In this new exclusive interview, renowned producer and engineer Will Yip gives Blow The Scene readers around the world the inside story behind his rise to prominence in the music world. Yip touches on his approaches to engineering and producing, working with artists that vary from Ms Lauryn Hill to Title Fight, recording with a sought-after Neve Console, his newly announced partnership with Studio 4 and Phil Nicolo, plus his forthcoming, one-of-a-kind compilation, Off The Board: A Studio 4 Family Compilation featuring a plethora of leading talents that have worked with this multi-talented producer.
Without further ado, lets hear from Will!
Joshua BTS: Greetings! Thank you for taking a few minutes with Blow The Scene readers from around the world. What are you currently working on at Studio 4 in Conshohocken, PA?
Will Yip: Hey Josh! Awesome to do this! I’m currently wrapping up Anthony Green‘s record called Young Legs and Polar Bear Club‘s record Death Chorus. Both are incredible and without a doubt both artists’ best records yet. I’m so happy to have been a part of it.
Joshua BTS: You are often credited as a Producer and/or Engineer. These terms are often used interchangeably in music press, but they have quite different meanings. At this stage in your career are you putting more emphasis on engineer work, production, or a combination of the two? What aspect do you do find more enjoyable?
Will Yip: I love both. Both are so important to a record. Honestly, they go hand in hand with one another. Nowadays, I really try not to do one without the other because to me, it all adds together help reach one vision. At the end of the day, its all about making the song better and both production and engineering are so integral to that!
Joshua BTS: One of the aspects of Studio 4 that often receives a lot of attention from music buffs is the fact that you implement a Rupert Neve Design 8048 console for tracking. For those unfamiliar- What makes this board so special? And how does its implementation affect the way you approach your recording projects?
Will Yip: The Neve console is the heart of the console. They just don’t make it like these anymore. Thy were hand built 40 years ago and still to this day, nothing beats it. It’s so hard to explain but unless you work on one, you really can’t feel how much better they are. It’s incredible. The sound is so huge and colorful, while still being very pure and natural. Honestly, it’s the way live music performance should sound. That’s why for our recordings, we like to implement the concept of “real” performances, and this board really accentuates that “realness”. Honestly, its hard to make that thing sound bad! Ha!
Joshua BTS: You’ve built quite a catalog of clients over the years with an impressive range of styles and genres everything from hardcore bands like Blacklisted and Title Fight to Ms Lauryn Hill. You’ve worked with Lauryn for years on both recording and live settings. I’d like to focus on that for a moment. How did you come to link up Lauryn? How has the experience of working with her been? And will you be tracking her new album that is slated to come out this year or next?
Will Yip: Working with Ms Lauryn Hill has been a life changing experience. It has taught me so much in a such a short amount of time. People tell me I got a crash course in the industry that takes people 30 years to learn by working with Ms Hill in 3 years! Ha. It has been incredible though. I got linked up through, here through the studio. She used to put her records out with Phil Nicolo (my partner at Studio 4) and his brother via Ruff House Records so they had a connection. When she was ready to make music again, she called us in and we hopped on board in 2009. We started out working just in a studio, even building a studio in her house, and then she brought me out on tour to do every job imaginable. It was crazy. I got to travel the world and learned more skills in the industry than I ever thought I would from tour managing to mixing front of house in front of crazy sized rooms and everything in between. We are all like a family now, I already worked with her on the new stuff recently, and hopefully when she’s ready, I’ll be there to help again.
Joshua BTS: What originally inspired you to become involved with recording? I know you are also a gifted drummer. Did the recording interest spawn from your history of drum work?
Will Yip: Thanks man! I started out as just a drummer in a band. When I recorded my first demo in a studio when I was 13, I fell in love with being in a studio. I love creating and I love seeing through a record that started from scratch. So it was just natural for me to get into production. I will always love to play, but producing just allows me to do something nothing else does- It lets me see through a whole vision for a song and that’s what I love about production.
Joshua BTS: Where did you receive the majority of your engineer training? What aspects of your education did you find the most applicable to what you do currently? And what formal paths of education would you recommend to the next generation looking to become the next Will Yip behind the board.
Will Yip: ALL of my engineering training came from just doing it! I bought my old boss’s old gear when I was a sophomore in high school, set it up in my parents’ basement and just starting messing with stuff, hoping that it all worked. Ha. I started recording my own bands’ stuff and since then, I’m engineering every single day.
This craft is something you just can’t only learn in a classroom…You need repetitive practice. In college, I did take engineering classes but I probably got more out of the music industry classes that I took. I was already working in Studio 4 by then. The business background probably helped me more.
As for education I recommend; I strongly suggest going down a path that leads to internships! Again, being in the environment everyday is what you need, not only being in a classroom. Being a successful producer is not just being able to mix or record, it’s so much more than that. It’s about the people skills and creating an environment where artists can feel most comfortable in to create their best work possible. So yea..Just get into a studio and work!
Joshua BTS: What have been some of the more challenging projects you have worked on recently? You have a reputation for staying very calm and even-keeled in the studio, creating a very professional but laid back approach to your works. Any projects that have seen you break the calm so to speak?
Will Yip: Not really haha. I like to think I can work with most if not all personalities. I just like working with all different kinds of people. Makes the job fun…Sure some records have more that needs to be done than others..But that’s what makes each record special. I’ve been incredibly lucky to work with the world’s best and coolest musicians.
Joshua BTS: You often take on interns at Studio 4 and pass on this fine trade. What do you look for in a potential intern? Where can those interested in interning contact you?
Will Yip: I look for hard work and a cool person. I really don’t care that much about a “skilled” intern…I mean it’ll be nice, but I can teach the craft, but you can’t really teach someone to be cool and driven. That’s a part of the person. Since an intern is going to be in a session when an artist is creating, they have to have a personality that is conducive to that and chill. I need people that work for me to be down to work on anything and to want “it”. To be be super motivated and driven. I have contact on my site Willyip.com or people have reached me on my Facebook page facebook.com/willyipmusic
Joshua BTS: Apart from Studio 4– Do you branch out and guest record at other locations? Do you own equipment that can record on the go or on the fly?
Will Yip: I do have a lot of excess gear. I don’t really record in other studios (why would I when I get to work at Studio 4? Haha) but I have a done a lot of live recordings for my friends bands, mostly at venues like Union Transfer, Tis, and [Electric] Factory…and everywhere in the world with Ms Hill. Ha. I just bring a rack of nice preamps and my computer and we’re good to go.
Joshua BTS: Technology is obviously ever-expanding and changing. Where do you look to find new toys or grow your tech knowledge? Any websites or zines that frequent to keep up new technological trends in recording?
Will Yip: I really don’t pay too much attention to all the new high tech stuff. There’s just so much to wrap my head around but everything seems cool. I think the most important advancements are and will continue to be in the DAW world. The upgrades in Pro Tools have just been getting better and better and makes it easier to do my job. But in terms of actual tangible gear..I’ve been using just the Neve, the Ssl console to mix and analog outboard gear for the last 7 years and I don’t see that changing much on the recording side…Editing and mixing however- There’s always going to be new cool software that I’ll always mess with when I need too.
Joshua BTS: Any new toys you have been tinkering with at Studio 4 that have you excited right now?
Will Yip: Not really new, but new to the bands I record is our Studer a80 24 track 2-inch tape machine. I’ve been recording almost all of my drums through 2-inch tape since I did it with Balance and Composure for our last full length together and it was incredible. 2 inch adds so much to the life of drums and bass especially.
Joshua BTS: When you are not busy recording and producing- How do you enjoy spending your time?
Will Yip: I am never not busy, any extra minute I have I try to just spend time with the lady and the dog and the family. Maybe catch an inning or 2 of the Phillies game.
Joshua BTS: It was just announced that you are becoming a partner at Studio 4 with Phil Nicolo. Congrats! Why the decision to become a partner and what does this mean for you?
Will Yip: Honestly, it just seemed like the right thing to do. I wanted to give our punk community a home. I said it so many times but its true..punk bands and dudes like myself historically have never been able to consistently work in studios like this with a 8048 neve console and a million dollars worth of gear in a studio with 3 different control and live rooms..thats big budget stuff! Phil has always been so great to me and for some reason allows me to work out of here…this partnership will just ensure a production home for our community. With me owning the studio, it allows me to continue to take any budget no matter how small it is and thats very important to me.
Joshua BTS: Tell us about the forthcoming comp: OFF THE BOARD: A STUDIO 4 FAMILY COMPILATION. Why the decision to put out this comp? How long has it been in the making? And how will this aid your partnership with Studio 4?
Will Yip: I always wanted to do something like this, but me buying into the studio just pushed me to do it. A comp like this has never been done before, complete new songs by so many bands all done at the SAME spot. It’s a special thing and it means the world to me that all of these bands wanted to help. It really shows how much of a family this community is. We all came together to do this with the idea of raising funds to help me pay off the studio partnership, but in the long run, it means more than that. It represents the family of bands that comes through here and its awesome. I’ve been working on it since February and am so excited for it to come alive.
Joshua BTS: As we head into the latter part of 2013- What do you have coming down the pipeline?
Will Yip: I really can’t say, but i promise you, the last 2 records I’m working on this year will blow your minds ha.