Producer, engineer and self-confessed Pro Tools know-all Max Dingel shares some of his audio know-how...
Max Dingel has been busy. In the past five years he has been involved in the production of albums for Muse, The Killers, Goldfrapp and John Cale to name but a few, and more recently he’s been working with The Hoosiers and White Lies. Max started recording local bands in his late teens and in 1999 he moved from Stuttgart to London where he worked at various top studios alongside some of the biggest names in music production. Max is currently one of the most in-demand UK producers and Pro Tools engineers and over the next two pages you’ll find out why…
You’ve worked with some of the biggest names in music going, but how did you get started in this fickle business?
“If you want to go all the way back, then as a kid I played recorder and then the drums. Growing up as a kid in the 80s there were bands like Simple Minds, U2, Depeche Mode… there was something grand about the music. It was pretty epic!
“Now living in London, the chance to have a drumkit is limited, so I use those skills more in drum programming and production. I’m obsessive about drums; they can be so difficult to tackle in the recording process. If you’ve never played drums then tuning and minor set-up adjustments can be difficult but they’re the things that can make all the difference.”
You’re known for your work in Pro Tools, most famously as PT Engineer on Muse’s 2006 'Black Holes & Revelations' album. How have you seen Pro Tools evolve over the years?
“I started on Pro Tools 4 in 1997 when it was eight-track and it sounded brilliant. I was 19 at the time and the difference between my eight-track cassette and Pro Tools was ridiculous.
“It was a massive learning curve to move into computer-based recording, but it was an incredible journey. In more recent versions it looks like Pro Tools is taking the lead back from other DAWs. For a while it felt that other native DAWs like Logic were offering a real advantage, but for me TDM was always about it working when it matters.
“I can see why cheaper native DAWs can seem attractive, but things like latency and punching in 24 tracks of audio at the same time can’t be an issue when you have a top band sitting in front of you and you’re making an album.
“That’s not to say that Pro Tools has fewer features. What I’ve seen in terms of software instrument integration from AIR is cool. Elastic time is sometimes very handy when I need to bring in a loop or tighten up a part in the session.”
What is your favourite thing about Pro Tools?
“Reliability. I need to know that I have a system that will perform and deliver, I just need something to get the job done. AVID got a bit caught up in the semi-pro comparison, but for me it’s not about that. Just knowing it sounds great and works when it matters is what’s important.”
You’re using quite a bit of hardware alongside your Pro Tools set-up, so what’s your go-to hardware gear?
“I have JoMoX Xbase 88 drum synthesizer, an Akai MPC plus a Moog MiniMoog, a Nord and an Alesis Andromeda. Sometimes I just want to stop looking at the computer screen and mess around with hardware. I love using hardware effects inserts like spring reverbs and tape delays.”
And what about plug-ins?
“I also love software plug-ins like Soundtoys gear and the Echoboy.”
A lot of aspiring producers and engineers reading this would love to know if you have any particular Pro Tools tips or shortcuts you could share…
“Being really good on Pro Tools and knowing my tools has opened a lot of doors for me over the years. That’s helped me get the gigs and the really good projects. You can’t start out these days and not be proficient in what you do.
“I don’t know about tips for Pro Tools but here’s something… You need to have a good personality and watch your attitude and behaviour. Artists and studios need to know they can work with you under pressure for weeks on end. Also, you need to be open and keen to learn. Here’s a quote from a producer I once heard: ‘Your reputation starts on day one’. I like that.”
Your recent albums for White Lies, The Hoosiers and Glasvegas are stunning, but what stuff are you listening to when you’re not working?
“So much stuff! Anna Calvi, Metronomy, Death Cab For Cutie… to name just a small amount!”
And if you could tell our readers the sort of thing they should listen to as an example of great production, apart from your albums of course, what would you recommend?
“Now that is a tough one! Listen to everything from Nine Inch Nails to Arcade Fire and anything in between!”
• Born and grew up in Germany
• Learned to play drums and started recording local bands
• First used Pro Tools in 1997
• Moved to London in 1999
• Worked alongside Rich Costey, Flood, Alan Moulder and others
MAX DINGEL - A SELECTED DISCOGRAPHY
• Glasvegas: Glasvegas
• Goldfrapp: Tracks On Seventh Tree
• Jaymay: Autumn Fallin’
• John Cale: Tracks On Circus
• Muse: Black Holes & Revelations
• Neon Neon: Stainless Style
• Secret Machines: Ten Silver Drops
• The Hoosiers: The Illusion of Safety
• The Killers: Sam’s Town
• The Music: Strength In Numbers
• Weezer: Make Believe
• White Lies: Ritual
• White Lies: To Lose My Life…
• White Rose Movement: Kick
• PRO TOOLS 10
Max is well known for his inside-out knowledge of Pro Tools and was one of the first producers to make the update to the newest version: PT10.
For more information on any Pro Tools product then feel free to give us a call on 01202 597180 and we will be happy to help.
• AKAI MPC500
This is a great way to get into the Akai MPC family. Beat creation, sampling, MIDI sequencing and live performance features for less than £350! (Also try: MPC1000, MPC5000)
This collection of Native plug-ins includes Max's favourite Echoboy plus FilterFreak, Speed, PanMan, PhaseMistress, Crystallizer, Decapitator and Tremolator for just £425!
Don't forget your iLok key!
• LEXICON MX200
Follow in Max's footsteps by adding spring reverb and tape delay (and loads more) from this sub-£200 multi-FX unit.