When last we checked with Rizzo he’d just started putting his new Tannoy Precision 6iDP’s and TS112 sub through their paces on a Dave Stewart penned song for Greenpeace. Since, they’ve made an indelible impression on Rizzo and his work. He’s used them on all his recent projects – From HBO’s upcoming ‘Song Story’ documentary, to video game scores, to his solo record.
He’s not shy when it comes to praising the gear. “My Precision 6's are my main speakers. Period,” he says emphatically. “They’re what I make my living with.” He’s also used them on the upcoming Niyaz release, Ninth Heaven, another side project, Lal Meri, as well as the new DJ Rap record. “I use them everyday of my life on everything that I do.”
Increasingly recognized as producer/artist on the cutting edge, Rizzo describes 2007 as a special year; From November on he’s been juggling various sessions for his own records, recording projects for other artists, and a variety of appearances. He was asked to be a presenter at the ’07 TEC Awards, did a lecture tour that took in both coasts and also scored his first film, The Power of the Game, directed by Michael Apted. In addition Rizzo has toured with Niyaz, co-produced a song for K.D Lang and began work on The Song Story.
Tentatively scheduled to air in Summer 2008, The Song Story is a documentary style series that looks at the journey of three unsigned artists given an opportunity to work with an established producer. “We started recording the song from scratch in my studio, did the overdubs and mixed them here on the speakers.” The documentary tells the story of not only the artist, but also the song and the challenges faced from composition through the recording process in Rizzo’s West Hollywood studio.
The space is set up as a loft style apartment, a roughly 650 sq foot divided space. “High ceilings, cement floors,” he explains. “I’ve learned to move the sub around in the room to get the best performance.” Over time his Tannoys have become his default monitors, allowing him to get the most out of a potentially challenging acoustic environment as well as streamlining his process.
“I couldn’t be more pleased,” he says. “With any set of speakers you find a reference point – you’re used to this sound, this is your standard.” Whether he’s mixing or tracking, the Tannoy system has become his standard reference point. “Any time you reference with any monitor you’re going to hear something different. That’s what I go back to for the standard.”
A special as 2007 may have been for Rizzo, 2008 was showing every sign of rivaling it when we spoke early in January…
Having just begun doing press for Ornament of an Impostor’s release, Rizzo was still juggling projects, gearing up to finish the remainder of the records on his slate of work, including an upcoming solo record for Norwegian artist Kate Havnevik. With his own album in the can, he was also beginning the process of deciding whether to find a label home for it, or to release independently. Already Santa Monica’s KCRW had begun showing big love for the record, regularly spinning Ecouter, featuring Jem. The station is also using Rizzo as part of an ad campaign that will find one of the composer/producer’s latest promo shots traveling LA on the side of a city bus.
Busy schedule and mobile billboards aside, following his show at House of Blues during the 2008 NAMM show, Rizzo was looking at changing his focus from studio to live work for a while. His ability to cross the streams of performance and promotion isn’t lost on him. He considers himself fortunate to be able to promote technology he believes in, like Tannoy, at the same time as promoting his own work. “I’m very fortunate to be endorsed by a number of wonderful companies and I work very hard for them.”
As of March 2008, Rizzo is still waiting for final details about The Song Story, as well as just where the KD Lang co-production will show up. It’s a waiting game, but at the moment he has plenty of other work to concentrate on. “Niyaz is done. We completed the mastering yesterday. Lal Meri has been pushed back.” But they continue to record and prepare for upcoming shows. Currently Rizzo is also in the midst of an ongoing collaborative composition and recording process for a new Sony video game, entitled The Agency, with Gerard Marino. “Gerard usually will come up with an idea and a theme, do his bits, I do mine, and then mix it here. It’s interesting. He’s more traditional than I am, but it has been a good match.” It’s the first time he’s worked in just this kind of collaboration, he explains, but he’s enjoying it immensely.
Other recent projects include a remix for West Indian Girl’s To Die in L.A., and an appearance on the web only broadcast of CBS’ Bigshotlive show. “And yes,” he says, the Tannoys also made it onto the screen.
“I’m someone who doesn’t listen very loud, with any kind of speaker. The Tannoys are my mains and I need for them to perform at low volume, and they do – A lot of speakers don’t want to perform until you crank them up a bit. They are also key to his workflow – For those unfamiliar with Carmen’s music, it’s an extremely lush blend of world and electronic elements that often involves him stepping fluidly between tracking and mixing.
“If I’m only mixing and not recording other bits I usually take a day to mix a track, but give myself the option to revisit it. I’m always mixing as I go.”
“I’m usually here an awful long time in my day. If I play loud, too long, my ears get fatigued real quick.” That means that although his likeness is roaming LA on the side of a bus – and, more recently, getting plastered on the bus stops as well – he hasn’t yet had the chance to see them. “Other people have,” he laughs. “I’ve been tempted to hang out at the local car wash for buses.” Ultimately the variety of projects, and the manner he moves from one type to another means spending too much time in studio to take time out to do so. For now he’ll have to be content to let with photos sent by friends who’ve seen them and let the outside world creep in through updates from friends and colleagues.
All part of the process of course, and as Rizzo’s profile grows the updates are becoming more frequent. “I’m getting a text message right now that my song is playing as we speak,” he says. The pleasure is evident in his voice.
Rizzo’s Ornament of an Imposter is now available exclusively on iTunes and first week out, debuted at #13 on the KCRW album chart and #37 on the iTunes electronic album chart. Ten percent of all proceeds from the record will go to a different charity each month. April’s charity is the Starkey Hearing Foundation (http://www.sotheworldmayhear.org/).
For details, more info, and examples of Carmen Rizzo’s work go to www.carmenrizzo.com.