troyleft. - Submerged

May 19th, 2021

Submerged, the latest project by troyleft. has just dropped. This 13 track project chronicles the ups and downs that come with navigating through recovery and shines a spotlight on real stories from his peers within the recovery community. During the mixing process, I had the chance to meet a few of his peers featured on this project at a Sober Living house in Milwaukee, WI and learn quite a bit about sober living and the recovery community. That experience definitely informed how I approached the mixing process; the stories you hear on this record gripped me and I tried to do my best to put them in the spotlight. They were all recorded on an iPhone and I ended up running most of them through the iZotope RX suite to help clean up the background noise.

After you listen through, let me know on Twitter what your favorite track is and what you think about this record. For me, "Narcan" has consistently been the track that has hit me the most. The beat is πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯ and the lyrics are real and inquisitive. To me, it sounds like he's asking society at large what it is doing to address this kind of situation. All in all though, this record has made me take pause and really consider addiction and how society responds to it.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use and/or mental health issues, I encourage you to reach out to SAMHSA via their website or on their hotline atΒ 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Paint Job

March 14th, 2021

Looking back, I can't help but laugh at the fact that in February of 2020, I was in the paint aisle trying to figure out what kind of respirator I needed to spray paint my guitar. I left that day empty-handed, definitely not thinking that in the near future, our lives would change for the better part of a year. By the time the virus showed up, there were no masks anywhere in stock. I had to wait a few months, but finally snagged one off of Amazon.

How did we get here you ask? Well, have you ever fallen prey to your destructive tendencies and regretted that time you took a screwdriver to the perfectly fine cherry red paint job of your electric guitar? No, just me?

Old Paint
Almost all of this damage was caused by teenage stupidity.

When it got warm enough, I sprayed a piece of scrap wood to help me decide on a color (which ended up being Rustoleum Gloss Grape) and headed to my parents' house to borrow their garage and do it for real. That's when things start started to go south, as I kept making mistake after mistake. The paint would peel and little air bubbles would form, and yet, I kept on sanding in between to try and even it out which inevitably made things worse. After three days of this, I gave up, packed up, and left in a huff.

When I got home, I bought an orbital sander and removed the old paint so I could start over. My current residence is garage-less, meaning the rest of the process was at the whim of the weather. I got the hang of the process eventually, but I had to burn through a lot of raw patience and persistence to get there. There were times the whole thing felt impossible. I briefly considered burning the damn thing, but I'm so glad I didn't because this guitar means a great deal to me.

So, that's my story. I think my guitar looks dope. Hopefully it gets some action outside of my studio this upcoming summer.

OkayT98 - Wisco Kid

August 29th, 2020
Wisco Kid (Front)
Wisco Kid (Back)

In the midst of this absolute dumpster fire of a year, my friend OkayT98 is currently lifting my spirits with his newest project, Wisco Kid. While listening to the project on repeat for the last week, it's become my favorite T98 project to date. Maybe I'm a little biased on that opinion since I got to lay down a guitar solo on the opening track, "Chase." While we definitely both did our thing on that one, my favorite track is actually a toss-up between "Panic" and "Goin' Ghost." Both of them have wildly different content, but the messages in both connect with me.

While working on this project, I was reminded of how much I miss making music with my friends. Loss of connection is something we've all had to deal with recently, and I sincerely hope that things come together soon. In the meantime, all we can do is continue to look towards the small things that bring us joy. This album has certainly done that for me, and I hope it does that for you too, whatever you may be going through at the moment. Check it out for yourself and tell me what you think on Twitter or Instagram.

For any guitarists or musicians out there, here are the tabs for the solo in "Chase." Get to practicing 😈😈😈

"The Sand and Stone Garden" located in Portland, Oregon


October 23rd, 2019

The end?

I'm done being a mixing engineer. I still use that skillset, but that role is not for me anymore. My social media has mixed messaging and I want to clear them up. A great deal of where I am today is owed to recording and mixing music. That path has brought me a lot of great music, memories, and friendships. I really value the perspective afforded to me, and I hope to keep giving back in any way I can. I got what I needed to out of this path, and I think I understand why I chose this. The choice to go into recording/mixing seems like an unconscious decision; when the opportunities presented themselves, and I jumped wholeheartedly, but lately it's felt like I was running away from my true intentions. From the start of piano lessons in 4th grade, music performance is really been the thing that's always propelled me forward. The words eluded me at the time, but pulling strange shapes made out of sound and manifesting them back into reality is what it feels like to be grounded in myself.

