Ryan Ulyate on mixing Tom Petty's Greatest Hits in Atmos

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I chatted with Ryan Ulyate this morning about his mixing journey, and about mixing Greatest Hits in Atmos. Here is part of the conversation:

I first saw your name with Concert for George but I know before that you were working with Jeff Lynne.
Jeff Lynne in 2000. Brainwashed in 2002, Concert for George, Highway Companion, then Traveling Wilburys. That's a hell of a seven-year period for you - for anyone. How did you meet Jeff Lynne?


I have a really good friend named Marc Mann who was working with Jeff. He's a guitar player, he's an arranger. He actually works with Danny Elfman and has been working with him for years, among other things. He's an amazing musician. He knew Jeff and he said Jeff was looking for an engineer. He said "Are you interested?" I said sure. I actually had been a producer. I had a former career producing artists from France and Latin America, believe it or not - just by fluke. In any case, sure for Jeff Lynne. So I went up there - Jeff's got a house up in Hollywood Hills - and did a session. He said "You want to come back tomorrow?" I said sure. (laughs) - and that's kinda how it always goes. You do something and someone says "what are you doing tomorrow?" Uh, nothing (laughs).
So, all of a sudden, because of Jeff, I got to meet...Jeff would be...he was working on some of his own material. He said "I'm gonna have Ringo come over and play the drums tomorrow. Can you make it?" "Yeah I think I can make it. I'm ok with that."
And then at some point George was still alive and was friends with Jeff. George came in and I got to meet George, within a very short amount of time...later on I met McCartney. Because of Jeff I met three of the Beatles. I put on my resume, this is really cheeky, but I put on my resume "...Ryan Ulyate has worked with artists such as George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and others (laughs)."
But it was like that with Jeff. Jeff was like "Tom's gonna come by and cut a song. Can you be there?"
So you just kinda wade into these things, but honestly it was just such an amazing opportunity to work with Jeff who is so talented and funny as hell and it was just a really fun situation. The real joy for me, working with Jeff and getting to work on George's album after he passed away - Brainwashed, which is amazing album - getting to know everybody. I got to work with great people and work on music that I LIKED. I haven't had to work on anything that I don't like, since like...since I met Jeff. (laughs)
So that's just an amazing journey and I'm so grateful for all of that.
You just kinda show up and stuff happens. Kind of a serendipitous thing the way this world works.
It's been great. I had such a great time working with Tom. He's such a wonderful human being as well as just so talented, and everyone around him were all cool because you had to be cool to hang out with those people. Same thing with George/ All the George people are all cool. When you meet them in real life they're down to earth, they're just really talented people. There's no BS. You can't be a bullshitter around George Harrison. It's not allowed (laughs).

I was going to ask if you ever had a chance to meet him....

Yeah I did meet him a few times and boy I'll tell you he was such an interesting and interesTED person. He was just very interesting and interesTED in people, and what he was interested in was all over the map. He was just a great guy.
...and I miss him of course, like I miss Tom. It was just an honor to be able to hang out a little bit, you know?

Your introduction to surround music I assume would be right around the early 2000s, the first wave of 5.1...

Yeah, Concert for George was the first thing I did in 5.1. I think I won some kind of...they had a surround award back then...I think I won two of them for that. It's a funny story with that. When I did the 5.1 mix, we couldn't do it at Jeff's studio because he didn't have 5.1 so we went down to Village Recorders, ya know famous studio in L.A. I went down there and talked to Jeff Greenberg, the guy who runs it, I said "Do you know anyone who does 5.1 mixes, cause I've gotta do one. Do you know somebody we could hire to just hold my hand, you know pay for a day?"
And it turns out he did know somebody and the engineer is named John Kurlander. Not only had he done a lot of stuff in 5.1 at Village, it turns out John Kurlander was the head of engineering for Abbey Road. He was a Tape Op who punched-in George's guitar solo on 'Something', you know? (laughs) Another one of those serendipitous...like wow (laughs). So John Kurlander, who really I owe a lot to, kind of got me through my first day of 5.1 mixing and the rest, as they say, is history. (Laughs)

Mojo, Damn the Torpedoes, the Live Anthology all happened 2009/2010...

So yeah we did the Concert for George in 2003. We did the Running Down A Dream documentary. Then I think that what was happening at that point was Mojo came out around 2010. I was really trying to get hi-res audio...it was just becoming possible for 5.1 to actually sound good because back in the day it was Dolby Digital and there was DTS but the formats they had as I recall were a little lossy, and they had just come up with the idea of using a better scheme, I forget if it was DTS HD or Dolby whatever but it was less compression and you could do it on a blu-ray and so right about then...Mojo was one of the first blu-ray discs and I pushed for it. Luckily Tom had enough clout with the label and I said "look, I think we can do this." The labels are always wanting to see if they could create new formats for people and (laughs) we were able to get away with it. So that was the first time I'd mixed an album as opposed to a soundtrack or for a video. The first time I'd mixed for a studio album in 5.1. I was just hooked. I was trying to tell everybody. I wanted everyone to do it. It's just so much fun to hear music like that.

The Greatest Hits that just came out - pretty unique because you've got what, six producers? Denny Cordell, Jimmy Iovine, Dave Stewart, Jeff Lynne, and then at the very end, the two Rick Rubin songs....

Yeah and don't forget Noah Shark, early on.

So your job on this one is tougher than normal to get a cohesive group of tones.
What was the most challenging, turning in this atmos mix with all these different engineers and producers?


