Atmosphere Producer/Engineer Joe Mabbott

AtmosphereI work with Joe, and I think it’s really cool that he can say this about an album he worked on. I did this interview for the college’s blog and thought I might as well post it here too. Congrats Joe, keep making damn good music!

Joe Mabbott made Billboard Charts recently with his work as Mixer and Engineer on records by the local hip-hop group Atmosphere. Four Records In The Top Rap 100: #1, #91, #93, #96. The album, When Live Gives You Lemons charts: #1 Internet, #1 Tastemakers, #2 Indie, #2 Alternative, #2 R&B, #5 Top 200, #6 Rap Core, #7 Digital, #13 R&B Core. He is also a MSCM Faculty Member.

-MSCM: How/When did you get started in the recording/production business?

Joe: I started in 1995 as an intern at Trail Mix Studio, which I later bought. I got into the recording field just being a musician and having a lot of passion for music. I started as a post production engineer during the day, and working on music and records at night. I eventually just focused on the album side of the business and haven’t looked back.

MSCM: How did you get started working with Atmosphere and Rhymesayers?

Joe: I started working with Atmosphere on the God Loves Ugly record. I met them through Chris Blood (McNally Smith faculty member, Music Technology) who did their record Lucy Ford. Chris had business to attend to in another studio in Atlanta, so I took over working with them. Then they turned around 2 months after completing God Loves Ugly and came over to my studio to work on a handful of songs that would eventually become part of Seven’s Travels. It was the first time they were exposed to Pro Tools and loved it. The ease of making changes to the arrangements and mixes was a little mind blowing to them. Plus I think we all just melded together and had a really good working vibe. From there I kinda became the Rhymesayers engineer. Brother Ali, Semi Official, Musab, I Self Devine, they just kept coming in. They are an amazing label to work with.

-MSCM: Who is your favorite artist or group to work with in the Twin Cities? Why?

Joe: I can’t answer that. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a ton of great groups in this city. It’s a pretty tight knit musical community. I don’t advertise my studio, so all of my business is word of mouth. Once one good record gets made, my clients tell their friend and the rest is a trickle down effect. That’s really the best way to work.

-MSCM: Who has been your favorite client of all time? Why?

Joe: Again, I have to say that everyone I work with has their own unique style to them that makes them great. My favorite clients are the ones that keep making good music and keep this amazing music scene the way it is.

-MSCM: What was your favorite album you’ve worked on? Favorite track?

Joe: Crecent Moon Is in Big Trouble was one of my favorite records I worked on in while. It was all tracked live in the studio in one day, each song had at the most 3 takes. There was just something very raw and amazing about that day.

-MSCM: How do you approach producing versus engineering?

Joe: I find myself wearing both hats on almost every record I work on. There are a lot of elements I feel I bring to the table besides just picking the right microphone and placement. I try to put as much of my own personality as the band allows into every record I work on.

-MSCM: How do you think the industry is changing from a recording/production side? How does that affect you and your work?

Joe: Digital recording has changed the world of the studio. When I first started in this business, it was about big studios, big labels, and big budgets. That’s not the case so much anymore. There are amazing records being done for dirt cheap and in people’s living rooms.

It hasn’t really changed my business that much. I’ve adapted well in the change, but you have to. Plus I get hired for my ears and my ideas. Nothing will change that.

-MSCM: What are the differences in recording hip-hop versus other genres? Is hip-hop your favorite to work with?

Joe: There are a ton of differences in recording from genre to genre but the one simple thing to live by is capturing the best sound and mood you can from record to record.

-MSCM: What are some tips you’ve learned along the way?

Joe: With the different genres I’ve recorded it’s always good to keep an open mind. You can apply what you learned recording some blues record to how you’re gonna get a grimmie sounding organ to translate in a hip hop track. It’s like having a hat full of tricks and figuring out when to use the right magic.

-MSCM: When you are working on an album/project what does your schedule look like?

Joe: Depends on the client. Some of my clients work day jobs, so it is based off of what their schedule is like. For most of my clients, music is their job. Sometimes I don’t get a day off for two months straight. It’s really project per project based. It’s a good idea to try and keep some personal time set aside when working on a big project though. Keeps you sane.

-MSCM: When you get that GRAMMY who will you thank in your speech?

Joe: Come on that’s easy. THANKS MOM!

-MSCM: What are some things you would tell the future producers/engineers?

Joe: Network, keep an open mind, prepare to work your ass off, and have fun with it. We work in one of the greatest fields you can work in. Sure we’re not doctors, but sometimes the music you work on or listen to will change someone’s life forever, and that’s pretty amazing.

-MSCM: What would you still like to accomplish or see happen in your professional career?
Joe: I just want to keep making good records and hopefully inspire other people to do great things in music.


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