Artist Spotlight - Gary Lux

Gary Lux

We haven’t even started the interview and Gary Lux has already broken the rules. “What is going on here?” he exclaims “You know, I don’t usually make statements about these kind of things. This is honestly one of the best reverbs I have ever heard, ever, ever, ever.” In fact Gary continues to give his reasons for loving Exponential Audio reverbs for over 2 minutes.

At this point we stop to let Gary know that in an interview we first like to hear about how he got into mixing, his philosophies, and then at the end we can talk about Exponential Audio reverbs. So we begin…

From Sinatra to Sting

Lux has worked with everyone from Sinatra to Sting, his mix credentials are second to none, but Lux took the traditional route into the world of recording and mixing. “I started as a gofer in Evergreen Studios which is in Burbank, it used to be the old Magnolia Theatre. In fact oddly enough I sat in the theatre and watched a movie the week before it was being demolished.”

It is not long before Lux’s sharp humour emerges “I called myself the Head Gofer as I was the only gofer, so I was the President of the Gofers”, he continues, “The studio opens and eventually I find myself on the stage crew, we were setting up and tearing down day and night. This was one of the largest independent studios outside of the Warner Bros and Fox, we were doing a lot of movies and a lot television, we did TV, film, jingles, records, day and night, it was huge.

“I eventually became an assistant engineer in the control room and in a very short time I had assisted over 120 mixers.”

One would be forgiven for thinking that with such a heavy workload Lux would have wanted to see the back of the place at weekends, but for Lux that was when the fun began. “I wish I had the drive that I had then; I put in ninety-hour weeks, but we couldn’t wait for the sessions to end on Friday nights. We could go in the studio all weekend and bring in bands and then roll the tape. Our Studio Manager was very pro-active about us being hands on, he would say “roll tape…go”, he would encourage us to learn by doing and have us ready for the next session. I just couldn’t get enough of the studio”

From an early age Lux wanted to play “I was banging pots and pans and eventually played piano.” Going through School he played drums in bands. On arrival at University he wanted to join the jazz band and the only opening was for bass guitar, he takes up the story; “Luckily enough the bass player had left the University owing them money and had left his Fender bass and amp and I jumped on it. I became a bass player, god did I suck, I was terrible, but I pursued it because it had notes and the rhythm of the drums.”

This early ability to read music paid off in his work at the studio and Lux began to be the guy all the musicians gravitated to and Lux couldn’t believe his luck. “These were all my heroes, the best of the drummers, the best bass players, orchestral players, the finicky string players and I seemed to really endear myself to them.”

This early ability to read music paid off in his work at the studio and Lux began to be the guy all the musicians gravitated to and Lux couldn’t believe his luck. “These were all my heroes, the best of the drummers, the best bass players, orchestral players, the finicky string players and I seemed to really endear myself to them.” His musical background paid off, “I eventually became an assistant engineer in the control room and, in a very short time, I had assisted over 120 mixers.” One reason was that Lux could read the music “so I did all the punch-ins, we were on tape then with limited tracks so we had to make commitments” he quips “God forbid we do that now! I came to LA wanting to be a musician and wanting to be in bands, but all along everything is flowering for me to become an engineer. The musical background put me at equals with the musicians on the other side of the glass”.

As time went on Lux found himself as the go-to guy for mixing and was soon working for Mike Post and Pete Carpenter ,the biggest names in TV composition - if they wrote it then Lux recorded and mixed it.

Fast forward and Lux’s credits read like a who’s who of the music industry. He has two Emmy Award nominations for his work with The Jacksons, and Frank Sinatra. Albums include: Rob Thomas “Something To Be”, Janet Jackson “From Janet To Damita Jo”, Usher “8701”, Ben Harper and The Blind Boys of Alabama “Live At The Apollo”, Sting “Brand New Day”, Norah Jones “Live In New Orleans”, Keith Urban “Still Alive”, and Rod Stewart “Live In Times Square”

“if things are smeared all over the place then you don’t have the definition if you want it... you may have a problem when you come to mix it.”

A Long List Of Reverbs

It also seems that Lux has a an equally long list of reverbs he has used "It was REAL LIVE rooms, EMT plates, god they were so heavy. I look at a plug-in now and remember how much we had to do it with a plate, it's funny when I look at it now and how few options we had. We had the early Lexicons, AMS. TC Electronic TC6000 and I have a Quantec reverb that is so tricked out."  