My job at Maple Tree was to help people capture their best performance, but in almost every session, I remember feeling like I should be producing instead of recording. I knew better than to overstep my boundaries, so I kept my mouth shut. I don't know that I've earned enough gravitas to go around ripping apart other people's songs and really push them towards the human limit. I don't know that I trust myself enough with my own music, and if that's the case, then what exactly am I doing? I guess that's the point of this post, a public declaration that I'm jumping into vulnerability and persistence. Doing it is gonna kick my ass, but I guess that's what I want.

Re: boot

September 23rd, 2018

Lego bricks

Out of the blue, my brother said he hooked me up with a recording gig by mentioning me to one of his co-workers named Jake. Sure enough, Jake emailed me, explaining his vision for his debut project and asked me to help him record it. At this point, I had been recording and producing for people a little over half a decade by this point, but I had never once before worked with someone remotely. He sent over a demo of himself singing and playing guitar, and that was all that I needed. After listening to it a few times, I realized this was clearly a guitar-driven project, something between hard-rock and alt-rock. I got so excited, and immediately starting charting everything out and laying down tracks. Each song ended up with at least six electric guitar tracks, for a really aggressive, thick sound. I'd say it took maybe an hour per part, and we ended up doing six songs, so you do the math. With guitar in place, I moved to laying down the rhythm. Since there wasn't a budget to track drums in a studio, I resorted to programming drums; it forced me to imagine what the part should sound like before laying it down, but I would never try to program drums for this kind of music, ever again. The bass followed the chords for the most part, although there were some moments where it had a counter groove; those parts were recorded straight into the interface, DI-style, on five-string active bass.

Those three sets of instruments made up the bulk of the music, but sometimes the song required a couple extra instruments. Acoustic guitar was, by far, the hardest instrument to get right due to apartment living. The electric instruments are nice because you can just plug everything in, no mics required, but you can't really do that with an acoustic guitar. As tracks got parts added, they got uploaded to the cloud so we could both mull over the arrangements. Eventually, Jake asked me to write a guitar solo for each track. Over the years, I've guest solo-ed on a bunch of projects and as a result, I have my own process: jamming. I just record myself noodling over the track for a while and splice melodies out of different takes together to create the narrative. With the narrative nailed down, I re-record the entire spliced solo and call it a day.

Back home

After finalizing the arrangements, we moved on to cutting vocals. We booked a session at good ol' Maple Tree Studio where we would meet face to face for the first time. I showed up an hour early for setup, and threw up an AKG C414, a Neumann TLM-103, and a Violet Amethyst as first guesses for the mic. When Jake arrived, as part of his warm up, I had him sing through each mic. We quickly moved forward with the Violet Amethyst as his vocal mic. The final vocal chain used was the Violet Amethyst into a Toft ATB16 into a DigiDesign 003, with a BLA mod, and finally into ProTools. We took the same approach for each song; he'd sing a couple complete run-throughs and we'd go back, section by section. By the end of the day, we had cut five out of six tracks and were feeling pretty good. Since we didn't get through all six songs, we decided to book another session in a few weeks.

April 14th rolled around and we found ourselves back at Maple Tree. The first item on the agenda was cutting the vocal for β€œRun or Stay” since we hadn't tracked it yet. Jake took me by surprise during the outro of this song with this gnarly, guttural scream which I think sounds amazing. We did a couple more takes of the scream and took a break to rest his voice. From there, we went back and re-recorded around 40% of the vocals on the rest of the project. With another intense eight hour session behind us, we both finally felt ready to start the editing process.

Diamond Piercing Levels
The vocal channel-strips used in "Diamond Piercing"

The glue

With all the tracks now done, I returned home, backed everything up, and started comping. If you don't know, comping is the process of stitching together various parts of a track to form a more polished performance. For me, after comping comes mixing. Truthfully, I use a lot of (probably too much) processing power come mix time, and these mixes were no different. Each vocal has stacked compressors to better control the volume and do proper gain-staging. Listening back, I kept wanting a more edgy bit on his voice. For this, I used a twist on "parallel compression." To achieve what I want, I duplicate the main vocal and add heavy compression, light distortion, and mix it in at a lower volume. The same process was used on both the electric guitar, bass guitar, and even the drums. For my time-based effects, I routed separate sends for both delays and reverb, saved it as a preset, and blended to taste on each song. The amount of reverb changed dramatically on "One More Time" where Jake wanted to go full-on arena rock, but the rest of songs have a pretty mild amount of reverb.

After about a month of sending mixes back and forth, Jake was pretty happy with the results, which meant it was time for mastering. Each two-track got an instance of iZotope's Ozone and started out with an EQ, compressor, and maximizer. A couple of revisions later, and some much needed car tests, and we landed on final masters. All in all, the process took almost a year, a fact I blame on the roughly 300 miles of distance between us. At times, the process was challenging and I picked up some good experience working in a "modern-rock" style. If you're curious what the final project sounds like, I've linked the single (my favorite track) below. Check it out and let me know what you think.