What do Bryan Adams, Sarah McLachlan, Pink, Joe Cocker, The Cranberries, Bonnie Raitt and Nickleback have in common? Aside from sharing world-class artist status, they’ve all worked with Engineer/Mixer Chris Potter. Beyond Potter’s chops behind the console, his diverse skill set includes mastering, studio design/consulting and even electronics repair. Sonnox caught up with him at his Vancouver, CA based studio to chat about his work and Oxford plug ins.
How did you get started in the biz?
Back when I lived on the East Coast outside of Toronto, I began working with a band in a live sound situation. I also got to work in the studio with them, and immediately realised that was what I wanted to do on a full time basis.
I also have a strong electronics background, so in 1990 when I moved to Vancouver, there was an opportunity to work with Bryan Adams on a new studio he was building. I got in on the ground floor working with the technical designer Ron O Vermeulen, and was involved with the design and construction from the ground up. I stayed on with The Warehouse Studio for 10 years, as one of the house engineers and techs.
It was a great experience, every day was different and I also did a lot of traveling and live recording with Bryan (Adams). At the time, The Warehouse had a consulting company that designed and outfitted studios around the world, including Mutt Lange’s Studio in Switzerland. Overall, the idea of multitasking a bit and having experience in all fields really helps keep your business alive.
How did you get involved with Sarah McLachlan?
Through the consulting I was doing – she was building a private studio on her property. They hired me to help with the acoustic design and room construction. I ended up being hired full time as her studio engineer, and maintaining her studio. I’ve also toured with her and recorded several of her DVD’s, as well as all of Lilith Fair last year. I’ve been there for the past 11 years, while continuing to work as a freelance engineer.
I’ve also been mastering since 1998 and last year, I built a ground up studio on my property. It’s geared towards mastering, but I’ll also mix here as well.
How did you first discover Sonnox plug ins?
When Sarah got her Icon console, I just wanted a top rate EQ and Dynamics package. The Oxfords gave me the flexibility I was looking for, and that’s the main EQ on the console. I like to think of it as a console that has Dynamics and EQ built into it. The Oxford EQ and Dynamics are plug-ins you can rely on.
What other Sonnox plug-ins do you use?
I love the Inflator. I use it a lot in mastering, in conjunction with other software, because it adds a whole different character. If you just need that extra weight pulled up into the song without squashing everything, it gives it to you. I don’t even know how to describe it, but I just use it all the time. It can help make your mix sound a little more glued together.
The Sonnox Reverb is brilliant as well.
With Sarah, I use the Oxford EQ and Dynamics on her with the mix. But also, while monitoring back while tracking, I use the EQ to brighten up her headphone mix. But in the mix stage, I use them both. At that point, it becomes a little more surgical, and you really have to grind in there for some frequencies. The Oxford does that really well.
Sonnox Dynamics, reminds me of more of a hardware unit, it seems to add a little of its own character to the sound but it depends on how far you push it often I’ll just need it for a few dBs of control. But even the presets they give you set you up pretty well. Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of time to play around. In those situations I just pop on a preset and it will get me pretty close. Of course I’ll adjust from there, but they work great.
I do a lot of small studio design projects when I have time, and I end up having to put packages together for clients. When they ask me what plug-ins to buy, I always recommend Sonnox.