Mixerman Interview

Photo of Mixerman

Mixing is neither a linear process nor a technical one. It’s a musical process, and as such, a mix is some

thing that one performs—like an artist.

—Mixerman from “Zen and the Art of Mixing”

Mixerman (a.k.a. Eric Sarafin) has certainly done his share of interviews in print but when I searched for recorded interviews, I basically came up with nothing. I figured that, with the release of his new book, “Zen and the Art of Mixing,” he might be willing to spend some time talking about it.

zen-and-the-art-of-mixing-coverWe talked about his musical background, education and career as well as his philosophy on recording and mixing. Mixerman also discusses a bit about the upcoming “Total Access Master class” including Ken Scott, Mixerman, Joe McGrath and Wyn Davis.

As Mixerman says, “Enjoy!”

Excerpts featured in this episode (in order of appearance):

excerpt from the Mixerman radio Show Christmas 2010
Mixerman, Slipperman & Aardvark theme by members of the WOMB Forums
The Pharcyde “Passing Me By”
Ben Harper “Jah Work”
David Cassidy “I Think I Love You”
Mammal “Smash the Piñata”
Pete Murray “Opportunity”
Ian Moore “Angelyne”
Ben Harper “Steal My Kisses
Spearhead “Hole in the Bucket”

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19 Responses to “Mixerman Interview”

  1. aLf Says:

    Something´s wrong with the file. I can neither listen to nor download it.

    Please fix it, I´m very keen on listen to this interview.

    Keep up the good work.

    Kind regards


  2. Slau Says:

    Oops, for some reason, the file was only 3 seconds long—I guess I should rename the podcast “Seconds With slau,” eh? Sorry about that. We’ll take a look as soon as possible. Cheers!

  3. Slau Says:

    OK, a new file has been uploaded and everything appears to be alright. Sorry for any inconvenience!

  4. James Says:

    Hmm… Mixerman is horrified by Ms. Information (3:44). I’m not sure if I’m down with that. He probably just needs to meet her in person, she’ll doubtless win him over. Best quote of the show: “It often amazes me what option-paralysis the modern DAW will inflict…” (37:59). This is my increasingly perpetual state of existence: that and post-lunch-food-coma.

  5. James Says:

    2nd best quote of the show: “if you can’t judge the midrange accurately, you’re fucked on the low end.” (51:47) I just don’t understand why Mixerman elicits so much controversy.

  6. Slau Says:

    Hey James,

    Ah, if only Mixerman knew Ms. Information—I’m sure he wouldn’t be horrified ;)

    As for the controversy, I think it’s more about that supreme confidence. Mixerman isn’t afraid to say what he thinks and some people don’t like hearing things they might disagree with. Frankly, I don’t think anything he says is controversial. If anything, it’s mostly quite straight-forward and reasonable. There are, of course, opinions that some would challenge him on. For example, he’s not a fan of SSL consoles. In fact, he seems to pretty much dislike them quite a lot. Well, one can point to countless engineers and producers who’ve recorded and mixed innumerable hits on SSLs. Controversy? Hardly—just opinion and someone who had just spent $250,000 on a 4000G might be compelled to challenge a critic of that console.

    On the other side of things, there are those who believe a soundBlaster is the epitome of A/d conversion… now, THAT’S controversy.


  7. Dave King Says:


    I enjoyed the interview with Mixerman. I wonder if you could list some gear options for 2-Bus Summing Mixers/Compressors as discussed in the podcast. I know he mentioned the Dangerous gear, but what other options are out there? Apecifically, are there affordable options that may be within reach for home recordists?


  8. Slau Says:

    Hey Dave,

    Thanks for the comment and I’m glad you enjoyed the interview.

    Regarding the summing, there are lots of choices that are quite affordable, however, as usual, you get what you pay for. The signal path of something like the Neve 8816 or Dangerous 2-Bus is going to be considerably cleaner than a $250 mixer. That said, it’s about getting the stuff out of the box and having it summed in the analog domain rather than digital. Some summing is better than no summing—so whatever the budget allows.

    The same pretty much applies to 2-bus compression. The idea is, at the very least, to get the mix out through a decent compressor. Now, again, budget plays a role in what quality is affordable. I used to mix through an Aphex Compellor and I still think it’s a great unit although it’s not a standard compressor. It happens to be a bit of an odd piece of gear. I’m inspired to give it another whirl.

    On the more affordable side of compressors, DBX makes some excellent products. Their Project Studio line is great but, if you can, save up a bit and go for something like a 160a. Also, on the more esoteric side, Hand Crafted Labs makes a fantastic dual channel compressor and even a summing mixer and their prices are extremely reasonable for the quality of the product. It might be worth consideration.

    Hope that helps a bit!


  9. Dave Chick Says:


    Just wanted to drop a note – almost finished the interview with Eric. Fantastic listen and kudos to you for running a great chat!


  10. Slau Says:

    Hey Dave,

    Thanks so much. These days, so much communication is done online. I wanted the listeners to get a sense of Mixerman’s real voice, not just his writing voiced. Of course, there is the Mixerman Radio Show but so much of that is teasing and ribbing (which is great and entertaining and all) but I wanted to keep it focused on his career, the book and the Total Access Master class.


  11. Dave Romero Says:

    great session!

    you are quite good at interviewing, which we all know is not easy

  12. Hey Slau Says:

    Hey Slau,

    I download and listen to your Behind the Scenes in a Recording Studio, either at home or on the road to my 2 – 3 hour round trip gigs from Santa Cruz to San Francisco/Napa Ca. gigs, I must say I really enjoy listening to you. You are a breath of fresh air. thanks and I look forward to more!

  13. Slau Says:

    Hey guys,

    Glad you’re enjoying the interview. Dave, I’m so not a good interviewer—it’s just that, for the subjects covered in the few interviews I’ve done, I’m qualified to ask relevant questions and can relate directly to the issues. Put me in front of a politician and I’d be lost. The other thing is, what you don’t hear in the interview (which I’ve edited out) is the sound of me constantly responding, “yep, yeah, uhuh, right, mhmm…” It drives me nuts. that’s the thing about doing interviews where it’s not face-to-face—one tends to over-respond for the lack of eye contact. Anyway, glad it’s being so well received. I get tons of direct emails that never get posted here. Maybe I should read some on the podcast.



  14. James Says:

    Well, Mr. Slau I, being the eternal contrarian, have to disagree with you. Actually I have to disagree with Mixerman. I mean I understand what he’s saying and where he’s coming from; but to say that you’re not (or people like you aren’t) real engineers is just not accurate.

    One dictionary defines an engineer as “A person who uses scientific knowledge to solve a practical problem.” Using scientific knowledge to solve a problem is what audio engineers do countless times per day. “The vocals aren’t even enough; I’ll throw on a leveling compressor with just the right threshold/release to tame it a little.” “The snare sounds a little too present; it needs a reverb with proper ratios, RT60 values, frequency responses etc.”

    This is absolutely using “scientific knowledge to solve practical problems.” I think what Eric was getting at is that he doesn’t considering himself to be an electrical engineer. While it’s true that perhaps he couldn’t build a tube mic pre from scratch, he is engineering sound. He, you, Big Al, Ryan & the boys at http://www.homerecordingshow.com (intentional plug), have earned the right to be called engineers. You/they engineer sounds; and that’s arguably more impressive/important than engineering a console.

    I love your show.


  15. Slau Says:

    Hey James,

    The reason why I picked up on Mixerman’s non-use of “audio engineer” is because I personally feel as he does. It seems the only qualifier for being an “audio engineer” is to own gear. The barrier to entry for audio engineering has become quite low over the last 15 years or so. Everyone with a Pro Tools system is now an “audio engineer.”

    I think the use of the term “audio engineer” is a personal preference. Some people would never call themselves “artists” and might say, “I just move some paint around a canvas with a brush—I wouldn’t call myself an artist.” Well, there are some people who really just move paint around (same thing) and call themselves artists but the public might not agree. Without getting into a debate about self-perception and public perception, it all boils down to what one’s comfortable with. I’ve met people who call themselves audio engineers and, if they found themselves in a room with people whom I consider true audio engineers (in my opinion), let’s just say it would be easy to tell the two apart after just a few minutes.

    I called myself an “audio engineer” before I went to college to study audio recording technology. I realized how much I had to learn. Having graduated and having learned a craft, I began to appreciate what the pioneers of audio engineering accomplished and contributed before me. Out of respect for them, I rarely use the term to describe myself. I don’t feel I deserve it. I deserve to use it no more than I can use the term “scientist” to describe my approach to testing gear and shooting out mics, etc.

    I know you’re a photographer. Just because an average Joe can afford a large-format Mamiya or Hasselblad, does that make them a photographer? Wait a second, how about a “photographic engineer? ;) Personally, I think most people who can afford an expensive camera don’t necessarily fall into the category of “photographer.” Maybe they take photos and maybe take plenty of them but I think a certain responsibility comes along with what a person calls themselves. That’s just my take.

    Language is a funny thing and names or labels can be particularly problematic. I suppose whatever label one can live with at the end of the day is cool.

  16. mark b Says:

    hey Slau, great show, great interview. i have a newbie question. I’m a little confused about how i would get my audio out of the box. assuming my interface (a really cheap tascam 1641) has outputs other than the monitor outs, can you (or anyone else) describe for me what that signal path might look like to reach the final file? does that make sense?

    thanks! keep ‘em coming!

  17. mark b Says:

    ps oh, but you ARE a good interviewer, from what i hear! :)

  18. Slau Says:

    Hey Mark,

    Glad you enjoyed the interview.

    To sum outside the box (OTB), you’ll need to use some type of mixer or summing box to combine the outputs of your interface. You’d normally organize your tracks to come out of various outputs on your interface. Typically, people use 16, 24, 32 channels or more. I suppose you’d get some benefit even through an 8-channel system.

    You’d route kick to an output, snare to another output, overheads to a stereo pair of outputs, bass to an output, lead vocal, etc. Ultimately, you route all of the outputs to a mixer or summing box and then route the stereo output to either another dAW, recorder or even back into your original dAW and simply mute the input track. That’s pretty much the basics.




  19. mark b Says:

    Ah, I get it now. Thanks!

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