Published on marzo 23rd, 2013 | by Paolo0
Interview with Producer Sean Beavan (Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, 8mm)
Paolo: Hi Sean, thanks for the Interview! Can you tell us about your career and your musical background?
Sean: I’ve been a professional music Engineer/Mixer/Producer for 26 years and a musician for longer than that. I started out as a kid listening to the radio and got interested how songs were put together.
I started to notice similarities in the music i liked and started paying attention to who produced and mixed the records. Guys like Todd Rundgren, Bob Ezrin and Roy Thomas Baker became unwitting mentors to me. I decided to try going the Todd Rundgren route as musician then producer so I took guitar lessons (I really wanted to play bass but my parents wouldn’t let me). I was 11 years old and my best friend Tommy and I decided to play the school talent show. I was to play acoustic guitar and he would sing a Cat Stevens song. In the end he chickened out so he played the guitar and made me sing. Afterwards the girls were all “starry eyed” and I thought “singing is good”.
Stepping off the cliff has led me to work with such luminaries as NIN, Marilyn Manson, Foetus Inc., A Perfect Circle, Puscifer, Slayer, No Doubt, System of a Down, Depeche Mode, The Presets, EOTC, Thrice, Forbidden, Shining, Churchill, 8mm, and I am in the process of scoring my first film “Death Valley” for TJ Scott (Spartacus, The Transporter, Orphan Black, Deadliest Seas).
Paolo: When you produce a band do you follow a certain workflow or it depends on the gig?
Sean: Every band is different and I am all about empathy. You can’t treat a band that plays live 210 days a year like you treat 2 guys who work on their laptops in two different cities. Each project takes on its own dynamic. I do however love preproduction with a band who plays together. It is so fun to be in the room running ideas and hearing the musicians roll with it. Of course there is something magical about programming something cool, uploading it, and then hearing what happens when another great programmer hears it and gets inspired.
Paolo: Instead, when you write music for 8mm, how it usually happens? Do you prefer to work as a musician or as a producer and, in your opinion, what are the pros and cons of both roles?
Sean: I try to write as a musician in that I am going for something that inspires both me and Juliette. Unless what i am doing on the guitar or piano makes Juliette see a story nothing happens. The pro of being a producer is that there is a wealth of recording experience and knowledge to draw from when arranging and recording and mixing the con is that I have to draw it from me. A lot of times Juliette takes over the producer role in the studio which means I get to continue as the artist for a little while longer and it lets her bring out my best which is invaluable. We are truly a team.
Paolo: You’ve worked on two groundbreaking albums that were “The Downward Spiral” (Nine Inch Nails) and “Antichrist Superstar” (Marilyn Manson). Can you tell us a bit more about these two works?
Sean: I feel truly blessed to have been a part of those two amazing albums.
For me, besides getting to work with Trent Reznor, a brilliant artist at one of his creative peaks, “The Downward Spiral” was special to me because I got to work with Flood who was so generous with his talent and such an inspiring mentor while I engineered. Every day after work he would tell me stories and impart the wisdom he had learned over his time producing such amazing records. His philosophy and generosity still inform everything i do.
“Antichrist Superstar” is an incredible record and I was lucky enough to not only mix it but to work with Manson on most of the vocals as well which was really creatively satisfying as we delved into philosophy and religion and literary devices and created a complex, intricate, and entertaining mythology, as well as great art. Manson is such a talented and intelligent artist and his complexity makes being with him exciting and memorable. I went on to mix the “Antichrist Superstar” tour which was one of the greatest shows I have ever seen.
Sean And Marilyn Manson at The Blue Room Studio (Photo Courtesy of © Lindsay Usich)
Paolo: I’ve seen on your Discography that you mixed a forthcoming Live DVD from A Perfect Circle. Can you tell us something more about it?
Sean: The show was from a performance at Red Rocks in the pouring rain and it shows a band at the peak of performance. Just awesome and Maynard is on fire. I mixed the whole show from start to finish with no edits so you get to see the show just as performed. I have seen the final DVD and the images are beautiful.