I think the thing that I did that kinda helped me through was, I'm a real big fan of making sure that you honor the stereo mix before you even think about atmos. So a huge part of the process is going back to the original multitracks and original source material and making sure you have everything. The earlier tracks are easier because they are on 16 track. Then we go to 24 track. Then we go to 24 track with slaves and that sort of gets real dicey because there's a lot of tapes and you're trying to find stuff and reproduce it, what you're hearing in the stereo mix. So before I do anything for any of these songs, I'll match the stereo mix.
The good news is in 2014 Chris Bellman went back to the original tapes and we remastered pretty much the entire Tom Petty catalog, so I had really good 24 bit 96k mixes from that mastering - and then we did in fact do the Greatest Hits.
What we did was went back and did all the albums in original analog stereo tapes and then for the Greatest Hits we took all of the digital files and sequenced them like the album is sequenced because you can't do one song if you're cutting vinyl - but at that point Chris Bellman did a really good job of getting the levels right between songs, so you've got all these different songs and the levels and EQ are pretty consistent so when it came time to do this.
All I had to do when I was matching the stereo mix was just to make sure that it was (compares with hands) my mix/the original mix/my mix/the original mix. Back and forth and back and forth and back and forth as close as you can because you can never really get it exactly because I don't have the same boards and the same whatever...
but just do my best to match the mix and match the vibe of it, make sure everything was in the right place and make sure it felt the same at the same level.
So then from there, you go to do the stems and moving into atmos then at least you have a starting point that's really consistent and pretty even, so that helped me get a good start with all of this different material by just referencing the original.

It's amazing how cohesive it is considering all that.

That's the fun thing. I tend to do my own mastering - as I finish each song I'll put it into the timeline so as I'm working on the next one I can reference the ones around it, in atmos. Then at the very end they're all sitting there and I can do little tweaks here and there, adjust the LFE or adjust the level or whatever. I'm kind of always thinking - with everything I do - I'm always thinking of how it sits as an album. That's a really important thing. That was always a really important thing to Tom as well. Like you said, we listen to albums. We love albums. We love sitting on a couch for 45 minutes and getting into it. An album has a certain arch to it, the way you sequence the songs. What's the first song? What's the last song on side one? What's the first song on side two? That whole arch to it that we really enjoy and I'm always going to be thinking of that when I do any project.

I'm with you there, for sure. With Greatest Hits, did you mix them in the order in which they appeared?

That's a really good question. I don't know if I did or not. I can't really remember. I had done a 5.1 of Damn the Torpedoes back in 2010 so I had some of that material in a little bit better shape than others. I honestly can't tell you, I'd have to look back at my notes but I might've started off with 'Refugee'. I might've started off with the Jimmy Iovine era just because I knew sonically that was a real huge benchmark in terms of defining Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and their sound.
So I figured if I could get that pretty good, then I could go back to the earlier stuff and make sure it was up to that level, and the later stuff pretty much takes care of itself.
There are four eras: the Shelter kind of stuff, first two albums. Then there's the Jimmy Iovine era, the next three albums. Then there's the Tom Petty and Mike Campbell era, which is kind of Southern Accents and Let Me Up. Then there's the Jeff Lynne era. All distinct zones.
But I figured if I could get the Jimmy Iovine/Shelly Yakus vibe right (laughs)

First thing I noticed when the 'Here Comes My Girl" the Yakus kick drum comes in...you nailed it.
Yakus put in who knows how much time getting that right and it's funny, it's traveled this much time and it comes out of atmos streaming sounding the same.


Yeah it still translates and honestly those guys, Shelly especially...Those tracks were some of the easiest to mix out of the whole thing.
I talked to Shelly, he told me that when they were rehearing those songs...while they were recording they would be moving the fader.
Drum-fill would come up and Shelly would just push the tom mics up, you know? He's playing the console along with the band as they're playing the song down. Those songs were so rehearsed and so tight that they could get it so that when you mix it you just basically put the faders up. It's like, "wow". Find the balance and it just kinda sits there. It's really amazing. It really was just an amazing production with Jimmy and Shelly as a producer and an engineer. Just amazing, and really fun. One of the things I've been telling people is that it is just so fun to dive into, and what makes these tracks what they are. How did these sounds happen? The combination of things, the layering, stuff like that. You get to really see it and experience it in atmos in a way that you can't any other way.

For those Torpedoes tracks, since you already had a 5.1 mix, did you use a 5.1 bed or start from scratch?

I started from scratch, but I'd already transferred all the tapes over so I had the digital files. No, I started from scratch. I didn't even reference the 5.1 mix when I did the atmos. I figured that was then. Start over. Let's just have it work with this new format because I just have different thinking about...the format forces you to think differently. In 5.1 you're thinking a certain way. I mix in 7.1.4 and it just makes you think a certain way.

The first four tracks, the Shelter tracks...What I noticed is you've got these intimate moments, mostly Petty's mouth. He's breathing, or he's exhaling, stuff like that. They're up in the heights and I love it, it just brings you inside the song. Especially since he's gone, I think it's more powerful because your ears are an inch from his mouth. Specifically on those four songs...did that start with Cordell because he was capturing that kind of stuff, or did that come from your sound design stuff you were doing in the late '90s...

No, those are in the record. Those little noises. That's just the way they made 'em. They thought that was cool and they threw them in. You can find them on the vocal tracks. If I wasn't really tuned-in with the stereo master, I might have downplayed that stuff. Because if you listen to the stereo master, there's that inhale noise (mimics), it's just sitting on the vocal track but you realize that those guys made a big deal out of it. My job with this album, these are songs that people love so much. They've put into their heart and you can't mess with it.
I'd be pissed off if someone did something weird or defaced my masterpiece. So I'm just trying to be really respectful. With this material, because so many other people were involved with the creation of it, I'm trying to respect the musicians: Tom, Mike, Benmont...every producer, every engineer.
I want to take that album that they made and just give people a deeper experience out of it. You can't try and make it be your album, you're just doing the wrong thing. When you can find those little things and just highlight them, it's fun.

