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William Muir

Co-founder and audio engineer at The Sound Distillery

What do you do?

My name is William Muir and I co-own Kitchener’s busiest, and largest recording studio The Sound Distillery. We record music almost exclusively, but, have worked on audio for a film with Academy Award nominee Graham Greene and most recently did audio for the Coors Light Search and Rescue Campaign. You can check out my latest record here.

My personal role in the studio is engineer (record what you hear) and mixer (take all the elements of a song/project and mix them together to create what you hear on the radio).

How do you stay up to date with trends in your industry/field?

My field is dominated primarily by equipment which has been around since the 1940s-70s. Trends usually develop out of how someone will use and abuse these vintage pieces of gear over a period of time. I tend to listen to an obscene amount of music, and read/study all about bands experiences in the studio. Bands with a great studio experience tend to talk a lot, which in turn leads to some pretty tasty nuggets of information. This might be the only time my history degree has been worthwhile as I’m able to find/disseminate information really fast.

Best way to stay on top of email?

I tend to check email twice a day. In the afternoon around 12-1 and before heading to bed. I also like sitting down to type emails as I can focus on only email rather than what else I need to do.

Top five applications or programs?

Avid Protools – the platform in which I record/mix. The program is setup similar to recording consoles which makes it easy to navigate. People complain about ‘digital’ recording and protools in the music world. These people usually can’t tell the difference between recording formats when A/B’d. It’s like a blank canvas and you have a world of options to create a painting.

Native Instruments Komplete – Every sound/instrument under the sun. Buying this instantly took my recording to a new level. This rarely has happened.

Steven Slate Trigger – The worlds best drum augmentation tool. I can take drums recorded in a small room, with terrible mics and turn them into pure fire and nobody would know the difference.

Instagram – the most under utilized tool by independent musicians and producers.

Adobe Premier/Photoshop – These two tools help me in a few ways from creating little videos to album covers.

What is your best time-saving trick?

Mixing a song is incredibly time consuming generally I have to set aside time to edit, make sure all fades or breath’s or mistakes are removed. After I will do a rough mix and begin to do any sampling of drums, loops etc. I have a template for different styles of mixes so I can generally hit the ground running. These templates merely have different effects, go to drum samples etc. that I’ve built up over the past 6 years. I’m also a systematic mixer. Everything I do is coloured the same (track colours), labeled the same each day, organized the same so I rarely stop to think about what I do. I just simply do.

One non-tech thing you can't live without?

My fly-fishing rod. I will try and take a day each week to get out on the water with a handful of classic albums by singer songwriters, and try and get some time alone to fish.

What does your workspace look like?

Structure of your typical day, how do you divide your time?

I have two types of day unfortunately and they’re both dramatically different. One incredibly unhealthy and not normal. The other painfully mundane. Tracking – I will begin to prepare myself for ‘musician time’. I track/produce bands around the crack of dawn (in musician time this is about 6PM) I tend to work fairly late until 2-3am then will wake up at around 10-11 to revisit things recorded the night before and then I’m working until 3am.

Mixing – I tend to wake up around 6am and will be in the studio, coffee in hand, and mixing by 6:30/7. I will mix 2-3 songs in a day and hopefully home by 4pm.

If I’m lucky I get to see my girlfriend, eat, get a bit of sleep, or watch TV.

What is the greatest piece of career advice/wisdom you've ever received?

I had one professor in college do more for me than I can ever thank him for. Larry Thompson always reminded me to take a step back and punt whenever making big decisions, and, there is no shame in having a day job. Unfortunately in my field of work there aren’t many jobs, and it really is tough to making a living. You have to be willing to slog it out in the trenches and do work that is way better and more importantly make a connection with large groups of people.

Who would you like to see featured on Ways We Work?

I’d like to see an athlete featured on Ways We Work. Recently I’ve been comparing music to sports in that they are the last great purely competitive industries. If you are good you will succeed. If not, you don’t. This is a hard lesson for musicians to learn, but it is absolutely true.