Three-time GRAMMY Award-winning producer and mixer David Bottrill and his long-time freelance collaborator, GRAMMY-nominated engineer, mixer and producer Ryan McCambridge, turned to a variety of NUGEN Audio software in their recent work on both the original and Dolby Atmos mixes for Mastodon’s latest double album, Hushed and Grim.
Bottrill and McCambridge worked on each song individually, giving each the careful attention it needed and employing Halo Upmix, Paragon and ISL to help them achieve their goals.
“Mastodon is a progressive band that required a lot of intricate sound design and layering,” explains Bottrill. “I mixed the album in stereo and then the decision was made to turn it into a Dolby Atmos format. It would have been a little more challenging for someone else to try and just match the mix that I had done, so it made more sense for me to do the Dolby mix. I knew what I wanted the sound to do and was able to turn that into an Atmos mix with Ryan’s help. We worked together, and it was a real education for me. It set the tone for everything Atmos as we go forward.”
Halo Upmix software was utilized to take Bottrill’s Mastodon stereo mixes and put them into an immersive format. “Since I work on both the music mix and in post, I suggested NUGEN for this project, which I had been using for years,” says McCambridge. “The brand is such an industry standard. I use all of the company’s plug-ins and have come to rely on certain ones more as we are working on projects for streaming services and Dolby Atmos immersive sound.”
According to Bottrill, Upmix became integral to the project. “Everything went through Upmix in varying degrees,” he says. “It worked incredibly well for maintaining an album feel, while also giving the listener a sense of being surrounded by the music. Using Upmix, we also had the confidence that our mixes would still sound pristine when we bring them down into other formats. It doesn’t become sloppy and it doesn’t turn into a phase nightmare. It’s very graceful.”
The duo also utilized ISL and Paragon on the Mastodon album to help them discreetly add things into the mix. “Paragon was good for when we were trying to smooth over the edges of anything we were adding into the mix,” McCambridge adds. “We didn’t want to pinpoint any stems that we were adding, we just wanted them to become part of the whole three-dimensional image.”
As for his use of ISL, McCambridge says it is his primary fail-safe plug-in. “Whether I’m mixing music or working in post, having ISL on the end of a chain, at least in the back of your mind, you know that you’re not going to clip,” he says. “Since it’s so transparent, you don’t really have to worry and manage it as much as you do with other, more ‘vibey’ limiters and compressors. To be honest, I’m pretty shocked at how transparent it is sometimes.”
“Pushing Tides,” the first single from Mastodon’s Hushed and Grim album, was nominated for a 2022 GRAMMY Award for Best Metal Performance.