The drum tracks. The first half of Greatest Hits is essentially Stan Lynch being a live drummer, then it turns into the Lynne era where you've got Phil Jones or samples. Don't Come Around Here No More, Learning to Fly, I Won't Back Down, all those have more drum samples and a more Jeff Lynne sound...

Jeff wants a very minimalistic kind of thing on the drums and always has gone for that.

I noticed this first with Somewhere Under Heaven, there's that tom sample and when it comes into the atmos world you realize it is a drum sample. In the stereo mix I always just thought it was a really consistent drum fill. (laughs) But I love what you've done with all of those tracks where you've kind of expanded the drum samples into being more than just part of the drummer up there in the front.
How did you treat those two vastly different eras in the atmos world?


I think with the drum set, it is a live performance so you've got to feel like...I've been in enough studios, hanging out in studios when people are playing to kind of know what that's like...on the Stan Lynch stuff that Shelly and Jimmy recorded I think there were room mics. When there are room mics it's great because you can just make the drum set feel like it's in the room with you. You can pull the drum overheads out a little into the room. You can stick the room mics, which are basically set up 10 or 15 feet away from the drums, you can put those in the back and it just feels like you're in a room with the drummer and that's a really cool thing.
When you get into all the samples, some things are own their own tracks. Then it's how does this thing support the music, and you can get a little bit more inventive because it never really existed in reality (laughs), so you have a little bit more space to make it unreal.
Or make it just be this thing that just sounds cool.
So I'm just trying to stay in the mentality of the people who made, you know, try to imagine what the people were thinking when they made these records. I'm sure that if we were doing drum machines, it we could figure out a way to make each tom tom come out of a different speaker or something, we'd do it (laughs)

I would assume Don't Come Around Here was the answer, but which was the most fun to mix?


For sure Don't Come Around Here No More takes the prize for the most weird stuff going on (laughs)
Thanks to Dave Stewart
and also most difficult to mix because that one had one 24-track master and I believe about three 24-track slaves, there was a lot of stuff and that song was literally created on the mixing board. In other words it was a matter of mute this, unmute that, use this, don't use that - and you've got 72 or 96 tracks that you've got to figure out, where is that part? For example, there's little thing at the very beginning right before the sitar part plays, there's this (mimics) blur blur blur doo doo doo and it's a fretless bass. It's this little fretless bass lick.
Well, it's on like slave 3 track 22, and not only is it that it plays out the entire song (Laughs) the guy is just jammin away on the fretless bass (laughs) but what made it on the record? That one lick, you know?
It was really such a different album, and so fun though because they have, there's things like cellos on there, there's a lot of crazy background vocals. There's these three women, it's credited on the original Southern Accents album, there's just some crazy stuff. The song works so well as this kind of psychedelic experience and because of those really fun elements that was one where I felt like I had license to do a lot more wacky stuff because it's just the nature of the song.
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sjcorne

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He sounds like a very cool guy ;-)
Hey Ryan, thanks so much for joining us here! The Atmos mixes of Wildflowers, Angel Dream, and Greatest Hits are among the best I've heard to date. The seperation in 7.1.4 is just amazing. I thought 5.1 was 'good enough' until I heard shakers, guitar overdubs, and backing vocals coming from above! "You Don't Know How It Feels" is usually one of the first songs I'll play for people who've never heard Atmos or surround music before.

Can you say if there are plans to remix more of Tom's back catalog in Atmos?
 

humprof

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I chatted with Ryan Ulyate this morning about his mixing journey, and about mixing Greatest Hits in Atmos. Here is part of the conversation:

I first saw your name with Concert for George but I know before that you were working with Jeff Lynne.
Jeff Lynne in 2000. Brainwashed in 2002, Concert for George, Highway Companion, then Traveling Wilburys. That's a hell of a seven-year period for you - for anyone. How did you meet Jeff Lynne?


I have a really good friend named Marc Mann who was working with Jeff. He's a guitar player, he's an arranger. He actually works with Danny Elfman and has been working with him for years, among other things. He's an amazing musician. He knew Jeff and he said Jeff was looking for an engineer. He said "Are you interested?" I said sure. I actually had been a producer. I had a former career producing artists from France and Latin America, believe it or not - just by fluke. In any case, sure for Jeff Lynne. So I went up there - Jeff's got a house up in Hollywood Hills - and did a session. He said "You want to come back tomorrow?" I said sure. (laughs) - and that's kinda how it always goes. You do something and someone says "what are you doing tomorrow?" Uh, nothing (laughs).
So, all of a sudden, because of Jeff, I got to meet...Jeff would be...he was working on some of his own material. He said "I'm gonna have Ringo come over and play the drums tomorrow. Can you make it?" "Yeah I think I can make it. I'm ok with that."
And then at some point George was still alive and was friends with Jeff. George came in and I got to meet George, within a very short amount of time...later on I met McCartney. Because of Jeff I met three of the Beatles. I put on my resume, this is really cheeky, but I put on my resume "...Ryan Ulyate has worked with artists such as George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and others (laughs)."
But it was like that with Jeff. Jeff was like "Tom's gonna come by and cut a song. Can you be there?"
So you just kinda wade into these things, but honestly it was just such an amazing opportunity to work with Jeff who is so talented and funny as hell and it was just a really fun situation. The real joy for me, working with Jeff and getting to work on George's album after he passed away - Brainwashed, which is amazing album - getting to know everybody. I got to work with great people and work on music that I LIKED. I haven't had to work on anything that I don't like, since like...since I met Jeff. (laughs)
So that's just an amazing journey and I'm so grateful for all of that.
You just kinda show up and stuff happens. Kind of a serendipitous thing the way this world works.
It's been great. I had such a great time working with Tom. He's such a wonderful human being as well as just so talented, and everyone around him were all cool because you had to be cool to hang out with those people. Same thing with George/ All the George people are all cool. When you meet them in real life they're down to earth, they're just really talented people. There's no BS. You can't be a bullshitter around George Harrison. It's not allowed (laughs).

I was going to ask if you ever had a chance to meet him....

Yeah I did meet him a few times and boy I'll tell you he was such an interesting and interesTED person. He was just very interesting and interesTED in people, and what he was interested in was all over the map. He was just a great guy.
...and I miss him of course, like I miss Tom. It was just an honor to be able to hang out a little bit, you know?

Your introduction to surround music I assume would be right around the early 2000s, the first wave of 5.1...

Yeah, Concert for George was the first thing I did in 5.1. I think I won some kind of...they had a surround award back then...I think I won two of them for that. It's a funny story with that. When I did the 5.1 mix, we couldn't do it at Jeff's studio because he didn't have 5.1 so we went down to Village Recorders, ya know famous studio in L.A. I went down there and talked to Jeff Greenberg, the guy who runs it, I said "Do you know anyone who does 5.1 mixes, cause I've gotta do one. Do you know somebody we could hire to just hold my hand, you know pay for a day?"
And it turns out he did know somebody and the engineer is named John Kurlander. Not only had he done a lot of stuff in 5.1 at Village, it turns out John Kurlander was the head of engineering for Abbey Road. He was a Tape Op who punched-in George's guitar solo on 'Something', you know? (laughs) Another one of those serendipitous...like wow (laughs). So John Kurlander, who really I owe a lot to, kind of got me through my first day of 5.1 mixing and the rest, as they say, is history. (Laughs)

Mojo, Damn the Torpedoes, the Live Anthology all happened 2009/2010...

So yeah we did the Concert for George in 2003. We did the Running Down A Dream documentary. Then I think that what was happening at that point was Mojo came out around 2010. I was really trying to get hi-res audio...it was just becoming possible for 5.1 to actually sound good because back in the day it was Dolby Digital and there was DTS but the formats they had as I recall were a little lossy, and they had just come up with the idea of using a better scheme, I forget if it was DTS HD or Dolby whatever but it was less compression and you could do it on a blu-ray and so right about then...Mojo was one of the first blu-ray discs and I pushed for it. Luckily Tom had enough clout with the label and I said "look, I think we can do this." The labels are always wanting to see if they could create new formats for people and (laughs) we were able to get away with it. So that was the first time I'd mixed an album as opposed to a soundtrack or for a video. The first time I'd mixed for a studio album in 5.1. I was just hooked. I was trying to tell everybody. I wanted everyone to do it. It's just so much fun to hear music like that.

The Greatest Hits that just came out - pretty unique because you've got what, six producers? Denny Cordell, Jimmy Iovine, Dave Stewart, Jeff Lynne, and then at the very end, the two Rick Rubin songs....

Yeah and don't forget Noah Shark, early on.

So your job on this one is tougher than normal to get a cohesive group of tones.
What was the most challenging, turning in this atmos mix with all these different engineers and producers?


I think the thing that I did that kinda helped me through was, I'm a real big fan of making sure that you honor the stereo mix before you even think about atmos. So a huge part of the process is going back to the original multitracks and original source material and making sure you have everything. The earlier tracks are easier because they are on 16 track. Then we go to 24 track. Then we go to 24 track with slaves and that sort of gets real dicey because there's a lot of tapes and you're trying to find stuff and reproduce it, what you're hearing in the stereo mix. So before I do anything for any of these songs, I'll match the stereo mix.
The good news is in 2014 Chris Bellman went back to the original tapes and we remastered pretty much the entire Tom Petty catalog, so I had really good 24 bit 96k mixes from that mastering - and then we did in fact do the Greatest Hits.
What we did was went back and did all the albums in original analog stereo tapes and then for the Greatest Hits we took all of the digital files and sequenced them like the album is sequenced because you can't do one song if you're cutting vinyl - but at that point Chris Bellman did a really good job of getting the levels right between songs, so you've got all these different songs and the levels and EQ are pretty consistent so when it came time to do this.
All I had to do when I was matching the stereo mix was just to make sure that it was (compares with hands) my mix/the original mix/my mix/the original mix. Back and forth and back and forth and back and forth as close as you can because you can never really get it exactly because I don't have the same boards and the same whatever...
but just do my best to match the mix and match the vibe of it, make sure everything was in the right place and make sure it felt the same at the same level.
So then from there, you go to do the stems and moving into atmos then at least you have a starting point that's really consistent and pretty even, so that helped me get a good start with all of this different material by just referencing the original.

It's amazing how cohesive it is considering all that.

That's the fun thing. I tend to do my own mastering - as I finish each song I'll put it into the timeline so as I'm working on the next one I can reference the ones around it, in atmos. Then at the very end they're all sitting there and I can do little tweaks here and there, adjust the LFE or adjust the level or whatever. I'm kind of always thinking - with everything I do - I'm always thinking of how it sits as an album. That's a really important thing. That was always a really important thing to Tom as well. Like you said, we listen to albums. We love albums. We love sitting on a couch for 45 minutes and getting into it. An album has a certain arch to it, the way you sequence the songs. What's the first song? What's the last song on side one? What's the first song on side two? That whole arch to it that we really enjoy and I'm always going to be thinking of that when I do any project.

I'm with you there, for sure. With Greatest Hits, did you mix them in the order in which they appeared?

