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Studio Legends

Legendary recording engineer John Siket works out of his Manhattan home studio. Photo by Annie Atlasman

From sessions with Steve Lillywhite, to pawnshop trolling for soundmakers with Thurston Moore, to making improv records with Phish, Siket is a creature of the console.

John Siket’s musical footprint is massive. As a producer and engineer, his resume reads like a who’s who of cool, influential, and creative musicians. Bands as disparate as Sonic Youth, Phish, Dave Matthews Band, moe., and Helmet have recorded with him. He’s worked with legendary producers like Butch Vig (Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Helmet, Garbage) and Steve Lillywhite (U2, Peter Gabriel, the Rolling Stones). And he may be the only producer/engineer to have an album named after him (Phish’s The Siket Disc).

Siket’s first serious gig was a summer internship in the mid 1980s at Bearsville Studios in upstate New York. “I was relegated to the shop,” he said. “I got to solder miles and miles of cable. But it was fun. I was in the studio, technically.” After a short stint substitute teaching and painting houses, Siket landed a job at Water Music in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1988. “I think they hired me because I knew how to solder really well,” he said. “I didn’t care. I was in a studio and I just had that fever.” He worked his way up the ranks, from assistant to house engineer, and cut his teeth recording acts like Yo La Tango, Freedy Johnston, and Fountains of Wayne.

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When Louis Cato received this Univox LP-style as a gift in high school, it needed some major TLC. A few years later, it got some practical upgrades and now makes regular appearances with Cato on The Late Show.

Photo by Scott Kowalchyk

The self-described “utility knife” played drums with John Scofield and Marcus Miller and spent time in the studio with Q-Tip before landing on Stephen Colbert’s show as a multi-instrumentalist member of the house band. Now, he’s taken over as the show’s guitar-wielding bandleader and is making his mark.

It’s a classic old-school-show-biz move: Bring out the band, introduce them one by one, and build up the song to its explosive beginning. It’s fun, dramatic, audiences love it, and that’s how every The Late Show with Stephen Colbert taping starts.

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Andrew Scheps pilots the Neve 8068 console at Punkerpad West, his Van Nuys, California, studio.

Engineer/producer Andrew Scheps mixes Black Sabbath’s return to the top of the charts.

Andrew Scheps earned his spot in the center of the control room the old-fashioned way: by doing whatever job needed doing for some of music’s biggest artists—and doing it well.

After starting his career as a technician for New England Digital (creators of the Synclavier, one of the first digital audio workstations/synthesizers/samplers), Scheps went on to do synthesizer programming, drum loops, Pro Tools editing, and more for artists ranging from Michael Jackson and Jay-Z to Earth, Wind & Fire and Iggy Pop. Along the way he made a connection with mega-producer Rick Rubin (Johnny Cash, Slayer, Run-D.M.C., Metallica, Tom Petty, Eminem, Adele, and many more) and began engineering many of his projects. The latest of these is Black Sabbath’s 13, the band’s first studio album since 1995, and the first full studio album featuring Ozzy Osbourne since 1978’s Never Say Die! The comeback album reached #1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 charts, debuted at #1 in Canada, and became the first chart-topping album for Sabbath in the U.K. since 1970’s Paranoid.

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Engineer/producer Michael Wagener recalls the heyday of recording hard-rock and metal titans acts like Metallica and Megadeth, as wells as how to find your speaker cab’s sweet spot and make your mix sound huge.

  Michael Wagener keeps busy making records and teaching workshops in his Nashville-area studio.

For those who like their rock with flash—both technical and visual—the ’80s were a watershed moment in guitar history. If there’s praise/blame to award any single player for starting the whole trend, it probably goes to Edward Van Halen and his game-changing 1978 debut of “Eruption.” It took a couple years for players to figure out his approach en masse, but it’s safe to say that without Edward there likely never would’ve been bona fide shred masters like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani—nor the legions of players who had the hair and the “super strat” but far less-memorable chops and songwriting savvy.

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Engineer/Producer Bil VornDick’s projects include acoustic imaging for the Fishman Aura system and Martin Guitars’ Retro series.

Engineer/Producer Bil VornDick, the master of recording acoustic guitar, shares his secrets.

Experienced acoustic musicians know that when it comes to making stellar recordings, there are only a few engineer/producers who get the call, and Nashville legend Bil VornDick is at the very top of the list. He’s worked on more than 40 Grammy-nominated projects and eight have been Grammy winners—to say nothing of the dozens of other awards his recordings have won. Starting as a guitar player in Virginia, he was encouraged by Chet Atkins to relocate to Nashville, where he found his calling as a recording engineer and producer. Though he is especially renowned for his ability to capture incredibly natural, lifelike, and detailed performances on acoustic instruments—with a particular love for acoustic guitar—VornDick can and does record every style.

He’s also well known for giving back to the music community, with his involvement in organizations such as the AES (Audio Engineering Society), the All Star Guitar Night charity concerts, the Audio Masters Benefit Golf Tournament, and many more. VornDick recalls how he went from his teenage rock band to taking advice from Chet Atkins, who introduced him to Nashville’s Belmont University, his alma mater and a place where he now mentors the next generation of engineers and producers through teaching.

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