The mix room as seen from the sliding doors
“I also tend to use a lot of hardware inserts permanently patched in Pro Tools and I just insert things through my I/O bus instead of over channels. So on the Pro Tools I/O inserts page you have pairs of outputs which are dedicated for inserts and over those I have about 10 dedicated bits of outboard which I use on every mix.
“I do that so I can use the automation in Pro Tools, otherwise if it was patched over the desk and I used the automation in Pro Tools it would be pushing against the compressor on the channel. Also I don’t have to do any patching every time I call up a session. On some vocals I might use a Pye compressor, on some other I might use a EAR compressor, UREI 1176, Pultec or Drawmer compressor; it just depends.
“I can also chain things over a vocal or a guitar and I don’t have to patch anything on the patchbay. All that stuff stays the same. Obviously if you are reamping something or trying different tape or vocal delays then you have to patch those, but I usually print those so it is committed and done and when I come back to a song it is very quick.”
Even when Cenzo has to return to a project after mixing something else, and has to reset all the hardware, he does not find it too much of a hardship. “It is very quick to get back,” he insists. “Obviously it is slower than an in-the-box mix, but I found that it is quick enough at this point. You have got to be able to come back to things, because people expect changes far more now than they used to. I’ve got three or four mixes out waiting for approval and I haven’t heard back for two days, which used to be unheard of, and now it is quite normal. But I can’t wait for people.
“We use a software recall system called Teaboy which is fantastic. My engineer Joe opens his laptop, resets the song and every piece of outboard gear is there as a photograph and you can move the knobs on the photograph to show exactly where everything is, so we can do recalls very quickly. And the fact that we don’t have to patch much saves enormous amounts of time.
“Of my outboard, I really like my Neve 33609 compressors. I’ve got three which I use for everything. And I’ve got two UREI 1176s which I couldn’t do without and I use on everything. They are generally reserved for vocals but if, for example, I choose to use an EAR for vocals then I can’t wait to use the 1176 for something else. And my Teletronix LA3A which I couldn’t do without.
“For Bass I tend to use a Teletronix LA2A, and I reamp bass DIs a lot through a Hiwatt amplifier because it gives bass the presence and grit it needs to sit in a mix.
When asked what it is that the analogue processors, in general add to the sound, Cenzo is quick to answer. “Definition, colour, presence, and space, but without using much reverb. I don’t like using a lot of reverb if possible, unless it is meant to have it, and if I do, I quite like using Altiverb or Trillium Lane Labs springs.
We’ve got lots of outboard springs and we reamp through guitar amp springs to add colour and interest. Not just for guitar, though, for anything, including vocals.
“And I’ve got a couple of stand-a-lone springs like the Audio Kitchen reverb, which is basically a spring in a guitar head. That’s just amazing and is one of my favourites.
“So we try to add that kind of stuff which I prefer to only using the plug-in equivalent. There’s nothing wrong with plug-ins, I just find that if I am using a UREI 1176 for parallel compression on vocals it sounds a lot better than a plug-in. There is something about the way it distorts, especially in the high-mids, that adds something to the vocal. It doesn’t particularly make it distorted, it just brings the vocals out of the mix a bit and helps differentiate them from everything else that’s going on and obviously that is the most important part of the mix. So I tend to use a lot of analogue on the vocals.”