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Jeremy Snyder

Jeremy Snyder

Sound Engineer
Jeremy Snyder

New York based sound engineer Jeremy Snyder tours with UK band Idles when they are rocking the USA. One of an exclusive circle of engineers known for their ability to deliver for ultra-loud bands, Jeremy took time out to talk Idles, shit venues, nomads of the Sahara desert and his favourite Aston mics…

Idles, Fontaines D.C., Tinariwen, A Place To Bury Strangers, Bambara
Jeremy uses these Aston mics:
Spirit
Starlight
Touring with nomads

“I do front of house for Idles in North America. The band have another FOH engineer, Chris Fullard, so it’s always me or him. I live in Brooklyn, I do a lot of recording there and I mix in a few venues around New York and that fills my time out. On this tour I’m also mixing for Fontaines D.C. who are opening the shows.

When I was a teenager I was the only one in my circle of friends who was noticing bad recordings; no one else seemed to care about tone or phase or stuff like that. I remember not being able to listen to records my friends liked because I thought they sounded bad. So I took on the task of documenting my own band - and everyone else’s band.

I’ve always got really fixated with mass amounts of details while also trying to master things and so by the time I was seventeen I was obsessively consuming data on how acoustics work and how audio electronics work. I lied to some band and told them I was a professional sound engineer and they should hire me, and from then until now, I’ve been doing it. A lot of their records sounded f****** terrible.

I did some touring, doing monitoring for a West African band called Tinariwen. That was fascinating, they’re nomadic people from the Sahara. They’ve been around for a couple of decades and they’re pretty big in world music. Their relationship with the west is hard to explain, they don’t live anywhere, they just roam around the desert occasionally setting up camp. Their ethnic group is called the Tuareg. They have parties and get togethers all over the desert. They have passports from Mali but if you ask them if they’re from Mali they say ‘sort of’. The main guy in the group, Ibrahim, kind of pioneered guitar playing in Africa. When he started there weren’t really guitars available so he had to build his own. They’re like The Beatles of West Africa, even if you don’t like them you’re playing music because of them.”

‘We have to get this guy!’

“I got the gig because a friend of mine knows their management and told them ‘you should get Jeremy, he works with Idles’. So they went someone to Idles gig in Paris that I wasn’t doing, Chris Fullard was doing it, and he’s an incredible engineer and they were like ‘Oh f*** we have to get this guy!’ I didn’t know any of this until way later. They just Skyped me and I was thinking ‘Man, I got this gig real easy..’ They thought they were hiring Chris Fullard! It worked out though, I got along with them well. Chris thought it was hilarious.

I first got hooked up with Idles by chance. I had a couple of months where I was worn out with the music thing and thought ‘f*** this, I’m going to do something else.’ I was working at a bar, which I’m terrible at. The production manager of the New York venue, Rough Trade, would some into the bar and nerd out about the equipment and tell me I had to go and mix at his venue, but I didn’t want to mix any more. Then I got fired from the bar. Coincidentally the guy contacted me again and said ‘I know you don’t want to do this but I REALLY need someone to mix tomorrow night’. I needed the work so I took the gig and within two weeks Idles contacted Rough Trade looking for an engineer. It was right up my alley because I’d always worked with loud bands.

I actually think it’s a very specific thing – if you don’t mix live bands you don’t know how to, so a lot of those bands will turn around front of house engineers really quickly, because some engineers are terrified of volume. If you talk to Chris [Fullard] for example, we’re in the same circle of, say, twenty engineers who all know each other and it’s the same people who always get hit-up for those gigs. Anyway my boss knew it was for me so I went and worked with Idles and within minutes we were like family. Idles are really beautiful people.”

Destroying the spot

“I tour with my own mics - especially now I have the Astons - and some effects. It depends on the room; on the East and West coasts English and European bands will play big rooms like they would in their home towns, but once you get to middle America you get varying degrees of quality of venues. I like walking into a room that has a f****d-up PA, with not enough channels. If I can make a mix work in a total shit room I feel like I’m actually working.

So I bring my own mics, because I don’t like Shure microphones and everyone has SM57s and 58s everywhere, but I like to roll the dice on everything else. Idles are twenty channel, a very simple set-up, and even in a worst-case scenario, they sound great. They’re a very solid band, I never have to deal with any issues coming from them, so if everything else is sh*t I can build something around that.

There was one venue in Montreal where the left and right sides of the PA were two different brands of outdated 80’s period boxes. I had to make the better ones sound shittier to match the other side! The great thing about Idles is that when they’re in that kind of situation they instantly take it as a reason to just have the best show they’ve ever played. They just say ‘f*ck it, let’s have a great time’ and they destroy the spot (not literally). I have so many friends who tour with artists who are divas who are unwilling to see any perspective than their own.”

Making the kick drum sing

“One thing I do which is kinda strange is I use a kick drum mic on the hi-hats. Generally they’re really mellow in the top end, you can roll off the low end and if it’s a dynamic you get a little more isolation than with a condenser. If it’s a loud band with splashy hi-hats you can get a real mellow, but clear path. One thing a lot of engineers miss out on with loud bands is understanding phase relationship; with Idles there are five vocals and if I have them all in the centre its stacking frequencies in a really unhelpful way, so even slightly panning certain vocals imperceptibly takes some of the pressure off the speakers. It’s the same for guitars.

I f*****g love the Astons. I was pretty sceptical when I first got them, there are so many microphone companies and most of them are derivative of each other, and are mostly crap, especially when they’re affordable.

I’ve got two Spirits I use on the guitar cabs for Idles live but I’ve been using them in the studio too, it’s a really incredible kick drum mic, I have a vintage Rogers kit with a 20” kick drum and it really sings on that.

My favourite is the Starlight. Starlights are just unreal, they’re my favourite of any small diaphragm condensers. Usually SDCs are super-brittle and suffer this flatness in the lower mids. I use the Starlights as overheads with Idles but I’ll use them on anything down to 100Hz because I love what they’re grabbing. In the studio I’ve been using them on toms a lot, they’re so full-bodied, really incredible microphones. I honestly thought the laser was going to be a bit of a gimmick but I've been using it every time and, with the tone of these mics, precise placement has been key.”

Out-takes

Q. Who are your favourite artists?

A. As a producer, I find myself more influenced by artists from other art forms these days; Mark Rothko, Carlos Scarpa, Arthur Rimbaud, Gary Winogrand. But my favourite music artists are This Heat, The Jesus Lizard, Jim O’Rourke, and Throbbing Gristle.

Q. If you weren’t working in music what would you be doing?

A. When I was younger, I worked for an architect for a few years. I wasn’t very good at my job, but I found the relationship of aesthetic and function engaging so I imagine I’d have eventually become a terrible architect.

Q. What would your fantasy mic be?

A. A Coles 4038 that I could put on a kick drum without destroying the ribbon. Sony used to make a large diaphragm condenser called the c37; something as rich and versatile that could be snuck onto a snare drum would be sick.

Q.What are the 4 words you’d chose to describe Aston, or your experience with the brand?

A. Efficient, dexterous, robust, chill-as-fuck

Q. What is the first song that made you cry
A. Jesus Junior - Decent 9 to 5

Credits

Idles

Fontaines D.C.

Tinariwen

A Place To Bury Strangers

Bambara

©2018 Aston Microphones Ltd, All rights reserved.
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