Taking our Spotlight series in a different direction, this month we want to focus on producer, mixer & engineer, Taylor Larson. Taylor has an amazing catalog of metal and post-hardcore bands he’s worked with, including Asking Alexandria, Periphery, From First to Last & many others. With releases on labels like Equal Vision, Sumerian, Fearless & Rise, Taylor’s work is a showcase of what great production quality can add to any major label release (and what independents should be striving to achieve).
Taylor’s process is extremely detail-oriented, focusing on getting the absolute best sound possible for a song and working tirelessly until he captures it. For some, this mindset can be a bit daunting, but his ear for greatness is invaluable when it comes to getting commercial-quality results on every single album.
So what is it that makes Taylor tick? Where are most of his efforts focused in his productions to get these results? Most importantly – what can you take from his mixes and start applying them to your own today?
Recording Massive Drums
Taylor’s drum recordings are known for being some of the biggest, most explosive drum sounds in modern music, and a lot of that comes from knowing his setup really, really well. He works out of his own studio, with a “house kit” that’s always set up and ready to record. On any given day, a drummer can come in, sit down, and record.
That’s not to say he doesn’t experiment with new techniques. His entire catalog is made up of different drum tones, colors, and character customized to fit any given song or style. Taylor’s not afraid to swap out some mics or preamps to change things up and get a different sound. By working from a continuously refined starting point though, he’s able to seriously cut down on the time most engineers would spend setting up their sessions.
One of Taylor’s biggest secrets to getting a great snare sound comes from the prevalence of a bottom snare mic in his mixes; something many engineers barely use (and some don’t even bother to record at all). While others look at the harsher sizzle and top end of the snares to be a distraction from the low end and attack, Taylor sees it as the perfect way to capture some explosive energy with each hit.
Combine that technique with newer drumheads that have been tuned accordingly, and the rest just comes from the familiarity you gain from a setup that you know inside and out.
Great Guitar Tone
One of the coolest aspects of Taylor’s career doesn’t have anything to do with the computer he’s sitting at, but his musical experience. As a guitarist, Taylor’s ability to find great guitar tones and perfectly pocket them in his mixes is unparalleled. His experience is two-fold – knowing exactly what a guitarist is trying to accomplish with their tone and what the mix needs for that guitar to sit just right. It’s a secondary perspective that only comes from sitting on both sides of the table of being a musician and producer.
His methodology has never been more apparent or accessible than on his work with Jason Richardson on Jason’s solo album, I. On the album, Larson and Richardson spent days working together to record the cleanest possible takes through some very high-end amps.
Ultimately, when a guitar tone sounded good, Taylor immediately captured his own impulse response of the gear for easy recall later on. This process meant there was no time wasted “recalling” tones later on – the sonic characteristic of each guitar cabinet, microphone & preamp were already printed down to be loaded up digitally using an IR Loader.
When you take into account Jason’s elite playing and writing, it’s incredible to hear just how detailed the final guitar tones are on his album – a true piece of art for those aspiring to craft incredible instrumentals of their own.
One thing that’s very clear in any album produced by Larson is that nothing stays still for very long. Songs and sounds are constantly moving around in the mix or changing up in a way that keeps your attention. Saying Taylor likes using “sweeteners” in his mixes is a bit of an understatement.
In modern music production, these quick edits and changes are elements of their song as much as, if not more than, any other instrument. A vocal stutter, guitar panning trick, or even an ambient pad can go a long way to get a listener to go “Whoa! How did they do that?” It’s that kind of innovation that continues to bring in new listeners and fans in the genre.
If there’s one thing you take away from Taylor’s production style is that you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment with new sounds and styles to improve your productions. While there is such a thing as too much – you’re never going to find your sound without experimentation. Try new things and when something works, refine it until it fits perfectly.
Upping Your Production Game
Using new sounds in your productions can be tough, especially if you come from a musical background where you’re used to live instrumentation only. To start adding production sounds to your mixes, it can sometimes help to borrow inspiration from others.
With The Producer’s Guide To Synthesizers & Sweeteners, we take you into some of our favorite “ear candy” tricks for any step of the process from writing to mixing. Learn about the different types of synthesizers, how they should be used in your productions, and even how you can design your own sounds for truly unique arrangements.
All of this comes included in the 50+ eBook available now to JST VIP members.