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Maxim Komov on Music Production and the Russian Recording Industry

Moscow-based mix and mastering engineer, producer and sound designer Maxim Komov tells Headliner how the Russian studio and recording industry has evolved in recent years, his approach to music production, and how he uses oeksound’s soothe and spiff plugins throughout his process…

It’s been quite the busy year for Komov, having worked with his usual range of well-known Russian artists and bands – including Thomas Mraz, Bicycles for Afghanistan and Hardcore Café – as well as with Mongolian pop girl group The Wasabies.

“I’ve also collaborated with some great songwriters,” he tells Headliner. “I worked with a production duo called Sunny From The Moon on some big opening ceremonies that happened in Sochi and Kazan, two big cities in Russia. We composed and recorded the music for these events, and there were a lot of local pop artists involved.”

While the majority of Komov’s most recent mixing and production work has been on the pop rock side, he admits that his musical influence is quite broad. He grew up listening to and playing in rock and metal bands, and quickly developed an ear for more experimental styles like Norwegian jazz.

I WOULD LIKE TO WORK WITH OTHERS MORE OFTEN, BECAUSE I THINK COLLABORATION IS WHAT KEEPS YOU CONSTANTLY MOVING FORWARD.

“I enjoy working with artists and bands who implement elements of jazz, R&B and organic hip-hop into their sound,” he reveals. “These new soul artists are very popular in Russia at the moment. More experimental styles – with their broad palette of sounds – often force you to investigate deeper into how the music is made.

“The recording industry in Russia is quite young compared to that of Britain or America, although I think it’s constantly evolving and developing. In the ‘90s there were maybe five or six big studios where you could actually record your music. Independent artists didn’t stand a chance because it was of course too expensive, but things have changed very fast. Now we’ve seen an explosion of music creators who work remotely on just their laptops. They might record some drums in their living room and then go to a different room in a different city to record vocals. The dynamic has completely changed.

“To be honest, I would like to work with others more often, because I think collaboration is what keeps you constantly moving forward. I’m often mixing for up to 18 hours a day, so I’d like to spend maybe two days a week just collaborating with great, inspired artists.”

When it comes to his setup, Komov uses his MacBook with an RME Fireface digital interface, along with a collection of compressors and preamps and a pair of Quested V2108 monitors. For studio recording, mixing and arranging, his DAW of choice is Cubase, “because it’s very convenient, and can go quite deep with MIDI and things like orchestration”. For particularly large mixing projects, he also employs Reaper for its accessibility and flexibility.

Cleaning Up

Komov has also recently been incorporating oeksound’s soothe and spiff plugins into his workflow: “spiff is actually my favourite for moving things deeper into the soundstage,” he explains. “You can use it to reduce the amount of attack, and move things away from the listener. It provides an interesting perspective, letting you control the positioning of instruments without using reverb and while still keeping the instruments dry.

“I’m mostly using spiff on live drums to control the attack and sustain, and I like using the dry/wet slider to keep on top of things. With soothe on the other hand, I’m basically always putting it on vocals, using the slow attack setting to tame the tonal part of the vocal and the high-mids while keeping the transients punchy in that region. It’s also super helpful for cleaning up cymbals and high-hats from the snare microphones.

“I’m in the middle of producing and recording two albums in different studios around Moscow – there are two or three great facilities where I find myself the most,” he concludes. “I always just try to keep myself busy, and keep things moving all the time!”