R.J. Gordon mixes Front-of-House at Brooklyn’s Shea Stadium, a space that’s part recording studio and part concert venue. Every single show that the venue hosts is recorded, mixed, mastered, archived online, and made available to the public free of charge.
Gordon talks to us about his work at Shea, his experience opening his own venue in Brooklyn, and his role as engineer for Titus Andronicus’ latest album, released July 28 on Merge Records.
Shea Stadium is such a unique space —what’s your job title and what are your responsibilities there?
Shea Stadium is a really unique and awesome spot. I’ve been there a little over 4 years and I’m one of five or so FOH engineers. Doing FOH at Shea entails some kind of blend of mixing the show, recording every set, doing monitors, and being some semblance of a stage manager.
What does the post-production at Shea entail?
As far as mixing the sets that get recorded at Shea, Adam Reich is THE guy. He is founder, owner and ”Mix Master Big Reich”, and he has mixed thousands of sets, for free, for the love of the songs. It’s a pretty beautiful thing.
Do you change your approach when you’re running sound for different artists?
I certainly change my approach in a way for every artist I do sound for. That’s the only way—Especially in New York when you can go from a 7 piece soul band, to a noise set, to a solo keyboard & vocal set. Being adaptable is the name of the game. Though, I do have some go to EQ, comp, and gate settings that I know work well at Shea.
Your own DIY venue, Big Snow Buffalo Lodge, was a cool space as well. I went to a show there in 2012, before it closed in 2013. What did you learn from that whole experience?
Big Snow was definitely quite a trip. I remember seeing you out there back in 2012! For me, tackling FOH at Big Snow was a cake walk as all the gear was mine from my teenage years/college, loaned from friends and other Big Snow employees, or purchased with specific purpose for the room.
We did a little soundproofing, put the speakers and console where they should be, and just lucked out. It was a great sounding small room. I think an important aspect was that we didn’t overdo anything in the venue sound wise.
I look back on Big Snow as a great learning experience. We worked hard, ran every show ourselves, didn’t make any money, but had some amazing bands and met some of the coolest people. It felt right and natural, and I think that showed when you walked through the door.
Tell me about engineering for Titus Andronicus’ fourth studio album, which just came out this summer.
Working on The Most Lamentable Tragedy was a long but rewarding process. Working with [Marcata Recording owner/operator] Kevin McMahon was a treat, as well as working with Adam Reich, Charlie Deschants, and a team of outstanding engineers and musicians. We also got a chance to work in some great rooms. Excello, Marcata, and my studio, [The Bakery]. The Bakery was home base for a lot of overdubs and editing, and we did the demos at Shea.
I’m ecstatic with how the album turned out. Me and Patrick Stickles put in a lot of hours at my studio. We’d put in normal work days: 11am or thereabouts until I went on to my evening gig at Shea or playing in my bands [Baked, Lost Boy?, and Leapling]. I think for such an ambitious project, there was a lot of care that went into that record.
I do love doing studio work. I got to touch some great material at The Bakery in Brooklyn— Titus, Wicked Kind, Bethlehem Steel, Wicked Kind, Diet Jesus’ first EP, a great couple of records with my long time buddy Virginia Trance [aka Scott Davis], some tracking with Lip Talk, and so many other awesome projects.
Can you share any advice for aspiring engineers who want to become pros at the mixing console?
Some advice I’d give to younger engineers who want to stick with it is, more than anything, to follow your instincts while absorbing as much perspective as possible from other engineers, rooms, new gear, etc. Ask questions, read, try things out. You really just have to get out there and do it if you love it.
I came up interning at the original Silent Barn, Shea, and with [concert promoter] Todd P. I don’t think I’d be working on these kinds of records or doing touring FOH without putting in time and paying my dues in the DIY scene in Brooklyn and Manhattan. I had a blast doing it and learned a lot from the rooms and the people.