Ask A Professional: Recording Engineer Kenny Luong

Kenny Luong Recording Interview By: TJ Liebgott
May 10, 2010

Toronto Music Scene recently sat down with Toronto Recording Engineer, Producer and Editor Kenny Luong to discuss the recording process for bands new at the art. Luong trained at Fanshawe College and has worked on albums for Billy Talent, Cancer Bats, Barenaked Ladies, Die Mannequin and Comeback Kid, to name a few.  Here is what he had to say:

What advantage does a band gain working with someone like you versus recording an album themselves?

The main advantage is an "outside" perspective. Even great recording artists who have serious engineering or production chops know that they need some outside assistance sometimes. Trent Reznor is probably a fine example of this point. Having to dealing with the technical aspects of recording your own music can definitely change [the] vibe of the whole process especially when the technical clashes with the creative. I think most artists especially those in the rock genres of music can benefit greatly from this outside help in the form of engineering or producing.

What tips or advice can you give a band going into the studio for the first time?

Make sure you’ve done enough pre-production on your songs before entering the studio. You need to be confident about the general shape and direction of your songs. This means arrangements, tempos, vocal melodies and lyrics should pretty much be down pat before you even consider going into a studio to record. Unless you have a big budget to start off with that allows you the freedom to write at the studio, I would highly suggest against going in unprepared in this manner.

What are the common mistakes a new band makes when recording an album?

The most common situation inexperienced bands find themselves in is the disconnect from reality vs. their own perception of how they sound. It’s one thing to think you sound great at 120dBSPL at a live venue or a rehearsal space, but a recording being played back through small speakers at a sensible volume doesn’t lie about the musical skills you have. Most inexperienced bands don’t have the skill sets required for recording and usually that comes down to poor technique on their instruments. For example, musicians with bad technique will make the recording process a lot harder no matter how competent the engineer and/or producer may be.

In terms of an inexperienced band doing their own recording, I would say the most common mistakes they make is improper gain staging of the gear by recording too hot for example. Another common mistake is not editing your bed tracks properly and piling a bunch of overdubs on top of a dodgy bed track.

Why should a band not be recording their own demo?

I don’t think new bands should be making demos if their intention is to be picked up by a label of some kind. Most labels these days want a final product ready to market handed to them on a silver platter before they even consider signing you. With the proliferation of affordable recording gear that can get good results in the right hands, there is no point of making a demo in my opinion unless its for a songwriting demo.

When recording your album, what stage of the process should a band never skimp on?

A good food budget! This is probably the most important part of recording in my opinion. If you’re spending 10+ hours a day in a studio, you better be eating right! A good meal does wonders to the creative flow and the recording process.

Also, the band should never skimp on Mastering. You would be amazed at what a skilled mastering engineer can do to your tracks and it doesn’t cost that much relative to the cost of tracking and mixing an album usually.

What Toronto studio’s do you prefer to work in?  Why?

I normally work where ever the gig takes me, but my preference for a studio generally comes down to how convenient the facility is and how competent and friendly the owners and staff are.

Who are you working with right now?

Comeback Kid

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *