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Studio Insider: An Interview With Engineer Rich Tozzoli

Insight from a skilled composer, guitarist, and author.
This article is provided by Bobby Owsinski.

Rich Tozzoli is one of the many “hybrid” musicians who does a lot of different jobs in the music and audio business.

He’s a great guitar player and composer whose music can be heard on television shows on Fox, the History Channel, Discovery and more.

He’s also a great engineer who was one of the first to get into surround sound (check out his book “Pro Tools Surround Mixing”.

You can find out more about Rich and his credits on his website. I’m very pleased he agreed to sit down with us to answer a few questions.

1) How did you break into the business?

Well, break in is the not the right word. Its actually slowly, gradually, and painfully (sometimes) finding your way into better and better gigs. I was lucky enough to hook up with Al DiMeola when I was getting started, and that led to many doors opening.

However, you still have to be good, actually, really good, at your job to keep those doors open once you’ve gotten in there….As for TV music, I’m also lucky that literally my first big break was doing music for Nickelodeon.

The late great Tom Pomposello ‘discovered’ me and helped guide me as to what and more importantly, what not to do. Also, there are no insignificant small things in our business – the smallest connection can literally lead to years of work.

2) What makes you unique?
I have an unusual background for someone in this end of the biz. I went to URI (University Of Rhode Island) for marketing and management, and took no music courses.

Then, when I got out of college, I worked in commercial lending for two years at a huge bank. It sucked! Hated every day – no kidding. They use to reprimand me in my reviews for walking around too much (no joke). But it was when you still had to ‘stay in your job’.

After that ended, I rebelled against the lemmings and have not worn a tie since 95′ (no kidding either). Anyway, I also am lucky to grasp things quickly, and Im an avid studier, researcher and listener. Sometimes, I don’t even know how I just composed a piece of music, literally minutes after I’ve done it. Might be someone else inside me.

3) Who was you biggest influence?
Thats a hard one to answer. I think there are too many. I’m an observer. I sit quietly and take in what I just see happen in front of me.

That gets stored in my memory banks for later use. So I’m influenced, literally, by everyone I come across. I never stop learning and trying to get better. Everyone can teach you something.

4) What’s the best thing about your job?
Wow, there are so many. Having worked on the ‘other side’ in the corporate world, I appreciate my freedom. I’m ferociously independent, and I always like to do what I want when I want. Ha!

But I don’t have an alarm clock in my bedroom, and I wake when my body tells me to. Usually, the only time I ever have to get up early is to catch flights. Thats worth a million dollars! I get to play guitar, create music, travel, work with amazing artists and be free.

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That’s the best thing for sure.

5) When and where were you the happiest?
That’s another tough one! I’m always happiest either at the beach or in the mountains. I walk along the Hudson River a lot too, in a little town called Piermont, NY.

I can detach there, and the water neutralizes me and gets me ready for whatever is coming next. That makes me incredibly happy.

Our business is loud and busy, and I’m sick of being attached to iPhones, computers and hard drives. I love to get away and ‘go analog’.

My favorite thing to do professionally is to compose – even more than mixing or engineering. Composing for a show that I know will be on TV makes me the happiest – because I know royalties are coming!

Also, with a lot of the TV music I do, I write whatever I want – so I can rock as heavy as Slayer with my Les Paul in one cue and pick like Hank on my Guild in another. Playing guitar makes me happy.

6) What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Dont get married. I’ve stuck to it too!

Bobby Owsinski is an author, producer, music industry veteran and technical consultant who has written numerous books covering all aspects of audio recording. For more information be sure to check out his website and blog.

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