was really cool! At that point, I thought maybe I should do this seriously.”

When it came time to make his full-length CD, Fix decided to go into a commercial facility, working with engineer Jaime Durr at Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco. “I was running around the Bay Area trying to find a place that had a good vibe,” Fix says. “Sitting in the corner of Jaime's studio was an antique Emerson upright piano. I played it and thought, ‘This is going to be the sound of the record!’ I wanted something with an authentic, live sound to it — which might have been a reaction to having to sit in my closet and make electronic demos for four years.”

But Fix's closet days were far from over. Before heading into the studio, he spent a month producing elaborate demos, this time using Pro Tools LE and a Digidesign Mbox (he's now using LE 7.4 and an Mbox 2 Pro). “Basically, every song that was going to be on the album had its own template and tempo,” he explains. “Because I place most of the instruments myself, that turned out to be a good way to work: a lot of what I thought would be scratch parts ended up being the final parts on the record. It's such a weird hybrid of vintage acoustic instruments and amps mixed into this computer world I've become so used to recording in. About 80 to 90 percent of the guitar parts were done in the bedroom using [Native Instruments] Guitar Rig 2.”

Fix built tracks with so many vocal layers that he sometimes pushed the limits of the gear. “We had to open an entirely new Pro Tools session for each song just to be able to fit in all the vocal parts,” he admits. “Some sections have 100 voices doing one little part on top. This technology that lets you record digitally for track after track after track — for me, that's the greatest thing.”

Home base: San Francisco

Sequencer of choice: Digidesign Pro Tools LE

Amp-modeling software: Native Instruments Guitar Rig 2


Fix''s Web site

Fix''s MySpace site

Hyde Street Studios site