Don't disengage at the end
When I’m at the tail end of a long project, it can be so tempting to want more than anything just to be done. To get it out the door and just collapse.
I just finished a project on a deadline. As projects with deadlines can sometimes go, it went first slowly, and then very fast. We paced it fine, but the artist knows what he wants to hear and there were lots of little tweaks and finishing touches at the end. Lots of little automations. They all made the work better, but they took a bunch of time. No big surprise there; that’s usually the way.
This artist is in Finland, and I’m on the west coast of the USA. So our times were a bit offset, and where we mostly overlapped was after midnight my time, at which point he was up for the day on his end. So we had a number of nights toward the end of this project working tightly back and forth together from midnight-3am or whatever.
The last of these nights was Friday night my time — Saturday morning his time. He had a deadline to get the masters into the vinyl-pressing place by end of day Sunday, so that his records could arrive in time for a big show he has in February. (Don’t laugh — that’s actually a pretty fast vinyl turnaround time right now.)
We’d finished tweaks on Thursday, so Friday was mastering day. I took a bunch of time with the masters. You’d think that mastering stuff you mixed would be somehow faster or easier, but actually for me it takes a lot longer; there are a good three or so hours at the beginning where I’m listening and poking at things but not really getting too committed, where basically what I’m really doing is giving my ears time to make the switch to hearing them not as mixes but as masters. Which is a very different mindset.
So I got the masters and album assembly all done, and sent it over at like midnight-ish. And then of course he was up, so we immediately launched into a couple rounds of fiddly little master tweaks. I went to bed at 4am, extremely tired, but with a good and stable set of masters!
And when I woke up Saturday, all I wanted was for the project to be done and to have a weekend. I was achingly tired, and so over hearing these (wonderful) songs. But you can’t not listen to your work with fresh ears, so I did that over breakfast, just on the laptop. And … I heard a couple little things that thought maybe I could improve upon! Fuuuccckkkk!!
Did I want to open the mastering session back up and refocus on this work again? Oh HELL no. But could I unhear what I’d heard? Also no. So back in I went. And did it make the record a little bit better? Absolutely. And did we still make deadline? With hours to spare.
I’ve learned enough about how I work that at this point I know to do that last listen on the day after the last day, no matter whether I want to (I never want to). I’m sending this to you in case it’s not part of your practice yet.
To infinity and beyond — jamie