Pinging The Pros: Collyer Spreen

“My credo is, if you can’t have fun, or at least enjoy what you’re doing, stay home. Find your happiness and then go do something with it. And whatever that is, do it with honor!” – Collyer Spreen
There’s no substitute for rolling up your sleeves and getting shit done to better yourself. And there’s no better way to realize your own individual potential than to build a strong support network.
Think about it: even the strongest Olympic-strength muscles cannot function without being supported by strong bones, tendons and ligaments.
Willie Mays and Babe Ruth, arguably two of the greatest baseball players in the history of the game, were tremendous individual talents. But their true success was in the context of strong Giants and Yankees teams.
You get my point. Teamwork is vital, even with respect to individual accomplishments.
Because I get to work closely with famous rock stars, I sometimes get welcome recognition and press. That’s not the case, however, for my vital support teammates, who are just one step further removed from the superstars. But it’s on the backs of these men and women that I am able to create a foundation to support those stars. They deserve recognition, which is why I occasionally write these “Pinging The Pros” blog posts.
Collyer Spreen is one of the people who has saved my ass multiple times, but you never see his name on the records he quietly (and sometimes heroically) resurrected. I first met him within the context of a fairly mundane occurrence: a new control surface for my mixing console wasn’t properly interfacing. Therefore I was unable to write moving fader automation, which is one of the keys to adding movement, dynamics and excitement to a mix. Collyer very quickly sorted out my issues, and I was up and running before my artist even knew there was a problem.

Although Collyer is a Renaissance man who can compose, record, produce and mix whatever you throw at him— he’s basically an industry unto himself— he also has a passion for helping others. During his time at Avid, makers of the industry standard Pro Tools digital audio workstation, Collyer was literally the only person at the company who was able to consistently and quickly solve any technical issues affecting my studio. Don’t get me wrong – I love working on Pro Tools, but I often know more about the software than Avid’s technical support teams do. This is very frustrating, especially considering that I pay $399 per year, times two “Ultimate” licenses, for support that never works for me.

Having said that, a gem like Collyer Spreen is worth his weight in gold. I would pay twice that amount if Collyer were assigned as my go-to guy. He’s that good. Plus he’s fun, possessing a wicked sense of humor. And he’s a hardcore bicyclist, so we are always chopping it up about excellent rides!

As fate would have it, a shake up at Avid prompted Collyer to return to his independent freelance roots. So he is in fact now my go-to guy for all things Pro Tools, even though he is no longer on Avid’s payroll.
I recently caught up with Collyer and asked him a few questions that may be interesting to both veteran and newbie recordists. Here are some highlights.
1) MJ: When something goes wrong with Pro Tools, I can easily spend hours or even days sifting through error messages and compatibility documents to sort out a glitch that might cost me thousands of dollars while sending the wrong message to my VIP clients. You, on the other hand, always seem to know the solution, even for very esoteric problems. You’ve safely navigated me out of numerous shit storms within minutes. Can you tell me more about how and why do you stay on top of this stuff, and why you find it rewarding?
CS: The sound of things has always intrigued & inspired me from early on, so the how & why of it has always been a “need” for me. Music and great sound aren’t always mutually inclusive, but some people make it so, and that is what drives me, as I’m sure, it does others in this wild business. Plus, all this power over sound is cool as it gets.
2) MJ: If others want to benefit from your consulting services, what’s the best way for them to reach you?
 
CS: I can be found at mixmode.net. Or out on my bicycle in the woods.
 
3) MJ: How does your consulting service enhance your other artistic pursuits, and vice versa? Further, how do you balance the music stuff with your other interests in life?
 
CS: Music, mixing music, and the the tech geek in me fulfill a part of my drive, but helping others with my experience & knowledge has an equal drive in me that finds fulfillment in teaching, sharing, and solving others’ problems or challenges. You’d be shocked to know how many top level mixers/engineers have benefitted from my help – I know I am – my phone contacts reads as a who’s-who of audio professionals. The best part of this is how appreciative and gracious 98.6% of the clients I have are, and as you know, this can be an ego-centric, um, me-before-everybody-else business. But I learned my way from really great mixers and engineers that are also great humans. I was lucky enough to be in Hollywood when the music business was handing money out like candy, and as an assistant engineer in the ‘80s, worked on projects from Scritti Politti, Patti LaBelle, Crowded House, Donna Summer, MJ, Starship, Poison, and a list I could name drop for hours. Speaking of name droppers, that Sting, man, can he name drop….
 
4) MJ: Is there anything else of interest that you might like to share with my readers?
 
CS: My credo is, if you can’t have fun, or at least enjoy what you’re doing, stay home. Find your happiness and then go do something with it. And whatever that is, do it with honor!
soundasleep
Before this snap became an Internet sensation, it was not a meme. Just Collyer Spreen after work…

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