DENNIS MOODY SOUND ENGINEER/PRODUCER
AW – How did you first begin working as a sound engineer?
My brothers and I started a band when we were very young. I was the drummer. I wanted to be like Ringo, and not like Billy Cobham as he was too technical for me. I actually saw Billy with John McLaughlin when i was 16 and I decided it was time to stop playing drums and to concentrate on how to get into the recording studio producer business. The most logical way was to try to learn how to work in a studio by becoming an engineer.
AW - Was it something you set out to become?
Yes. I have wanted to be a recording engineer, producer, and mixer since I was about 15 years old.
AW - Can you recall some of your early experiences?
My first sessions were as an assistant for independent freelance engineers using the studio i was employed at (Paramount Recording in Hollywood). I did a lot of sessions for Motown Records, working with producer Hal Davis, and CEO Berry Gordy. I also worked on many many other sessions with many other producers. Eventually I got thrown into "the drivers seat" and became the main engineer for many producers on some really great projects. Too many "stories" to tell!
AW – During your learning process did you ever encounter any disappointments whilst working with any artistes or drummers?
Of course! When setting up "sounds" that I thought were fantastic, and then having the so called producer tear them apart. I learned that you can not please everyone, and that sometimes the people you work with can just be dicks, or having a bad day/ week/ life, and they will take it out on the engineer, or whoever is the person nearest. After realizing this, I wasn't too upset if things didn't go right (very are instances...) as I knew that it wasn't anything to do with me. As for drummers, most of them were very supportive when i was starting out and shared "tips" with me that they'd seen done at other studios. This was really great! I learned quite a bit, very fast, from some great drummers!
AW – You are also acknowledged as the ‘drummer’s engineer’, what are some of your secrets to recording drummers of that calibre?
There isn't really a secret. I just do my best job, as I do for all my clients. I listen to what they have to say regarding "their sound" and I will make adjustments accordingly so they will be happy. I also learned to be incredibly prepared. Once they get there and you're starting to work, the engineer can not be the person "pacing" the session. We must move as quickly as the client does and at THEIR pace. Once I knew what I was doing to get a great drum sound, I kept the experimentation to my own projects. No need to spend 2 hours on a bass drum sound. I know what to do, what mic to use, what EQ, and how to get it going in a matter of 30 seconds. You have to move very fast, very deliberate, and very effectively.
AW – Your list of drummers reads like a who’s who is there anyone you haven’t worked with but would enjoy working with?
Yes, I have never worked with Russ Kunkel, Jim Keltner. and Abe Jr. (although I do know Abe and Jim).
AW – We were having a conversation once and you mentioned you had worked with the legendary Jeff Porcaro, can you recall the session?
Yes, it was a Motown session for Jermaine Jackson. I thought the song was called "Sie La Vie" but I have not been able to find it anywhere online, so perhaps I have that title wrong. I do remember that Jeff showed up very early for the session (a rarity for these dates!) and that he had not worked for them before. He asked men what the clients were like and I asked him if he liked to drink... He was very gracious, very professional, and of course, he played his ass off!
AW – What are some important lessons you have learned as a producer?
In my opinion, the job of a producer is to assemble the right players for the project, and then let them do their thing. No need for me to tell a top notch studio guitarists how and what to play. If you give them the freedom to create, they will always surprise you with something fresh and tasteful that I, as a non guitarist, would play. I also learned that you can't get orange juice from an apple, and sometimes things are going to be the best they can be due to the limited abilities of some of the involved parties... such as the featured artist, the producer/ arranger, or the person paying the bills. It is also extremely important to let the client know that you REALLY care about the quality of what is being done. If they feel you are talking down to them, or not respecting their vision, you will have a very hard time. They want to feel that what they are doing is important and that i am there to be involved and as enthusiastic as they are. If the song is something I don't like, I find other elements of the process to enjoy, such as great sonic expression, etc.
AW – You still hit the road occasionally doing FOH, primarily for Iranian singer Googoosh is this to keep your hand in with a live situation and trying out new technology?
Actually I am not working with her anymore as her new management cut the budgets to unreasonable levels. i do however wish her the best and I really like her and enjoyed working with her for the nine years i did. Perhaps one day we will work together again. As for being a live sound engineer, I LOVE the thrill of a big concert and I love the immediacy of it all. You get a "real time" response from the audience and there's nothing like that! As for trying out new technology, I'm not really one for experimenting these days. I just want to get to work and not have to learn a new console every time I go out for a show. I was really shocked with some of the new PA configurations that have become normal... such as "line array speaker set ups". I was always adding front fill and "deck speakers" for a few years before I saw other FOH mixers going this. And shockingly, even some of the shows I saw with huge shows with world superstar artists were lacking in PA configuration concepts. Things have seem to come around to what i was doing way before, so that's a great thing for the audience, but it's surprising to me how many "sheep" there are in the FOH chair that can not try something extreme and not normal to get a better sonic experience for the audience. I'm still surprise all the time by lack of industry creativity in this area.
AW – What are some of the latest projects you are working on at the moment?
For the last couple years i have been FOH for smooth jazz/ instrumental pianist Keiko Matsui. Working with her is very interesting as we get to go too some very remote and odd places in the world. She is a super star in Russia and Eastern EU, drawing thousands of people to her shows. We did a number of shows with the addition of very large (100+ members) orchestras. I really enjoy this as it pushes me and challenges me as a FOH mixer. Thankfully i have decades of experience doing such large set ups, so it's really second nature, but always a lot of fun!
AW – For someone wishing to enter the business any words of advice would you wish to impart?
Don't quit your day job. :-D Actually, it's very difficult to get started these days. Much more so than when I started. I talk to studio engineers who are top notch who are only doing a little mixing and editing, and maybe only 6 or 8 band tracking sessions year! I do 6 to 8 a month, and most of the time more. But a new person to this industry would most likely have to create everything to get the chance to do the job. An artist would have to record, edit, overdub, and mix their own project. Very hard to get started these days and i really don't have an answer for them except to keep trying, take all opportunities, and work your ass off to get some attention as to what you are capable of doing... and it better be top notch!
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