That's a really good question. I don't know if I did or not. I can't really remember. I had done a 5.1 of Damn the Torpedoes back in 2010 so I had some of that material in a little bit better shape than others. I honestly can't tell you, I'd have to look back at my notes but I might've started off with 'Refugee'. I might've started off with the Jimmy Iovine era just because I knew sonically that was a real huge benchmark in terms of defining Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and their sound.
So I figured if I could get that pretty good, then I could go back to the earlier stuff and make sure it was up to that level, and the later stuff pretty much takes care of itself.
There are four eras: the Shelter kind of stuff, first two albums. Then there's the Jimmy Iovine era, the next three albums. Then there's the Tom Petty and Mike Campbell era, which is kind of Southern Accents and Let Me Up. Then there's the Jeff Lynne era. All distinct zones.
But I figured if I could get the Jimmy Iovine/Shelly Yakus vibe right (laughs)

First thing I noticed when the 'Here Comes My Girl" the Yakus kick drum comes in...you nailed it.
Yakus put in who knows how much time getting that right and it's funny, it's traveled this much time and it comes out of atmos streaming sounding the same.


Yeah it still translates and honestly those guys, Shelly especially...Those tracks were some of the easiest to mix out of the whole thing.
I talked to Shelly, he told me that when they were rehearing those songs...while they were recording they would be moving the fader.
Drum-fill would come up and Shelly would just push the tom mics up, you know? He's playing the console along with the band as they're playing the song down. Those songs were so rehearsed and so tight that they could get it so that when you mix it you just basically put the faders up. It's like, "wow". Find the balance and it just kinda sits there. It's really amazing. It really was just an amazing production with Jimmy and Shelly as a producer and an engineer. Just amazing, and really fun. One of the things I've been telling people is that it is just so fun to dive into, and what makes these tracks what they are. How did these sounds happen? The combination of things, the layering, stuff like that. You get to really see it and experience it in atmos in a way that you can't any other way.

For those Torpedoes tracks, since you already had a 5.1 mix, did you use a 5.1 bed or start from scratch?

I started from scratch, but I'd already transferred all the tapes over so I had the digital files. No, I started from scratch. I didn't even reference the 5.1 mix when I did the atmos. I figured that was then. Start over. Let's just have it work with this new format because I just have different thinking about...the format forces you to think differently. In 5.1 you're thinking a certain way. I mix in 7.1.4 and it just makes you think a certain way.

The first four tracks, the Shelter tracks...What I noticed is you've got these intimate moments, mostly Petty's mouth. He's breathing, or he's exhaling, stuff like that. They're up in the heights and I love it, it just brings you inside the song. Especially since he's gone, I think it's more powerful because your ears are an inch from his mouth. Specifically on those four songs...did that start with Cordell because he was capturing that kind of stuff, or did that come from your sound design stuff you were doing in the late '90s...

No, those are in the record. Those little noises. That's just the way they made 'em. They thought that was cool and they threw them in. You can find them on the vocal tracks. If I wasn't really tuned-in with the stereo master, I might have downplayed that stuff. Because if you listen to the stereo master, there's that inhale noise (mimics), it's just sitting on the vocal track but you realize that those guys made a big deal out of it. My job with this album, these are songs that people love so much. They've put into their heart and you can't mess with it.
I'd be pissed off if someone did something weird or defaced my masterpiece. So I'm just trying to be really respectful. With this material, because so many other people were involved with the creation of it, I'm trying to respect the musicians: Tom, Mike, Benmont...every producer, every engineer.
I want to take that album that they made and just give people a deeper experience out of it. You can't try and make it be your album, you're just doing the wrong thing. When you can find those little things and just highlight them, it's fun.

The drum tracks. The first half of Greatest Hits is essentially Stan Lynch being a live drummer, then it turns into the Lynne era where you've got Phil Jones or samples. Don't Come Around Here No More, Learning to Fly, I Won't Back Down, all those have more drum samples and a more Jeff Lynne sound...

Jeff wants a very minimalistic kind of thing on the drums and always has gone for that.

I noticed this first with Somewhere Under Heaven, there's that tom sample and when it comes into the atmos world you realize it is a drum sample. In the stereo mix I always just thought it was a really consistent drum fill. (laughs) But I love what you've done with all of those tracks where you've kind of expanded the drum samples into being more than just part of the drummer up there in the front.
How did you treat those two vastly different eras in the atmos world?


I think with the drum set, it is a live performance so you've got to feel like...I've been in enough studios, hanging out in studios when people are playing to kind of know what that's like...on the Stan Lynch stuff that Shelly and Jimmy recorded I think there were room mics. When there are room mics it's great because you can just make the drum set feel like it's in the room with you. You can pull the drum overheads out a little into the room. You can stick the room mics, which are basically set up 10 or 15 feet away from the drums, you can put those in the back and it just feels like you're in a room with the drummer and that's a really cool thing.
When you get into all the samples, some things are own their own tracks. Then it's how does this thing support the music, and you can get a little bit more inventive because it never really existed in reality (laughs), so you have a little bit more space to make it unreal.
Or make it just be this thing that just sounds cool.
So I'm just trying to stay in the mentality of the people who made, you know, try to imagine what the people were thinking when they made these records. I'm sure that if we were doing drum machines, it we could figure out a way to make each tom tom come out of a different speaker or something, we'd do it (laughs)

I would assume Don't Come Around Here was the answer, but which was the most fun to mix?

For sure Don't Come Around Here No More takes the prize for the most weird stuff going on (laughs)
Thanks to Dave Stewart
and also most difficult to mix because that one had one 24-track master and I believe about three 24-track slaves, there was a lot of stuff and that song was literally created on the mixing board. In other words it was a matter of mute this, unmute that, use this, don't use that - and you've got 72 or 96 tracks that you've got to figure out, where is that part? For example, there's little thing at the very beginning right before the sitar part plays, there's this (mimics) blur blur blur doo doo doo and it's a fretless bass. It's this little fretless bass lick.
Well, it's on like slave 3 track 22, and not only is it that it plays out the entire song (Laughs) the guy is just jammin away on the fretless bass (laughs) but what made it on the record? That one lick, you know?
It was really such a different album, and so fun though because they have, there's things like cellos on there, there's a lot of crazy background vocals. There's these three women, it's credited on the original Southern Accents album, there's just some crazy stuff. The song works so well as this kind of psychedelic experience and because of those really fun elements that was one where I felt like I had license to do a lot more wacky stuff because it's just the nature of the song.
------------------------------
Really nice! So clear that you know and love the material you're asking about, and that your love and knowledge come from listening hard (and knowing a little about making and producing music yer own self ;) ). And yeah...Ulyate sounds like a prince. Thanks for treating us.
 
