SAFETY HARBOR, FLORIDA: As a founding member of pioneering thrash act Sabbat, Andy Sneap secured his place within the canon of British heavy metal at a very young age. A devastating guitarist and a talented songwriter, Sneap also showed an interest and proclivity for the critical tasks that took place on “the other side of the glass.” Indeed, he produced two of Sabbat’s successful and highly-respected albums, which, combined with a network of industry friends and a reputation for good work and dependability, earned him a steady flow of production and engineering work for his early-1990s, ADAT-centered home studio. As his prestige grew, his circle of friends and clients grew to encompass the big players in the genre, and Sneap is now credited with over one-hundred works with acts such as Exodus, Machine Head, Napalm Death, and Kreator. He received Grammy nominations for his work with Killswitch Engage and Megadeth.
Sneap is as busy as ever these days. He recently completed producing, recording, mixing, and mastering Testament’s Dark Roots of Earth and Accept’s Stalingrad from his now vastly-updated digs, Backstage Studios. At the same time, he’s active in the 2006 reformation of Sabbat and the 2008 reformation of associated act Hell, both of which keep him busy during the summer festival season. When we spoke with him, Sneap was mixing Saxon’s forthcoming release (the band’s twentieth album!) between festival dates and gearing up to mix a new one for Killswitch Engage and to record Anonamar’s latest. Metric Halo’s ChannelStrip plug-in is one of the essential tools that Sneap has relied on to deliver the kind of mixes that put big, big smiles on the faces of musicians, label executives, and fans. He recently expanded his Metric Halo palette with the Production Bundle, a comprehensive collection of Metric Halo plug-ins.
“I was turned onto Metric Halo ChannelStrip way back in the late 1990s, when I first started using Pro Tools,” said Sneap. “A friend suggested that if I liked the SSL sound, I’d like Metric Halo ChannelStrip. He was right, and it has since become absolutely essential to the way I mix. Truly, every single mix that I have completed in the last fourteen years used Metric Halo ChannelStrip. There are no exceptions.” As part of the continual upgrade of Backstage Studios, Sneap recently added an analog outboard Solid State Logic processor. “It’s great,” he said, “but there’s no way it can replace Metric Halo ChannelStrip!”
Sneap is happiest and most satisfied when he can pilot a project from start to finish, filling the roles of producer, recording engineer, mix engineer, and even mastering engineer. And because he is an accomplished guitarist, his rapport with the musicians he works with makes his sessions uniquely productive, characterized by an easy exchange of ideas and suggestions that never come off as offensive. However, Sneap also recognizes that shrinking budgets have forced many bands and labels to shoulder the recording responsibilities all on their own. As a result, more of his work is shifting to mixing and mastering only.
Associated with that shift is a greater need to “fix” aspects of the recording that don’t arrive in good condition to meld with his mixing style. Here, he is beginning to explore the world of processing possibilities embodied by the Metric Halo Production Bundle, which includes ChannelStrip 3, Character (an analog circuit modeler), HaloVerb, Multiband Dynamics, Precision DeEsser, TransientControl, and Multiband Expander. “The TransientControl has been especially useful for highlighting the ‘ring’ in Saxon’s snare sound,” he said. “And I’ve been using the Multiband Dynamics to zone in on the vocals, where some awkward and nasty stuff was happening around 2kHz.”
Although Sneap bemoans a certain lack of songwriting polish in modern metal that has strayed from the genre’s origins in the late 1970s, he’s quick to assert that modern metal’s sound is nearly ideal. “It’s true that things are becoming a bit too corrected… a bit too cut and paste,” he said. “I prefer a more raw recording, one that conveys the energy and emotion of the actual performance. But at the same time, I think that if I was turning in mixes that sounded like late 1970s albums – though a lovely retro thing to do – people would be disappointed. The power of a modern metal record stands far above those old recordings.”
And Sneap cannot fully convey that power without Metric Halo ChannelStrip. “I’ve tried every plug-in, every channel strip, and nothing can give me the smack, the front-end pop, and the warmth of Metric Halo’s classic,” he said. “I simply cannot complete a mix at a remote location without it. I would be totally lost. With the release of ChannelStrip 3, that is not a concern. The Production Bundle and all its plug-ins are authorized via iLok so I can take the software wherever I go. I’m grateful that Metric Halo continues to update ChannelStrip.”
ABOUT METRIC HALO Now based in the sunny city of Safety Harbor, Florida, Metric Halo provides the world with high-resolution metering, analysis, recording and processing solutions with award-winning software and future-proof hardware. www.mhlabs.com