Paul Pesco: Music Man
Paul Pesco has been in the music biz for 30 years, but he feels like he's only just getting started. A professional session musician – guitar being his main weapon of choice – he is constantly working on an eclectic mix of projects. He's recently been on the road with renowned pedal steel player, Robert Randolph, and can often be found working on sessions with Grammy-winning producer (and former Fugees bassist), Jerry 'Wonda' Duplessis. In terms of guitar sessions, he's worked with a real mix: from Madonna to Joan Baez, incorporating plenty of modern pop music, classic folk, and even jazz. The man can multi-task, too, which is even more incredible..!
“I play guitar, but really I am a multi-instrumentalist: keys, drums... and I also engineer,” Pesco explains. “You really do have to wear multiple hats to make the world go round in this day and age; it's the only way to stay in the game.”
Pesco comes from a very musical family: his dad was a teacher and opera singer, and he and his three sisters all took piano lessons at their local music school when growing up.
“Music was a pretty natural path, really; our parents encouraged us, but never pushed us in that direction,” Pesco reveals. “Now it's been 30 years as a professional for me, and I honestly feel like I'm just starting out! [laughs] Like a lot of careers over time, I am running new technology every day, and embracing great stuff, and that for me is wonderful.”
Although lots of people are nostalgic about analogue, and old technology, Pesco believes the digital age makes everything much more straightforward, which can only be a positive:
“Analogue was good, but it took a lot of work to make it work, and you always had limited possibilities; yes, it made you cut away the fat, which was a good thing, but what we have now is on another level, and we tend to take it for granted,” Pesco reflects. “It's nano technology at work, when you think about it; we've got more technology in our pocket now than Houston did to put man on the moon with NASA. In those terms, it's mind-blowing.”
Choosing not to go down the moon landing conspiracy route, I instead ask Pesco about his go-to kit, and how he uses it in his musical day to day life.
“I very much like RME's Babyface Pro audio interface; it's wonderful how powerful it is, and how simple it is to use; to me, it looks amazing, too - like it's reverse engineered off of Area 51! Is it martian technology? Who knows,” Pesco laughs. It's clearly not alien to him, though (sorry). “I am from Long Island, and I'm on the road a lot, but I often bring things down to Jerry [Duplessis] at Platinum Sound, and he has every piece of gear that you would ever need; we work on Logic or Ableton in his control room, and I just bring my Babyface Pro along, and interface into the system. It's great for that kind of application.”
Pesco also uses RME's Fireface 800 in his own studio as the central matrix.
“My Fireface is basically my centre point of signal paths at my home studio in upstate New York,” he confirms. “I got really lucky, and managed to find a ready-built space with a proper live room with isobooths and a control room, and that's been my setup for five years. I've had the Fireface for eight years now, and love working with it; again, it's so simple and easy to use. It's very powerful, and there is so much it can do in terms of signal routing. I implement a lot of what Fireface can do with the eight-channel ADAT bridges; I have two connected to it, which gives me 24 channels instantly for input. I also have 32 ready to go, so even more if I need it, but as I said before, if I need to get out of the studio, I now just grab a hard drive, laptop, and my Babyface Pro.”
Pesco also plans on utilising Babyface in his live performances, using a Bluetooth MIDI guitar setup:
“I am planning on taking Babyface Pro out for my solo shows, and connect via Bluetooth using a Fishman TriplePlay [wireless guitar system], interfacing direct into Ableton Live. It'll mean I can play an acoustic part and have strings following, expanding the sonic possibilities. In my job, I need to be able to switch gears at the drop of a hat: retrieve and archive, and work in various modes, so my kit needs to be equally adaptable. I've known for a while that Babyface is the perfect mobile interface for me, and when the Pro came out, I was all, 'OK, now we're talking'.”
Before we part ways, I ask Pesco about a current project he is working on with the superbly talented Brazilian artist, Juliana D'Agostini, which sounds like quite a challenge.
“Yeah, it is, but it's very rewarding," he smiles. "I'm basically working on a [Sergei] Rachmaninoff crossover album with Juliana; she is one of the top classical pianists in Brazil. Her usual gig is a 100-piece orchestra in London or Italy, and they fly her around the world, but this is very different: bass, drums, guitars; essentially a contemporary ensemble playing amazing classical music. It's very groovy, and very modern.”
We wish Paul the best of luck with the album, and with everything else musical. Look out for his new YouTube Channel, which will include chats with international producers, unique music videos, and detailed product reviews.
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