Kurt Ballou is an American musician/producer known for his guitar chops in Boston Hardcore band Converge. He works out of his Godcity Recording Studio in Salem, MA and he has worked with bands such as Converge, High on Fire, Everytime I Die, Nails, Kvelertak, Trap Them, Have Heart and many more. He also worked with Room Sound to create his Kurt Ballou Signature Series drum library. We spoke about how he got started, his workflow, how he’d like bands to go back to organic performances, how to stay healthy and much more.
1. What was the thing that got you into Music Production?
I got into recording out of necessity. At first it was so I could demo songs my band was working on. Later it was because I was really frustrated with the recording experience I had with other people. I felt like I couldn’t communicate my sonic ideas to the engineers because I didn’t speak their language. I had to start recording myself to understand how to better communicate with engineers, and, more importantly, what I could do as a player to make myself more recordable.
2. What’s your stance on the digital vs analog battle?
I like both. Digital is getting better and better all the time. The quality of current production tape is garbage, so I’m tracking into Pro Tools and mixing from Pro Tools through an analog console these days. I do quite a bit of sub-mixing ITB, so it’s a true hybrid setup. I think that I probably could make an ITB mix I was happy with, although I prefer to have my hands on some real gear.
3. Do you think one day software, emulation-hardware etc will surpass the real thing?
If it’s an emulation, I think the ceiling is to be equal to the real thing. But there’s tons of incredible digital tools out there which do things not possible in the analog domain. That is the future of digital in my opinion.
4. How do you see the current Music Production scene? The pros the cons, what we might be missing/what we could improve?
I’m fascinated by the technology, but as a player and lover of music, a lot of the ways that people record music these days is the antithesis of what, in my opinion, is fun about making music. My hope is that we can collectively learn some restraint on the production side of things, and go back to rehearsing our songs and recording fairly organic performances of complete songs. Make decisions along the way that inform all the decisions that come after it, rather than leaving everything in flux until the mix process.
5. What’s the latest piece of gear (hardware/software) that made you go bananas?
Oek Sound Soothe.
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)?
I would love for Pro Tools to put a wet/dry mix control on every insert regardless of what the plug-in manufacturer builds into their plug.
7. If you could give one piece of advice to a young starting home-studio producer, what would it be?
If you think you want to really purse this, don’t buy any prosumer level gear. You’ll waste a ton of money getting a lot of junk then having to flip it to upgrade. Better to have a small amount of high quality gear, than a large amount of mid-level stuff. And the most important things are monitors, and room treatment. If you can’t properly hear what you’re doing, nothing else matters.
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)
Yeah, probably everything I’ve ever done.
9. How do you stay healthy during recording process? Exercises? Diets? Things to avoid? Things to remember?
Like just about everyone, I could probably do better. I take at least one break a day and get out and walk. Plus I do stuff with the kid in the morning. I have to constantly remind myself to have good sitting posture.
10. What’s the 1 item that a new producers shouldn’t be cheap with?