When was the last time you asked yourself “What can I do to make a living out of this music thing?” Last night? This morning? As you clicked on this article?
My guest today, “Metal” Sean “The Wizard” Joyce, is living that dream. It’s not just a walk in the park though; it takes a lot of time, dedication, and most importantly, the skills to pay the bills.
There is no doubt that the owner/operator of Sean Joyce Audio has the aforementioned skills. Take a look at some of his recent work with Skummer, Wet Radio, and The Sub-Vectors for some great examples of the width of his talents.
Enough of the commentary, read the word from the man himself!
Damascus Wootz: Sean, you have been mentioned a few times on BadassConcert.com as a studio engineer/producer, but that’s not the full extent of your involvement in heavy music, what else do you do?
Sean Joyce: I first started my band FEAR SIGHT in 2002. By 2005 I found myself getting more into recording music and booking shows, rather than just continuing my band. I started a basement studio in 2008, where I did my first recordings, including the Sons Of Voorhees album. In 2011, I moved into the Plan C studio, then took over the lease in 2012 and changed the studio name to DreamPro. I currently use the name ‘Sean Joyce Audio’ for all my audio production related business. I also started working live sound in 2011 at Knickerbockers, but I’m currently at The Bourbon Theatre.
DW: Do you have a regular job outside of music/audio? If not, when did you make the jump?
SJ: Nope. After I left my last job at Hy-Vee in 2010, I’ve been working in studios and venues. So all my time is devoted to musicians and their music, without the obstruction of another job to get in the way of my passion.
DW: I see that you recently took a trip to Florida to Eyal Levi’s private studio, was that a class? Does he do that regularly?
SJ: I flew down to Florida for a 4 day boot camp, as he [Eyal] called it, that was a fast paced behind the scenes look at world-class modern metal production. It was taught by world-renowned producer Eyal Levi, at his private studio in Sanford between December 11th and 15th. For anyone who’s not familiar with Eyal, he’s worked with bands like Job For A Cowboy, The Black Dahlia Murder, Whitechapel, and Chelsea Grin. He also plays guitar for the band Dååth. Matthew K. Heafy from Trivium was at the bootcamp to record the guitar, bass and vocal parts for 1:00 of a Trivium song. Trivium’s new drummer was there to track the drum parts. The 15-person class helped and watched Eyal take us through the whole process. One of the four days was a full mixing lesson with producer Joey Sturgis, where he showed us the kind of techniques he’s used on albums from bands like Emmure, Miss May I, Attack Attack and Asking Alexandria. This was the third bootcamp Eyal’s done, but this was the first he’s done at his home studio in Florida with Joey Sturgis.
DW: What was your greatest takeaway from that experience?
SJ: That’s a hard one to answer, but I would say it’s just reinforced everything I’ve been doing up to this point for me. I didn’t really learn much that was “new” to me, but I was able to pick up a good amount of details here and there. Knowing that I’ve been 100% on par with the process of making pro caliber records, I have even more confidence in my wizardry and how to improve.
DW: What is the best thing bands can do to prepare to record?
SJ: A proper pre-production demo. This includes knowing your click track tempos and where they change if you’re going to record to one. Everyone should know their parts, and what everyone else is doing, ALL THE TIME! This is where most of the producing of the songs should happen, either by the band, or with the producer if there’s going to be one. Guitar harmonies, solos, vocal layers, drum fills, part transitions, and keyboards just to name a few. Normally people will program midi drums for easy changes later, program midi bass for tuning accuracy, and DI the guitars for better sounding edit changes. As a producer, I want to do more pre-production sessions and start working with bands at the beginning of the process, better helping them create an end-result that people won’t ignore.
DW: In the live setting, what is the most common mistake you see bands make?
SJ: Two important ones that come to mind–both save time and will make your set go smoother. Pre-show prep is #1. Bands should do things like tune their guitars or bass before getting on stage. Set up your drums, stands and cymbals before, NOT on stage. Avoid messy set-ups with loose pedals and power supplies all over, or not having a long enough main power cord on a pedal board. Especially that last one, normally a $10 extension cable will get that extra 15’ needed. Having a DI box for acoustic instruments or electronic devices too, these all save time and make the setup consistent and pro. It never hurts to over prepare for whatever comes your way.
The second mistake is not giving signals during the soundcheck. Each band member needs to be giving some kind of signal. During the check of each instrument, simply pointing with a finger does the job, point up for more, and down for less. When the level sounds right, make a fist and hold it high. Half of the soundcheck is for the benefit of the band, so they need to help the sound person help them.
DW: What is your favorite piece of gear and why?
SJ: The most important piece I have would be my wizard skills. Hearing the music and knowing what to do with all of it are the top tools in my arsenal, not something you buy off a Sweetwater shelf. I don’t know if that counts as gear, so if you want to hear about some hardware, I recently got a new pair of top of the line Genelec studio monitors. They’re used in countless studios across the world, and I trust them in helping me hear every bit of detail in the mix. These speakers allow me to make better accurate decisions for every client that comes through my doors.
We can all use as much help as we can get making good decisions!
So, in the spirit of that, let me give you a little advice on an easy decision to make…
…GET OUT AND PAY SOME COVER CHARGES F*CKERS!
Keep up with Sean’s work here: