Sam Hughes speaks with Grammy Award winning Engineer, Jason Schweitzer about his career so far, working with Christopher Tin on Civ VI, his favourite plugins and more! Jason is a multi-platinum selling Mixer/Engineer/Producer who has been an integral part of the rap/hip-hop and pop genres, dating back to early releases from Kurupt and Xzibit, as well as known pop and R&B artists like the Pussy Cat Dolls, Mayer Hawthorne, Fergie and John Legend. However, Jason is best known for his works with Eminem on his GRAMMY-winning album, Recovery. He has also been a mainstay on records from Dr. Dre, Snoop, and various affiliates of the Aftermath family. Jason’s most recent success arrived with chart topping releases on Aloe Blacc’s “Lift Your Spirit” (including “I’m The Man”) and A$AP Rocky’s recent release, “At. Long. Last. ASAP”
Thanks for joining us on the site, Jason it’s a pleasure to speak with you!
Thanks for having me on the site! I’m honored to be here chatting today!
Before we discuss your current endeavours, how did your journey into audio first begin?
My fascination with audio started in high school and came to fruition in college, where I double majored in music performance and recording arts. My love of music started in kindergarten, where I first started with the violin, then transitioned into saxophone around 1st or 2nd.
Was there any particular project that has been the most challenging so far?
This a great question and I thought about this for a while, I think the hardest session was my very first session. I had to remind self that all of my hard work up to now had led me to this one instance. I was working at Larabee Sound Studios, Dr. Dre was booking out Studio 1 and they needed an engineer, they opened the studio door yelled for me and I went in and worked on my first session as an engineer. It was an intense experience and I’m glad I rose to the challenge.
How about the flipside, is there one you’re most proud of?
Honestly I’m really proud of the work I’ve been doing with Christopher Tin. I mixed all the in game music for Off World Trading Company, as well as the main title theme for Civ VI, and all the music beds for the movie “Suddenly Seventeen”, in surround.
What made you decide to branch out more into game audio?
I love working in video game music because it involves a lot of creativity from everyone involved. As the mixer, I can make suggestions and experiment with any ideas I may have and they are considered whole-heartedly, if they add to the overall landscape of what we are trying to envision.
What are the key differences you’ve found with mixing game sound as opposed to linear mediums?
Game sound is a lot more involved. There are a ton of things to consider, from game play to the actual content of the game. We are trying to accentuate what the game is trying to convey and help with immersion into the worlds they are creating. We have to remember that the music needs to help push the user into the worlds that are being created. This means we need to be conscious of the choices we are making, we need to make sure we are helping the game creators paint the picture that the user needs to be as immersed in the game as possible. To make the experience as enjoyable for all who play.
You mixed the main theme to Civilisation VI with Christopher Tin, how was it working with Christopher to mix his music?
Chris is amazing to work with. His vision and music make my job all that more fun. He likes the people on his team to be involved in all aspects of the creative process, any suggestions made that help the project reach its full potential, are considered and used a lot of the time. This makes the whole creative process a joy to be a part of, you know that everyone involved wants one thing, the best possible music we can make.
What are some of your “go-to” plugins or gear to use when you work?
I’m a huge Universal Audio fan. I use their plugins on about 90% of every mix I’m a part of, I love their plate verbs, Neve and SSL eq’s. My current favorite is their new Distressor plugin they just came out with, it sounds amazing and makes whatever I put it on just sound great. A few of my favorites are:
Are there any particular favourites out of those you love the most and why?
Neve 1081, Pultec EQP1A, Pultec MEQ-5, Culture Vulture, EMT 140, EMT 250, La2, VoxBox, etc etc
I could go on and on, I really do love all of their plugs!
In general, I love their plugs because of the texture and vibe they give me. I pick EQ and compressors based off of the color I know they are going to give a sound. I’m less worried about the compression or eq part of the equation, and more worried about the texture I’m going to get and how that will meld into a cohesive mix. Different pieces have different sound characteristics and I choose my plugs based on this, rather than, I need a compressor let me throw whatever on it, I look at the plug I’m going to use and ask myself will this help me get where I need to go? Sometimes I’ll choose a compressor because I know it will accentuate a specific eq curve on that sound, not because of the compression part but because of the coloring it gives me. I use effects the same way, I like to build my mid-range not just with eq but effects that I know will help color in the mid-range in a pleasing way. I could go on and on about this, since at the end of the day, I am a student of sound and am always trying to learn new ways to improve my sound palette.
Can you tell us much about any new projects that you’re working on?
Right now, since it’s the beginning of the year, I’m doing a lot of recording but have new mix projects coming later in the year. I also have some more cool projects planned with Chris. This year could shape up to be quite a year of great music!
What would you like to work on that you haven’t had the chance to yet?
I would love to be more involved in the creative process of the projects I work on, so instead of “what do I want to work on”, it’s more that I’d love to be more involved from the production AND creative side. I have a lot to offer in these areas and would like to shine though on some projects and really take them to the next level.
A fun question to finish with, If you could hang out with anyone in the world, alive or dead, who would it be?
Wow! This is hard question to ask me! I am HUGE jazz head, so I could think of about a million people I’d to hang out with, but honestly, I think I would like to hang with Duke Ellington. He was a great musician, composer and ambassador for music. He did everything from big band music, small combo music and even orchestral works. I think I could learn a lot from hanging with him and watching him create a song from start to finish!
Playlist of Tracks and Samples: