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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > May 2019 > DARRELL THORP


Paul McCartney, Radiohead, Beck… Just a few of the names who have worked with nine-time Grammy Award winner Darrell Thorp. His never-ending quest for sonic perfection has established him as one of the most sought-after engineers and mixers in the USA

Many people starting their careers in the recording industry anticipate many years of toil, labouring behind the scenes before they even get close to the possibility of working with top-tier artists. However, Darrell Thorp’s first decade in production – as an intern and then an assistant engineer – tells a different story. Following four years in the US Navy, Darrell began his musical education at Arizona’s Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences. His talent for picking the right gear for the job quickly led him to an internship at Track Record Studios, before full-time stints at Conway Studios and the legendary Ocean Way.

It was during his time at Ocean Way that Darrell met Nigel Godrich and quickly formed a working relationship and friendship. This led to him to team up with the producer on records with the likes of Paul McCartney and Radiohead, as well as establishing a long-term, highly successful association with the genre-hopping Beck.

Thorp has been operating as a freelance engineer and mixer in his own right. His work has resulted in nine Grammy Award wins, including at the most recent ceremony where he and the rest of the production team took home the Best Engineered Album prize for Beck’s latest LP, Colors.

MusicTech How did your interest in production begin?

Darrell Thorp It started when I was really young. I was a teenager and I started playing guitar. I got very intrigued by the mysterious process of how records were made; it was like some kind of voodoo thing to me. I made friends with the guy that ran the sound department at the church that I used to go to. He started showing me tricks and tips and how microphones, cables, monitors and consoles worked. That gave me the bug, big time.

MT How was your experience of working with Nigel Godrich?

I’m so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Nigel as long as I did. I learned so much from him, particularly from an engineering standpoint. I really wouldn’t be the engineer that I am without his influence. He’s an amazing producer, but he’s also a darn good engineer. He takes a lot of risks. He commits and makes a decision right then and there about how something is supposed to sound and just goes for it. Earlier in my career, when I was assisting a lot, I noticed that a lot of engineers don’t really do that. They tend to record in a very safe way, where I think the mentality is that people can manipulate their quite flat-sounding recordings later in the mixing stage. Nigel was different. Nigel would just say: ‘I’m here, I’m ready, I’m going to record it and make it sound great and the mix is probably just going to be a rough mix because it’s basically done.’ So he’d do all the heavy lifting in that initial recording stage. All the decisions had been made sonically. I love that approach and try and work that way as much as I can.

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About MusicTech

Many, many years ago, when pop music was in its infancy, artists would record at multi-purpose recording facilities that were typically designed simply to capture the live performances of the bands and artists. During the 1960s, when pop music had seized the mantle as the dominant entertainment medium in popular culture, bands such as The Beatles and The Beach Boys grew frustrated by the limitations imposed on them by the technology of the time. Their desire to sonically innovate (not to mention the genius-level work of the producers and engineers they worked with) spearheaded the advancement of multi-track recording technology, as well as several techniques and recording approaches that are still widely used today. In our cover feature, John Pickford examines how much of this classic technology was used – and how we can replicate those approaches today in our own home studios, using very faithful recreations of key kit from decades gone by. Elsewhere this issue, we learn more about the art of stem mastering from London’s Wired Masters; discover how an effective understanding of social media can hep you grow your audience; talk to a range of producers and engineers (including the Grammy-winning Darrell Thorp) and review all the latest hardware and software. I hope you enjoy the issue.