Grammy Award winner Robert Orton talks about working from home, the pandemic and CEDAR Studio

Hitmixer Robert Orton

4 August 2021

Robert Orton is a mix engineer working primarily on pop music although, when we interviewed him, he was taking a short break from working on a reggae album to talk to us. He works with various producers from all over the world and, to quote him, he mixes "records that hopefully will end up on the radio". In truth, he does rather more than that, with four Grammys to his name and a client list that includes the likes of Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey, Sting and Keith Urban.

We started by talking about the pandemic and how having his own studio has minimised the effect that this has had on his work.

"I've been really fortunate because I'm lucky enough to have a studio at my home that I can work in so it's been business as usual. If anything, I've probably been busier than normal. I feel really bad for all the people who can't go on the road because that's how they make their living, but for artists the alternative is go into the studio and make records which has been great for me. I call it a home studio, but it's a beautiful room, and I don't know what I would have done without it. It was built by John Flynn who designed the rooms at SARM, so it sounds phenomenal. I'm so lucky... I can walk down to the end of the garden and I'm in my own little world."

"I started my career working for Trevor Horn for about eight years. After that I went freelance, but I still had a great relationship with Trevor so I carried on working at his studio for a time, as well as at Metropolis and a few other places. I quite enjoyed working in different rooms, but lugging all the gear around got a bit tiresome. I then moved to Los Angeles and, together with my manager, rented a studio for about three years. My family and I moved back to the UK when my son reached school age. LA is the hub of the music industry, but it doesn't matter where you are so much nowadays if you've got a fast internet connection. With some of today's technology it's like you're 'in the room' wherever you are. So for the past eight years or so I've worked pretty much exclusively in my room, apart from the occasional trip where I'll go out and record somebody in another studio."

"It's nice to have a base camp where I can just concentrate on the music. I think that everyone who works in music can relate to how obsessive we can be about what we do. I try to describe this to people outside the business but it's really hard to explain how you can start tinkering with something, knowing that you can make it sound better, and get lost in this little world of sculpting things, trying out ideas, doing whatever it takes to turn the song you're working on into a hit. If it doesn't quite work, it gives you another idea, and you just end up down the rabbit hole. I'll just try one more tweak...!"

A few weeks ago, Robert purchased the full CEDAR Studio suite of processes, so we asked him how this had come about.

He continued, "I was recently working on a project that sounded as if the tracks had been processed through a low pass filter, and the electric bass part had been recorded with this really awful buzz. When the session came to me, the engineer had used some sort of anti-hum plug-in, and while it had sort-of removed the hum and buzz, it had completely mangled the bass itself. So, I thought, 'okay, I'm sure that I can do better than that', and I pulled out my arsenal of various plug-ins. But no matter what I tried, I couldn't remove the problem without mangling the bass myself. The artist had been living with it like this for some time and had got used to this weird sort of artefact-y bass sound, but I thought it would sound so much better if I could remove the buzz properly. So I contacted Clive at CEDAR Audio and he sent me a trial copy of CEDAR Studio. I couldn't believe how easily it removed the buzz and hum, and that it left the bass completely intact and sounding incredible. It was amazing. It was just... it was jaw dropping, actually, because I had tried pretty much everything else, and nothing else could do it."

"When I finished the mix, I sent it over to the client and the first comment that came back from everyone was 'Wow, the bass sounds amazing' because they could now hear it properly. I then found myself using many of the other processes in CEDAR Studio such as the declicking and Retouch. I quickly realised that there was a whole world of audio restoration that I hadn't ever had access to before. I think I used it for about two days before I decided I was going to buy it. It was game changing."

"The difference is, listening back to that original processed track, it just sounded mangled; it didn't sound like a professional piece of audio. After going through the CEDAR algorithm, it sounded completely restored. I can't not own the software that's going to allow me to do that, because even though I'm lucky enough to be working at the high-end these problems do crop up from time to time. And there are always little things going on... like a chair creaking in the background when I'm mixing a guitar and vocal performance. So now I use CEDAR Studio's Retouch and can take those unwanted noises out. I was a bit daunted by it the first time I used it, but it's actually really easy. It just works, and it saves time because, when the tool works properly, you're not fishing around for something that's going to do the job. It would have been a false economy not to invest in it."

Robert Orton:

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