is a renowned engineer, co-producer, mixer, and songwriter, who has worked his way to the top of the music business. A graduate of CDIS School of Digital Engineering and Sound, Joey began his career some 18 years ago, interning at a late night studio where he worked on demos for Nickelback
, (some of which he would submit for his school projects).
After graduation, Joey secured a job as an assistant engineer at Vancouver's famous recording studio Greenhouse. During this time he worked with such artists as Default
and Grapes Of Wrath
. In 2001 Joey jumped at an opportunity to work with Producer Rick Parashar
(Pearl Jam, Nickelback, Blind Melon, Three Doors Down) for eight months in Seattle. Joey then returned to Vancouver to co-produce the debut Theory Of A Deadman
Since then Joey has co-produced all of the Nickelback albums, and has worked in Mountain View Studios with several successful recording artists, including Faber Drive, Hinder, Daughtry, Default, Santana, Tim McGraw, Every Avenue and more. Joey and business partner Chad Kroeger co-own Mountain View Records and Mountain View Studios in Vancouver BC, which is an Imprint with Sony/BMG for the last 6 years.
In Ultimate Guitar
's continuing popular series "The Producers and Engineers
," Joe Matera
conducted an email interview with Joey Moi
to discuss his work, his approach to mixing and how he captures great guitar tones in the studio.
UG: You began your career as an intern in the studio on late night sessions and worked on Nickelback's early demos. What were some of the important lessons you learned regarding recording, on those early sessions, that has held you in good stead all these years?
The major lesson that Ilearned at a very early stage of my career, was that the song was the most important part of the process. A nicely written song turns out great sounding recordings.
You've worked closely with Nickelback ever since, having formed a partnership with Chad Kroeger as well as co-producing all the Nickelback albums. What sort of approach do you take in the studio in regards to shaping that Nickelback sound?
The approach I take when making a Nickelback record is to extract the vision of each member to the best of my abilities while implementing a high standard of creativity. I always try and capture the bands vision first and then provide writing and production to the areas of a song that may need help. Most of the time with such a creative group of people I need only to point out the areas that need to be improved upon and they come up with a solution themselves.
You worked for a short period in Seattle, how does the recording environment in Seattle compare, to say the recording environment in Vancouver for example. Does each locations studio's environment subconsciously affect the type of recordings made?
Each room has its own special qualities and charm but rarely does it ever have an impact on the outcome of a record.
When it comes to production, how do you approach it and what are some of the vital elements that encompass this approach?
"The approach I take when making a Nickelback record is to extract the vision of each member to the best of my abilities while implementing a high standard of creativity."
The approach to production really depends on the project. Some artists are extremely creative and I spend most of my time managing their creativity and implementing a high standard. Other artists require a more hands on approach where I need to be involved in the songwriting straight through to the performing. The key is to be able to capitalize on their strengths while recognizing and compensating for their weaknesses.
How important are the songs? Many producers and engineers I've spoken consistently state that no matter how state of the art the studio is, or how much money is spent on the production of a record or the type of gear used, the song is always first and foremost priority #1. Being a songwriter yourself, what is your approach to refining a song and getting it ready for recording?
The song is the most important part of any production. Without great songs we are doomed! Today's technology allows us to write and record at the same time. This gives us the opportunity to really dig and experiment with melodies and lyrics.
What comprises your main console in the studio?
I used to be a die hard E series SSL guy but now I work strictly in the box for my tracking and mixing. My preamp stack consists mainly of Neve 1081s and Vintech X81s
Do you work mostly in the digital domain?
I work completely in the digital domain. I do all audio recording and midi programming on a Pro Tools HD7 rig. This allows me to have an endless supply audio tracks and I can run as many plug-ins as I want!
As a mixer, what do you look for when approaching the mix of a record?
Mixing can be very challenging. Especially when I am involved in the song from it's conception. When approaching a mix I get a basic blend of all the tracks and then tackle the vocal. Once the vocal is audible through out the entire song the rest of the parts just fall in to place with minor automation. Every mixer has their own special approach but this particular approach works for me.
As an engineer, how do you go about capturing a great guitar sound?
When it comes to guitars I find that simple is better. I tend to use one amp and one microphone and focus mainly on what the player's hands are doing. I'll often experiment with different tunings and capo positions to find the fattest sounding chords. In the early years, I used to think it was all about running multiple amps and multiple microphones and EQ-ing everything to get a huge tone but as I got older and more experienced, I found better results with simplicity and better chord choices. In addition I also started collecting guitars and discovered that things moved a lot faster in the studio when I was able to have a nicely intonated guitar with the right gauge of strings on it for the desired tuning. One guitar for one tuning and it never changes!
Are there any specific mic'ing techniques you utilize?
There is nothing special when it comes to mic'ing up guitars. I tend to point a Sure SM57 at the sweet spot on the cabinet and let the player take it from there.
How meticulous are you when working with a guitarist in the studio in regards to performance versus perfection?
Some songs call for more of a performance and others call for perfection. The one aspect to recording guitars that I try to never overlook is tuning. When all elements of a song are in tune it will grow harmonically and be easier to mix in the end.
You have worked within different musical genres and artists, from Santana to Tim McGraw. Is one genre harder to capture - and work with - in the studio than another?
The most challenging projects are not genre specific but more age specific. The younger artists tend to lack the chops of a more experienced band or say your standard Nashville musician who has been making a living for the last 30 years playing their instrument of choice. The younger artists are equally creative but require more patience when it comes to capturing performances.
A large part of Nickelback's sound is the solid relationship between the drums and bass. Is it hard work to get those bottom frequencies to gel perfectly considering each is vying for that similar sonic space?
"The key is to be able to capitalize on their strengths while recognizing and compensating for their weaknesses."
Getting that big and tight low end in a track is dependent on several things and it starts with the songwriting. Nickelback has always written big riffs and grooves that lend themselves to that sound. Daniel and Mike are both very talented and have been playing together for several years now and they have a natural ability to gel with each other. Capturing a great, in tune performance and a little magic from our mixer Randy Staub (of Metallica fame) and many more huge bands but reallydo we need to mention anything other than Metallica? And there you have it. Huge low end!
With every man and his dog now able to have their own home studio and with the amount of tools at one's availability, how has this impacted (or not) upon the likes of big professional studios such as Mountain View Studios?
The state of the industry and modern technology is definitely forcing artists to reduce the amount of money they spend on making their records and pushing the overdub process to the smaller/home studio level. The larger, old school style of studio is used mainly for big, full band tracking sessions these days.
What projects are you currently working?
I am currently in Nashville TN working with a Country duo called Florida Georgia Line. I have formed a record label with Nashville song writing legend Craig Wiseman (Tim Mcgraw, Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton, and on and on and on) and manager Kevin "Chief" Zaruk (Nickelback, Hinder, My Darkest Days) called Big Loud Mountain and Florida Georgia Line is our first signing to the label. We are putting together the bands first EP and will be releasing a single to radio in a month's time. We are all very excited about the group's potential.
In what direction do you see the future of recording moving towards to?
I feel the future of the recording industry is very bright. We are in a transition right now from selling pieces of plastic to selling digital files. Once we get a new infrastructure in place I feel the music market will correct itself but until then, we need to keep making solid music that people love to listen to. It all starts with a great song!
Interview by Joe Matera