Sugar Pills in Saturate City

I wasn’t expecting to have any time for mixing this month, but we just came down with an awful bug that has me confined to home, so I thought I would take an opportunity to mix this track that was available over at AMC in what is called the “Saturation Challenge”. The idea is to use as much saturation/distortion as possible to shape the mix a la Tchad Blake (Los Lobos, The Black Keys).

I’ve always used a LOT of saturation and distortion in my mixes, so this challenge was right up my alley - I really enjoyed the chance to push things even further - I used just about every saturation and distortion plugin I have (and that is a LOT)!.. Anyhow I was pretty happy how this turned out - it opened up some new methods and possibilities to me.

Here’s my mix:

I did quite a bit of mute-editing on the mix too. Here is the artist’s (Kahone Concept) released version of the song (I think it was mixed be the artist). As you can hear, I took quite a few liberties, but tried to keep the song pretty much intact.


If I could just absorb someone’s mixing abilities, I would most likely want it to be Tchad Blake. I LOVE his work. I think you did a really good job of capturing that vibe. If anything, I might think about figuring out a way to pull more of that Black Keys vibe out of the guitars. I think of it as a “garage” vibe. But I don’t know if those tracks allowed you to do much about that.
I sure love your mixes @ColdRoomStudio. They are always pro. You rock!


Hey Bryan, thanks for taking a listen and commenting! I agree - I love the way Tchad does things - he is fearless. The thing is, no one does Tchad better than Tchad, but it’s nonetheless a great exercise to try to do just some of what he is doing…

I was particularly happy with what happened with the kick drum in this mix. Tchad has this big subby kick thing that he does. It has almost no “clicky” high end, but you can hear it on every speaker, no matter how tiny. At the same time, although it has a HEAP of sub bass, it always sounds punchy on even the boomiest car system. Although I wouldn’t aspire to say I’ve achieved what he does, I think this is the closest I’ve come to getting in the ballpark.

Haha - you’re right there - This track had absolutely no guitars on it. Everything - except the vocals, obviously - was done with virtual instruments (Logic Instruments, if I were to take a wild guess!)… So basically this is me trying to give completely artificially generated music a “garage-y” vibe.

Interestingly, though I would add that Tchad has this really compelling composite of “garage” and “hi-fi”. His mixes are unorthodox and “dirty”, but they never sound cheap or “lo-fi”. They always make full use of the frequency spectrum.

Thanks again for the response!

Really enjoyed your version. I’m wondering about the process you use for this… I have an annoying undisciplined approach to throwing everything at a mix and then having to untangle it…

With the consistent deep clarity of your mixes I’m wondering just how you actually do it… do you save, try one thing, name it, eq it etc… or do you hold all the changes in your head? Probably a dumb question… I just find myself endlessly swamped by changes I have tried and then finding a pathway to what worked and what didn’t… It’s my old intuitive vs systematic brain where both parts seem to jostle for position - even trying to describe it seems somehow counter intuitive. I guess I’d just like to know how you explore using a variety of fx and lock in place what works?


Let me have a think about this and I’ll get back to you…

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Night and day difference, good work @ColdRoomStudio ! + 1 on Emma’s request for process comments if you have time.

You’re exactly right! I wish I better understood how he pulls that off. But, don’t we all. haha!

This is superb.
Love the melody and the message.
Your vocals is so nice, and the mix is excellent!!!
This is a professional production, and I am digging this a lot!!!
Thanks for this beauty!

Thanks Emma, I was surprisingly happy with how this turned out! Normally I have a laundry list of regrets, but I think I broke new ground with this one.

Clarity is mainly an issue of referencing. The fact is, if you, I or an anybody works on something for long enough, we get accustomed to the level of clarity we arrived at by default. It’s only by referencing a range of professional mixes that I’m able to recalibrate my auditory response.

No, I don’t do that - my path is generally fairly linear. My workflow is fairly “traditional” - I start with the drums, move to the bass, get the rhythm section sounding good, and then move on to the other fundamental “structural” instruments. Once I have them in place, I tend to start working on lead vocals. I work on all the static balances until they are making me enthusiastic/excited/want to move and don’t stop until it I get to that point. If I’m undecided, I leave the mix and come back to it another day with fresh ears.

Sometimes, at this point I’ll check the basic mix in my car just to ensure the low and high ends are behaving themselves as they should.

Once I have the very basic static mix in place and all the parts are “roughed in”, then I start putting in the detail - extra parts, sweetening, special effects, backing vocals, ambience and delays. This usually takes a while, because some parts won’t fit properly until you “massage” them with eq and/or automation.

Usually at this point, I’ll circle back to the vocals, do some referencing and really start dialling them in with automation. From this point the mix is kind of a “whack-a-mole” process. As I’m working on something, something else will raise its head as being “not quite right”. I take either a mental or sometimes even a physical note of what things need attention, and I keep circling around until I get to the point where I’m just digging the song and nothing is distracting me from it.

This process, of course, involves automating everything that needs to be automated, so that the right things are heard at the right moments. This can is the most detailed and time consuming work, but it is very satisfying once it is all working.

At this point, I’ll do some serious referencing and car checks again, and listen on a few different familiar sources. Usually by then, things are pretty dialled in, overall frequency-wise. I might make some slight level and frequency adjustments, but usually by now they are pretty small.

Then I come back and do some final mix buss automation, adjusting the levels of each section, so there is a real sense of long term dynamic change across the course of the song. Then, it’s time to post it on BTR!

With FX and processing, I find that it is best to just use what you know well. Although plugin manufactures make a big deal about the “unique” sound of their plugins, let’s face it: A compressor is a compressor, a delay is a delay etc, and the devil you know will take up less time than the devil you don’t.

When I buy a new plugin, I spend some time fiddling with it on just any old material I’ve got laying around on my hard drive, but I don’t do any “serious” work with it. I just explore it and try to work out if there is anything unique about it, and what it might be best used for at a later date, and then I file that info in the back of my mind until that situation next arises.

I mean… I can get lost down the rabbit-hole as much as anyone, but over the years I’ve worked out that when I’m in the creative flow of producing and mixing is NOT the time to do that…It just kills my creative/intuitive mindset.

Hopefully that makes sense and answers your question!

Thanks Ingo! It was fun to work on something that was totally synth based, but still had a rock feel.

There are a few cool videos on the web where you get some insight - Here are a few:

Thanks Rene

I didn’t sing on or produce this, I just mixed it. Thanks for listening!


Excellent information thanks so much Andrew!!

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