Stefano Morabito is an Italian producer who has worked with bands such as Fleshgod Apocalypse, Decrepit Birth, Internal Suffering, Hour of Penance, Obscenity, Hideous Divinity and many more.
He works out of his 16th Cellar Studio in Rome, Italy. We spoke about why 60’s engineers would’ve sold their mothers to get their hands on digital gear, why a sometimes a fancy GUI is all you get from an analog emulation,
how he got the name for his studio, what classic album he would like to see remixed and much more
1. What was the thing that got you into Music Production?
– It all started like in 1992 when I discovered that my old first cassette deck could be turned into a “sound on sound” multitrack recorder, removing the second head that basically erases the tape when you press record, before the tape hits the “recording” head. I begun experimenting doing multitracks at home, and later eventually programming on an old MSX basic computer a kick sound and a snare sound for my first home experiments, recording it on the “sound on sound” tape, and then playing a guitar on left and one right using a modified headphone cable. No internet back then, so no information on how to do everything.
But after a few years eventually i got my first working windows based pc, and everything became a lot easier, started recording some bands at home until 2001, when I migrated into a friend’s basement with all the gear I bought in the years and begun working with local bands.
(Fun fact: that place was the basement of Hideous Divinity’s guitarist Enrico Schettino, and it was numbered “16” on the door, so I liked the name “16th cellar studio” and kept it for the years to come).
then in 2003/2004 moved again to my actual location when things were getting more serious.
2. What’s your stance on the digital vs analog battle?
– I think that both are instruments through which you can achieve a result, one must choose which of the two is more practical in terms of workflow and audio quality, for the project that he’s working on. Some analog compressors still win hands down for me in most cases, but also, I think that audio engineers (like beatles one, Geoff Emerick) back in the ’60 would have sold their own mother to have our digital technology, so I would say that hybrid systems, based on digital recording, and analog gear win.
The only analog gear that i can’t relly live without, is my ears. Nowadays you can make a great sounding album ITB without external machines. It is not the gear that makes the sound, it’s how you use that gear, be it digital or analog.
3. Do you think one day software, emulation-hardware etc will surpass the real thing?
– Yes they already have. The workflow and mixing times skyrocketed since the introduction of digital DAWS and plugins. The only fact that you can load multiple instances of the same plugin on different tracks makes it practically unbeatable in terms of workflow, Even if the “plugin version” of the real hardware emulates it at 85% or 90%.
But of course, on very important stuff like kick and snare or drum bus I always find myself preferring an analog compressor.
It is also true, on the other hand that out there, there are around some “emulations” that are completely far from the real thing, and in some cases sound bad or react in a weird way, that is because in some cases it is very easy to put out plugins that have just the same GUI of the analog counterpart, less easy is to see how that machine works, and emulate that in the digital audio domain. So yes the whole system IS better, but i also have to say that can be like a minefield if you don’t choose accurately what to buy.
4. How do you see the current Music Production scene? The pros the cons, what we might be missing/what we could improve?
– Back in the days every single band had a characterized, distinctive sound. You could recognize a random album from a band just listening 5 seconds of it, think of Sepultura, Pantera or Slayer, just to mention big names, nowadays we have many bands that want the same sound of the previous one, few bands try to DARE the audience and see whats happening next. I understand that this also happens because there is more people playing, more bands, thus less and less options to explore. Diversity is what we are missing in my opinion.
5. What’s the latest piece of gear (hardware/software) that made you go bananas?
– The latest generation of Digitally controlled analog gear, like the Bettermaker Mastering Limiter, the Bettermaker EQ542 and the Wesaudio _Dione compressor, all great analog stuff that can be controlled via digital plugin, and opens up the realtime digital “automation” realm to the analog stuff, In the future I see myself buying more analog digitally controlled stuff. It integrates so good that it is the best option for the times to come. Everytime you open a project on your computer, you have a digital recall of compressors settings or eq settings. Yes it made me go bananas heheh.
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)?
– A tool that tells you when you are too ear tired to continue mixing that day. A bit like a driver alert system, hehe
7. If you could give one piece of advice to a young starting home-studio producer, what would it be?
– I’d say to focus on getting the cleanest result in recording. Then use your hears to improve that, risk everything to achieve a result and push it to the limit, don’t be afraid to attempt something unconventional, it could lead to the next “discovery” in the audio technique. And in the process (both if it goes good and if it goes bad) you always learn something useful. How they say: Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.
8. If you could go back in time to remix/master/record one album, what would it be? (Can be your own production or someone elses production)
– Haha! if it was really possible I would do anything to be there to see the recording process of “…And justice for all” of Metallica. Still love that rhythm guitar sound!! Lately I’ve seen around in the internet some stem versions WITH the bass guitar on it, and it sounds waaay better. Yes I would like to have an “And justice for all” with bass guitar eheh.