Until recently, I only really knew Andy Sneap as the crazed-looking bloke on the cover of the Toontrack Metal Machine EZX. Then, during a visit to Sweden for Toontrack’s Metal Month launch a few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to meet the man himself.
We got talking during an epic game of bowling with the Toontrack team (Andy came last by the way (sorry Andy, couldn’t resist)) – and it turns out he’s a big fan of iZotope’s Ozone 5 Mastering Suite.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with his work, Andy is a highly in-demand producer/engineer who has produced and mixed numerous Grammy award-nominated albums and some of the heaviest releases this past decade. His clients include Megadeth, Accept, Killswitch Engage, Exodus, Cradle of Filth, Opeth and Testament to name just a few plus he’s a guitarist in his own right, having played with heavy metal bands Fozzy, Sabbat and Hell.
Despite the persistent bowling-related jibes, Andy kindly agreed to answer some questions about his studio, producing Metal music, using Ozone 5 and his highlights of Metal Month. This is what he had to say…
Hi Andy, the photos of your recording studio look very impressive and in such a stunning location, was it a studio before you bought it or did you have to start from scratch?
No, I had my studio in an industrial building about 5 miles from here. It took about 18 months to do the conversion, which was a total nightmare to be honest, dealing with the builders, I’d do it all different with hindsight. It was a steep learning curve and if I ever have to do it again, I’ll scale it down a bit. It’s been useful though as the bands can rehearse here also.
Tell us about the key pieces of gear that you’ve got in there.
Well that’s kind of hard to pin down, I’ve worked all over the world and done great recordings on basic gear so I don’t get too obsessed about equipment, saying that, I have soooo much gear now. I’m not one of these guys who “has” to use this and that. I think mix wise, the Genelec 1031’s are great and certain plug ins I can’t do without like metric halos channel strip. The SSL AWS900 has been a lot of fun since I got it a year or so ago. I think a 5150 amp and Tubescreamer are 2 of the most important pieces.
You’ve worked with a number of high profile metal artists, what’s been the proudest moment of your career to date?
I think possibly it was helping put Accept back together, they were always a favourite band of mine growing up. Killswitch going gold and a Swedish Grammy for Opeth also.
We heard you’re a fan of Ozone, what led you to start using it and how has it affected your work?
A colleague of mine said he was using it for mastering and suggested trying it. I’d been using the TC Finalizer all the time before but found I had to mix a lot more to the compression of the Finalizer, I find Ozone a lot more transparent and was impressed with it immediately. Very straight forward interface and easy to use and I found I was able to get the volume without crushing the mix.
You’re actually using the Advanced version of Ozone 5, what are your favourite features and how do you use them when you’re mastering?
The mid/side EQ and the limiter. The EQ offers great flexibility and the EQ matching facility is crazy, especially when you need to match something like a guitar track to a different session. That’s a great tool. The limiter is very quick and transparent, try the irc 3 setting in clipping mode.
You also produced presets for Toontrack’s Metal Metal Foundry SDX and produced the Metal Machine EZX, how did you get involved with Toontrack?
Mattias Eklund contacted me ages ago actually, and I didn’t really think about it but we stayed in touch. I wasn’t really aware of Superior Drummer or EZdrummer at the time. But as the company grew I kept hearing of this product and we started using it whilst writing on various albums, so when Mattias suggested doing some presets and samples, it seemed like a fun idea. Plus they are a great bunch of guys to work with, totally insane and a lot of fun.
Last month, we celebrated the launch of Metal Month in Toontrack’s home town of Umea, what was your highlight of the launch and which release of the month has most impressed you?
I think my bowling skills were definitely the highlight, just not for me! It’s interesting seeing how this company keeps pushing new ideas, I’m really impressed with EZ Keys also, though it doesn’t lend too much to the style of stuff I’m doing, it’s a brilliant song writing tool. I think Randy’s Rock Solid drum pack is great also.
If you could create your own software plug-in what would it be and why?
There was a plug-in, a free thing that used to put a tone on your CD every 2 minutes or so to stop people uploading. I had an idea of a similar thing, where you could have a wav of a magazine name/radio station etc, and it would automatically insert that every 2 minutes or so over the track, whatever you set the timer to, so you could send advance copies out and if it got copied you’d know where it came from. A lot cheaper than watermarking the advance copies. So basically it would automatically add it as the CD was bounced.
2. Make sure you can tell the difference between your kick and snare (so many times they seem to be EQ’d too close).
3. Compression is your friend, but use it only when it’s needed.
Finally, in all your years producing Metal music, what’s the most disturbing story/experience you’ve encountered with a band?
Warrell from Nevermore singing naked in El Paso, that was a VERY disturbing moment when the lights came on. That boy needs to see some sun.