Interview with Jamie King
Jamie King is an American producer/engineer and owner of The Basement Recording in North Carolina. Jamie is known for his work with artists including Between the Buried and Me, The Contortionist, Scale The Summit, For Today, Alesana, He Is Legend and many more. Check out the Spotify playlist of some of Jamie's work at the bottom of this article.
How and when did you get started?
I started recording on a boombox cassette in my parent's basement in about 1992 to get my band's ideas down. I'd place the boombox behind the drum kit and then place the guitar/bass amps and vocal PA speakers at various distances to get the right mix haha.
I then moved to a 4 track in 1993 and started using cheap mics to run through the PA to get a more clear mix of levels into the 4 track. Then my band bought a small live sound PA in like 1994, we had a 16 channel mixer so I could mic up everything more proper and get a better mix with outboard comps and effects units that we used for live. The band that I was in called Tragic Seasons release a cassette of demos that I had recorded this way on 4 track and it was decent enough that other bands started asking me to record them.
I saved up for an ADAT Digital Tape recorder in 1996 and started recording other bands live style with my bands PA and getting more pro sounding results and therefore more band inquiries. I added a couple more ADATs in 1998 and was finally able to do a proper multitrack recording. I recorded my band Swift's debut record and we got popular really quick from the record's release. That's when things really took off with other bands wanting to record with me. Bands like Prayer for Cleansing (now Between the Buried and Me) heard the record and wanted me to record them. I added a Pro Tools 882 system to the ADATs in 2000 as was finally able to do some basic edit and automation which made my record sound more pro. I finally switched over to all Protools in 2002 and have been with that ever since.
I had recorded with many other engineers at other studios since I start playing music in the early 90's but none were ever able or willing to give us the sounds we wanted. All the records I did early on were for demo purposes until about 1996 after a final attempt recording at a multimillion-dollar facility at $90 an hour with a total bill of $13,000 with an unusable result. My demos sounded more like I (and other local metal bands) wanted, so I just decided to just figure it all out for myself. I pretty much started all this out of frustration and realization that I kind of had a knack for it. I'm somewhat OCD so it's hard for me to get others to do things exactly how I want haha.
What have you been working on lately (that you can divulge)?
I've mainly been doing production editing and mixing lately. Many people are able to record themselves and most can find someone close to them to record with so my work has gradually shifted to production, mixing and mastering. I'm working on mixing a lot of cool relatively unknown band projects right now. I have a mix coming up for a project by The Contortionist as well as some remixes coming up for a big band that I can't talk about yet.
If you were the age that you originally started today, and you had to start again from scratch, how would you approach things?
I wouldn't waste time and money on budget gear. I would have just saved and bought standard top of the line gear for rock and metal recording. I wasted a lot of time and money working with budget stuff. It's easier to get the sounds you hear with big budget recordings if you have the same gear they used haha.
I also wouldn't have wasted time going to college. I started off going to school to get a bachelors in audio engineering and stopped after my associate's degree as I realized that I didn't need the degree and I was already more knowledgeable about what I wanted to do than the instructors at the schools at that time, through self-education. Now there are great learning tools like the URM Academy and CreativeLive that people can use so I recommend forgetting about wasting time and money with schools. It's just not necessary.
What is the most important part of a song for you?
Originality. It's not really a part of a song but an aspect of a song haha. I think commercially it's still all about a chorus hook. But for me, I like to hear something that sounds original and unique. I've heard so much music that all just sounds the same these days haha.
What is your favorite project that you've worked on?
I don't think I have a favorite project. I've been lucky enough to record a lot of great bands with cool people. Of course, all the BTBAM records are great because it's fun and they are great musician and dudes. It's like family with those guys, same with The Contortionist at this point. I just recorded a rock band called Wvnder that was like a fun vacation for me. They are great players and cools dudes. Likewise with a rock band called Down to Ride. My boys in Soften the Glare. I could go on. It's all about the musicians being great at what they do and cool to hang and work with for me. It's more about that than even the material as far as I'm concerned. Great material is just a bonus haha.
Who is an artist you would like to work with but haven’t been able to yet?
I don't have any artists that I'd want to work with in particular. Just anyone that's cool and good at what they do. It's a bonus if what they do is original and unique!
Are you a big plugin user? If so, name some of your favorites!
Yeah, I'd say I'm a big plugin user. I mix pretty much all in the box and just use outboard for recording and mastering. I use a lot of standard stuff really. The Digidesign EQ, the Waves SSL, transient design, noise reduction and mastering stuff. Massey stuff. I'm running an older system so I haven't incorporated a lot of the new plugins. I'll be getting a new system at some point for sure and I'm sure I'll be rocking plugins by Joey Sturgis, Steven Slate, and others. Lots of great sounding time-saving stuff out there to be using!
What is one thing that you can't get your sound without? Hardware, software or whatever else.
Waves L2 I think haha. I use it for dynamic processing across the board. It evens dynamics out without changing the character of the sound. I just never really got into a "compressor sound", stuff like the 1176 on the drums sounds great, but not like real drums to me haha.
Who are some of your favorite producers & engineers today?
Jens Bogren is one of my faves for sure. He keeps it natural, yet clean and modern. Josh Wilbur and Zuess, just anyone that keeps it real, but gets clean modern production value. They are the ones that inspire and influence me.
What advice would you give to those new to the game?
Don't quit your day job haha. But seriously, there are so many in this game now and many are great. The money to be made on records is less than ever and so many can do so much themselves. I recommend that everyone learn to record themselves these days to keep costs down. With computer recording making it financially and increasingly technically easy to do, anyone that's tech-savvy can figure this stuff out to a degree. Get a DAW with the plugins you need for your style of music with decent mic and interface, check out the classes offered by the URM Academy and others for real-world education and start working with it. If you notice that it comes quite easy for you to make stuff sound commercial, then maybe look into building your gear and business. If nothing else, you can record some aspect of your own or other band's stuff to keep your recording costs down and maybe make a little extra money on the side.
Outside of your day job, what music have you been listening to lately?
Nothing. I check out all the new stuff that comes out on a regular basis and haven't come across anything recently that I want to listen to repeated lately haha. I did listen to the new Ghost record a few times, so I guess that's good. They definitely have some rockin' tracks on the new one, and most importantly to me, have a unique original vibe!
Massive thanks to Jamie for answering our questions! Check out some of his work in the Spotify playlist below, and watch the video for a preview of Jamie's CreativeLive course with Tommy Rogers (of Between the Buried and Me).