A Conversation with Engineer/Producer Chris Lord-Alge
by Mr. Bonzai
Photo by Brian A. Petersen
Renowned music producer and recording/mix engineer Chris Lord-Alge first gained attention while working at Unique Recording Studios, New York City, in the 1980s. He mixed an astonishing series of hits, including James Brown’s “Gravity” album (which included the hit song “Living in America”), the “Rocky IV” soundtrack, Prince’s “Batman” soundtrack, Joe Cocker’s “Unchain My Heart” album, Chaka Khan’s “Destiny,” Carly Simon’s “Coming Around Again,” Tina Turner’s “Foreign Affair,” and 12″ remixes of Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita,” the Rolling Stones’ “Too Much Blood,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” David Bowie’s “Time Will Crawl,” and Pete Townsend “Hiding Out”
Lord-Alge has focused on mixing since the late 1990s, resulting in an extensive production discography. Artists that have worked with him include Green Day, Goo Goo Dolls, Bon Jovi, Daughtry, Muse, Shinedown, Dave Matthews Band, Sugarland, Pink, My Chemical Romance, The Doobie Brothers, Eric Clapton, Melissa Etheridge, Duran Duran, Phil Collins, Sade, U2, Celine Dion, Rise Against, Cheap Trick, Seal, and Aerosmith, among hundreds more. He is known inside the music industry for crafting and molding mixes that play well on virtually any playback system, including small speakers and FM radio.
Barefoot Sound: What’s your philosophy of monitoring?
Lord-Alge: Simple philosophy of monitoring is that if it sounds too good, I’m not buying them. If I’m not working to make it sound better, I don’t want them. I need monitors that are non-complimentary. It’s like white shirts and white shorts. If you’re fat, it’s making you look fatter. I need monitors that don’t make it sound better, that make it sound worse. Make it sound less appealing. That make it sound accurate, but no hype. I need under-hype. I need no make-up. I need hair frizzied. I need everything shitty. Like NS-10s — Barky, annoying, that need help.
With the basic monitoring I’ve used my NS10’s since 1980 and the ZS-M1 Sony boom box and the M&K 5250’s as my monitoring system, three pairs, I’ve been quite happy with those for quite a long time. They complement each other and it works. I listen so quietly that I might as well be mixing on an Iphone. That’s my philosophy on basic monitoring. Is that I want crap, I want simple, I want small. Now, my M&K’s are a little hype-y, but you have to work hard to make the punch. The punch is sucked out of those.
Barefoot Sound: Let’s go back to your introduction to the Barefoot monitors.
Lord-Alge: My introduction to the Barefoot monitors started back on Green Days’ “21st Century” album, which I did a few years ago. That was produced by Butch Vig. Butch was a Barefoot fan. He was the one that brought the Barefoots here and we set them up in my live room, pretty much exactly where I have my Barefoots now. That became their alternate monitoring situation. They had a place where the band could listen that they were very used to. They made the record and their big monitors were Barefoots. I got used to hearing those mixes in comparison on my Barefoots.
Time, tick-tock, tick-tock, time rolls by I do my first seminar at Mixing with the Masters over there in France. What big monitors did they have on the console? Barefoots. The MicroMain 27 is a Barefoot monitor. I had a choice between NS-10s, Barefoots, and they had big speakers which were not quite so good. The Barefoots became the go-to big speaker for me and I stuck with them pretty much the whole seminar and mixed many a song on them.
Fast forward to the next year, same situation, same seminar. Finally, after my seminar, I come back to LA and I decide maybe I have a friend who asked me about getting some Barefoots for himself so I organized a friend of mine to get some and said “Wait, wait, wait… You know what? The MicroMains are now upgraded, so I get myself a pair.” That’s how we started. So, now here in 2014 I have a pair of Barefoots up in my room.
Barefoot Sound: How do the Barefoots fit into your work flow?
Lord-Alge: In my control room, I have my three pairs and I found an alternate listening location, off the same console, because of the Green Day affect from the last record. I’ve created a new space called the Sweet Spot. The Sweet Spot engages the listener to focus 100% on dead center, perfect situation listening. Feet up on the couch, ears open, off you go. By putting them in that scenario, the monitors are non-complimentary. They’re kind of a little in a live room but that makes it so you focus in on the details. By putting yourself in the sweet spot, there’s no mistaking your left/right. I created a sweet spot which now gives me an alternate listening place and gives me exercise back and forth from my chair in front of the desk.
Barefoot Sound: Has the experience with Barefoot Monitors simplified, improved or made your mixing more accurate?
Lord-Alge: How has the Barefoot experience changed Chris Lord-Alge’s game? The game has been upped. It’s 2014 and it’s time for world domination. With me and my Barefoots, there’s no stopping me.
The alternate location gives me one more place to judge where I’ve made all my mistakes. One more place to judge my mixes and one more place for my clients to actually get to enjoy the mixes. This puts me into a great position with clients and also gives me a way to check in on that and go “Hmmm, I have a few more ideas.”
Whereas in the past I’ve usually stopped after my third monitoring, now my fourth monitoring position puts me into a few more things to fine tune. Thank you, Barefoot.
After listening to many, many speakers over the years I found that the Barefoot MM27’s had a certain clarity and honesty I needed from a monitor I created a space where i can completely focus on listening and the detail I get when I listen to them is mind blowing. I prefer to sit cross legged right inside the center as if they were headphones. The imaging takes you to an amazing place I have them laser-focused for listening on my couch and everyone who experiences them loves the experience.