Interview with producer/engineer/composer Eric Lilavois

By on September 22, 2014

Eric LilavoisEric Lilavois is a record producer, engineer/mixer, TV film composer, and recording artist. As a producer, Eric has worked with some big name bands and up and comers including Atlas Genius, Surfer Blood, My Chemical Romance and Saint Motel.  In April 2013, Eric became a partner and co-owner of London Bridge Studio in Seattle, where huge names like Pearl Jam, Blind Melon and Soundgarden have recorded.  Eric also owns and runs Crown City Studios, a 4000 square foot studio in Pasadena.

 

Lilavois has worked with major labels, Warner Bros., Atlantic and Universal Records, to develop their artists.  He has been a member of the Grammy’s and a top SXSW panelist. As well as being a producer of other artist’s music, Eric has also produced and composed over 70 original cues for television and independent films including Pawn Stars, American Restoration and Cajun Pawn Stars. He is the Executive Producer of a video series called “Crown City Sessions” that serves as an outlet for up and coming bands in Los Angeles.  He is also the current talent buyer for Make Music Pasadena, a free music festival that draws 40,000 people each year.

 

 

HHM: How did you get started in the music and entertainment industry?

Eric:  I was in a band called the “Days In Between”… We did a few DIY tours in the northwest and southwest, recorded a couple of independent records. That transitioned into spending a lot of time in the studio and before I knew it other bands were asking me to work with them on their material.

HHM:  What motivated you to get into the recording and production side of the music business? 

Eric:  I realized fairly quickly that I was the producer in the band, and I was always the guy peeking over the engineers shoulder, asking a million questions and geek-ing out on the gear. I wasn’t just focused on the writing, I was always stretching on arrangements, and massaging songs the other guys brought in. Slowly other bands started asking the same of me, and it was just a really natural progression.

HHM:  How did you develop your skills as a producer? 

Eric:  I tend to repeat this a lot and beat the sentiment to death a bit but it’s my favorite and I think it’s true of anything… Leonard Cohen says “if you want to be this thing called a writer you have to go to work every day.” You have to show up, care, and work at it, every single day. I studied the bands I loved, the sounds that inspired me, and always took notice of all the people it took to make their records. I was a liner note junkie.  I also made it a point to know the technical side of the studio inside and out. There’s also honing in on not just the music of the people I worked with, but the people and that has been the key for me. Getting to the root of what inspires them and why they bother to create, what gets them out of bed and puts them to sleep.  Sometimes, when you’re in the thick of a record it’s easy to get too wrapped up in the mechanics, so I try to make the technical side less intrusive, and create an environment that puts everyone in the right space to just be can in the moment, and capture that as best I can.

HHM:  You currently own two recording studios, other than the physical locations, is there any difference between the two?

Eric:  The major difference is mostly technical, but even though the energy is similar, they are both very unique. London Bridge has its own storied history that in ways takes on its own personality. So many incredible records have been made there, so many talented folks have walked through that building, and have recorded on that board, in that room. You feel it, it pushes you, inspires you, and you kind of hold yourself to a higher standard in that way. We have a beautiful 1970‘s Neve board at London Bridge, (that we are actually in the process of fully restoring) and the room was just built meticulously. It’s so easy and intuitive to work there, and you’re hard pressed to find a spot in the live room that doesn’t put its own stamp on things, it’s an incredibly musical room.  There’s also a 2” tape machine, which adds a whole other dimension to the sound.

For Crown City, I think the initial reaction is always for people to just settle in, everyone truly feels at home there. I wanted to create an environment that artists could feel inspired instead of distracted. You’ll find a pretty intense library of books, artwork, films, and records to explore. It’s been rewarding to just point people in a different direction, or even just leave the tools out and give them the opportunity to explore on their own.  I have an SSL AWS 900 console at Crown City so a lot of mixing gets done there, but I also have a lot of NEVE and TRIDENT outboard gear, so it’s kind of like 2 or 3 consoles in one.

HHM:  What about the studio rooms themselves, what kind of difference does the room make in the final product, if any?

Eric:  They are both incredible places to cut drums, or a band live, because they both have a lot of square footage… You can spread out, and isolate.  Rick and Rah Parashar the original owners of London Bridge took incredible care building that room, it’s pretty amazing. I’ve worked in a lot of studios across the country, and I can honestly say that London Bridge is a unique and incredible sounding live room. It’s just easy to capture the sounds you’re looking for there.
Crown City wasn’t built specifically as a studio. It’s a large creative space that transformed into that, and that gives it its own stamp as well. The room is very live and moody. It’s fun to see what happens when you throw a microphone 40 feet back from the source. There’s also a pretty ridiculous amount of outboard gear at Crown City, a little bit of everything, lots of sonic colors to paint with. The gear collection is very expansive.

HHM:  What is the craziest thing you’ve seen in the studio?