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popshop

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Nice! Featured album this week on apple.
 

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ryan de topanga

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Hey Ryan, thanks so much for joining us here! The Atmos mixes of Wildflowers, Angel Dream, and Greatest Hits are among the best I've heard to date. The seperation in 7.1.4 is just amazing. I thought 5.1 was 'good enough' until I heard shakers, guitar overdubs, and backing vocals coming from above! "You Don't Know How It Feels" is usually one of the first songs I'll play for people who've never heard Atmos or surround music before.

Can you say if there are plans to remix more of Tom's back catalog in Atmos?
Fillmore Live 1997 will come out in Atmos and Spatial in November. Beyond that, I can't say, but please know, I certainly am committed to the format! I joined this forum to hear from those that are true believers. Your commitment and passion is inspiring... ;-)
 

popshop

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I really like You Got Lucky. Awesome groove, and Howie's bass is so confidently announced for the first time. Is there synth bass in there too?
Jones and Lynch working the rhythms together. I think Jones up top in the outro?
I like the guitar in the back right. Such a nice Mike Campbell lick. Like Harrison, providing a simple but essential lick to a song.
Sounds like Howie on the chorus harmony too. Great Petty/Campbell song, and Ulyate mix!
 

perzon57

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I chatted with Ryan Ulyate this morning about his mixing journey, and about mixing Greatest Hits in Atmos. Here is part of the conversation:

I first saw your name with Concert for George but I know before that you were working with Jeff Lynne.
Jeff Lynne in 2000. Brainwashed in 2002, Concert for George, Highway Companion, then Traveling Wilburys. That's a hell of a seven-year period for you - for anyone. How did you meet Jeff Lynne?


I have a really good friend named Marc Mann who was working with Jeff. He's a guitar player, he's an arranger. He actually works with Danny Elfman and has been working with him for years, among other things. He's an amazing musician. He knew Jeff and he said Jeff was looking for an engineer. He said "Are you interested?" I said sure. I actually had been a producer. I had a former career producing artists from France and Latin America, believe it or not - just by fluke. In any case, sure for Jeff Lynne. So I went up there - Jeff's got a house up in Hollywood Hills - and did a session. He said "You want to come back tomorrow?" I said sure. (laughs) - and that's kinda how it always goes. You do something and someone says "what are you doing tomorrow?" Uh, nothing (laughs).
So, all of a sudden, because of Jeff, I got to meet...Jeff would be...he was working on some of his own material. He said "I'm gonna have Ringo come over and play the drums tomorrow. Can you make it?" "Yeah I think I can make it. I'm ok with that."
And then at some point George was still alive and was friends with Jeff. George came in and I got to meet George, within a very short amount of time...later on I met McCartney. Because of Jeff I met three of the Beatles. I put on my resume, this is really cheeky, but I put on my resume "...Ryan Ulyate has worked with artists such as George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and others (laughs)."
But it was like that with Jeff. Jeff was like "Tom's gonna come by and cut a song. Can you be there?"
So you just kinda wade into these things, but honestly it was just such an amazing opportunity to work with Jeff who is so talented and funny as hell and it was just a really fun situation. The real joy for me, working with Jeff and getting to work on George's album after he passed away - Brainwashed, which is amazing album - getting to know everybody. I got to work with great people and work on music that I LIKED. I haven't had to work on anything that I don't like, since like...since I met Jeff. (laughs)
So that's just an amazing journey and I'm so grateful for all of that.
You just kinda show up and stuff happens. Kind of a serendipitous thing the way this world works.
It's been great. I had such a great time working with Tom. He's such a wonderful human being as well as just so talented, and everyone around him were all cool because you had to be cool to hang out with those people. Same thing with George/ All the George people are all cool. When you meet them in real life they're down to earth, they're just really talented people. There's no BS. You can't be a bullshitter around George Harrison. It's not allowed (laughs).

I was going to ask if you ever had a chance to meet him....

Yeah I did meet him a few times and boy I'll tell you he was such an interesting and interesTED person. He was just very interesting and interesTED in people, and what he was interested in was all over the map. He was just a great guy.
...and I miss him of course, like I miss Tom. It was just an honor to be able to hang out a little bit, you know?

Your introduction to surround music I assume would be right around the early 2000s, the first wave of 5.1...

Yeah, Concert for George was the first thing I did in 5.1. I think I won some kind of...they had a surround award back then...I think I won two of them for that. It's a funny story with that. When I did the 5.1 mix, we couldn't do it at Jeff's studio because he didn't have 5.1 so we went down to Village Recorders, ya know famous studio in L.A. I went down there and talked to Jeff Greenberg, the guy who runs it, I said "Do you know anyone who does 5.1 mixes, cause I've gotta do one. Do you know somebody we could hire to just hold my hand, you know pay for a day?"
And it turns out he did know somebody and the engineer is named John Kurlander. Not only had he done a lot of stuff in 5.1 at Village, it turns out John Kurlander was the head of engineering for Abbey Road. He was a Tape Op who punched-in George's guitar solo on 'Something', you know? (laughs) Another one of those serendipitous...like wow (laughs). So John Kurlander, who really I owe a lot to, kind of got me through my first day of 5.1 mixing and the rest, as they say, is history. (Laughs)

Mojo, Damn the Torpedoes, the Live Anthology all happened 2009/2010...

