Luis Ergon recording and mixing engineer Lemon Studios

When did you first get into recording?

Right out of high school. Well Grade 12. When I was 17 or 18. I found Garageband on my Mac and I just did that stupid shit on there that meant nothing. Then I went to OIART [Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology]. That’s when I really started getting into it and started actually learning how to use Pro Tools and all this hardware gear and a bunch of theory and stuff like that. But it all started in 2010.

So you’re still fairly new to it.

Yeah I’ve only been doing it for four years.

What do you use to record bands now?

I do what is called “all in the box.” So I have a completely digital system. Studios will use hardware gear or analog gear or they’ll go to tape or they’ll use an outboard gear compressor. I don’t have a studio so it’s all anything I can get my hands on. Plug-ins wav plug-ins packages and add-ons I can use in Pro Tools. That’s how I do all of my mixing.

Would you say you do that out of necessity?

Yeah definitely out of necessity. I would love to use analog gear but the funds just ain’t there you know?

But analog recording is the preferred method for a lot of people right?

Yeah yeah. In the box I mean is not the worst way to do it. I’ve already created a certain workflow for myself in the box so I’m not really complaining about it. And if I had the ability to use outboard gear I would but it would almost be more of a challenge at that point because I haven’t done it very often.

Who are some recording engineers that you look up to?

Steve Albini is a big one. He’s all analog and he has very organic sounds. His drum sounds are huge. I feel like I mix my drums a little bit lower in the mix and they’re a little bit more back and they’re not as big as his. But he’s also got the studio space. Recording has all to do with space. Acoustic physics it has a lot to do with where you’re recording. But yeah Steve Albini is a big one. When I was really getting into recording I was really looking up to Kurt Ballou from Converge. I looked up to him. Right now mostly Steve Albini if I’m listening to anything.

That’s a good lead-in to my next question. When you’re listening to other people’s recordings do you hear things that you would have done differently?

Oh yeah. I try not to let it get to me too much because I’m still learning a lot and every time I record and do mixes I’m always trying to practise something new. But I will definitely notice in a good clean mix or even like a shitty mix… there was one that came to me the other day the Hijinx self-titled EP. The mix on it was really strange to me because the vocals were panned all the way left. I notice stuff like that. My mixes don’t come out as polished as other people — I don’t have the material or even the knowledge to make a radio polished mix. But I try.

Do you record all styles of music or do you only focus on hardcore punk bands?

Lately it’s only been hardcore punk bands. It’s all friends too. People I know. They’re all in hardcore punk bands so I just do it for them. But I listen to mostly hip-hop if you know me. I don’t listen to too much punk lately at least.

What kind of hip-hop are you into?

Right now I mostly listen to TDE stuff like Schoolboy Q Isaiah Rashad Kendrick Lamar J-Rock. But Mark my friend showed me the other day King Lotus. And I’m a huge Kanye West fan. Biggest Kanye West fan ever.

And he’s like a studio genius.

Yeah. He’s amazing. Oh my god. I love Kanye West. I’ve watched so many videos of him making beats with the MPC. When I was learning Pro Tools I had a pretty good workflow on how to make beats but I lost it so fast. I haven’t done it in a while. Although I’d love to.

Going back to the punk bands you’re pretty much the guy in town when it comes to recording.

That’s what I wanted essentially. I went to London [Ont.] I spent a lot of money on school and it’s a really hard industry to crack through and do anything worthwhile or to make any money if you’re making it about the money. I just wanted to come home and record my own band essentially. Which I did and it turned out horrible. The Lowlife demo was the worst thing I’ve ever done. Then I think Skabiis was the first band I ever recorded two years ago. They just asked me if I could record them. It turned out really good and the ball just kept rolling from there.

What are all the local bands you’ve recorded?

Skabiis Putos Sperm Traumatized Hag Face Skin Colour Exotic Functions PMMA Intercoarse Teerjerker — that and PMMA are probably my proudest moments. And the Sperm demo that one sounds huge. All my first projects I did with any band I’d always do it live off the floor. So everyone would play live and I would mic every instrument up and I’d go home and mix the live take. That was really hard to do especially if you don’t have the right space.

Right because the individual sounds bleed into the other mics.

Yeah exactly. There’s certain ways you can use bleed to your advantage but you can only take it so far. So a lot of my earlier things were pretty rough sounding but it worked out for everyone. Now I’m basically doing track by track and it’s working pretty well.

Even playing in bands I’ve noticed that a lot of people are afraid of tracking things separately but once you get used to it it always turns out better.

Yeah. The more you guys jam it’s almost like playing live. You have the guitar doing a scratch track into the headphones if you’re the drummer. If the drummer and the guitarist are tight everything else will be tight.

When you’re recording these types of bands I assume what you’re taught in school might be different than what they want. They probably want everything blown out and in the red right? Do you have to unlearn things you were taught?

I wouldn’t say I have to unlearn. I use everything I’ve learned maybe into a different practice but sometimes I have to dumb myself down and be like “You know what? This guitar could probably stay sounding this muddy and it will be fine in the end.” You know what I mean? I just have to be laid back. A problem I often run into which is funny to me is that people will be like “It sounds too good.”

But that’s the thing right? A lot of new bands just want everything turned up all the way.

When I do listen to punk and what’s coming out it sounds really bad. I understand punk and how it’s supposed to sound and I think that’s why people keep coming back to me because I have an understanding on how they want it to sound and I’ve done it in the past. I listen to other punk demos that I just hate. They just sound like nothing like pure distortion. And not good distortion. There’s good distortion and there’s bad distortion. Digital distortion is definitely bad distortion.

Are you open to working with anyone?

I’m open to working with everyone and anyone. My email [ lu.ergon@gmail.com ] would be the best way to get in touch with me.

Do you have set rates that you charge?

I haven’t had a set rate in forever because I am dealing with some pretty close friends. But it usually comes to around $200 for me and I do rent stuff from Long and McQuade because I can’t afford to buy all the stuff and have it around all the time. That can be like $80 to $150. So it comes to $400 for a good ol’ Lu recording and mixing and mastering. I’d like to keep it at that price because I’ve been playing since I was like 14 or 15 and I’ve recorded with people. I paid like $800 at Echo Base $700 at Chaos Theory and it took both of them like months to get me a mix and I just didn’t find it was worth it for a couple of kids playing in a punk band that just wants to release their demo. So I kind of try to be as affordable as I can. I think that’s what people really respond to. I don’t want to feel like I’m ripping people off.