Coffee Break Club: J-F Dagenais

Coffee Break Club: J-F Dagenais

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(Photo credit: Giovanni Ruiz Padilla Photography)

J-F Dagenais is a Canadian Juno Award Winning producer who’s known for his guitar chops in Kataklysm. He has also worked with bands such as: Ex Deo, Thy Antichrist, Misery, Index, Despised Icon, Malevolent Creation, Necronomicon, Kill Everything, Augury. We spoke about what got him started back in the day, lifesaving tips, what piece of gear made him go bananas recently and much more.

1. What was the thing that got you into Music Production?

– I grew up in the 80s and always loved all kinds of music since I can remember, specially old Iron Maiden, Metallica etc… It’s one of those things where I didn’t choose the profession. It kinda chose me. When I was in high school, friends of mine who played in a band wanted to record a demo tape. They asked me to work with them because I am the guitar player of Kataklysm and for some reason they thought it was a good idea. Here I thought.. hmm.. Interesting, let’s do it. We rented a small 16 track analogue recording studio. I had no idea what microphones I should be using and how to put the tape on the tape machine but somehow it turned out decent. I started getting calls after that from bands in the local scene about producing, recording and mixing. Been doing it ever since.

2. What’s your stance on the digital vs analog battle?

-I look at them as tools in my toolkit you know what I mean? I started working in studios in the early 90s so I’ve learned the old school way of doing things, calibrating analogue machines and slicing tape for editing, all that good stuff. So I got the chance and privilege to learn the analogue way. The digital technology as developed and made giant leaps since it first came out. I do appreciate both sides of the coin. I love Protools for the flexibility, the creative side of the process and the way you can just jump from a project to another and recall your settings BUT I still love to turn knobs and have a hands on the fader type of feel when I mix and that warm sound. I use a Dangerous 2bus summing mixer and still use my analogue EQs and compressors as a big part of my sound. 

3. Do you think one day software, emulation-hardware etc will surpass the real thing?

-I mean, I think its pretty damn close right now, the technology keeps getting better and better, younger audio engineers make wonders out of strictly using digital gear. From my point of view, it would be sucking out the fun of doing this job. I love my analogue machines, they sound great, I like the way they look and feel in my studio. I’m not against progress but I will always prefer them to using only digital.

4. How do you see the current Music Production scene? The pros the cons, what we might be missing/what we could improve?

– It’s a good time to be in this business, bands and musicians are no longer able to afford those big old school studios, Thats when engineers like myself come in to play delivering a quality product at a fair price. Whats important is not to loose sight of the big picture and at the end of the day, respect the art and vision of the artists we work with.

5. What’s the latest piece of gear (hardware/software) that made you go bananas?

I’ve recently came across a pair of these WA76 limiters from Warm audio. I find myself using them a lot. Very useful tool at a affordable price. 

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)?

Any sort of device that would make musicians play more in the pocket? hahaha Honestly, I’m not sure, I do appreciate the different challenges this job brings to the table everyday. Would be boring if some company would come out with the perfect tool where you could press a knob and make everything great. I think the key is and thats part of the fun as well,  to discover what works best for you and learn your gear inside out. 

7. If you could give one piece of advice to a young starting home-studio producer, what would it be?

First off, I’d say have fun doing what you do. Have patience with everything you do, Work hard, be honest with the artists you work with, It’s better to tell someone if you think they are doing something wrong so they can correct it. Always keep learning, question everything you know consistently and improve. Bethe best you can be with what you have.

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)

– I think perfection is in the eye of the beholder, art is meant to be a certain way at a given period in time. It gives certain albums a distinct tone and makes you appreciate them for what they are. I prefer to concentrate on current & future work, make them sound as good as I possibly can. Hopefully it will resonate with some people out there and they will appreciate it for what it is. 

9. How do you stay healthy during recording process? Exercises? Diets? Things to avoid? Things to remember?

You know,  the best trick I’ve learned after all these years is sleep. A good night of sleep makes everything better. Don’t be a super human hero an work 20 hour days, seven days a week. Your work will only suffer, and I am guilty of that in the past. never again. Take the time to rest your mind, body and soul. I think its the best advice I can give.

10. What’s the 1 item that a new producers shouldn’t be cheap with?

There is 2 things that comes to mind. Don’t be cheap with your computer / workstation. Its the basis of everything in this digital age of recording. Make backups of your work, I lean that the hard way! haha The second thing is monitoring, make sure you know your monitors / headphones inside out, listening environment has to be tuned right. It makes all the difference in the world if you understand what you are hearing.

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