Marius Costache, the sound man
One can refer to Marius Costache as a studio engineer or a music producer, but I prefer to describe him as a man who sounds different. His passion regarding sound transcends the modern thin line of musical genre and steps into the world where sonic laws are meant to be just an example, not a path.
If you have never visited his Studio148, pass by and say hello. He has a good coffee and most definitely you will enjoy a nice talk about music.
You are recording, mixing and mastering for over ten years and you have met a lot of artists and experienced with different musical genres, how did this journey shaped your understanding of sound?
Working non stop with sound helped me appreciate or better understand genres or artists that I would have never thought that I would ever listen to; from some classic overplayed stuff to pop or classical music. I realised that in every genre or niche most of the stuff created is usually garbage or just poor imitations but if you keep looking past the first youtube page you can find some real gems .
Your portfolio includes nice names with a large sonic spectrum. Do you have a project, amongst these, that really pushed your limits, creatively and/or technically?
I really have no idea, it might sound generic but I always try to give more time to the songs than I was hired for. That can backfire or people just take this for granted but fuck it, I am more interested in being content with the results of my work and at the end of the day to just head bang on what I've worked on that day. Sometimes I actually feel I am not challenged enough technically or creatively and that I should do more and more and more and more and more. Bring it on!
Do you consider the mix as an extension of the production so it has to be a building concept, or do you find it more as a totally distinctive part in the process of the song?
Everything should fit in the end but it can be a distinctive part or it can be an integrated thing, as it is with music. It is a different case with every artist and you have to adapt to the situation. Sometimes the mixing style of the song can totally change the intention or the vibe or you just have to enhance things a bit and not ruin the vision of the producer or the musicians.
How do you feel about song revisions? And how do you deal with those occur situations in which you have a totally different perspective over the mix than the artist?
You know, most of the sound engineers I know complain a lot about artists and clients and their sometimes crazy requests but I try to listen the artist requests and to see if they objectively have a point or if they have no idea what they're talking about. Both of these happen often, and while keeping the client and artist happy is obviously important, sometimes I try to explain them why some of the changes might not be beneficial to the song. I am not interested in having it my way but rather to come up with some cool music at the end of the process. I have a saying that we are all slaves to the song itself, all of the people working on a project and egos or attitude problems should always come second.
When you receive a new pack of tracks for mixing, what do you listen first? Can you describe the process of this first listening?
I usually listen to the demos made by the band or the raw versions of the song to get its vibe and to understand what drives the song, its hook or whatever. The struggle is not to ruin but to amplify what may be good about the unmixed version while making the rest sounding as good as possible. I used to be really picky about the quality of the recorded tracks that I receive but now I try to make the most of what I have and sometimes what may seem broken can actually work really well in the right context. Of course the trick is to “get it” and to keep an open mind about anything really.
Do you consider that a genre has its own mixing philosophy or would you rather go in the more flexible area and state that each song has its own? Or do we go again in the grey area?
Most of the time, people will want to sound like what they heard before or similar with artists in their genre. I think the song should dictate the mix and while checking out against other example songs that the artists like, you should also try to enhance the songwriting and maybe give it a life of its own and not sound like the other one million bands already there. The need to have a special sound is getting more and more diluted in the recent years; it seems everybody wants to be the same, just look at the trap scene, the pop scene or the metal scene. Everybody is using the same hi hats, same buildups or vocal samples, the same kemper profiles, the same stage stances and whatnot. It's getting boring and when I can, and if the artist is in the same mindset, I try to make things a bit different even if you won't like it because it doesn't sounds bomb on your 5$ crappy earphones.
You are endorsed by Antelope Audio and you are recording with their Orion32+ sound card. How did this partnership begun and why would you recommend this specific sound card?
I usually try to care less about the gear and more about the music but these things from Antelope Audio sound absolutely beautiful. I've heard almost all the big brand converters from the market but nothing has the same depth and “height” if you will and even when tracking and you listen to the raw tracks, you can hear everything crystal clear and no, this is not a commercial.
I know it depends a lot on everyone’s budget, but what is your input regarding the ongoing discussion about mixing in or outside the box?
Most of the times, the difference between plugins and the real stuff is pretty small especially when heard in a full mix but there's something cool about committing to sounds and hitting gear beyond its intended use that can make for some interesting sounds. I don't really care that much for digital or analog, if it fits, it fits, who cares on what it's made on and for me the ideal situation would be to have the fast editing, routing and automation capabilities of a daw combined with the speed of making a fast balanced song using an analog mixer or just riding a delay, a retarded sweep or the gain of an amp while recording. And while on this subject, I haven't heard a simulated high guitar amp that I like for recording but I heard so many albums where pods or kempers or fractals are used, so who cares? Really, if the songs sound good, there you have it.
Alongside Stefan Panea, you have finished the music and the sound design for the Black The Fall game. How was this experience?
We had a lot of fun and the crew working on the game really trusted us and let us do our own thing. There are some really cool moments where the music and the gameplay just fits wonderful. I worked with Stefan similar on how we work in Environments, taking some of his musical themes and combining them. The interesting part for me was doing my first voice acting, and it was a true challenge imitating some of those characters. I had to get really drunk for one of them and also doing Ceausescu's last speech was more difficult than i thought it would be.
You have released a new project, FEBRA, alongside the drummer Para, your colleague from Environments. Is it like a fever, comes and goes, a one shout album, or do you plan to keep on releasing with it?
Actually, we are already working on some new stuff although working is not really the best word, it's something that we do for fun while trying not to sound like everybody else. There are some songs on our first album Furt Prietenesc that I would actually listen to even if I wasn't a part of the project. I suggest you listen to it on cassette.
You are the head honcho at 148Records, small label releasing ambient and experimental music. Would you call the label rather a selective or an exclusive one?
I really don't know, it's just a place to share music made for the beauty of it and not to gain followers and likes or whatever. Everybody is trying to be so “professional” nowadays calling everything “official”. I just want to make crazy music without all the retarded biography texts, silly concepts, dos and donts, press releases and the almighty two-pages of descriptions for songs. Basically, the making of a 148 release goes like this: we make music at the studio, if it ends up good maybe we make some artwork and/or videos to go along with it; then I stare at a blank text file for hours thinking “why do I write anything about this, I hate words”, then I usually end up with something in the lines of “this is cool, turn it up loud and LISTEN TO IT” and send it to our mailing list to perhaps reach some like minded people who, hopefully have some big speakers at home and hate words as well. This is pretty much it and if you feel you're into bold ambient music, check out 148records, turn it up loud and listen to it.
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