Words by Mick J
Welcome to ‘In the Studio’ #3 with Tony Mantz, owner and founder of Jack the Bear’s Deluxe Mastering.
With credit to Tony, I was fortunate enough for him to complete this issue between a hospital trip and a fire scare, much appreciated mate!
Music mastering has always had an enigmatic quality to this artform and mystique. Tony sheds some light on this for us.
Hi Tony Welcome to Heavy mags ‘In the Studio’ Session #3
Thanks for having me here. You really ran out of options when you came to me didn’t ya?
There are many artists, some new to music recording and those who have released many albums who still don’t understand mastering, can you shed some light, please?
The best explanation I have come up with is that mastering is facilitating a process where I serve clients to assist them to reach their goals for their art.
A client will send in their final stereo mix to me and my job is to then listen to it deeply and then decide what tools I will require to help sculpt the audio towards its finished sound.
I am fortunate to have a wonderful selection of exceptional analogue and digital equalisers, compressors and other processors.
Many think of mastering is simply about making things LOUD, and while that is a commercial imperative, the skill is to do so without ruining the integrity of the final vision and dynamics.
Finally, make a master that will translate well that means it should play well and consistently across a range of playback systems.
When artists are looking for mastering their music, what should they look out for, the do’s and don’ts ?
The most important thing is to find a mastering engineer who you build a relationship with. It’s great to work with a big name engineer (and everyone should) at least once. But look for an engineer that will provide constructive mix feedback and be invested in your project. Always try to get your mix sounding as close to your final vision as possible and never try second-guessing what the engineer may or may not do. As I always tell my clients “Whether you like or not or not or realise it or not, I’m a surrogate member of your band/project. I’m that invested”.
As you are not only a mastering engineer but a music industry mentor, why do you feel it necessary to share your knowledge with younger music community members, and how do you go about doing it?
As a youngster, I was blessed to be mentored by some of the best in the business. These people didn’t know me from a bar of soap but admired by craziness in wanting to travel to the US / Canada, straight out of school with no money to chase my dream. It was never lost on me and I remember promising myself that if I ever achieved anything remotely like my heroes, I too would pay that kindness forward. I can safely say without any doubt I wouldn’t be where I am without it. I owe them a tremendous debt.
You have turned a passion into a successful business, how fulfilling is it? How hard was it to get it to this point?
I have often said my career is a hobby that got a malignancy that is never going to shrink. There is nothing more fulfilling that job satisfaction. It was extremely hard as I did many a sideline gig for about 21 years whilst building the business. It was in 2003 at 41 years of age where I hit that point of critical mass that required no supplementary income. I will never forget that day. If I had my time again I would change nothing. I highly recommend it to anyone. The process is more important than the destination.
What are your favourite projects you have worked on to date?
There are too many to mention. I am a proud Melbournian and to have had the pleasure of working at the epicentre of such talent has been a real privilege. Regardless of the band and / or status, I get to do what I love so much and get paid to do so. The $20 you get from an international artists buys you the same amount of bread and milk as from an unknown local indie one.
As we all know, the arts world have been harshly hit by the pandemic, what advice do you have for an artist, engineer, producer, rehearsal studio owner or anyone involved in music that is unsure, confused, depressed or struggling with the uncertainty of what the future holds?
First off remember you’re not alone and life hasn’t conspired to fuck up your world. Know there are people you can talk to (including myself) to provide some support. A lull period is an opportunity to get things like finances/taxes in order, some kind of re-organising and / or cleaning up of your space and take stock of your life to decide what matters to you not just in business but in your personal life. It also is a time to see you can contribute to your community. It’s a great way of getting perspective as well as the warm and fuzzy knowing you did somebody a real solid without detriment to you.
What are your 5 favourite albums?
So hard to do. I need 500 here, but in no particular order AC/DC “Back In Black”, Rage Against The Machine debut album, Phil K “Balance 004”, Beach Boys “Pet Sounds” and Dr Dre “The Kronik”.
Where did the nickname ‘Jack the Bear’ come from?
Two drunks on the NY subway called me that when I entered a carriage while they were arguing. One said “don’t blame me blame Jack the Bear” and he then pointed at me. My mate with me thought that was hilarious. Apparently, JtB is a mythical person in the Canadian lumber caper you blame when shit goes completely sideways. The irony is I’m nicknamed after somebody who fucks things up when I’m a gig where I’m meant to fix things up……..the irony is never lost on me.
Thanks for your time Tony.
I appreciate the opportunity to share some thoughts and people are welcome to hit me up for any mastering or mentoring questions without obligation. I love this community that has (and continues to) serve me well. It is a privilege to serve others in need.