13 Questions with

Matt Knobel

Hope for the best - prepare for the worst

I did my usual 13 Questions "background check" on Matt Knobel, meaning I goggled him and looked at his website, and was not shocked to find out that Matt and I share the same life motto. Living by a motto might seem like something your grandfather would say, but, if your motto is "Hope for the Best but prepare for the worst," that means you can roll with most of the changes and you might get knocked down but you will NEVER get knocked out! Seems like a good thing to me, but I may begetting old too.

Born in Florida, but quickly transplanted to NYC, Matt has has a long career since he attended the Center For Media Arts, a local NY technical school. Matt has said that going there helped him form long-term goals for the first time in life. Knobel has had many jobs in this industry. Early on Matt was a "road dog", working a keyboard tech for Billy Joel. After that he worked from an entry-level position at the then startup jingle production company JSM Music. Matt later became JSM Music’s chief technical engineer, not only managing the facility, but designing and overseeing more than $5 million in the construction of four fully-functioning world class studios and more than a dozen MIDI production suites.

During that same peroid, Matt was also a freelance mix engineer. That part of his career kicked off with his friend and mentor, producer Ben Wisch, working with such artists as Marc Cohn and David Wilcox. Matt’s next adventure started when he got a request to spend a weekend to set up a Pro Tools system for Lenny Kravitz. On his arrival early in the afternoon, Knobel noticed that there was not one piece of digital gear—not a delay, not a reverb. It was plan to see that Lenny’s studio philosophy was "keep it old school, even Neve EQs dating from the 1970s were referred to as the new high-tech gear. This weekend "gig" turned into a ten-year friendship and collaboration that’s encompassed four consecutive Grammy’s for Best Male Vocal Performance, Rock, and sales of over 20 million records worldwide.

Which also led Matt to his present digs, Lennys Kravitz’s new, beautiful Miami studio on the scenic South Beach. The Studio was built of many collaborators’ career and life experiences: An untouchable level of state-of-the-art expertise, combined with the embrace of the timeless values and techniques of music-making, and more than anything, respect and honor of the musician’s creative soul.

Matt has worked with many creative people. He has been part of several Grammy and Emmy winning projects. Including: Lenny Kravitz, Ricky Martin, Morgan Freeman, Chaka Khan, Marc Cohn, Elton John, Mick Jagger and Mary J. Blige just to name a few. You can read more about Matt, see his discography and studio at mattknobel.com.

- David Marquette

Mercury Recording Equipment Company’s 13 Questions

01 When did you know Music was more than a hobby or dream job and was going to be your "career"? Was there one thing that made that happen?

Yes. When I was 16 I walked into the studio when my cousin was recording his album. He is a jazz musician. I thought to myself... "wow I can listen to music all day and press ALL of these buttons!! COOOOOOL"

02 What aspect of music are you known for (i.e. engineer, mixer, producer, musician)? and What do you do that most people do NOT know you do as well (music related or not!)?

I'm known for being one of the first pro tools engineers on the planet and now I'm working towards being known as a Mixer.

03 What is your musical "guilty pleasure"?

Well, isn't music as a whole simply a guilty pleasure?

04 What do you think is the most important thing is to get a great recording? and What stage of a recording is most overlooked?

Well, the single most important thing in getting a great recording is.......THE SONG!!! If you don't have a song, then why are you in "record"? As far as what is very looked the most... PHASE! Most "engineers" and I use the term lightly don't know what it is or how to use it to your benefit. Phase is that thing you can hear and see if you know to be aware of it. It can help or kill your low end and it can seriously play with you spatial imaging.

05 Who do you admire in the recording world (engineers, producers, mixers etc...) and why?

The great mixers of the last 10-20 years and of course all the pioneers of our industry. But the only name I will Mention is Tom Dowd rest his soul. He was just simply said "an amazing person." If you have time to see his documentary I would highly recommend it: "Tom Dowd & the Language of Music."

06 What are your feelings on TAPE vs. DAW?

I grew up with tape and appreciate the sonic qualities and will work with it. I have been using editors for almost 20 years and couldn't do what we do in this world without it. So I'm really simply the type of person that works in the environment I'm placed in and doesn't sit around complaining..."I want tape, WAHHHHHHH"

07 What new Artist/Group is in your "player" right now? What Artist/Group has always been in your "Top 10"?

James Morrison, Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson. I guess I'm just in a J kind of mood. All time top 10..... Well that's tough so no particular order.... Stevie Wonder, The Police, Aerosmith, Most Motown, Meshell Ndegeocello, James Taylor, Billy Joel, Queen, Chili Peppers, Soundgarden. And the list goes on and on and on and on and on... Oh yeah I almost forgot about...

08 What generation had the best music and/or recordings? and/or What generation’s music do you connect with the most?

There is no way I can answer the first part because each generation has had very significant influences on what we do and how we do it. But, I connect with the funk of the 70's and the rock of the 70's & 90's the most.

09 You get to have one mic for vocals for the rest of your career, what is it and why?

They one that wasn't destroyed in the fire because if I only have 1 there better be a damn good reason why I only have one... Ok, but seriously how about a u67, hmmmm or maybe a u47... no wait that new u87 sounds damn good... or what about a M49. I would hope the singer actually has something to say.

10 When did you first hear of Mercury Recording Equipment Co.? What was your first experience using Mercury Equipment?

Well, I first heard about Mercury at AES maybe 3 or 4 years ago. David Marquette was in his booth, which was handing out candy, and I was having a low blood sugar attack and I figured I could eat more candy the longer I let him talk. So, I ended up buying a bunch of his Mercury gear and listened to it. And the first time I turned the low end up on the EQP1 I thought. "DAMN!"

11 What piece(s) of Mercury Equipment do you own or have you used? What applications / sessions have you used it (them) on?

I own a Mercury 66 (I need another now!), 2x Mercury EQ-P1's and a Mercury M72s. I use the Mercury EQ-P1 and Mercury 66 on almost every session. The M66 is amazing on Drums and Acoustic Guitars, well really almost anything you want to stand out in a mix but I go to it instinctively for acoustic instruments that need punch.

12 What are your overall thought on Mercury Recording Equipment? and Please describe Mercury Recording Equipment in 5 words or less.

One of the best NEW "old companies" I have come across. Mercury in 5 words or less: Sick, Awesome, Cooooool, Bad Ass.

13 What has been you most rewarding experience in the studio?

Working with all of the great singers that I have had the opportunity to record. Patti Austin, Whitney Houston, Pattie Labelle, Mick Jagger, Lauren Hill, Lenny Kravitz, Sheryl Crow, Aaron Neville, and Michael Jackson. Just to name a few.