Mixed and co-produced "Amour Bohemian" by Merch. An immense project featuring contributions from 65 different artists, including the 30-piece Prague FILMharmonic. Members of The Growlers & The Blank Tapes are featured on the album, which Oh Sees' John Dwyer is already calling "a masterpiece." https://www.popmatters.com/merch-ten-quetzales-249537
Mixing has a technical side but the most important thing, I think, is understanding the music and what the artist is going for. I'm a band guy that turned mixing engineer over the years. So I play a few instruments, sing, and have a musicality to my approach. It's not about how punchy and dominant the kick is unless that's what the artist is going for.
My process involves getting reference mixes of the song, getting reference mixes of other comparable music, talking to the artist about what they do and don't like, where they want to go, doing some initial quick mixes to see if we are on the same page, and then logging time on the mixing. Starting a mix before that is a waste of time and money. : )
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4 ReviewsEndorse Chris Porro
My first time working with Chris and I was very impressed by his dedication, work ethic and ear for mixing/mastering. Very hospitable and a great communicator. 5 stars!
Chris mixed my old band Throwing Rocks a couple of years ago and also recorded some fixes that we wanted to make for guitar and vocals. It was really awesome working with him, he made the whole thing sound amazing. Will definitely hit him up again for future projects!
I have worked with Chris on several music-related projects over 10+ years. He has blossomed in that time into a trusted mixing-engineer extraordinaire. My latest album, Amour Bohemian (recorded under the moniker MERCH), was a monster of an undertaking with many disparate elements having to be woven together into a whole. Porro was my trusted confidante through every step of the process, ready at the board, able to think outside the box for creative solutions. The album has received praise in everything from PopMatters to PASTE & would likely have not been possible without Chris.
Chris Porro is THE BEST. My band, Black Angel, has worked with Chris for about six years and he has recorded, mixed and mastered five of our albums. Of the 250 songs that I have produced over the years, Chris is the only engineer who I have ever allowed to mix and master my songs when I was not present. I am a singer/songwriter/guitar player/producer. Chris's brilliant ear and great work ethic has led to some wonderful music for our band. I couldn't recommend him enough.
J. C. Martin
Interview with Chris Porro
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: I saw a punk band locally in San Francisco. Really liked them but what they had posted online didn't have the energy of the live performance. I asked them if I could hear the raw tracks and if they were interested in having them mixed again. They gave me the tracks. I sent them an initial mix. And they asked me to mix the whole album. In my opinion I got them about 2-3 letter grades improvement. Punchier drums, clear vocals, more energy. Sounded more like the live show. Very cool experience.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: Nothing. Ha. Thus filling out my profile and trying to get more work. : ) I'm keeping my ears sharp working on some personal projects.
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: Not that I know of. Most of my music connections were met offline.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Silly question. You can make great music either way. early on (80s, 90s) AD/DA converters were not so good. so i can understand how someone who had listened to dark side of moon for 15 years on a good home system might have thought the CD version sounded thin. But good converters have been around now for like 20 years. Digital can sound great now. So now it's more about romantic attachments imo. For me it will probably stay digital. I think this is because I didn't start out using analog. I'm very used to some of the digital perks now like precise editing, a million undos, snapshots, cheaper, less maintenance, no patching in hardware. In the end I just want to make good music not maintain a tape machine. Me and a buddy did look into buying a 1" tape machine at one point and after a bit of research.....nope.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: I'm always trying to make something sound as good as possible. If we disagree you will always win....but I will give you my honest opinion. "I think that bass line is awesome but if you want to bury it... it's your call."
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Taking something from demo land to album land.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: can we make ______ louder? yes, but probably not by just pushing up the faders. We need to create space for things. we need to figure out what the lead roles are and what the supporting ones are.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: That you can fix anything in a mix. That mastering is more influential then mixing. That mixing is just about setting faders. That mixing is easy.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: How much experience they have with the mixing process. If they have a vision for the song or do they just want to hear all the parts and have it sound cohesive.
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Yes. make a minute (spend only one minute doing it) reference mix where you set the basics levels of your song. This gives me an idea of how you hear it. Pick something commercial and similar to your song as a second reference. Hearing is much more helpful then saying. Tell me what you like and don't like about the mix. Be organized. You want to pay me for mixing not labeling your files or trying to sync them up.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: I think what you're asking it what gear do I find the most useful for mixing. Otherwise I'd take a guitar, my drums, piano, some multi track, and a mic. But for mixing: 1) hands down reaper. best daw out there for the money. fast, efficient, customizable, and a great value. I've used protools, samplitude, sonar. reaper all the way for me. 2) track spacer. new to this one but loving it. 3) TDR Nova. this one is free! 4) maybe valhalla reverb. It's my goto for big reverbs. but must admit I haven't shopped around for a few years. 5) my logitech marble track ball mouse which has put off carpel tunnel at least for a few years.
