Its Yosh, Man!

John Jaszcz. The man whose mixing abilities graced no less than four nominated songs at this past year’s Grammy Awards. The man behind Kirk Franklin’s critically acclaimed Hero. John Jaszcz: He who is graceful enough to grant EQ a candid interview wherein he speaks of cutting vocal tracks, confesses to a preoccupation with plug-ins, and much, much more.
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This month we’re focusing on vocal recording. So, if you don’t mind me asking, what’s your signal chain when you’re tracking vocals?
John Jaszcz: I usually use a Martech through a Summit. You can color the sound by using a Neve, or a Telefunken, or something like that, but with a Martech . . . you can put up four different microphones to do a shoot out and you can really hear the difference. You hear exactly what you’re getting on each microphone. If you’re going through a V72 or something, you hear the coloration of the Telefunken before you hear the sound of the microphone. So that’s why I usually use the Martech. I discovered it in ’97 or ’98, and I’ve been with it ever since then.

So on the mix end of things, are you using the board compressors, or outboard gear, or. . . .
JJ: I’ll use . . . it’s funny, depending on how bad it is… I’ll use a combination of plug-ins with, say, a Tube Tech compressor or a Summit going back into the console.

That’s interesting. Which plug-ins do you tend to use?
JJ: I’ll use the UADs, Fairchild sometimes, and the LA2A. If you really have to squeeze something hard I’ll even use those Waves R-compressors, but I’ll try anything to make it all work.

It surprises me that you use so many plug-ins on your recordings...
JJ: I think anything can be your friend; you just have to find out how to use it. Having started in the ’70s, there are things that we’re doing today that we were only dreaming about then. The things I said about P-pops and de-essers were issues that we were going totally insane about. Now when you’re in the middle of a mix, and the producer didn’t notice that the drums are out of time in the second verse, you can fix it. The only problem that I have is when producers leave everything to the mix, and they’ve missed 90 percent of it. Then it becomes a problem — when they expect you to fix everything.

Do you end up automating the vocals much in the mix?
JJ: Oh yeah. When I use compression, I try to use it so you can’t hear it — and I’ll ride vocals constantly, to get it right. So it feels right. But since you mentioned vocals during mixing, one of the things that I’ll use a lot is Audio Suite EQs on lead vocals when there are such extreme differences between choruses and verses. Or maybe the producer didn’t pick the best line; maybe the emotion wasn’t there? It might have been dull in the verse; you know just one line that doesn’t match up? I’ll EQ to match the next line. I usually use a filter bank for that. That’s also a way for me to get rid of P-pops: I’ll shelf so much on my mix EQ, but when there’s a serious P-pop I always make it a habit to go through the song and listen for bad Ps and filter them out with an Audio Suite plug-in.

So you do most of the editing yourself?
JJ: I have an assistant, but sometimes it’s just faster for me as I’m working, and it also enables me to get used to the vocal performance when I’m working it. Most of the times with Ss, you can get away by using a good de-esser. But if someone really has a problem with Ss, or it wasn’t recorded properly, I’ll go and do the same thing with Audio Suite and just reduce the Ss. If it’s a 3–4 minute song, it only takes about 20 or 25 minutes to do that.

How much editing do you end up doing on a common vocal track?
JJ: It’s different for every session; with gospel music, the artists usually know their parts and can nail it in three or four takes. While recently working on a Kirk Franklin record, there was a song that Stevie Wonder was featured on. Just pushing up the fader and hearing Stevie’s voice was a treat. We didn’t really have to do a lot to his vocals. It just goes to show you that when you have a great vocalist, it’s really not that hard.

What comes in goes out . . . with polish.
JJ: That is so true.