Interview With Chris Coady: Producer, Mixing and Mastering Engineer

When the Cherry Audio team learned from our friend and music producer, Shok, that Chris Coady described Eight Voice, our newest instrument, as "insane," we had to reach out to Chris to learn why Cherry Audio is fast becoming his favorite softsynth company.

Chris Coady is responsible for some of the most emblematic and critically acclaimed indie rock records of the early 21st century. Chris Coady's early work over a decade ago with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV On The Radio, and Beach House earned him a distinguished place on The Guardian's 2011 list as one of "ten next-generation producers to watch out for." Turns out The Guardian was right!

Fast forward to today and Chris's massive portfolio of producing, mixing, mastering and engineering credits over the last decade are super-impressive, including his most recent work in 2021 on Ian Sweet's new album. His creative style can be described as musically complex, yet undeniably hooky, fusing layers of guitar distortion and shimmery electronic components without abandoning elements of noise.

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Chris to talk about his music influences, his career, making cutting-edge records, what advice he can offer up and coming producers and, of course, what he likes most about his favorite Cherry Audio synthesizers.

Q: Where did you grow up? What got you into music?

I’m originally from Baltimore, MD and I grew up mainly listening to the radio and my parents record collection. In the 80s I would tape a lot of stuff off of the radio. My favorite songs on the radio were  MARRS ‘Pump Up The Volume,’ Salt-N-Pepa’s ‘Push It,’ and Rob Base & EZ Rock’s ‘It Takes Two.’ My father was really into punk and industrial music. Stuff like Bauhaus, Crass, Throbbing Gristle and Sonic Youth; mainly listening while he would paint, so I learned about a lot of stuff from him through osmosis. For my 12th birthday I got an electric guitar and couple of effects pedals. I became much more interested in changing the sound of the guitar than I was about being able to play it well. I wasn’t as coordinated as some of my friends, so I started helping them change the sound of their guitars while they played.   

Q: What motivated you to pursue a career in music production?

I got a job at a store that sold instruments and recording equipment in the mid 90s. It was right on the cusp of digital recording becoming the standard. We were selling so many Alesis ADATs that we needed more room in the warehouse to meet the demand. The solution that my employer had was to discount all of the analog recording equipment and so during that sale I was able to afford an 8 track and a small console. I opened a basic studio in a loft in Baltimore and began recording friends bands on the weekends and amassing more and more gear. One of the bands I worked with got a record deal and so we used the advance to upgrade the studio to a 24 track and a larger console.

I moved to New York weeks after 9/11 and got a job at a recording studio called Quad which was a massive complex with 5 SSL rooms. Because business was so slow they offered me a basic salary but also allowed me to freely record bands in their studios when not in use. Barely sleeping for those years I was doing double shifts working for the studio during the day and recording my projects at night. I learned so much at that studio- it was best education. I got to learn mixing from watching people like Michael Brauer every day and got to learn a lot about programming from watching people like Kanye West who was making the College Dropout album there.

One day my roommate (producer Dave Sitek) convinced me to quit my job at Quad Studios and go freelance. This was a terrifying leap of faith but I was lucky and caught a wave recording so many projects back to back. I was able to take what I had learned at the big studio and sort of apply it to indie music . There were tons of incredible music in Brooklyn and so I was in the right place at the right time.

Q: From the Yeah Yeah Yeahs "Show your bones" to Ian Sweet's new album, "Show me how you disappear", the high-quality of sound production and mastering throughout appears to have evolved, yet maintains a certain ear-pleasing consistency. What do remember about the productions behind these albums that were the same or different?

Thanks a lot for saying that. These two projects were made in very different ways but both a lot of fun and challenging. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs album was made in Brooklyn over about 40 days at Dave Sitek’s studio where we camped out. Producer Sam Spiegel was on that one too who is brilliant. At the end we sent the tapes to Alan Moulder in London who made the final mixes. That was a tough record to make but extremely rewarding. We just celebrated the 15 year anniversary.

With Ian Sweet she made the record as an individual artist collaborating with an array of different producers. I came on towards the end as the mixer to help tie songs together sonically as they were made in different places along the way. She goes into the mixing sessions with a very clear idea of what she wants and is good at communicating it.

If I had to point to something both projects had in common its that they were both really great experiences and I learned a lot from both.

Q: You have worked on many critically acclaimed albums, one stands out that was put out on Sub Pop Records, "Teen Dream" by indie rock duo Beach House. Did you realize at the time that it would help redefine the chillwave genre? How did that happen?

I was fan of Beach House’s first two albums when I got the call that they were meeting with producers and were in New York. I had coffee with them and I guess we clicked. They had specific requests on how the album would be made which were in line with my aesthetics also. We recorded and mixed analog in a residential studio in upstate New York. A few weeks after I signed on to work with them they sent me a set of demos which I still have somewhere. I could tell from first listen that this was a very special album and it was the kind of album that would change our lives forever. We worked on several albums after that really taking a producer / artist relationship as far as we probably ever could. Those sessions were long and intensive but I’m so proud and grateful for that experience. 

Q: So tell us what you really think about Eight Voice. Have you checked out any other Cherry Audio instruments?

I first got the MG-1 synth as a free download and right away it ended up in a lot of songs and became a go to voice for building tracks from the ground up. Next I got the CA2600 which became more of an icing on the cake finishing layer. Most recently I got the Eight Voice which to me is currently the best poly synth around. I love the sound, the flexibility and also the gold mine of presets that it comes with. Its so inspiring that I’d recommend it to anyone having writers block (and anyone who isn’t). Those 3 synth plugins are always up when I start a new song. I have tons of hardware synths at my studio but I have been getting a lot more out of these lately. 

Q: What other artists and bands have you been listening to recently?

Today I’m working with an artist called SRSQ and we’re deep in vocals. Lately I have been working with Hand Habits, Islands, Lael Neale, Surfbort and my current favorite band Mirrorball. There's also some stuff I’m not allowed to talk about yet.

I’ve been listening to tons of music lately but my favorite new release is probably the new Floating Points / Pharoah Sanders album. Also Midnight Sister, Sam Gendel, William Basinski, Autechre’s Chiastic Slide and Jimmy Cliff. 

Q: Where can our readers find your music and connect with Chris Coady?

I’m fairly active on social media (Twitter / Instagram) and love to connect with people there. The music is on streaming services but for the best experience I recommend the vinyl copies. I promise they sound way better!

Editor's Note: Thank you Chris for the interview, for sharing your industry wisdom with our readers, and, for talking up Cherry Audio synthesizers. We love them too!

Apr 14, 2021