About Pete Maher MasteringPete Maher2018-04-19T12:15:13+01:00
About Pete Maher
. How long have you been working as a mastering engineer and how did you get started in the industry?
I entered the music industry as a young musician in the 1990’s. I played in various bands, signed several deals and worked with many big name producers, but failed to get the sound I was looking for. Little did I know that the secret missing ingredient was the mastering process. Back then only major labels could afford it so there was a huge sonic gap between a major release and an independent one. After a few years of record label nonsense I walked away and never looked back. I ventured into sound engineering and worked with the likes of Sheryl Crow and Annie Lennox for sessions at the BBC. I also worked live sound for Coldplay, Keane and Razorlight amongst others. In 2002 I discovered the fine art of mastering via some basic but cool mastering tools. It soon dawned on me that done correctly mastering could transform a good sounding demo into a glorious sounding master. In 2004 I set up my own mastering studio in Camden Town to cater for independent labels. I was the first engineer in London to offer online mastering services.
Over the years peoples listening habits have changed dramatically; most people stream, download MP3’s or listen on their phone speaker. Have you seen this affect the characteristics of mixes you work with, does it change your approach to mastering?
Many people describe mastering as a mysterious dark art but to me it’s not. It’s actually simple. You take a mix and you bring the very best out of it. A well mastered track will sound great played in any format and through any system. That’s why yesterday’s classics still sound great today. They are loud, clear and dynamic. A recent game changer was the new iTunes/Spotify playback limiter. It’s designed to combat the ‘loudness wars’ issue. Overcooked or super loud masters are now turned down on playback, whilst under level or on level masters are enhanced and turned up. For this reason it’s important to comply with apples MFiT technology.
Any big DO’s and DON’Ts artists should pay attention to when sending their tracks to be mastered?
It’s important to leave sonic headroom for mastering. This means avoiding limiters or mastering plugins on the master bus during mixdown. The worst excuse for this is when producers say they need it to ‘glue’ the mix together, but in my opinion a well mixed track shouldn’t need gluing together. The biggest mistake is blasting a mix through an L2 type plugin and then reducing the output volume to minus 6db, in the hope that it creates headroom. You can’t unscramble eggs and you can’t replace lost dynamics! Eventually they get it, but in all fairness most artists and producers know what they are doing. The quality of mixes today are 80% better than they were 10 years ago.
If you were stranded on a desert island and could take one track/EP/album you’ve mastered to listen to which one would it be and why?
I find it hard to listen to one album or one artist these days. Instead I like to make compilation discs of all my favourite masters. I make a new one each month for the car and listen to the artists I work with. This gives me a better understanding of where the music comes from and how it sounds in the real world. I like to think of my clients as one big community or family. So to answer your question, I could take any one of those discs and be happy. The truly interesting thing is that when a disc contains an unknown artist played back to back with a major artist there’s very little in it. Some of the best projects I have ever mastered are unsigned.
Finally, do you have any career advice for new artists?
Enjoy yourself and make the music you love. Then if other people like it too it’s a bonus, but don’t try to please others above yourself. That includes labels and managers. If six out of ten people think you’re great but four hate you don’t dwell on the four that hate you. Desensitize yourself from criticism, especially if it’s nonconstructive. Be careful with contracts that tie you down, especially if there’s no financial support. The devil is always in the detail so protect yourself, especially with the publishing. This is a ruthless industry so it pays to be an optimistic paranoid. Good luck with it all. Stay focused.
*Questions by Peter Thompson from the Magic E’s.
Pete Maher interview with Gabriel Dean at OMP Unplugged, USA 2017 (Edit):
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Pete did a great job mastering ‘(AHK-toong BAY-bi) Covered’, not an easy task with 12 completely different sound sources from 12 different studios, he managed to make it sound as cohesive as the original, no mean feat indeed.
Dave Henderson Project Manager – Q magazine
I’ve listened on my monitors, headphones, and laptop speakers and you’ve really captured the vibe perfectly, the balance of frequencies sounds great; bass sounds awesome, no snare harshness at all, vocals cut through and sit nicely, guitar sounds great, and the top end frequencies sound really nice. They sound absolutely incredible !!
Matt Basnett Independent Producer
I just had a chance to hear your magic on our ‘London Loves You’ track! I really must say.. We are knocked out by the amazing difference you have made to the work. Nothing short of EXCELLENT. We are proclaiming you ‘THE MAN WHO DOES IT BEST! Based on the three mastered versions we now have.. Ding Ding.. Yours is infact SUPERIOR.. AND THE ONE WE WILL BE USING.
Scobie Ryder Killersongs.com
Thanks for all your amazing work. Brilliant and dynamic!
Danton Supple (Coldplay, Doves, Charlie Simpson)
Pete did a really great job and was extremely user friendly!
Declan Gaffney (U2 Producer and Engineer)
Pete is quick, attentive and very professional. His ability is worth it’s weight in gold. Anyone thinking of doing the mastering process themselves, think again. Pete may hold the key for arriving in style. High class!
Arthur May Producer
Pete Maher is just amazing. Though his pedigree with major labels and artists speaks for itself, it’s his massive passion for music that obviously inspires such great results, where his attention to detail, quality and an endless positive approach has been nothing short of inspiring. What a great guy and professional. I will be working with him on many projects to come. Thanks mate.
Steve Belgrave (Rolling Stones, Beady Eye)
Superb results every time. Pete will bend over backwards until the client is happy. Very easy to work with, listens to everything you say to him and executes wishes well. I highly recommend him. Charlie Hoskyns-Abrahall, produced Shane McGowan and The Popes with Chris Brown (Radiohead, Beatles).
Charlie Hoskyns-Abrahall Produced Shane McGowan and The Popes with Chris Brown (Radiohead, Beatles).
I met Pete whilst networking and looking for mastering services. His track record of the work he has done for major labels and established artists says it all. Yet when he engages in a project for an independent musician his work ethic is second to none with the same attention to detail putting the artist’s and songs needs first. A true professional with the music at heart. The industry needs more people like him.
Al Goodwin Music
Having spent 30 years in the industry working with various mastering engineers from Bernie Grundman to Sterling Sound to the The Townhouse etc I have not come across a more consistent mastering engineer than Pete Maher. Pete’s work is first class every time bar none. He delivers precision masters in a timely manner and on budget every time. I think he sets the standard of what modern day mastering is all about. You seriously can’t go wrong working with him.
Mike Puskas CEO / Ikonic Artists
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