Chances are, if you’re into heavy music, then Joey’s probably produced the record you’re listening to. He’s currently recording Emmure’s follow up to their 2011 release, Speaker of The Dead. Joey was cool enough to answer some questions in the midst of recording.
State your name and profession
I am Joey Sturgis, and I am a producer, engineer.
Do you remember the moment in your life when you knew that a career in music was what you wanted to do?
There actually wasn’t a moment like this for me. Everything just sort of fell into place. I was working towards a strong career in computer science, starting in high school with an extra curricular activity in A++ computer education. That landed me job placement in 11 and 12th grade with a local computer store. I was working there as the boss’s right hand man fixing computers and handling networks for the tri-county. I worked there for a few years until I came to the conclusion that I was doing $70.00/hr service calls and only getting paid $6.00/hr. It was time to stop going in to work. Around this time, I was at the studio more often doing stuff with music and my band. Eventually the boss called and said he’d call me if he needed me (aka, you’re fired) and the rest was history. My band put out its demo on myspace and other bands heard about it and wanted to work with me after finding out I was the one who made the demo.
Looking at your discography, I think maybe it would be better to call you the “King of Metal/Post-Hardcore Producers.” What are the essential elements you need to make a Metal/Post-Hardcore record?
I do want to address this question very carefully, because I feel like with my name being out there in the scene, people just have no clue who I am and where I come from with my musical background. I listen to everything. I really mean that. I love country, techno, 80’s, 90’s, rock, piano ballads, dub-step, folk, bluegrass, blues, metal, death metal, hardcore, metal-core, post-hardcore, Shania Twain, Nickelback, Rascal Flatts, Gloriana! I can go on and on and on. At the end of the day, you’re not going to find me listening to breakdowns very often! The artists I work with know what it takes to make their music, and they are in touch with their fan base and understand what their fans want. I could go my whole career without having to understand this. All it takes is for me to understand where the artist is coming from and where he wants to go, then I connect the dots. It’s really that easy. On a side note, please stop putting people in categories because of what they like or believe. You are the reason everything is so messed up in our country.
How did you learn how to work the software and ultimately do what you do?
Open the same program every single day, and eventually you’ll learn how to use it. Trial and error, reading the fucking manual, and searching on Google taught me everything I needed to know about how to use digital audio workstations / software.
What do you say to critics who think that every band you produce sound the same?
I’ll start out with an obvious defense. Please listen to Let’s Get It, the Digital Spaces EP, then head on over to Oceano’s debut LP on earache. Please tell me how those sound alike. Next, I’ll reveal to you that VANS makes shoes, and most of them go on your feet… Best Buy sells mostly electronics… and Joey Sturgis records Joey Sturgis records. If you are mad about a band working with me, go to their show and complain to them. Bands practically kill people and make huge investments to work with me. Believe me when I say they’re doing it on purpose and going after something they want.
How did you get that bass tone on Of Mice and Men’s “The Flood” album?
Run your bass through a simulated Guitar amp… and no that won’t work live.
How do you get your guitars/screams to sound so big?
People think this is a big mystery. It’s not. You need good takes. When I say good takes, I mean takes that are precisely on time (down to less than 1 - 10 ms shy of grid), and good playing. Palm being in the right place, pick hitting string in the right place, right strings for the right tuning, right guitar to hold the tuning… the right pick ups. All of these factors matter. Finally, you need a good listening environment. You need to be hearing things properly or you won’t be making proper decisions. Armed with all of those things in line, you will be able to choose the right tone, the right takes, and ultimately get the right sound.
What kind of artists do you prefer to work with?
Experimental; I recorded this band called Rosaline once… no one really knew about it because they fell apart shortly afterwards. I love to work on weird stuff like that. I would also really love to record country music. You can fill a room with country musicians and just stand there with zero microphones and listen… it will sound like a record. Amazing!
Can you describe how it feels to be associated with the number of hits that you’ve worked on?
Honestly, it’s kind of a out-of-mind type of thing. It’s something you’ve accomplished and something you can remember, but you’re always looking forward and always moving on. I am very grateful to be where I am right now, but its not something I am looking at from a nostalgic point of view. From my perspective, I’ve been helping groups of 4 - 6 dudes stay on the road, which is essentially where most of them want to be. So that’s a great gift to be giving in any sort of way.
How has social networking benefited your business?
My business, these bands, this scene would not exist AT ALL without social networking. I had a buzz about me generating in forums before there was the giant explosion of myspace. So even in the early days, it was all about the web.
Are drums always the first thing recorded or do some bands work backwards?
In my studio, drums are first and foremost… and very key. I do not do ANYTHING else until the drums are completely finished, including mixing.
What are your thoughts on the continual volume increases in the industry, where music has just gotten louder, or more crushed, at the expense of dynamic range?
For all the people who don’t understand the loudness war, go grab a Rush cd or an old Metallica cd and put it in your car. Now turn up the volume to where you normally listen to cd’s. Now turn it up a little louder. Listen to how much more punchy it is than a modern cd. Why? Dynamic range. By destroying dynamic range, you achieve every softer sound being as loud as the louder tones, effectively giving you a louder cd. but what you lose is the snare or kick always being x amount of volume over the guitar…
Honestly, I don’t really care where this goes or what happens because of this. But people should definitely know what its all about. Ultimately, the fans and the artists and the record labels will all meet somewhere in the middle at some point. It’s not really up for me to decide I guess.
Last question: Is there anything left for you that you haven’t accomplished that you want to accomplish?
When I was in high school, I was really into programming and game development. It is one of my goals to actually complete my ambitious idea for a game and not be poor afterwards. I am already working on it so if you know any pixel artists, please send them my way… I will pay for pixel art!