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  • Writer's pictureJon Barefoot

Working From Home: An Interview with Dan Kinnaley

Dan and I have been mutuals on Instagram for a while now and he may be one of the only other engineers I know of (personally) that also has a recording studio in their house along with a wife, kids and pets like I do. As you can imagine, it can be a bit tough to deal with! Dan has worked with some bands that my band (Bitter Truth) has had the pleasure of playing with such as Disappear and Colossal Man from Fort Wayne, Indiana. In this interview we discuss the struggles but also the advantages of working from home.

Hey Dan! Thanks for taking some time to answer some questions. 

Happy to do it, this is a really cool idea.

First of all, how did you get into music in general? 

I got a portable cd player and some cheap speakers that plugged into the headphone jack for my 10th birthday. My parents were into CDs, so I listened to theirs (AC/DC, Zeppelin, Rolling Stones) and also started buying some of my own (Bush, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana). I’ve been music obsessed since.

What led to you getting into recording and mixing/mastering? 

I started writing songs when I was a teenager and wanted a way to document what I was doing. I got a TASCAM Portastudio 4 track cassette recorder one year for Christmas and everything I’ve learned about mixing/mastering has been motivated by wanting to make the best recordings I can.

What do you like about working with an analog console? 

I work with a lot of bands who either want to record live or play along while we track drums and overdub later. My console has a four band EQ on each channel and inline faders which makes it faster to dial in tones, set the level into the DAW and easily balance headphone mixes. I love the preamps on the console too. I think using the same preamps on every channel provides good glue.

Is there anything you don't like about using a console? 

I have to document where the faders and pots are if I want to recall a mix. I set my balance with the faders and then use a gain plugin in the DAW so I can set the faders back at 0 to make recall a little quicker, but I still need to manually set the EQ on each channel. 

What's your editing process like? Do you grid everything or are you a little more loose with it? 

I’m not a big fan of gridding everything unless the genre calls for it. I like to edit what sounds wrong and leave the rest as it is. I think most of the songs I work on benefit from a little looser, more organic approach.

Correct me if I'm wrong but you run your studio out of your house correct? How has that worked out for you? I also run my studio out of my home along with having a wife, 2 kids and 4 dogs haha. 

I also have a full house! My wife, two kids, two cats, a dog, and leopard gecko are all saints for supporting me in this. It takes some coordination to make sure everyone has a parking spot and no one is taking a shower while we’re tracking vocals, the Mojave 201 FET is super sensitive and picks up the sound of water in the pipes! But otherwise it’s more of an asset than a liability. Bands appreciate having a relaxed environment to make a record in and access to a kitchen or a shower if they need it.

Do you do any elaborate micing techniques or do you find that keeping it simple can be better? 

The more I do this, the simpler I get. Fewer mics on a source means less chance of phase issues and forces me to try and get the sound right from the drum kit, amp, or performance. If the recording calls for it though, I’m totally down to set up extra ambient mics to capture room sounds or maybe slam a Vurst/Heart mic with compression for effect. 

Which element of the song is your favorite to track? (Vocals. drums, etc.) 

Getting good drum tones is so satisfying. The tuning, performance, mic placement, EQ and compression all work together to make the sound. It’s more to juggle than any other instrument and I usually do drums first, so getting it right sets the tone for the rest of the record.  

Which is your least favorite? 

Recording myself hah.

What music have you been listening to lately? 

Pissed Jeans, Gouge Away, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, Doomriders, and Boris have all been in heavy rotation.

Lastly, feel free to shout out any bands, brands you use or any homies! 

Shout out to everyone who has trusted me to work on their records and shout out to you for conducting this interview and supporting other engineers. I think we could always do more to make it a community instead of each of us being our own islands.

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