Where are you currently employed?
Universal Mastering Studios
The Japanese Special Edition of V, the fifth studio album of the pop band Maroon 5.
Describe Your Job.
As a production engineer for the Universal Mastering Studios, I am part of a team that services all of the labels of the Universal Music Group. Once the final version of an album is delivered, we quality control (QC) the audio in most cases and add additional metadata information necessary for manufacturing the CD or LP or the digital download. I also do some editing, analog transfers, conversions and light mastering. There are three other engineers here who do what I do and two others who strictly do mastering.
How did you first become interested in this line of work?
I always liked music, but I didn’t plan on working in the music business. My dad and my uncle were audiophiles in the ‘60s and had the requisite turntables, reel-to-reel tape decks, and high- end speakers. I used to mess around a lot with their toys over the years, but by the time I got to college I wanted to be in TV or film. In 1989, I was getting my degree at Cal State University, Northridge, in Media Management, and an opportunity to work at this studio presented itself.
Who gave you your first break?
A friend of the family who worked in Special Markets (catalogue) at MCA Records knew the head of the MCA Recording Studio. He told her that they needed people to work the night shift making the one-inch tape duplication masters for the manufacturing of cassette tapes and she recommended me. I interviewed and got the job as a temporary contractor with no benefits. It turned out that the studio was underpaying the employees and they were in the early process of unionizing. Several people quit during my temp period, so they ended up hiring me permanently.
What was your first union job?
This job was my first union job. In 1991, about a year and a half after I was hired, we finally unionized and I became a member of IATSE Local 695 for Production Sound Technicians, Television Engineers, Video Assist Technicians and Studio Projectionists. In 1998, the post production members of Local 695 became part of the Editors Guild.
Which of your credits or projects have made you the most proud and why?
I am proud of all of the experiments we took part in over the years, including the ones that failed. We tested for Digital Compact Cassettes, MiniDiscs, DataPlay Discs, MP3s/AACs, watermarking, Mastered for iTunes, and many others. It’s nice to think that our evaluations and opinions were important in helping move the technology forward.
What was your biggest challenge in your job (or on a particular project) and how did you overcome/solve it?
Every day is a challenge. We’re 99.9 percent digital now and it’s a constantly overwhelming task to keep track of all of the audio data — verifying that it’s of the highest quality and in the proper formats, delivering it to the appropriate destinations, and making certain that everyone who’s supposed to know about it is alerted. The only way to deal with it is to double- and triple-check every job.
What was the most fun you’ve had at work?
We had lots of crazy parties in the early years, but mostly it’s always fun just working with this crew. We’re really like family. The average engineer has worked here about 20 years, so there hasn’t been a lot of turnover. But, when someone retires or leaves for another job, they don’t get replaced. When I started, we had about 25 people working two shifts; now we have one shift and a staff of 13.
Jobwise, what do you hope to be doing five years from now?
I’m not really sure. With the technology developing so fast for at least 20 of my 26 years here, it seems that our crew keeps getting more streamlined. Nevertheless, we’ve weathered layoffs, takeovers, mergers, earthquakes, regime change, location change and name change and we’re still here. It would be great if the studio is still cranking in five years. If it isn’t, I’ll see how my skills and knowledge of the industry can adapt — and I hope the Guild will be there to help.
What are your outside activities, hobbies, passions?
Mostly spending time with my family. I also try to keep up on what’s happening in consumer electronics, and I’m very excited about the electrification of vehicles. I currently drive a Nissan LEAF and hope to move to a Tesla Model 3 in a few years.
Favorite movie(s)? Why?
Too many to list, but here are a few off the top of my head: Jaws, The Usual Suspects, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Stripes, Caddyshack, Smokey and the Bandit, Out Of Sight, 60 percent of Woody Allen’s movies… I could go on and on.
Favorite TV program(s)? Why?
This would be a big list too, but I’m going to say that Breaking Bad might have been the best TV drama ever. Six solid seasons and never a bad episode; it never “jumped the shark” and it had a finale that was perfect…except for the fact that it was the end.
What advice would you offer to someone interested in pursuing your line of work?
The more things go digital and “in the box,” the more you have to keep up with the changes. Be aware that different outfits use different engineering technologies. What I do here is mostly specific to Universal Mastering. Other studios might do something similar, but not exactly.
Was there ever a circumstance when you had to rely on the Guild for help or assistance?
Fortunately, other than contract negotiations, I haven’t really.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fellow Guild members, some words of encouragement?
Don’t let partisan politics get in your way. Despite what some non-union people say, unions are what made our workforce great. Let’s stick together and always vote for fair labor policies.
Compiled by Edward Landler
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