J.J. Golden (left) and John Golden at the Neumann VMS-70 cutting lathe
Photo: Christel Golden
Independent record labels, musicians, engineers and producers know about mastering engineer John Golden. He made a name for himself mastering albums for major-label acts, and especially independent bands, in the early ‘80s. These days, Golden works on a wide variety of mastering projects from his facility, Golden Mastering, in Ventura, Calif.
Golden learned his craft through his years at Artisan Recorders in Hollywood, Kendun Recorders in Burbank and later Hollywood's K Disc Mastering, where he put the finishing touches on entire catalogs for indie labels such as Sub Pop and SST.
“I became involved with the independent music scene after starting at K Disc around 1981,” Golden recalls. “I found that not many mastering facilities took the independent punk and rock bands seriously and really did kind of a quickie mastering job. I remember working on some of the first Black Flag, Descendents and Minutemen projects with an engineer named Spot. He was amazed that I listened all the way through each project several times before cutting the lacquer! I guess that's how the word got out that there was this guy at K Disc that really cared.”
After working at K Disc for 12 years, Golden decided to leverage his reputation and start his own facility. He opened Golden Mastering in 1993. In 1998, Golden's son, J.J., joined the Golden Mastering team, and he has become a respected mastering engineer in his own right. Keeping it all in the family, Golden's daughter, April, is the studio manager.
Golden Mastering is a two-room facility with SADiE Series 5 DAWs in both rooms. John Golden prefers listening on KRK 9000 speakers, while J.J. Golden opts for ADAM S3A monitors. Outboard gear includes Manley Variable Mu compressors, SPL EQs, Crane Song comp/limiters, Weiss EQs and Lavry A/D converters.
John Golden and J.J. Golden still do mastering for vinyl LPs. In fact, 25 to 30 percent of their work is cutting lacquers for LP projects on their Neumann VMS-70 cutting lathe. Oftentimes, clients who have already mastered their CD at Golden Mastering will also master for LP release there. Recent projects include John Golden mastering Sonic Youth's CD and LP reissues, and J.J. Golden mastering a New Pornographers album for CD and LP release.
“I really enjoy the variety of artists and styles of music,” J.J. Golden says of his mastering work. “To be able to work on a ‘60s folk-rock album on Monday, a punk-rock album on Wednesday and a Hawaiian album on Friday keeps the weeks really enjoyable.”
After four decades in the mastering biz, John Golden still strives for highest-quality masters no matter the project: “We are always on the look out for new equipment and ways of experimenting that give us the ability to enhance the project — possibly taking it to somewhere no one thought was possible.”