If you’re not familiar with his work, Joel Wanasek is one of the brightest minds in modern music production today. Equal parts producer, mixer & entrepreneur, Joel has done a ton for the music community when it comes to spreading techniques and resources he uses in his work to thousands of other music makers.
Parts of Joel’s approach to production are unique in the sense that he looks at many things as calculated risks. I’m talking about things mixing music in a way that he sees as best for the song, even if it’s in stark contrast to what the band thinks they wanted.
It always pays off big time.
Joel’s work with artists like Machine Head, Monuments & blessthefall showcase his flexibility as a mixer and producer, but his work beyond those projects is what truly places him in a league of his own.
Joel Wanasek: Music Producer
Joel is a very cinematic producer. His work contains hard-hitting dynamics and a polished, clear mix. He’s an outspoken advocate of using drum samples in new and exciting ways – throwing out the old notion that drum samples sound too generic.
His work has caught the attention of others in the industry too – with producers and musicians that have been at this for years seeking out his advice and assistance in bringing context to their classic sounds in modern rock and metal environments.
Just like many other metal producers, Joel’s sessions are often extremely dense, pushing track counts higher with layered guitars, live & sampled percussion, and stacks of vocals and production elements all fighting for a space. But even still, his mixes are calm and calculated. He methodically makes room for each element of his mix with a combination of in-the-box plugins and outboard processors.
The end result is almost always radio-ready and rarely requires revision.
Joel Wanasek: Public Speaker
If there’s anyone out there that’s more outspoken and advocates more for the home studio producer than Joel, I haven’t met them yet.
Joel is constantly looking for new opportunities to speak to the masses of audio engineers, mixers, and producers looking to improve their work. I think his passion comes from a place of wanting to prove to everyone just how accessible a career in music should be.
His speaking engagements have included our annual URM Summits and MixCon, but even when he’s not on stage he’s always spreading his message. He’s been on countless podcasts and done interviews with some of the biggest names in the industry. And it all comes back to one point:
Anyone can learn to be a great mixer if they make a commitment to themselves.
Joel acknowledges first-hand that someone can be terrible at mixing; but that doesn’t mean they can’t learn. His advice to them is to focus on their passion – to really double down on learning what it is that the pros are doing differently and relying on their community to help them grow.
It’s incredible to see some of the reactions and hear some of the stories of producers who’ve been inspired to keep going and growing as a result of Joel’s advice.
Joel Wanasek: Software Designer
To double-down on his advice, Joel also works with JST and other companies to create tools that best suit his audience’s needs. For example, we released Bus Glue Joel Wanasek a few years back as a collaborative effort and to-date it’s been one of our most successful products.
I think a lot of that can be attributed to Joel’s vision for the plugins. He wanted something that was easy for him to both use and explain. The joy of the plugins aren’t necessarily that they do something no other plugin can do, but they’re customized enough to make them the perfect fit for specific uses. For the mixer just learning how bus compression plays a role in their mixes, this ease-of-use is invaluable.
Similarly, Joel’s released many a ton of great drum samples through Drumforge. This was done in an effort to give other mixers and producers access to the resources he wished he had when he began working on music.
He’s the first to admit that he’s spent way too much time and energy tracking down and amassing a sample library that works for him, so Drumforge offers him a way to save others all of that effort.
Adding Joel’s Style to Your Mixes
If you’re looking to add some of the characteristics of Joel’s work to your mixes, I recommend starting by watching some of his videos on YouTube. Try to really absorb the information he’s sharing with you conceptually. From there, I think you’ll find that it’s a very manageable, methodical approach.
Mixing and producing music shouldn’t be complicated – you just need to know what you’re looking for and have the right tools to get you there.