Eric:   I honestly get asked this question a lot, and the funny thing about it is the studio isn’t actually that crazy. Granted there have been some strange moments over the years, but generally it’s a lot more boring to the average person then you would imagine. There’s a good friend who was bugging me for weeks to come sit in on a session with one of his favorite bands, and after the 15th piano take in a row, he was off to the bar next door. Its back to Cohen, if you really want to do this, you have to go to work, every day.

HHM:  I know you have produced all types of music, what genre is your personal favorite?

Eric:  There is an undeniable rock, indie, folk, influence there, but I’ve honestly enjoyed working with bands who have many different influences and directions. I tend to migrate towards organic sounds, partly because the spaces I generally work in provide such a great opportunity for that. Working on the Dustbowl Revival record was great, because I felt like I could get out of the way, set up the mics, the environment, and capture the sound, then manipulate it to my own understanding of the bands direction in the mix. It forced us all to stretch in a really good way, and anytime I went too far off the grid Zach would reign it back in. That’s exciting to me when roles can kind of swap. If I was working on rock band I probably would have been the one doing the reigning in. I think it’s dangerous to only work with someone who only has the exact same taste and doesn’t have some different influences. Same for being in a band, it’s pretty magical when things come from different places and worlds can collide.

HHM:  What has been your greatest personal challenge?

Eric:  Well as a producer I was definitely afraid of being pigeon-holed early on, so I put being a recording artist myself on hiatus for a long time. I didn’t want people to think that production wise, all I was capable of were the sounds or direction I preferred as an artist for my own material. I feel in a really great spot with that now, I think it’s evident that I’m capable of a pretty wide range of things, and I feel a lot more freedom to put my own music out there, and I get asked to play on so many of the records I work on. As far as other challenges, of course there is juggling the time, money, energy, people, and toll this kind of crazy path takes on you and more importantly the people close to you. There are a lot of things I’ve missed out on and had to sacrifice to pursue this path, so sometimes it stings when people call you lucky or something.  But all in all, I am lucky. Pursuing your passion is everything. We’re not here for long, and I’m committed to helping the people I work with and come across hone in on every second, every moment.

HHM:  What do you feel has been your greatest achievement thus far?

Eric:  My daughters. They are perfect in every way, and are already incredible people. The mark they are going to make on this spinning ball of fire is far beyond any trophy or accolade I could ever hope for.

HHM:  You have already achieved a great level of success, both as a producer and as a musician, what is something you haven’t done that you are striving to achieve?

Eric:  There are a number of artists I would really love to work with, and some historic venues I would love to play. I used to spend a lot of time behind the typewriter, so maybe writing in that way is another passion I’d love to circle back to down the road.

HHM:  Which provides you with the greatest personal satisfaction, writing and performing your own music, or producing for other artists?

Eric:  To serve others is to serve oneself… I’m a producer all the way, and I appreciate that being an artist led me to that, and I recognize I will always be an artist, but there is nothing like helping someone not only realize a vision, but see it through. That truly gets me out of bed in the morning. I hope the songs do the same when they reach everyone, whether they’re my own or an artist’s that I’m working with.

HHM:  You have written many cues for television, where do you draw the inspiration the signature themes for you write?  

Eric:  I collaborate with a good friend and brilliant musician/composer, Andrew DeWitt, and we just have a blast doing it. There are so many things we pull from, and we are constantly talking influence and direction for each unique piece, which keeps it fresh. It’s a cool balance because frankly I tend to be pretty abstract in the way I describe things, and with musical lingo. It’s me saying something should be more orange, Andrew saying it should be more Stones, or in the key of C, and we both understand each other perfectly.

HHM:  Do you have any projects currently in the works that you would like to talk about?

Eric:  I am incredibly excited about the Second Howl. I worked on some songs with them previously, and we are about to head back in to the studio.

There are also a number of artists I’m working with for London Tone Music, the record label associated with London Bridge, that’s been a pretty crazy and ambitious experience, but we’ve discovered and had the opportunity to work with lots of diverse and talented artists. Working with the Smokey Brights was fantastic, and Celeigh Chapman’s single “Victoria” came out beautifully. I’m in the process of wrapping up tracks for Tricia Iverson, Austin Kolbe, The Ten Thousand, Kong, and David and Olivia in the coming weeks, all London Tone Artists.

HHM:  When it’s all said and done and you look back on your career as a musician and as a producer, what legacy do you hope to leave?

Eric:  As long as the individuals I’ve worked with and/or the people who hear these songs, that I’ve been a part of, or created,  as a musician, producer or any other way feel inspired, connected their own greater sense of purpose, the people and planet around them, etc. I’ll feel like I did my best. My hope is simply to identify the sense that the clock is ticking, and every second is ours to have and hold, or waste. I’m most interested in the experiences, in the personal and collective journeys.

HHM:  Is there anything else you would like to add?

Eric:  My thanks and appreciation for your time, after all, it’s all we have!

Interview by: Gary Flinn HHM/Beyond The Pit photography

For More Information:

ericlilavois.com

DaveHHM

Author: DaveHHM

Dave Luttrull: Owner/Editor in Chief of Hellhound Music. Star Wars nerd, Gamer, Destiny homer, blogger, writer and lover of all things music.

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