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I was in my first band at 16. So for a long time it was about making and playing music. We'd come up with some cash and go into a pro studio but we never got a professional engineer. We always got what we could afford...a student or someone with less experience. And the recordings and mixes were pretty bad. Around 2000 I downloaded the free version of protools to record some ideas I had. That was the beginning. Because after that I had to learn about mics, and room treatment, and monitoring, and mixing. So I mixed for my own projects for a few years. Then started mixing for people I knew for free. Then finally in about 2013 I started charging for mixing and producing. Now I don't know that you could call this a career because so far I've never made enough money to support myself with mixing. But every year I get closer. And my skill level has grown a lot. : )
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: I want to make music I'm proud of. I don't know that I have a style. I mean on some rock I like the kick to be quite big (bigger then typical...more like hip hop) but I would never try that on a folk song. Or would I? : ) In general I like big sounding mixes. big bottom end. space around the vocal. big sounding guitars opposed to ear piercing peaks at 2k. I tend to leave a lot of bass in the vocals if I can instead of filtering them like mad. But it's all project dependent.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: Sturgill Simpson. I like his material a lot. Have seen him live 3 times. He's a great player. I haven't done much country but Sturgill isn't a formal country artist. He's taking all kinds of cool risks with country. I also like the guy a lot based on the interviews I've heard of his.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: I've recorded live drums but also programed them. If you are programming them the hardest thing to nail is detailed cymbal work. So I have maybe 10 cymbals hanging around that I use to augment programmed drums. Luckily I play drums so I can generally perform what I need.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: Indie, Rock, Punk. A lot of stuff not coming out of world class studios. ha.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: listening. if you can't listen well you don't know when or how to use all that gear.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: I think I make musical decisions not just technical ones. I used to be more technically focused but I realized it was hurting me. It's more important to see the big picture because that's how most people experience the music. Few people (aside from engineers) buy an album for the great snare sound.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: It's boring. You asked. I import all the tracks. then go through them listening one by one. labeling them. creating folders. what i'm trying to do is understand the song and all it's parts. i'm also making it easy/fast for me to mix later. then i'll play the whole song and adjust some basic levels. just so i can here it all together. about this time i'll listen to the reference mixes and read whatever notes i have from the artist. sometimes they are sitting behind me which is handy. I think of mixing as a iterative process. So the first passes I'll get the most obvious stuff. Sometimes the drums are drowned out, or the guitars are too competitive with the vocals...it depends on the song. Fix that..move on. Often I find it's a good idea to walk away for a while and come back fresh. basically I go over the song in passes until it's as good as it's going to get... where changes make it sound different but not better. that's when i know it's done. i also do comparisons to references mixes to see how it stacks up with commercial material. I typically focus on the vocal and drums/bass first and then add in the rest but it's totally song dependent.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: It's what used to be a bathhouse and then horse stable behind a 100 year old house in San Francisco. When I first got it there was an opossum living on the window. Now it's been remodeled and is much more comfortable. I mostly monitor with some Mackie HR824s. Not fancy but I know them very well after more then 10 years. To a lesser extent I use some mixcubes and a set of Beyerdynamic DT 880s. I've tried mixing with control surfaces but always go back to a mouse and a small single channel fader controller (alphatrack). I think people use whatever they get comfortable on. I got comfortable on a mouse for the most part because I didn't start in the traditional studio system with large consoles. I started by trying to record my band on the cheap! I have some GIK acoustic treatments but am also trying out acoustic drapes. I ordered them from a stage curtain company. Although they are probably one of the more expensive ways to soundproof they are also very flexible. I can put them completely into a pocket or have them cover about 50% of the walls. I have one wall that's about 50% glass behind my mixing station. Great for room modes. Less great for sound proofing! I may build some freq specific bass traps up the road....we'll see.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: I'm mostly impressed by artists since that's where I started off. In no particular order: Jane's Addiction, later Flaming Lips, Elliot smith, NWA, Public Enemy, Eminem, Helmet, Sturgill Simpson, Pharcyde, Baroness, Purple mountains, Beck, James Brown, Some Kanye, Violent Fems, Qbert and a bunch of lesser known artists. As far as mixers go I'd love to learn from any of the big guys. Andy Wallace, Dave Pensado, Bob Clearmountain. Andy would probably top my list.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: Get their music from demo stage to album stage. This is usually via a good mix but at times requires re-recording tracks. Sometimes it requires putting on the producers hat and making musical suggestions.