Paris Zannos is an award winning engineer. He recently recorded, mixed and mastered Judith Sephuma’s 2016 SAMA award winning album, One Word. Situated ten doors away from Exilic Music in Fish Hoek, Cape Town, Paris is one of the most underrated mastering engineers in the country. Let’s hear his story.
What made you decide to be a music producer/engineer?
I was studying something completely different and found myself staring past the lecturer and the chalk board (oops giving my age away) while humming tunes and licks from songs I was into. The ear worms wouldn’t go away so I thought maybe it was a sign to get into music. I loved watching bands live. I met members of one band, asked them to come and test out some of my recording gear….and that was it. Press record and see what happens.
When did you get started in music production?
1992….just as the ark pulled away and the waters subsided.
Which artists or projects have you produced/engineered for?
Many young rock bands from the 90’s, then did a lot of Jazz/Funk bands that graduated from UCT, some of the latest successful artists have been Jimmy Dludlu, Judith Sephuma, Kunjalo, Zoe Modiga, Jeremy Olivier (grabbing onto some coat tails of the voice ha ha !) and supergroup, Top Dog.
Do you use hardware, software or a hybrid approach?
Hybrid I guess, a bit of compression going in from some outboard gear, a couple of pre amps dont hurt either (he said wishing he had more). I also use external valve compression and enhancement when mastering.
What advice do you give your clients most often?
Most musicians feel the studio is a pressured environment. Calming nerves is hard. A musician has to pour out their heart and soul, lay themselves bare emotionally (especially vocalists), and they have to do it on demand, and in a given time frame. I tell my clients that all things can be fixed and re-visited to try and take pressure off. Nothing is ever final until you want it to be. If a musician can feel relaxed in the studio then she/he will deliver their best performance. That’s more challenging than the technical stuff. When it comes to song arrangements, a lot of the times it is songs that are too long that are a problem. My advice to clients is to focus on the part of the song that will move somebody emotionally…the hook, the chorus, the melody, the groove, whatever it is or all of the above…..work on those, develop them in the song to build excitement, light or shade, or emotion, and lose the long intro, or that extra verse that doesn’t add to the experience. If the listener gets to the end and wants more, you have won and that’s a very rewarding feeling both for the producer and the artist. If you can’t get the listener to the chorus and past it, well….then your “hit” song might need a bit more work!
Mention one or two career highlights.
I recorded and managed a band called Lithium in the 90’s. It was the Grunge era and it was wild and exciting. The band got signed to EMI, playlisted on MTV when no other SA band was on, and supported Iron Maiden on their SA tour. That was pretty memorable. More recently getting a double nomination at the SAMAS for Best Engineer for the Jimmy Dludlu and Moreira Chonguica albums, with Jimmy winning the Best Jazz award was pretty sweet as well.
What advice do you have for upcoming producers/engineers?
Record as much as you can on whatever equipment you have. Follow the rules and break them as well. Do it your way.
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