Casey Bates lives in Seattle and has worked with some of your favorite bands. He is available to produce, engineer and mix. Some credits include Portugal The Man, Chiodos, Pierce The Veil, Memphis May Fire, Gatsbys American Dream, He Is We, Foxy Shazam, MxPx, This Providence and Forgive Durden.
Tell us a little about yourself and your experience.
My name is Casey Bates and I've been producing records since 2005. I started out getting heavily involved in the Seattle scene, recording bands like Gatsbys American Dream, Daphne Loves Derby, This Providence and Forgive Durden. Seattle had a great thing going in the early 2000's and I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. I started out by recording all of the above mentioned bands in a rental house attic. Things escalated quickly and I found myself purchasing my first house and building a small studio. Those first few years were a lot of hard work and no days off!
What drove you to choose your career path?
I got into audio engineering to mix sound for movies. It seemed like everyone and their mom wanted to be a producer, so I chose a path that I thought would make it easier for me to stand out. My best friend, Bobby Darling was in Gatsbys American Dream at the time and used me as a resource for demoing out their new songs while I was learning audio engineering. Things went a bit better than expected and I was encouraged to give the whole producing thing a go. The first recording I ever did with any sort of label backing was an EP for Gatsbys American Dream called, "in the land of lost monsters".
How did you go about getting your job? What kind of education and experience did you need?
Continuing with the last answer, I hadn't started out trying to do this. I had gone to the art institute to learn sound for movies and pretty much learned nothing to help me pursue that dream. My experience there has led me to never recommend a vocational school to learn a talent. Skills can be taught. Talent cannot. Talent comes from yourself. Following my own instincts and intuition have almost always pushed me in a better direction than schooling.
What do you actually spend the majority of your time doing?
I spend most of my time learning. Whether it's physically building a recording studio or figuring out how to get that snare to sound just the way I want it to, I am always trying to get better. That doesn't just extend to music though. I love learning how things work. Anything from fixing the engine in an old car to staying atop my thrown as the best smash bros player in the world,
What misconceptions do people often have about your job?
That I'm constantly working with famous people. Most of that comes from family and friends, but the inevitable conversation, "who have you worked with?" Ends with, "oh, I've never heard any of those bands."
What are your average work hours?
Several years ago I decided to work a normal schedule so I can have a normal life. I got married and at some point I will have kids. I'm not about to be that husband/father that works till 1am every night. I also think it makes me better at what I do. You need to get separation and perspective on whatever project you are working on. Any engineer that says they are just as sharp after recording loud guitars to a loud click track and drums for over six hours is lying to themselves.
What personal tips and shortcuts have made your job easier?
Stay healthy! This job requires you to sit. A lot. I discovered exercise a few years in and started running regularly. I’d spend all day working on my mixes and then put them on my iPod and go run a few miles. I swear I get my best ideas that way.
What do you do differently from your coworkers or peers in the same profession?
This is tough to say. I haven’t had the opportunity to work with a lot of different producers. From what I’ve heard from the other bands I’ve worked with, producers can be real dicks. I try really hard to keep it light and fun. It takes a lot to push me over the edge. It’s only happened a few times.
Do you have any advice for people who need to enlist your services?
Hit me up! I love working with hungry bands that are just starting to figure things out. I don't have any cutoff line for what type of project I'll take on. I just want to work with fun people that want to make awesome music.
What's the worst part of the job and how do you deal with it?
The worst part is dealing with bands that have lost their hunger and drive to make something great. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve recorded a song where 4 out the 5 band members have never played their parts before. That lack of work ethic can spill over the entire project and bring everything down. As far as dealing with it? You just do. At the end of the day, you gotta get stuff laid down. Those tend to be the longest and least enjoyable days.
What's the most enjoyable part of the job?
Any time I finish and lock a record, haha. The most enjoyable part is working with great musicians that understand what we are trying to do. I know that sounds simple, but it’s amazing how many times a band member forgets that this isn’t all about them. I can be doing the same thing on two different projects (like recording guitars) and one is the most fun I’ve ever had and the other makes me want to quit what I do.
What kind of money can one expect to make at your job?
My first five years working full time went something like
How do you move up in your field?
Deliver a product that is better than what you were paid to do it. I started out doing as much stuff for free as possible. When I was booked a month out, I started charging $100/song. Then $200/song, then $500/song, etc. It was really important for me to let my business grow naturally. I never take projects that I don’t think I can deliver on.
What advice would you give to those aspiring to join your profession?
You need to focus on your talent. That doesn’t mean spending every dime you make on gear. If you can’t make a great sounding record on an $800 mbox, no AD/DA converter is gonna change that. Get an affordable, good quality studio going and then stop blaming gear. Also, build quality, lasting relationships. Never burn a bridge, no matter how screwed over you got.