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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Sep 2019 > JOHN BARRETT


We continue to put your questions to Abbey Road’s recording talent. This time, an engineer whose credits include score recording for Phantom Thread and Avengers: Endgame…

For the third instalment of our Ask Abbey Road feature, we have John Barrett, one of the world-famous studio’s newly promoted and up-and-coming audio engineers. John has 14 years of experience under his belt at the iconic facility and has rapidly risen through the ranks, from tea boy to assistant engineer to score recordist and, just recently, to engineer.

The lion’s share of John work at the studio is orchestral recording and his recent credits include recordist for the climactic Avengers: Endgame score and score mixer for Jonny Greenwood’s Oscarnominated score for Phantom Thread along with recording the score for Steven Price’s Our Planet. John is equally comfortable working on pop records and has recently recorded live sessions with George Ezra, James Bay, Slaves, Krept & Konan, Mike Skinner and Flohio. Here, MT readers ask John their burning production questions…

Paul How do you approach in-the-box mixes? With my mixes, it feels like, early on, more subtle elements can disappear?

John Barrett I don’t think there’s any technical reason why that would happen. The main difference between in-the-box mixing and working on an analogue console is in the way you start and approach the mix. When you’re on faders, it seems far more tactile and you’re more likely to do things intuitively.

I remember when I started doing my mixes in-the-box, I was a lot more reluctant to be radical early on. You can start looking at EQ curves rather than just feeling it. I think that if you can approach an in-the-box mix as you would mixing on an analogue console, you’re going to get a decent balance straight away. The other thing about in-the-box mixing is that you can spend hours stuck thinking about which plug-ins to use. If you’re mixing on a console, you’d probably just put an EQ on and immediately start playing and making progress.

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About MusicTech

It’s probably not all that contentious to say that everybody, at some stage in their music-making journey, needs a synth. Whether you’re working on deep, intricate soundscapes, creating pounding dance music or concocting chart-climbing pop hits, taking advantage of the myriad textures, pads and leads that the synthesiser provides is a no-brainer. This month, we celebrate this beloved instrument with a series of linked features, highlighting the history, science and ongoing development of the synth. We speak to Georgia, an artist who wowed Glastonbury with her retro synth-pop stylings; take a trip to Bristol to visit UDO and look at the making of the Super 6, a synthesiser that merges the very best of old and new technology; while Andy Jones delves into the synth’s pivotal role in shaping dance music. We also continue Adam Crute’s Sound Synthesis Masterclass series, this time exploring the science and mechanics of sampling and synthesis. Aside from our synth focus, we also have a fantastic interview with The Prodigy engineer and co-producer Neil Mclellan, who tells the inside story of the making of their classic record Music For The Jilted Generation. We also speak to MPG Breakthrough Engineer Of The Year 2019 Dani Bennett Spragg about her incredible career to date and her best-practice advice. Later, we experience the mind- (and ear-) blowing wall of sound that is James Murphy and Soulwax’s Despacio sound system. Our review section this month continues the synthy vibe that runs through this issue, as we get hands-on with Native’s latest iteration of Massive X, have some fun with Modal’s CRAFTsynth 2 and explore the scope of Softube’s Volume 3. I hope you enjoy the issue.