Don’t Give Up Your Day Job: Sylvia Massy

Garden hoses, Christmas lights and smashed upright pianos. What do these have in common? You can hear them on a Sylvia Massy-produced album.

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Sylvia Massy is a music producer who has mixed, engineered and produced records for Prince, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash and more. She is acclaimed for her experimental techniques which often involve using junk shop objects and materials to create fresh sounds.  

During her visit to Auckland at the New Zealand Music Producer series last year, Sylvia spoke with Don’t Give Up Your Day Job host Danny McCrum about finding her passion, turning down stable jobs to pursue artistic fulfilment and staying professional when working with big names.

Before becoming a producer, Sylvia fronted an all-girl punk band. “As soon as I got into recording my own band, I found that I was actually more valuable on the other side of the glass,” she says.

She is well known for her work on alternative rock band Tool’s debut album, Undertow. But throughout her career, Sylvia has refused to be pigeonholed, tackling a wide range of genres.

“The more you do, whether you’re working on film music or even radio commercials or art rock… you become more familiar with the genres,” she says. And every time you finish a project, it’s like pulling that handle on that slot machine. You have another chance to get a jackpot.”

On doing things differently: “Recording has gotten kind of boring, because everyone uses the same sounds, the same tools, the same library of pre-recordings, and it makes everything sound generic. So how do you make something different? You either manipulate those sounds into something new, create your own sounds, create the instrument yourself, or use those instruments in different ways. I hope I’m inspiring other people to do the same, because [the industry] has gotten really stagnant.”

On succeeding in the music world: “The most successful people that I know are people that got into it just because they love the music and they love the process and the creativity behind it.”

On being excited when talking about her work: “I can’t help but smile [when talking about unique production techniques]. Then when I listen to the recordings back it also gives me the shivers and makes me smile too. That’s what we want to do, right? To create recordings that transform our emotions.”

Written by Hannah Amante - a writer and copy-editor living in Wellington. She has held a stunning range of day jobs.

 

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Don't Give Up Your Day Job

1 Feb 2019

Don’t Give Up Your Day Job is a podcast series developed by Bobby Kennedy and Danny McCrum, providing an insight into the careers of creative professionals.  

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