After 10 years as studio engineer, I needed to go back to my original passion...so I've been mixing live sound for major productions, festivals and international artists now for over 40 years. Music is made of only a few notes, but the main challenge is getting those notes to everyone's ears and matching the listener's taste.
Born and based presently in Italy, with dual citizenship, 100% fluent in Italian and English. Experienced FOH sound engineer, team leader. Advanced skills in live concert production planning, operations and stage management.
Started mixing for club bands, which brought me touring in 1979 with Pino Daniele. This made me believe I could make a career out of this experience, so I enrolled in the Recording Workshop school in Ohio to learn and refine my skills. Thanks to this short, but intense experience, I was soon hired as resident engineer in one of the best known recording studios in Naples Italy for almost 10 years, meeting many top ten artists and musicians, some of whom I would soon be touring with after leaving the studio in 1991. Between 1991 and 2004, I found myself involved in multiple festivals, tours and live productions, always behind the FOH mixer.
Since 2004, I joined Nile Rodgers Productions, operating as FOH engineer and tech production manager, touring the world with CHIC feat. Nile Rodgers, as well as curating production advance, budget planning and crew management in the EU and USA.
Experience over the years has allowed me to create a healthy relationship with some of the most important rental services around the world.
A member of DOC Servizi Coop.
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Interview with John Ryan
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: I am proud of all the productions I've been on, but between 2004 and 2018, my primary role was production management and FOH mixing for the Chic Organization, led by Grammy winning and multi talented producer/musician, Nile Rodgers. I am now touring with Al McKay's Earth Wind & Fire Allstars, as well as Italian pop star, Mario Biondi.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: Digico SD7, SD5, SDTen, Yamaha PM1D, Yamaha Rivage PM10, AVID Profile. Adamson Y-Axys, E12, E15, T21, E119, D&B Audiotechnik J..... Funktion One VERO
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: Max Carola started turning knobs with me, both of us as amateurs and music lovers. Our careers have led us to different paths and cities, but I' more than happy to know that he has become a very successful producer and engineer. Ciao Max!
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Analog when I have time and space in a venue....digital when I need consistency in my mix. I sometimes don't have the luxury of sound checking, so loading a previous show file in a digital mixer is the only way to face crowds of 50,000 or more, waiting for their band to perform.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Every show is a new show, with different venues and acoustics and different ways of looking for the ideal result. The challenge is what makes things interesting.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: Q: Can you add some high end to the hi-hat? A: I suggest you have your ears checked. Q: Why don't I hear the same low frequencies reproduced from the PA when I record the show with my cell phone? A: Ever thought of using it as a cell phone? Q: This is a promotional tour to sell the record, so we need to ask you for a discount. A: Once the show is over, the artist earns royalties on record sales, while I'm home not earning anything. Q: Why can't I hear my boy friend's viola in that orchestra? A: Go and ask the other 79 musicians to shut up.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: There are many...I've been asked to make an out of tune vocal sound in tune, to add very low frequencies to a female soprano and other things. One thing some people don't understand is that the sound engnieer's job is to reproduce and balance every sound source coming from the stage. The secret to balancing multiple instruments and sound sources is that the sound sources need to be consistent in volume and dynamics, in tune and tailored to the song arrangement.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: How long is the tour? What are travel and hotel arrangements? Who is the primary audio supplier? Can I suggest my preferred vendor and production team?
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: My potential customer only needs to worry about transferring the money to my account. I make myself responsible for delivering the artistry the audience expects. I am not interested in dealing with customers who put most of their budget into departments other than what the audience is there for....a great show.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: Besides my wife and pets? My Allo Audio S4X headphones, an Audix D6, an SM58, a couple of Reference Laboratory RMC01 cables, a small analog mixer....can I bring 6?....my expresso machine.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: My musical taste has always been influenced by rock and roll, as well as dance/funk from the '70's. When I was hired to tour with Nile Rodgers & CHIC, it was a dream come true. The dream now continues alongside Al McKay's Earth Wind & Fire Allstars. Besides my many gigs with major Italian pop stars...Giorgia is my n°1 Italian artist. I heard her when she first appeared on the Sanremo festival, many years ago, and I immediately wished I could work with her. A few years later I was called by her musical director, who hired me to mix Giorgia live for a couple of tours.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Keep the source as natural as possible. To many tweets on a channel = the source (or microphone) has a problem.
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: Rhythm section and female vocals. I also work to keep the production team happy and friendly. A happy team is a successful team. Being fluent in both English and Italian is a plus.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: I have a past as a non-professional musician, so I use my personal taste when mixing, keeping in mind that every person in the audience has his/her own personal taste and ways of interpreting what they hear. I observe the audience closely during the show and if I see they are enjoying what they hear, this means I'm on the right track.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: I am introduced to either the client or the production manager, with whom I advance my artist's backline requirements along with all the audio/lights/visuals equipment the production team may require to deliver the show. This can happen months before we actually show up on stage, but it pays back when you find that planning ahead is always best.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: I don't own a studio setup, but I do occasionally remix our live performances when one of our shows is needed for broadcast or sharing for band rehearsals. It's basically an iMac and a pair of inexpensive monitors, an incredible set of OlloAudio S4X reference headphones.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: I curate all technical production advances, including the Artist's production rider and all that concerns the band's backline requirements, as well as programming production schedules, set up and sound check times and crew recommendations. That's work...the easy (and most enjoyable) part is mixing the show.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: I don't make promises. I do my job and if you trust me, we're on the same page.
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I started mixing in clubs, where I would meet professional touring and session musicians. These musicians have been the ones that got me attracted to the business by starting on a national tour, which led me to think that I should learn more about what I was doing. After a short, but intense, sound engineering course in Ohio, I was lucky to immediately find a job as resident engineer in a studio in Naples, Italy, where I sat at the main chair for almost 10 years. One of our clients asked me to go on tour with him after doing a short studio session, after which I dedicated my entire career to going live. I've crossed the path from analog to digital mixers, mainly because of the amount of on-board features digital mixers offer, as compared to analog mixers, with which you need racks of gear and extensive patching. Most of the times, I don't have time to patch and start from scratch, hence a digital mixer allows me to be consistent on every show I mix.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: Clean...easy...not too much processing. The musical source is the origin and most important part of the entire signal path and if what comes out of the speakers is close to what you would expect the source to sound like, the job is done. Using the correct mic placement, with the right cable is the "secret" to the result I expect.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: Any style...I love music, not specific types of music.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: I am always interested in meeting other professionals and seeing how they mix. This is a job where you learn every day and to share mixing techniques and methods with other colleagues is better than what you can learn in any school. The road has been my school.