If you are into Extreme Metal you have to know Chernobyl Studios. We met Scott to talk about his daily work.
Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. For the readers who don’t know you yet. Would you introduce yourself briefly?
Thank you—it’s my pleasure to be able to chat with you! My name is Scott, I run the online mixing and mastering studio Chernobyl Studios and I specialize in the more extreme styles of metal music, such as black metal, death metal, and so on. Of course, I’ve worked on just about everything in the realm of metal, but I do have an affinity for the extreme stuff.
I’m also a content creator on YouTube and have created four training courses to help others with their mixing process. All of that is hosted on Spectre Digital with Glenn Fricker.
What does a normal working day look like for you?
I have one of the rooms in the apartment as my dedicated mixing room, so typically my morning starts with my daughter waking me up… making some food, getting a coffee, and then it’s rather structured what I do.
First, I’ll check emails and take care of client concerns or send mixing proposals to potential clients, then I look at my current list of work and try to group tasks together to be more efficient.
Second, I’ll do my mixing, mastering, or demonstration tracks for YouTube, etc. I’ll also record or edit video when necessary. I’m a one-man show, so anything that needs to get done for Chernobyl Studios, I must do myself.
I typically call it a day around 8 or 9PM by checking my email again to answer questions and then it’s personal time… which often ends up with me playing Quake Champions!
Does Covid have a big impact on your work?
Since all the work I do for clients is online from home, I really haven’t run into any issues, thankfully.
In your studio: what are your favourite pieces of gear?
I’m an in-the-box mixer, but I have to say I completely adore my Eve Audio SC207 monitors. I love the vertical tweeters and the top-end clarity that they provide. I still remember the first time I heard them in another studio here in Kiev in 2015 and I was completely blown away and I knew that at my earliest chance, I wanted to have the Eve Audio monitors. I highly recommend them!
I also must mention that I love my ENGL amp in conjunction with the Two Notes Captor-X. The hybrid guitar recording/reamping system with a digital cabinet impulse response is amazing. You can achieve analogue guitar tones late at night without having to crank into a cabinet, it’s awesome!
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Austrian Audio Hi-X55 and Hi-X65 headphones, which I’ve found to be the absolute best diagnostic mixing/mastering headphones I’ve ever heard. All other headphones I had previously have been put back into their boxes and put in the closet.
As far as plugins go, without a doubt, the Fabfilter Pro Q3 is my workhorse. It’s literally the best all-around plugin for EQ on the market and I love it. Of course, I have plugins from Softube, Acustica Audio, Waves, Slate Digital, etc., but for metal in particular, things like Drumforge DF-Clip 2, Submission Audio Flatline, and the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor Type A from Plugin Alliance are vital for me.
What were the coolest projects you worked on and what are you working on now?
I just finished a personal project that was quite intense. The coolest part of it was hiring a Russian Folk singer to perform Slavic folk vocals—it turned out amazing and I really enjoyed it.
I have several projects right now. I’m working on a German rock/thrash band of sorts; they are a bit old school and are going for that vibe as well which I’m enjoying.
I’m also currently working on a mixing project with a group from England which is unique in the sense there are lots of industrial effects, guitar parts, vocals, with the overall vibe of trying to musically describe H.R. Giger. That one is quite challenging, but I’m tackling the last bits of mixing and stem mastering as Matt Hyde took care of initial recording and production.
Next month (December 2021) I’ve got a project from Australia and some other singles to work on.
You are always seen on YouTube with other well-known people from the recording industry. How important is the exchange with colleagues?
I’m still trying to understand how all of that happened, but yes, it’s important. It has helped potential clients realize that I am professional at what I do, and I take my craft seriously.
Social media allows for situations where people craft completely fake personas and talents—but the rubber always meets the road when other professionals in the field show up… and they can spot a fake instantly, haha.
The main thing I wish for is that I have earned my colleagues respect with my work and desire to keep improving.
You also run a successful YouTube channel yourself. What is your motivation?
The original motivation was to create tutorials for Cakewalk SONAR Platinum. Up until 2017, Cakewalk was my main DAW, having started from Cakewalk Pro Audio 9 in 2001 or so. I had started to get on good terms with the internal teams there at Cakewalk, and I was vacationing in Russia when I got the call a week in advance that Gibson turned the lights off. (I switched to Cubase in 2019.)
Over the course of the years, I’ve made all sorts of videos about mixing and recording metal. I’ve also done many reviews for drum libraries, bass libraries, and amp simulators.
At this point in time, I’m looking to expand to real amps, more physical gear, and perhaps some analogue mixing gear, but we’ll see.
Do you have any tips for people who want to start home recording?
Don’t waste money on plugins in the beginning!
Invest your money in yourself by purchasing training materials. It’s not unusual for me to get an email from somebody who just bought one of my training courses to tell me that “if they had only bought my course sooner, they would have realized they didn’t need to buy so many plugins.”
Always remember that plugins are just tools, and a tool only does what you tell it to do, so the key is to understand the tool, and, in that way, you can understand how to use it to manipulate audio to get the results you hear in your head.
It takes time and won’t happen overnight, so be aware that there is no plugin or piece of hardware on the market that will make you “sound like the pros” with a push of the button.
I have two training courses dedicated for mixing that people can check out on the Spectre Digital website.
You are using our Hi-X55 and in the meantime you have also tested the Hi-X65. What do you like about the headphones? How did you find out about Austrian Audio in the first place?
The headphones are brutal. Just brutal. The first time I passed one of my older mixes through the headphones I was in shock. It just sounded completely terrible because there were so many frequency conflicts between the instruments, and I hadn’t really heard it before in a pair of headphones. You hear these things with monitors, but somehow, it’s just not as shocking.
However, the brutal nature of the headphones means that when everything is in the correct spot, and you have good mix balance—the mix just opens up and has this expansive quality where everything just sounds so damn good.
As far as to how I learned about Austrian Audio, Adam Steel from Hop Pole Studios and a previous colleague were using the headphones, and I asked to get introduced so I could try them out as well.
Now they are my main headphones for all mixing and mastering diagnostic work!
You work mainly in the extreme metal field. Is critical listening particularly important for your job?
Many people may scoff at extreme metal, blast beats, and all these things, but the technical skill and the detailed ear required to mix this kind of music so that it’s musical, enjoyable, with good instrument separation and quality is undeniable.
I might spend two or three days working on a mix, but just as much time, if not more, with plugin automation, volume automation, etc., to get 100 tracks of instruments to work well with each other at 240BPM with double bass and quad-tracked Drop A guitars.
Mixing metal is technically very complicated due to the speed, and this requires acute low end and low-mid awareness, which is where the Hi-X55 and Hi-X65 headphones shine for me.
Scott. Thank you very much for your time. It was a pleasure. I’d say we’re going to watch some more videos of you now.
Thank you! It’s an honor to be an Austrian Audio user and it was a pleasure to chat! \m/