Michel is a graduate of Northwestern University and the Eastman School of Music where he was classically trained. He has since been in the classical recording business for over thirty years and is known for his work producing dynamic and lifelike recordings.
While working with Harmonia Mundi, Michel’s recordings have earned numerous awards, including the BBC Music Magazine Award for Technology Excellence in Recording, Gramophone Award/Critics Choice, GRAMMY nominations and wins, and international press.
Recently Michel engineered for PARMA Recordings at Futura Productions in Boston for Jonathan Little. On March 1st, Michel was back at it again with Dennis Kam, recording at Mix One Studios, also in Boston.
We are excited to welcome Michel to our audio team and to continuing making music that sounds terrific. It’s extremely important to PARMA production and to the recording experience that we provide our artists, and prospective artists, with a recording opportunity that makes their work go from vision to performance. With an internationally known talent on our engineering team, we are adding to the already extraordinary PARMA experience. We had a chance to ask Brad Michel a few questions about his career and work with PARMA thus far:
How did you get into the producing industry? You mentioned becoming more interested while you were at Eastman, but was the moment you knew this is what you wanted to do?
I’m afraid there wasn’t one lightbulb moment. I started engineering in graduate school at Eastman, and after graduation, I drifted towards recording more and performing less. It was around this time that I discovered that recording was more of a musical process than a technical process, and that sound could be sculpted in much the same way as when one tries to achieve the most musical sound with an instrument. This fascinated me, and that was the period when I stopped looking back and focused only on making the best recordings possible.
What was it like to receive your first Grammy? Did you ever think this level of success would happen?
Accolades are wonderful, whether they come from your peers or the critical press, but I always feel that the most credit should go to the musicians. Even if it’s a technical award; it wouldn’t be much of a recording without the musicians and the music.
Was there ever a time you didn’t want to be in the music industry?
Well, when I was very young I wanted to be a fireman or veterinarian, but once I started spending summers at Interlochen during high school, music quickly became the only option. I grew up in the middle of Indiana where it wasn’t cool to show up at a party with Harnoncourt records under your arm. Perhaps that wouldn’t have been cool anywhere, but at Interlochen, I could finally talk about music with others my age from morning until lights out.
Who did you admire growing up?
I was fortunate to grow up in a university town, so was surrounded by good music teachers that I greatly admired. I also admired Johnny Bench, as well as the major American orchestras and their conductors: Szell, Ormandy, Ozawa, Solti….. I was quite the music nerd and knew all the principal players of each orchestra. I was sure that I could tell who was playing on an unnamed recording. I probably couldn’t.
In your 30 years of experience, can you recall a project that was a specifically notable one? Maybe it was a project that challenged you or an artist you’ve listened to before?
On every project, whether there were particular challenges or whether it was an inspiration from beginning to end, there is something to learn, and I try to walk away from every experience just a little bit better prepared for the next project. I am also a great fan of the artists that I work with, and everyone has something that they can teach me. I’ve had wonderful opportunities working with everyone from early music pioneers, recording music that hadn’t been heard in 500 years to wonderful composers, who even though the ink is dry, are still composing and creating in the session.
When you’re sitting down to edit/mix a project you just engineered, what are some of the things you focus on?
My goal is to capture a performance and to make it reflect the artistic expression of the artists and composer. During the session, it’s important to quickly be able to hear from the artist’s perspective and not be focused entirely on your own vision. This philosophy carries through the editing and mastering process. Obviously, after all of the years, I have a point of view, and there are some elements of a consistent sound throughout the various projects that I’ve been involved in. I hope the recordings provide an accurate picture.
How do you feel the industry has changed since you began your career and where you are now? Where do you see it going?
I consider myself fortunate to have grown alongside digital technology and try to digest new technology on a daily basis. That being said, the recipe for a great recording hasn’t changed in 50 years: 2 heaping teaspoons of experience folded into two cups of careful preparation.
Obviously, the big change is going to be the delivery medium. Most people in the industry now accept that CD’s will disappear and even downloads will be for the hardcore collectors only. My hope for the future is that with the new streaming society, listeners will still thirst for new recordings and that the resolution of what people listen to will return to where it should be.
You had the opportunity to produce one PARMA recording session already at Futura Productions for a Jonathan Little piece, and now you’re getting ready for another PARMA session, this time at Mix One Studios for a Dennis Kam project. What’s it like working with PARMA? What interested you about us?
When I first visited the PARMA offices, it was immediately apparent that this was an impressive organization; everyone was great at their jobs, everyone was happy, and music and the clients were the top priority. The PARMA staff carefully plan every detail of the recording sessions, so that things run efficiently and without stress. This is exactly the type of company that I really enjoy working with!