An Interview with Engineer Ghislain Brind’Amour
Ghislain “Gee” Brind’Amour is a Montreal based music producer/engineer with a few Canadian gold and platinum records to his credit. Originally from Ottawa, Ontario, His passion took him to Montreal where he would become an assistant engineer at Planet Studios. Having the opportunity to work with some great producers and engineers was an invaluable experience that allowed him to refine his skills. From there, came the opportunity to go out on his own and he hasn’t looked back!
Gee has recorded and mixed for such artists as Rihanna, Young Avz, Anjulie, Karl Wolf, Victoria Duffield, Ricky J and Kristina Maria.
Did you start off in Production or Engineering?
I started off in production. I was a musician first; I played keyboards and guitar in a couple of bands. Although I had no idea what I was doing at the time, I was always very active getting the songs organized and trying stuff out with the other guys in the band. From there, computers and DAW’s started becoming more accessible, and I got into working with that (instead of fighting with musicians!)
After focusing solely on production how long after did it take you to move to the engineering side?
I would say it took about two years. I started producing, writing songs and recording myself and even made an album! I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew I wasn’t happy with how it sounded. I started asking people in my entourage why it sounded so crappy, and they told me it needed to be engineered. That was the beginning of the end for me [Laughs]. From there I went to a professional studio and the experience was a disaster. The vocals sounded horrible, the beat was mangled, that song still haunts me [Laughs]. But that’s when I learned how important engineering was, and it set me on my lifelong journey.
So how much of your work these days is production based and engineering based.
I would say that production gigs account for about 15% of my overall work. I do however find that the line between producer and engineer is quite skewed these days. My production experience does, however, come in handy when mixing and engineering. From guiding the vocalist to delivering the performance they want to moving things around within the song during mixing. Those are things that were once part of the production phase but now happen more frequently at different stages of the process.
How would you describe your sound?
Cutting Edge [Laughs]. I like to think that I have a sound that compliments the times in which we are living. I’m influenced by everything around me, so I suppose contemporary would be a good description.
What would you say is the number one factor in determining your sound?
In most cases I don’t have any control over any of that. Ultimately I would say it’s the song and the production. So as much as I craft things to the way I like to hear them, it does come down to what’s been given to me. Now as far as to what I do with frequencies, that’s a taste thing, but the production will ultimately push me into a direction.
And what about samples, how important are they to you and how often do you use them?
I usually don’t replace anything in the mix; if samples come into play, its only to enhance the production. I find Modern productions that are more electronic based don’t need as much sample enhancement because they usually sound pretty good. But sometimes I’ll sneak in a little clap under the snare in the hook just to do a subtle change in texture for that part of the song. I’m always looking for creative ways to subtly enhance things with samples. I also like to add drum room tones like the ones in Steven Slates Trigger. I find they are great for adding a subtle depth to the sound without overpowering the arrangement. I’ll throw those in quite often.
So when you first started using Modern Samples, what were your thoughts?
Yeah, from the get-go I’ve been using the Trap Drums HQ sample pack and those are great. They’ve replaced a lot of my other drum machine style samples because they are diverse enough to fit into a lot of different genres I work on. They’ve always just glued themselves well to whatever I was doing and I’ve never had to force anything.
Whenever I’m adding samples to a mix, it’s because I’m trying to enhance a sound. If I have to go in and compress, EQ and saturate the sample I’m adding, I mean what’s the point? I might as well just find another sound. So that’s why I like Trap Drums HQ, it just works.
I had a little participation on the Hip Hop Drums Live [Gee spearheaded the recording process] but the finished product of those sound fantastic. In fact, we just used them for an original full production. It was an indie-rock style song, and those samples gave the track the edge it needed.
Which of the sample packs would you say you use the most?
I use both the Trap Drums and the Hip Hop Drums for sure. I like the trap one for mix enhancement and like I said before they just blend nicely into a lot of scenarios. In regards to the hip-hop samples, they have so much personality, and they inspire me a lot, so I find myself using them more for production purposes. Either way, they both sound great!
Are there any records that you’ve worked and used Modern Samples, that you could share with us?
Yeah, for sure. With this track below called “Bad Boy”, the production was great but I used Trap Drums HQ to beef up a couple snares during the drop just to help the song lift even more.
Also on the song Fact of the Matter by Amos J, I used the trap drums again to enhance the kick and snare drum.
A lot of producers these days are very hyper focused on mixing that they’ve seemed to lose focus on what’s important regarding sound selection, sound quality and the music. What would your advice be for them?
Well, it’s always about the song. I know it sounds cliché, but it does boil down to that. You can mix till your heart’s content, but if the song doesn’t go anywhere and the production doesn’t enhance the song, then the mix won’t do much. Mixing is a crucial step but it’s not as important as the song, and it’s secondary to the production.
So if you’re producing and you’re finding that you have to do a lot of EQing or Compressing to the kick drum (for example), I would say just choose a different sample and keep it moving. First, Just make good music, then focus on quality recordings and sound selection and the mixing should take care of itself.
Thanks, Gee, always a pleasure.
Love it, always a pleasure as well.