So yeah we did the Concert for George in 2003. We did the Running Down A Dream documentary. Then I think that what was happening at that point was Mojo came out around 2010. I was really trying to get hi-res audio...it was just becoming possible for 5.1 to actually sound good because back in the day it was Dolby Digital and there was DTS but the formats they had as I recall were a little lossy, and they had just come up with the idea of using a better scheme, I forget if it was DTS HD or Dolby whatever but it was less compression and you could do it on a blu-ray and so right about then...Mojo was one of the first blu-ray discs and I pushed for it. Luckily Tom had enough clout with the label and I said "look, I think we can do this." The labels are always wanting to see if they could create new formats for people and (laughs) we were able to get away with it. So that was the first time I'd mixed an album as opposed to a soundtrack or for a video. The first time I'd mixed for a studio album in 5.1. I was just hooked. I was trying to tell everybody. I wanted everyone to do it. It's just so much fun to hear music like that.

The Greatest Hits that just came out - pretty unique because you've got what, six producers? Denny Cordell, Jimmy Iovine, Dave Stewart, Jeff Lynne, and then at the very end, the two Rick Rubin songs....

Yeah and don't forget Noah Shark, early on.

So your job on this one is tougher than normal to get a cohesive group of tones.
What was the most challenging, turning in this atmos mix with all these different engineers and producers?


I think the thing that I did that kinda helped me through was, I'm a real big fan of making sure that you honor the stereo mix before you even think about atmos. So a huge part of the process is going back to the original multitracks and original source material and making sure you have everything. The earlier tracks are easier because they are on 16 track. Then we go to 24 track. Then we go to 24 track with slaves and that sort of gets real dicey because there's a lot of tapes and you're trying to find stuff and reproduce it, what you're hearing in the stereo mix. So before I do anything for any of these songs, I'll match the stereo mix.
The good news is in 2014 Chris Bellman went back to the original tapes and we remastered pretty much the entire Tom Petty catalog, so I had really good 24 bit 96k mixes from that mastering - and then we did in fact do the Greatest Hits.
What we did was went back and did all the albums in original analog stereo tapes and then for the Greatest Hits we took all of the digital files and sequenced them like the album is sequenced because you can't do one song if you're cutting vinyl - but at that point Chris Bellman did a really good job of getting the levels right between songs, so you've got all these different songs and the levels and EQ are pretty consistent so when it came time to do this.
All I had to do when I was matching the stereo mix was just to make sure that it was (compares with hands) my mix/the original mix/my mix/the original mix. Back and forth and back and forth and back and forth as close as you can because you can never really get it exactly because I don't have the same boards and the same whatever...
but just do my best to match the mix and match the vibe of it, make sure everything was in the right place and make sure it felt the same at the same level.
So then from there, you go to do the stems and moving into atmos then at least you have a starting point that's really consistent and pretty even, so that helped me get a good start with all of this different material by just referencing the original.

It's amazing how cohesive it is considering all that.

That's the fun thing. I tend to do my own mastering - as I finish each song I'll put it into the timeline so as I'm working on the next one I can reference the ones around it, in atmos. Then at the very end they're all sitting there and I can do little tweaks here and there, adjust the LFE or adjust the level or whatever. I'm kind of always thinking - with everything I do - I'm always thinking of how it sits as an album. That's a really important thing. That was always a really important thing to Tom as well. Like you said, we listen to albums. We love albums. We love sitting on a couch for 45 minutes and getting into it. An album has a certain arch to it, the way you sequence the songs. What's the first song? What's the last song on side one? What's the first song on side two? That whole arch to it that we really enjoy and I'm always going to be thinking of that when I do any project.

I'm with you there, for sure. With Greatest Hits, did you mix them in the order in which they appeared?

That's a really good question. I don't know if I did or not. I can't really remember. I had done a 5.1 of Damn the Torpedoes back in 2010 so I had some of that material in a little bit better shape than others. I honestly can't tell you, I'd have to look back at my notes but I might've started off with 'Refugee'. I might've started off with the Jimmy Iovine era just because I knew sonically that was a real huge benchmark in terms of defining Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and their sound.
So I figured if I could get that pretty good, then I could go back to the earlier stuff and make sure it was up to that level, and the later stuff pretty much takes care of itself.
There are four eras: the Shelter kind of stuff, first two albums. Then there's the Jimmy Iovine era, the next three albums. Then there's the Tom Petty and Mike Campbell era, which is kind of Southern Accents and Let Me Up. Then there's the Jeff Lynne era. All distinct zones.
But I figured if I could get the Jimmy Iovine/Shelly Yakus vibe right (laughs)

First thing I noticed when the 'Here Comes My Girl" the Yakus kick drum comes in...you nailed it.
Yakus put in who knows how much time getting that right and it's funny, it's traveled this much time and it comes out of atmos streaming sounding the same.


Yeah it still translates and honestly those guys, Shelly especially...Those tracks were some of the easiest to mix out of the whole thing.
I talked to Shelly, he told me that when they were rehearing those songs...while they were recording they would be moving the fader.
Drum-fill would come up and Shelly would just push the tom mics up, you know? He's playing the console along with the band as they're playing the song down. Those songs were so rehearsed and so tight that they could get it so that when you mix it you just basically put the faders up. It's like, "wow". Find the balance and it just kinda sits there. It's really amazing. It really was just an amazing production with Jimmy and Shelly as a producer and an engineer. Just amazing, and really fun. One of the things I've been telling people is that it is just so fun to dive into, and what makes these tracks what they are. How did these sounds happen? The combination of things, the layering, stuff like that. You get to really see it and experience it in atmos in a way that you can't any other way.

