10 Questions With A Producer: Matt Mahaffey


Today we have an interview with Matt Mahaffey. He is a Los Angeles based musician, writer, engineer, producer who says he has “worked with everyone on my wishlist.” To get specific, his discography includes Pink, Beck, Brett Michaels, and Mandy Moore. As well as modern hits like Cash Cash, Forever The Sickest Kids, The Sounds, and Hello Goodbye. He is also the brains behind the mind boggling pop arrangements of Self, whose records from the nineties are some of the few technology driven records that stand the test of time years later. He was kind enough to answer ten of our questions after the jump.

1. What are your tracking philosophies as far as processing now or later, explain however you’d like to take that?  
If I’m making records, I try to stay as old-school as possible and print EQ, compression, and effects then & there.  Everything except
reverbs.  If I’m working in film or television, I try to keep
everything MIDI as long as I can, because things are always changing up
to the last minute and that can ruin your day if things are
audio files at that point.

2. What is a Song Dealbreaker for you? AKA something in a song that will make it so you cannot listen to the song?
1.) I can’t handle when arrangements get super progressive simply for the
sake of being super progressive and musician-y.  To quote Jeff Goldblum
in Jurassic Park: “You did this because you could, you didn’t stop to
think if you should.”  I don’t like hearing algebra fly out of my
2.) I don’t like to listen to songs that are trying too hard to be a song.
3.) Unpleasant recording.
4.) All MY work is exempt from aforementioned gripes.

3. What is the best tip you could give about recording guitar?
possible, always have the head in the control room. I’ve even pulled
the heads out of my combo amps & have them around as outboard. Then
you can run a Fender twin into a Marshall cab or an Orange into an AC-30.  That’s a REAL amp farm.

4. What is the best tip you could give about recording Bass?
with having the EQ on the instrument flat, unless is a boutique piece
that only sounds good a certain way.  Then add it in after you get an
amp or DI sound. No one like their eggs salted before they even taste
them.  Don’t be afraid to use guitar amps. One of the best bass sounds I’ve ever gotten was plugging a bass into the mic input of a Hammond
KX-66, cranking on the spring reverb from the unit, & miking the
downward firing 12″ speaker from the speaker cabinet with a U87

5. What is the best tip you could give about recording Drums?
matter what the room, miking technique, or gear available, just make
sure all your mics are phase-aligned and a good drummer really

6. What is the best tip you could give about recording Vocals?
signal chain. Mic pre-amps are almost more important that the mic.  For
clean and even vocals, use a limiter after the pre & a compressor
after the limiter.

7. What is the best tip you could give about Mixing?
of “big-mono”. Don’t print something in stereo if it’s not stereo.  Pan
simply and old school. 100/50/25/0/25/50/100.  It always sounds

8. What is your favorite new recording tool?
I’m a fan of
the Standard Audio- Level-Or.  Also, Jeff Turzo just built me a stereo
compressor of his own design that is jaw-dropping on beats.

9. What is an unappreciated recording tool?

10. Favorite Plug-in?
over at my current open Pro-Tools session, there seems to be a lot of
Waves SSL E-Channel going on. So, the answer is Waves SSL E-Channel.

Jesse Cannon is the editor of Musformation. He produces records at his studio Cannon Found Soundation. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseCannonMusF. For more info please visit his website.

  • http://www.wickedceltics.com Wicked Celtics

    You can’t imitate Mahaffey, you can only watch, listen and learn. He is the master of the audio universe.