In the music community, one of the most overlooked, yet important pieces of the puzzle is easily the mixing engineer. Many artists find their primary engineer to work with and never deviate from the working formula that they craft in the studio. Even those that tour frequently take their engineers on the road with them to finish up records and stay creative. The Fresh & Local team had the chance to catch up with one of indie Hip-Hop's go-to guys, Brian 'Mix Engineer' Kidd. He's handled the mixing boards for producer/songwriter Chase N. Cashe, renowned journalist/emcee Rob Markman, supreme lyricist and God Over Money signee Jered Sanders, rapper/producer P.A.T. Junior, Samira Gibson, and more. Here's how the conversation went down:
F&L: Thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to chat with us about your career as a mixing engineer. Let us know how you got involved with mixing and how long you’ve been in the game?
Brian Kidd: Well, first off let me give you a quick rundown of my background. I first wanted to do music when I was younger coming up within the church. My dad is a pastor and my mom was the choir director at the time when I was coming up, so there was a lot of gospel music in the household. Also I am the youngest of 4, so every time I would ride around with my brother and sisters I would hear hip-hop, R&B, jazz, neo-soul, etc. So there was sounds everywhere I went and I wanted to somehow be a part of the sound that was coming through the speakers. So fast forward to 2004 in Hampton, VA, I went to the Coliseum Mall and copped Consequence’s mixtape “Take Em to the Cleaners” which featured a group from North Carolina that changed my life forever!
Long story short, the group was Little Brother. They made me want to study, go to college, and get a degree in Music - they're also the reason why I moved to North Carolina. First I wanted to make beats then realized I didn’t have the patience to do that (the irony). Then I realized I wanted to essentially deal with bending sound and changing the tone of songs. This is when I realized I wanted to be a engineer affecting how the consumer hears an artist’s palette. I found a college in North Carolina; Barton College to be exact and studied Audio Recording Tech with a minor in Business Admin. Started in 2007 and graduated in December of 2010. So to answer your last question, I have been mixing for 7 years but 6 years professionally!
F&L: We’ve heard your some of your work on projects from Jered Sanders and P.A.T. Junior, friends of the Fresh & Local family. Would you mind enlightening us on some of the other artists you’ve mixed for?
Brian: Yeah Jered and Pat are my brothers, but also who gave me my start in mixing was K-Hill! If you look up his resume he was a frequent collaborator with the Justus League in NC. If you go back to 9th Wonder’s Dream Merchant Vol. 1 he was the first track on the project “Letter to Sick L.” I reached out to him on Twitter (THANK GOD FOR TWITTER) back in 2010 and we started working together which eventually lead to other artists in the area and beyond. So just to name a few, I have worked with Chase N. Cashe, whom I frequently engineer for, Dee Goodz, Eshon Burgundy, Thi’sl, DJ K.O., Silent Knight, theWHOevers, Alfred Banks, Samira Gibson, G Yamazawa, and many more artists I can’t really think off the top of my head lol. But I have worked with a lot of artist from all around the U.S.
F&L: For someone that might be interested in getting involved with music on the technical side and is having their first thoughts of becoming an engineer, what are your words of advice?
Brian: Three words. Trial and error! You will spend many days/nights in front of the computer bending the different frequencies and seeing how they affect a song and sometimes it may sound good and sometimes they may not but you have to practice with the files!
F&L: The artist/engineer relationship is one that requires a lot of trust. How long does it normally take you to finish a mix, and how do you know when the mix is complete?
Brian: Good question! Usually it can take one to two days depending on what was included in the mix session as far as two-track instrumentation or stems (each instrument being separated). I know when a song is complete once I feel if I have achieved what the artist was aiming for as far as tone/spatial quality. When I start a mix I listen to it numerous times to convey what the artist was trying to say and how they wanted the consumer to feel and I go from there. Maybe they want the song to be more intimate so the mix is in your face. And also I always ask the artist input as well because sometimes what I view the song as the artist seen it another way.
F&L: We understand that you also do mastering, can you give our readers a quick flash course on what that is and share the importance of it?
Brian: What Mastering is, is when you are given/have the final mix and you are prepping it for distribution. You are making sure the balance is correct and sonically enhancing certain characteristics. It’s almost like when you are taking your car to get washed and you want to have it waxed as well, the waxing portion is the mastering.
F&L: When you listen to the current sound of Hip-Hop/Urban music, are there any specific engineers that inspire you?
Brian: Defnitely! KY Engineering, MixedByAli, 40, Young Guru, Jaycen Joshua, Manny Marroquin, Jimmy Douglass, Mike Dean, James Royo, Tony Maserati. But my all-time favorites have to be Bob Power, DJ Quik, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and Mike Pela (work with Sade).
F&L: Your company is called #1Sound1Vision. What does that embody and what are some of your goals as a businessman in the music industry?
Brian: It embodies everything I practice when I sit down in front of a mix. I want the end result to have one defined/dynamic sound. It’s like what Jaden Smith said in his song Icon, “I need you to listen to the vision.” When the client gets back their mix, my vision is embodied in the sound/quality of it. And I’m just trying to get better at it everyday! Also I started it in 2011 so the two number ones are incorporated in the name for eleven.
F&L: Going into 2018, what are some of the projects that you’re currently working on or finishing up? And how do you feel this year will differentiate from that of the past?
Brian: Let’s see……*looks on computer* Jered Sanders, artists out in Cali that I can’t mention at the moment but you will hear next year, Pat Junior’s next release, Picclo (Cali artist) debut album, Chase N. Cash next project, Supa Ju (Atlanta artist) and many more artists. I have at least 5 to 6 projects I’m working on at a time not including singles people send me. So I rarely get to breathe when I think I can lol. But just know that I will probably have something with my name on it releasing every other week in 2018!
F&L: The last question is one that we used to ask our guests quite a bit on the Fresh & Local Radio podcast; if you could do anything and knew you couldn’t fail, what would you do?
Brian: Play the lottery so I can pay back my student loans all at once lol. But actually what I’m doing right now, which is mixing/mastering. Know I can’t fail at that as long as God is on my side and so far hasn’t failed yet, so….