"I'm very modest with the way I use reverb, I find that many younger mixers certainly overuse reverb, of course if it's for a specific effect then I can see someone going balls to the wall with it. For me, I find the ambient space I want to be in, if I've recorded it myself then I know the room I was in, but if something comes to me I haven't recorded it then I analyse the sound without reverb so I'm not working against things, and then I can use it as a compliment." His reason soon becomes clear for the brevity "I'm a punchy mixer, sort of in your face, but at the same time never losing the melody, reverb is a means to an end for me."

As one would expect the source material will determine how Lux applies reverb "if I'm mixing a concert then that drives the bus, the microphones we have as ambience have a two, three or four hundred millisecond delay before it even gets to you. In that case I use some gate reverb on a snare to make it sound punchy, but very, very modest. When I was doing 5:1 music disks then the sky was the limit, we were there to make a palette of audio from your imagination, there was no picture so the rules of where things were on stage didn't apply as much. When we were making a record in surround it was phenomenal".

As one of the people driving the 5:1 audio disk movement Lux was often asked about how to record a band for this technology. "I treated different things with reverb to keep things isolated. People ask me about recording things in 5:1 and my answer is fantastic discrete mono recording makes phenomenal 5:1 mixes." He moves back to stereo "the same thing with stereo, if things are smeared all over the place then you don't have the definition if you want it. If there's a guitar on the left and there's a tail of the reverb on the right then you may have a problem when you come to mix it."

“I’m not good enough to be the bass player but I’m certainly good enough to be the person interpreting it on this side of the glass. It wasn’t a calculated thing, it really was an aha moment... it’s always best like that I think.”

Lux has not forgotten where he came from and continues to visit colleges to speak to the next generation of audio engineers. "What I impress upon the younger guys is this, when you get yourself in a room with people who have experience in this industry then you have to be extremely humble and you have to want it badly.

After all you need the information and many experienced people are not going to give it to you if they don't think you deserve it, this is a tough business, it's saturated, you have to be great - you can't just be good." Lux also thinks it was a 'a-ha moment' for him. "I had wanted to be a bass player but I wasn't good enough.

Then one day I got a call that I had to go into the studio to put up a mix and get a cassette made without screwing anything up. I put up the faders, the drums, the bass, the guitar and as I put things up it hit me, I am the drummer, I am the bass player, I am the vocalist - the lightbulb went on for me and I go 'son of a bitch, I am in the music business' this is what I need to do. I'm not good enough to be the bass player but I'm certainly good enough to be the person interpreting it on this side of the glass. It wasn't a calculated thing, it really was an ‘a-ha’ moment... it's always best like that I think."

You Have To Finish Things

“People don’t finish, people can get something 95%, but you’ve got to finish. I tell people, if I didn’t finish a mix then I wouldn’t have a career”

However Lux has some strong words to say to the common cliché used in mix circles that a mix is never finished but simply abandoned.

"When I go to talk to young people one of the first questions I ask them is 'how many of you guys are mixing something right now and you would do anything to make this mix fantastic' and all the hands go up in the room. The thing I say to them is finish the mix! That's how we learn, we keep working on something until we get it right then we use that on the next mix and improve it".

It seems we've touched a nerve "People don't finish, people can get something 95%, but you've got to finish. I tell people, if I didn't finish a mix then I wouldn't have a career. Have I made mistakes? Plenty. Sometimes I'm working in a mix and I say 'can we get someone in here that knows what they are doing' I'm destroying a mix, but then suddenly, it may be time, lower levels, get a different perspective on it then it turns the corner, it becomes my own and then I don't look back."

Back To The Beginning

We've hardly had time to talk about Exponential Audio reverbs, but as almost an afterthought Lux returns to the PhoenixVerb with equally frank analysis "This reverb truly is the best I've ever heard and I've listened to many. I get pissed off sometimes when I hear some reverbs and it's not that it's not on the right setting, it just doesn't sound good. So knowing the history of the person who has created this, I'm in awe of this and thrilled to have it. I don't like most reverbs... but I really love this. I'm grateful that you guys have made this”.

Find out more about Gary Lux at his web site

Thanks to the team at RSPE Audio for the main image of Gary