For those Torpedoes tracks, since you already had a 5.1 mix, did you use a 5.1 bed or start from scratch?

I started from scratch, but I'd already transferred all the tapes over so I had the digital files. No, I started from scratch. I didn't even reference the 5.1 mix when I did the atmos. I figured that was then. Start over. Let's just have it work with this new format because I just have different thinking about...the format forces you to think differently. In 5.1 you're thinking a certain way. I mix in 7.1.4 and it just makes you think a certain way.

The first four tracks, the Shelter tracks...What I noticed is you've got these intimate moments, mostly Petty's mouth. He's breathing, or he's exhaling, stuff like that. They're up in the heights and I love it, it just brings you inside the song. Especially since he's gone, I think it's more powerful because your ears are an inch from his mouth. Specifically on those four songs...did that start with Cordell because he was capturing that kind of stuff, or did that come from your sound design stuff you were doing in the late '90s...

No, those are in the record. Those little noises. That's just the way they made 'em. They thought that was cool and they threw them in. You can find them on the vocal tracks. If I wasn't really tuned-in with the stereo master, I might have downplayed that stuff. Because if you listen to the stereo master, there's that inhale noise (mimics), it's just sitting on the vocal track but you realize that those guys made a big deal out of it. My job with this album, these are songs that people love so much. They've put into their heart and you can't mess with it.
I'd be pissed off if someone did something weird or defaced my masterpiece. So I'm just trying to be really respectful. With this material, because so many other people were involved with the creation of it, I'm trying to respect the musicians: Tom, Mike, Benmont...every producer, every engineer.
I want to take that album that they made and just give people a deeper experience out of it. You can't try and make it be your album, you're just doing the wrong thing. When you can find those little things and just highlight them, it's fun.

The drum tracks. The first half of Greatest Hits is essentially Stan Lynch being a live drummer, then it turns into the Lynne era where you've got Phil Jones or samples. Don't Come Around Here No More, Learning to Fly, I Won't Back Down, all those have more drum samples and a more Jeff Lynne sound...

Jeff wants a very minimalistic kind of thing on the drums and always has gone for that.

I noticed this first with Somewhere Under Heaven, there's that tom sample and when it comes into the atmos world you realize it is a drum sample. In the stereo mix I always just thought it was a really consistent drum fill. (laughs) But I love what you've done with all of those tracks where you've kind of expanded the drum samples into being more than just part of the drummer up there in the front.
How did you treat those two vastly different eras in the atmos world?


I think with the drum set, it is a live performance so you've got to feel like...I've been in enough studios, hanging out in studios when people are playing to kind of know what that's like...on the Stan Lynch stuff that Shelly and Jimmy recorded I think there were room mics. When there are room mics it's great because you can just make the drum set feel like it's in the room with you. You can pull the drum overheads out a little into the room. You can stick the room mics, which are basically set up 10 or 15 feet away from the drums, you can put those in the back and it just feels like you're in a room with the drummer and that's a really cool thing.
When you get into all the samples, some things are own their own tracks. Then it's how does this thing support the music, and you can get a little bit more inventive because it never really existed in reality (laughs), so you have a little bit more space to make it unreal.
Or make it just be this thing that just sounds cool.
So I'm just trying to stay in the mentality of the people who made, you know, try to imagine what the people were thinking when they made these records. I'm sure that if we were doing drum machines, it we could figure out a way to make each tom tom come out of a different speaker or something, we'd do it (laughs)

I would assume Don't Come Around Here was the answer, but which was the most fun to mix?

For sure Don't Come Around Here No More takes the prize for the most weird stuff going on (laughs)
Thanks to Dave Stewart
and also most difficult to mix because that one had one 24-track master and I believe about three 24-track slaves, there was a lot of stuff and that song was literally created on the mixing board. In other words it was a matter of mute this, unmute that, use this, don't use that - and you've got 72 or 96 tracks that you've got to figure out, where is that part? For example, there's little thing at the very beginning right before the sitar part plays, there's this (mimics) blur blur blur doo doo doo and it's a fretless bass. It's this little fretless bass lick.
Well, it's on like slave 3 track 22, and not only is it that it plays out the entire song (Laughs) the guy is just jammin away on the fretless bass (laughs) but what made it on the record? That one lick, you know?
It was really such a different album, and so fun though because they have, there's things like cellos on there, there's a lot of crazy background vocals. There's these three women, it's credited on the original Southern Accents album, there's just some crazy stuff. The song works so well as this kind of psychedelic experience and because of those really fun elements that was one where I felt like I had license to do a lot more wacky stuff because it's just the nature of the song.
------------------------------
Thanks, what a great read. :love:
 

MrSmithers

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Glad to join the group. Long live Immersive Audio!
Hey Ryan

Many thanks for stopping by and for the really interesting interview. The Atmos mixes you’ve delivered on these Tom Petty albums are incredible. You truly get how to do it properly. Hearing music mixed well in surround is so so much better than stereo, it’s like the mono upgrade but on steroids. Just wish we had access to lossless releases as opposed to lossy streaming.

Would love to hear more of the Petty back catalogue and any other stuff you do. Full Moon Fever would be great. You could have a lot of fun with the sound effects at the end of Runnin’ Down A Dream... [album halfway point]

Also great that you get to work with so many cool acts too. If you’re friends with Jeff Lynne you should try and get him to release some of the ELO stuff in Atmos. :)

Cheers
 

Windfall

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Love this interview and love all the work @ryan de topanga has done on the TP catalogue. I don’t know of anyone working so hard to preserve an incredible legacy.

I have been wondering why the Petty estate has given up on releasing Atmos or surround mixes in general as physical product. It seems to be a general, though not total, shift industry wide, and I have found it confusing and frustrating. Anyone got any clues?

Glad to have found this forum via a link to the interview.
 
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