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Lurssen Mastering's Gavin Lurssen

By Monk Turner
Published: Tuesday, January 19, 2010, at 12:10PM
Mr. Lurssen Monk Turner [Flickr]

Gavin Lurssen of Lurssen Mastering.

Mastering engineers are a strange breed. They come in after a record has been finished and do some tricks to put on the final polish.

They are the unsung heros of the recording industry. Most people, including myself, have no idea what they do. But listen to an unmastered record and right away you can tell something doesn't sound right.

Lucky for me, one of the top mastering engineers happens to not only live downtown, but also to be a very down to earth individual who was open to share a little bit about what he does so well.

MONK TURNER: What the heck does a mastering engineer do?

GAVIN LURSSEN: It's the balance of elements regarding the frequency spectrum of an already blended together mix. We have tools that allow us to get in and pull apart, incise, subtract, and do whatever it takes to blend the frequency spectrum to create a whole experience from the sum of it's parts in terms of all the processing involved. The idea is to create one cohesive canvas that looks like a piece of work.

MT: You've really worked on some amazing albums, what are some of the most recent artists some of our readers might know?

GL: Well this year we've done projects for Lucinda Williams. We've done a lot of work with T-Bone Burnett, who has been very active. He's been a great producer coming to see us over the years ever since 'Oh Brother, Where Art Thou' hit big. We did the Raising Sand Alison Kruass and Robert Plant record that did very well...

MT: ...and might have won some Grammys. [laughter]

GL: [laughter] It won several Grammys. That was a fun evening down at the Staples Center. That's nice to have downtown, here in LA.

MT: Did you walk there?

GL: No we actually took a limo. [laughter]

MT: Your studio is based in Hollywood, but after a hard days work, you return to downtown. How do you like living here?

GL: It's great because it's ethnically diverse. It's a city and it is trying to find its legs and I can see that the city officials are very supportive of encouraging the growth of the community. It seems to be made up of working professionals. I like the culture and I particularly like the ethnic diversity.

MT: Do you feel that downtown could ever become a production hub the way that Hollywood or Santa Monica are now?

GL: It would be competing with those already established areas. It is a place of commerce, a place of banking, and other things. But to me it is a part of greater LA. I have many friends who have studios, and as the entertainment community goes more into the hands of the individual, there are more people who are working out of their homes making movies and television shows. Reality this, reality that. Music is being created all over the place now. I'm constantly seeing actors on the streets of downtown.

MT: Well I only recognize musicians. [laughter] What were you working on today in the studio?

GL: We were actually working on The Who's Greatest Hits. We were working with the source material from all those great hits which is a real art to deal with. You have to make it sound like people remember it sounding but you also have to make it sound like today. So you have to combine those two philosophies to make it sound like one thing.

So I still don't know what the guy does to make those record sound so darn good. But I suppose if he told us how he does it, then he'd be out of a job. Gavin's services, along with a very long list of artists he has worked with, can be found on his website at www.lurssenmastering.com.

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Music Profiles

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