CRAS Graduate Paul Montes Lives by This Mantra, Which Has Landed Him as Director of Studio Operations for Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment
Nov. 9, 2020 – He’s an LA kid, raised in Texas, educated in Arizona, and is now working as the Director of Studio Operations for one of the most prestigious and influential artists, producers, and entrepreneurs of our time.
When Paul Montes entered The Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences (CRAS) in 2006, he went in with no formal music training, but the desire to work in the industry at its highest level burned within him. That desire has since lead him to work with such industry icons as Dr. Dre, Anderson Paak, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and Kendrick Lamar, to name just a few.
His current title? Director of Studio Operations for Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment.
“I never had a chance to study music formally, but my parents had a huge record collection so we always had good music playing in our home,” explained Montes, now age 38. “I’m constantly inspired by my mother who, despite adversities, provided the best environment for me and my older brother.”
A combination of being at the right place at the right time and work ethic got Montes on the right path…a formal industry-specific education, followed by a mandatory internship, and then a mutual connection to get his career on a path most would envy.
“I heard about CRAS from a former alumnus who had left his audio engineer business card at the local Guitar Center,” Montes continued. “I happened to see it and decided to email and ask him about his experience as an engineer. It was this initial conversation that led me to research CRAS. I decided to eventually enroll due to the fair cost of tuition along with the mandatory internship, which at the time other programs didn’t seem to offer. CRAS also has reputable instructors and a solid curriculum, and so I know I made the right choice in school.”
CRAS’s mandatory internship landed Montes at a boutique post house called Mi Casa Multimedia. “Unfortunately, Mi Casa Multimedia no longer exists, but it was my first studio gig and taught me a wealth of knowledge that I still build on. I interned for about a month and half and was thankfully hired on full time.”
The recession of 2008-09’ led the studio to have to scale back operations and Montes was let go in 2011 due to the lasting effects of the economic downturn. Montes then went to Interscope Records thanks to Chris Cheney, who is another CRAS alumni and a friend of Montes.
“At Interscope Studios, I began as a runner and eventually transitioned to a position as a studio supervisor,” Montes said. “During that time as supervisor, I came to meet Aftermath’s team of producers and engineers. I was able to build a good rapport with their camp and things took off from there.”
That relationship while at Interscope led to an opportunity to work for Aftermath exclusively when they had established a new studio at Oceanway Record One Studios in Sherman Oaks, Calif. in 2013.
“Dre’s Chief Engineer Mauricio Iragorri and Larry Chatman, Head of Production/ Co-Owner of Record One with Dr. Dre, asked me if I wanted to help them at the studio which I, of course, said yes,” Montes explained. “I had to start as a runner, which I was fine with, and because of my previous work experience and technical ability, I was eventually recommended for the position of Studio Manager/Director of Studio Operations.”
According to Chatman, “Paul has been a great help to me since the first time we met over at Interscope Studios. He’s reliable, dependable, trustworthy and hard working. He’s not just a great team leader but a great friend. We have a great time getting our work done and I’m very glad to have him at my side.”
Noted Lola Romero, Chief/Personal Engineer for Dr. Dre, “Paul is a caring manager who not only gets the job done, but takes the time to get to know and care for his staff. He uplifts every person he comes into contact with…whether it’s with a laugh, joke, love, or care. He manages the studio and tech with ease and pours into the other side of the job…the part of being a manager. The love, care, knowledge, and wisdom he provides for his team is unmatched.”
Montes’ responsibilities now consist of maintaining the facility top to bottom so that he and his team are ready for any potential sessions that may arise as the day progresses. Along with that he and his team make sure their immediate supervisor has any and all the info he needs to report directly to Dr. Dre.
Montes said a solid education and a foundation based on hard work, dedication to the craft, and a willingness to hurdle obstacles and not give up have been driving forces in his success.
“To say Paul is a leading light in my professional life is an understatement,” said Jeremy “Zumo” Kollie, Audio Engineer/writer for Dr. Dre. “He gave me a shot when I didn’t have any opportunities in the world and believed in me when I maybe didn’t believe in myself. He’s a five-star Studio Manager, a top-rank Mastering Engineer, an ingenious motivator, and one of my best friends. If CRAS’ mission is to ‘provide training, disseminate information, encourage positive work attitudes and emphasize career education, enabling dedicated students to achieve success,’ then Paul Montes is one of the most exemplary examples produced by the school.”
In his rise to his current position, Montes faced adversity and, like anyone else, he’s gotten discouraged, but has been fortunate to keep pushing through and moving forward even when problems come up. “It’s never an easy journey, things never really go the way we plan, but the beauty is in the journey and everyone’s journey is unique,” he said. “I have a mantra I’ve shaped that I’m teaching to my kids, which is ‘Work smarter and THEN work harder.’ If you focus on doing the best possible job you can and giving everything the best possible version of you, then you can hopefully be satisfied knowing you didn’t leave anything on the table.”
In thinking about his time at CRAS and the current students enrolled there, Montes said his advice to CRAS students new and seasoned would be to focus on their work ethic, attitude, and overall energy. “As best you can, we work in a service industry,” he said. “Technical ability can be learned, but the few things you have direct control over are how hard you work, your attitude/mood while you do that work, and the energy/reaction you have to all the things that are out of your control. Engineering is about problem solving and customer service goes hand in hand with that. Continue to build on the technical principles learned at CRAS…the school really does provide a solid foundation for growth. Master signal flow, signal flow, signal flow. I’ve been using it every day since I got out of CRAS. Be humble, be positive, be coachable, do the things that no one likes doing and you’ll always be of value.”
Lastly, Montes said that he’s very fortunate to have an amazing support system. “My mother Gina, whom I owe everything to. My wonderful wife April. And my sons Jeremiah and Elias who count on me to be a good example and provider. With that kind of support it makes the ups and downs much more manageable and I’m eternally grateful. I’m very thankful I found CRAS, I’ve heard nothing but good experiences about the school when I’ve run into a handful of talented alumni over my career.”
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About The Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences
The Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences is composed of two nearby campuses in Gilbert and Tempe, Ariz. A CRAS education includes broadcast audio, live sound, film and TV audio, music, and video game audio, all taught by award-winning instructors who have all excelled in their individual fields, including sound reinforcement, audio recording and production, digital recording, troubleshooting/maintenance, and music business.
CRAS structured programs and highly qualified teaching staff provide a professional and supportive atmosphere, which is complemented by its small class sizes allowing for individual instruction and assistance for students in engineering audio recordings. CRAS has been providing quality vocational training in audio recording for more than three decades. The curriculum and equipment are constantly being updated to keep pace with the rapid advancements in the music and sound recording industries. CRAS’ course offerings and subject matter have always centered around the skills and knowledge necessary for students’ success in the audio recording industries.
The 11-month program is designed to allow every student access to learn and train in all of the Conservatory’s studios which are comprised with state-of-the-art audio recording and mixing gear, the same equipment used in today’s finest studios and remote broadcast facilities, including Pro Tools 12, API Legacy consoles, SSL AWS consoles, Studer Vista consoles, and much more. All students must complete a 280-hour industry internship to graduate from the Master Recording Program II that may ultimately lead to industry employment.