Paolo: What do you have in your studio? Any favourite piece of gear?
Sean: I have a 70′s Neve console that was custom made for the BBC. it has 1073 mic pres in it. It was put together by Wade Goeke who is famous for his Chandler products. He modified a few of the eqs for me. I also have 2 of his Chandler LTD 1s and 2 of his LTD 2s which are awesome. I use an Pro Tools HD3 accell rig with a pair of 192s.
Paolo: What is your approach to mixing? Do you start with something in particular? Do you listen on different systems, in different environments etc.?
Sean: I usually listen to the ruff mix and get the tracks to sound close to it. That gets me somewhat into the ballpark of the way the client was hearing balances and allows me to get familiar with the tracks and how they work together and how i might be able to hype them without wrecking the things that make them special.
I listen on three different sets of monitors using one set as the main listening reference. I also listen on a JVC small home bookshelf unit that always seems to take me out of “Mixer” mode and into “producer” mode; things like “the chorus doesn’t kick in” become readily apparent.
Paolo: I’ve seen a couple of months ago a video of you in the studio with the Kemper Profiling Amplifier and the Virus Ti, and also based on your past works, it seems to me that you like to be updated on the new technologies.
How much do you think technology helped or changed your workflow and creativity?
Sean: I think new stuff is more about inspiration than anything else. If you have a guitar and any amp and any mic you can get a guitar sound and make an album, but new sounds and new technology can inspire a record. I try to get at least one new thing every time i do a record. Of course that new thing can be an old thing or a cheap thing, it doesn’t matter. For “Between the Devil and Two Black Hearts“, 8mm‘s new record, it was the Kemper profiling amplifier and a slide. The Kemper costs 1500 dollars (and can be amazing for workflow in productions as well) and one thing costs 5 dollars. Both were equal in their inspiration.
The Kemper is amazing in that you can get a guitar sound with a couple of incredible tube amps, vintage speakers, expensive microphones, and a million dollar console in a 2000 dollar a day studio, finish your tracking , sample the signal path into the Kemper, and go home to your bedroom and do more tracks or overdub onto those tracks with the exact same guitar sound. The technology is absolutely incredible. It also comes with a great array of amp sounds and a fast expanding user group with samples from all over the world by amazing producers.
Paolo: What were the best moments in your career so far, and what about the funniest ones?
Sean: There have been so many inspirational moments how do I distill them down to a few. Some of the funnest were working on the latest 8mm record “Between the Devil and Two Black Hearts” while Juliette and I were singing harmonies. I love harmonies and singing them together is the one time the universe seems to open up and shine through you. I love it.
For funny moments, so many but I have to bring up what a practical joker Trent Reznor was on tour. During the “Pretty Hate Machine” tour we were playing a club in Germany and I was singing background vocals from the mixing console (as I mixed the band), and we started every show with “Terrible Lie” which started with Me, Richard Patrick (Filter), and the keyboard player shouting “Terrible Lie!”. Before the show started, unknown to us, Trent went around and put limburger cheese inside the windscreen of all our microphones so that when we all went up to the mics and inhaled we all choked and almost threw up cause it smelled so bad. He just stood there at his mic and laughed and laughed through the whole first verse.
Paolo: Sean, thanks for this interview. Before leaving us, given the fact that you are a producer and a musician, what are in your opinions the common “mistakes” that both musicians and engineers have to avoid when producing an album?
Sean: The “we will fix it in the mix” scenario. Though a lot of things will be “fixed” in a mix by a great mixer, always approach recording in a “This sounds awesome, let’s record it” way. If you are wondering about a sound and think it might be ok or you are not sure, then move on to another thing that gets you excited. Anything I have ever thought sounded awesome has always sounded awesome forever. Anything i have ever had doubts about has disappointed me. Go with your initial gut reaction and keep it fun.
I would like to thank Shannon O’Shea from SOS Management for giving me the chance to make this interview.
For all your production needs you can contact Sean through these addresses: