Rarefied Recording, a San Diego Recording Studio

Meet an Engineer – Elmo Arteaga

Emilio (Elmo) Arteaga is one to watch. I’ve been quite impressed with his style and attitude in the studio. Recording to him definitely seems like more than just getting good sounds. He wants to capture the raw emotion of the song and will push you to perform. Check out the interview below and find out more about Elmo at his website: www.elmoarteaga.com .


1. How did you get into the field of recording/mixing/etc.?
I got involved with audio production at a very young age. My older brother has always been heavily involved with music and around the time he was in high school he began playing in his first punk bands. In ‘98, my dad had bought him a 4-Track BOSS digital recording unit and he just went to town demoing all his musical ideas! I remember one day specifically, that he asked me for my help, and being the little brother of course I was going to help him but at that time I was maybe 9 or 10 years old, so I had no idea what I was getting myself into!


2. How long have you been in this field?
I started learning about audio production around 2001, started experimenting and applying my knowledge probably around 2005 or 2006, and started recording all my buddies’ bands in 2008.


3. What’s the most notable/memorable/favorite record you’ve worked on or studio moment of your career?
I try to take something away from every record I’ve worked on and I still consider myself to be fairly new to the industry, so I’m always eager to continue learning and growing with each record I make. Having said that, what I would consider to be one of my most notable record projects was with a California-based group called At The Skylines. We’d worked together pretty early on in my career (I was 16 or 17 years old at the time) and the songs we recorded made their rounds in the digital world until they eventually ended up reaching some people at Roadrunner Records. Those people actually turned out to be the right people at the label because shortly thereafter, the band had signed a record deal with Roadrunner Records! The songs we originally recorded never made it to physical distribution, but their major label full-length album debuted with newer recordings of a couple of the songs! About a year following the release of that record, ATS and I worked on an album with their songs re-envisioned as acoustic tracks. That project too, was a lot of fun because we got to play with a lot of instruments and we had an extremely comfortable budget for the record (which definitely doesn’t happen very often any more)! The band is no longer as active as they once were and while some of them are pursuing lives outside of music, they all still remain good friends of mine and to me, the relationships I’ve made and continue to make have become the most satisfying part of what I do.


4. Are there any types of music you specialize in? Why do you gravitate towards them?
I’ve been fortunate to have worked with music ranging from smooth jazz to country bluegrass and almost everything in between, but I seem to have developed an infatuation with the more rebellious genres of music: rock, metal, punk, hip hop, etc. It’s all abrasive, loud, in your face and it’s constantly breaking rules on purpose. Truth be told, I just couldn’t love it more! To me, music is all about a message and attending punk shows as a kid I learned that a surefire way to get your message across is to SCREAM IT FREAKIN’ LOUD!!


5. What part of the process is your favorite- tracking, mixing, mastering, or other, and why?
That’s a tough question… I spent a number of years more recently focusing my skills as a tracking engineer because I feel like that part of the process is truly where you get your hands dirty with the audio; you’re making the biggest creative decisions in the tracking stage. I also simply enjoy working directly with a musician. The whole engineer-artist dynamic, as well as understanding how to get the absolute best possible takes out of them, is always such a rewarding experience. Also, if you think about it, the tracking engineers are the only people who will ever get as close to the actual music as the musicians who wrote it, and that will never cease to fascinate me.


6. Have you ever produced an artist? If so, tell us about your production style or philosophy.
I have produced a few lesser known artists and my production style usually focuses on the rhythm of the song and the vocal, but all my productions rely heavily on the captured emotion. I am not afraid to really work with my artists and push them into capturing the true emotion of the song. My process as a producer with the artist starts with finding both the message and emotion of their song, then working together to create the proper sonic environment where the artist and listener can both feel and believe the emotion, and then guide the artist to representing that emotion properly so it can be as impactful to the listener as possible.


7. Do you currently make music yourself? Or have you ever in the past? Is so, please elaborate.
Yeah, I enjoy making music on my own time, but I unfortunately haven’t had that luxury lately. For a handful of years I played in local punk rock bands, and spent a lot of those years touring around the US crammed up in a small 8-seater van, but I’ve since slowed down on that front. Nowadays I get my songwriting fix when working with artists–writing additional parts or vocal melodies, arranging instrumentals, etc.–or whenever I have a few hours to kill in between sessions.


8. Where else have you worked and/or where else do you work out of (studio-wise)?
Aside from doing studio recordings, I’ve also been touring as a freelance Front of House Engineer for about 4 years. That part of my business has taken me to some amazing places and I greatly enjoy doing it! As a Front of House Engineer, I encounter a lot of the same issues and obstacles as I would in a studio, only with a much smaller timeframe to troubleshoot. Not to mention the responsibilities held in being FOH seem to be far more intense. Theoretically, your mix could be heard (and judged) by thousands of people at once and the artist is entrusting you with how all those people experience their music! Because of that, staying sharp on my skills is a must and practicing like that can only benefit my recordings.


9. Why do you like working at Rarefied Recording?
The vibe of this place is phenomenal. With the amount of creative options available at Rarefied in both equipment and instruments, anything is possible! Not to mention it has one of the most accurate listening environments I’ve ever experienced. Everything is well kept, clean, and organized and Roy does an outstanding job at keeping all the freelancers up to date on studio news and maintenance. Even the artists I’ve taken sessions with there have had nothing but great things to say about Rarefied Recording!


10. Tell us about something you’re into outside of studio work.
Outside of studio work, I work as an educator and co-host for an online educational company called Pro Studio Live. We host live, web-streaming events where award winning audio engineers come to San Diego to talk with us, along with a chatroom audience and live viewers, for a number of hours and showcase parts of their production process. With any topic related to audio ranging from pre-production to audio-for-film, members of the site are given the opportunity to learn more about this audio universe straight from those who have set the standards in it! Some of our past guests include: Steve Albini, Bobby Owsinski, Chris Baseford, Brian Scheuble and we’ve even had a few episodes hosted by Roy, both at his beautiful studio and elsewhere. There’s educational content on the website for audio engineers of all skill levels, so I highly recommend checking out Pro Studio Live if you haven’t already!


If you’re interested in working with Elmo, hit him up at his website or get in touch with Rarefied and we’ll hook you up.