Photo (c) by: Markus Saarinen http://markussaarinen.com/
Matias Kupiainen is widely known for his lightning fast guitar work in the legendary power metal band Stratovarius. But he’s also a killer engineer and has worked with bands such as Stratovarius, Apocalyptica, Kiko Loureiro, Turisas, Battle Beast, Shear and many more. We reached Matias and spoke about how he got into recording, laptop producers, unpredictability of analog sound, electricity free studios and much more!
(Interview translated by: Ron D. Rock)
I was about 10-12 years old in the mid 90’s when recording and mixing became a thing for me, we had a garage band and needed to make a demo there. Of course we wanted to sound like Metallica & Nirvana but one mic & cheap cassette recorder can only get you so far haha. Then in junior high I moved into 4 track (which we did a lot of work with) and around that time the first DAWs also came out so I could move stuff into PC and tweak the sounds even further. Guitar playing and recording went hand in hand for me and there really was no specific thing that made me want to become an engineer, it just happened naturally. Later on things evolved even more and I got into having my own production company and multiple studio units.
2. What’s your stance on the digital vs analog battle?
Both have their place. I’d see myself somewhere in the middle and it’s something I don’t want to quarrel over. Although I’d see myself as part of the dying breed of analog engineers, which is unfortunate. There are many newer producers/engineers who cannot use the old analog consoles or tape machines but still they have the energy to argue over which analog emulation does it the best. Same goes with guitar gear; hardware has that certain tone, feel and sense of unpredictability that isn’t available in the digital realm yet. Though I think that they both have their place and that they’ve found a balance especially in the modern metal scene. Still though nothing beats riding the faders on a big SSL or Neve console.
3. Do you think one day software, emulation-hardware etc will surpass the real thing?
Probably some day, but not in the near future. Analog/vintage gear remains in our signal chain in one form or the other as long as we use microphones to capture sounds made by human beings. The day we have some sort of Brain to Audio USB interface, that’s the day we no longer need those Neumann’s and Neve’s.
4. How do you see the current Music Production scene? The pros the cons, what we might be missing/what we could improve?
The scene is challenging today. Production budgets are going down but simultaneously engineers are constantly asked to do more for less and faster too. It certainly doesn’t help that every “laptop producer” now competes in the same market. The rock/metal field is going through a surplus phase where things begin to lose their taste simply because everything is readily available and it makes copycatting easier. There aren’t that many truly bold statements out there and it seems like it’s gonna take an extra pair of cojones to make something truly different.
5. What’s the latest piece of gear (hardware/software) that made you go bananas?
Slate’s reverb is really good and it has virtually replaced all my previous hardware/software reverb units that I’ve used. Though it’s not as crazy as my SSL 4056 G+SE that I got from the UK in 2010. Nothing beats its tone and workflow.
6. Let’s say we could get the brightest of the brightest and smartest of the smartest to come up with a piece of gear (software/hardware) and it could eliminate one annoying thing, what would it be (could be audio or anything, physically impossible or possible)?
If you could remove all the hum/noise/ground loop problems from analog distortion hardware, that’d be nice. In fact I’d like it if we wouldn’t need electricity at all to use any of these gadgets.
7. If you could give one piece of advice to a young starting home-studio producer, what would it be?
Track like there’s no mixing. Concentrate and focus enough while tracking so you won’t have to tweak your mix too much. There’s no plugin out there that will save a shitty take!
8. There’s a lot of gear oriented bands/artists out there who want to use certain things for the sake of their name and the hype behind them.. what is your exit strategy to get the artist to go with the best tool for the job instead of just choosing the biggest/loudest/most expensive piece of equipment?
That’s a tough one.. Each unit generally produces a unique sound and there’s no price tag to that. If you’re after “the tone” it usually comes with the heftier price tag. “A broke musician cannot afford a poor sounding amp” has been my motto. Your ear for tone develops over time and you should learn to make the most out of tools you already own before you blow insane amounts of money into some insanely cool gear. On the other hand there are and always will be people that are into all things over the top, but that doesn’t affect my life.