Behind the record with George Lever
George Lever is an award-nominated record producer based in Somerset, UK and has worked with Loathe, Sleep Token, Woven War, He Is Legend and many more.
Talk us through some of the essentials when it comes to gear – from pedals and mics to mixing software.
For me, I feel most comfortable when I have access to my own speakers and my control room – mainly because I know how good this space sounds. Being in other spaces is nice, but it’s a bit disorientating, so I guess the essential is me knowing the room that I’m in. With microphones and pedals and stuff, I wouldn’t really consider anything overly essential, I think I can work with most things, providing that it’s designed for the genre we’re recording, I suppose. I always mix in Logic Pro 10. I’ve tried mixing with other software and it works, but I don’t enjoy it as much.
By accident. I initially started when I used to be in a band and I was the person who could record the demos, which eventually turned into producing our EP and album and resulted in me recording other bands’ EPs and albums. It grew from there – it wasn’t really intentional.
Where’s a good place to start for anyone aspiring to be in the field?
Now? I’m not so sure anymore. Maybe when I started out, it was a bit easier to have a few sequential steps, but now it kinda seems that anyone could start at any given point and start developing. I think, if I were to be a traditionalist, I would definitely say, find a reputable, active recording studio that’s looking for someone to do coffee runs, small editing work, tidying up, cleaning and get yourself into a professional environment as soon as you can so you understand what a studio session is supposed to feel like and start applying that ethos to what is you’re doing either in private or your own profession. I think learning from people who are already established is a very quick way to get a good feel for what’s expected of a studio professional.
For those of us (definitely me) who don’t know what all goes into mixing and producing a project, can you describe the basic process?
Yes. So, production and mixing are two separate things. Producing a project, excluding mixing, is the process of working with an artist, or multiple artists, or a band on their music to understand how best to translate what they hear in their head and what they didn’t manage to capture in their demo and turn that into sounds that the person could eventually mix. So it’s a process of being a translator and I guess, a guiding influence for those that may not have much experience in translating how they feel or know what they want, but that job changes based upon the experience and the needs of the person that’s in front of you.
Mixing a project, again is pretty much knowing what the band want the user to experience by the end of it and how they want their music to interact with them. Some people don’t want that type of interaction or that experience, some very much do. That information changes the way someone mixes – whether it’s completely selfish from their point of view of how the music is presented, or whether it’s more of a collaboration and back and forth between whoever is mixing and the artist involved.
Can you share your favourite piece of work with us? Why do you love it so much?
That’s hard. Mainly because my favourite piece of work is the one I’m currently working on at any given point in time and I love it because it’s the latest development of me and what I enjoy doing. It’s difficult for me to pinpoint something that’s previous, because that’s where I was, but not where I am now. For the sake of giving an answer, I’d say I’m really happy with how the album Sundowning by Sleep Token came out. I guess my favourite song on that record is Dark Signs. I think it was the first time I managed to completely capture having multiple genres in one song and moving between those genres on a section to section basis without having any issue with transitions or translating. Yeah, the flow of that song – I was really happy with how that turned out.
If you could have dinner with five people who’s either inspired you or who you’d consider a muse, who would it be?
Sir Alex Ferguson. He used to be the manager for Manchester United. I think that goes without saying.
Steve Jobs. As much as I know he’s shaped a lot of technology as we see it, I feel like his personality and himself, is probably not how the media portray it in any light, positive or bad, so I’m just very curious about him.
Elon Musk probably goes in that same category.
I guess I’d have dinner with three people, but it would be a really difficult conversation, I wouldn’t know who to pay attention to.
I guess my dad, because if I”m going to have that conversation with those three people, then I kinda need someone else to experience it with me so that they believe what’s happening. Otherwise there’s going to be too much information for me to share.
Matt Belemy from Muse. Maybe. I’ll have to think about that one. I find it quite difficult to pick, that’s a tough question.
Any other tips?
Yeah. If you’re starting out, only buy equipment you know you can sell in the future. This allows for the cost of ownership of equipment to be quite low, because as you progress in your role and your job and you become more successful, the gear that you start with wont be the gear that you need in order to progress and improve your job. So say you buy an entry level interface, you’ll need to purchase something that on eBay or Reverb sells quite actively and is very attractive to other people starting out. So that when you’re investing money in yourself and into your studio, you’re not purchasing stuff that cannot be moved on if you decide you want to upgrade. Obviously there’s a cutoff point, there are very bespoke pieces of equipment, but you don’t necessarily need to start there. Understanding cost of ownership and not starting out by purchasing things you can’t sell was a big one for me.
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