Photo: John Noll
Welcome to the debut of “Generation Mix,” a brand new on-line column dedicated to up-and-coming engineers. Each month, we’ll induct a new professional, finding out how their accomplishments and passion translates into a career in audio.
For the past two years, Paul Ritchie has been an engineer at New Jerseybased Retromedia Sound Studios. Owned by producer/engineer John Noll, the studio regularly hosts a range of bands for tracking, mixing and editing. Retromedia has recently seen local blues vocalist/harpist Sandy Mack, UK songwriter Mickie Kemp and New York roots rockers Coppersonic for sessions.
A guitarist who currently plays in the band What About Frank? (who will be releasing their debut CD in June 2005), Ritchie catches up with Mix to talk about how he got started in the business, some future aspirations and why Retromedia’s sound stands out in the studio crowd.
What influenced you to become an engineer?
I’m a musician, and was in and out of studios throughout high school making demos with various bands. I heard about this studio called IAR (Institute of Audio Research) in Manhattan—that’s where I attended school. I was doing a couple of internships there with a record label and studio and the Museum of Sound Recording (Yonkers). Once I finished school, I moved back to Red Bank, New Jersey, and John offered me a job.
What have you been working on in the studio?
I’ve been working on a lot of projects, from rap, blues bands, jazz, and just traditional rock.
Give us an introduction to Retromedia. What makes it special?
It’s a cool room. We mainly do analog recordings to 2-inch tape and we have a lot of old preamps, outboard gear and microphones. The only digital recording we really do is RADAR‹we have Pro Tools Mix Plus but we try to steer away and go the traditional route.
We have a fairly large live room and an iso booth; we do a lot of live full band recording here. We try to keep the live drums. We have a great sounding EMT plate reverb. We have a grand piano and do live jazz here, too.
How did the studio get its name?
There was another studio down the street where John first started [Retromedia]—the architecture was more turn-of-the-century, and that’s how it got the name. [We’ve moved, but] we have all of the retro gear, so the name stuck with us.
What is your role at the studio?
I’m mainly the engineer, but I’m here by myself. I just recently got an assistant, but I do everything from set up the microphones to getting the sounds on every instrument. Most of the bands I work with produce their own projects, but I’ve also worked with John, who’s a producer. I get to do [some of] the creative aspects. I’d like to [learn more about] the production side of things.
Tell me about some of your favorite gear.
We have a ton of ribbon mics and I’m really into them—[especially] a collection of Beyer ribbon mics—I really dig those. We also have a Sony C37 tube condenser mic that is probably one of my favorites, too.
What are your long-term goals?
I want to be an engineer. But first and foremost, I want to be a musician, because I’m a guitar player. I hope that, through [my guitar playing] it’ll open the doors to get to work on some projects that I can really get my hands on. [I’m interested also] in producing; I would love to be an engineer and a producer.
In the past two years that I’ve been here, I’ve worked with a lot of people who have real potential to go somewhere [commercially, and in terms of touring all] they need to do is take it to the next level.
So, who would you say is your mentor?
John is really the one who opened my eyes up to everything. Just working with him. I think he’s got great taste.