Meet Lenise Bent, a recording engineer, producer, Foley mixer/editor, foreign dubbing supervisor, archivist, audio repair and preservationist, consultant, and educator. Yeah, literally all of those things. I was introduced to Lenise by Jett, and I’m honored to be able to use Women in Vinyl to share her story with you this week.
The little free time she has she is attending events with like-minded colleagues, audio themed breakfasts, lunches and conferences; and also enjoys bike riding (mountain and city), reading a good book and spending time with my family.
My passion for music and recording is more of a way of life than work. I enjoy anything to do with music and the history of audio recording.
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
I started out in the Film & TV business as a child extra / actor and was always fascinated by the technology more than the acting. I was also in a youth orchestra playing flute and studied piano. While in college majoring in Film / TV / Radio Production I had the opportunity to check out the home studio of musician and producer Leon Russell. There were next to no home studios back then as all of the equipment was big and expensive. Once I saw the console, tape machine, monitors and outboard gear and heard the glorious music being played back, I knew right then what I was going to do for a living!
What is a day in the life like?
Every day is different with the focus on perpetuating my career and projects. A lot of time is spent outside of the studio coordinating projects and preparing to get in the studio. I am an independent producer / engineer so I handle all of my business, promotion, etc. myself. I recently recorded and produced an all analog project for the rock / roots band Primal Kings and so right now I’m working on promotional strategies with the band members and tracking the progress of the vinyl production. We just received our test pressings, so we will be doing the initial playback / listening together in the band’s analog studio. I will be checking out a band at a club after that. I go and hear music or attend industry functions most nights. For me this is not just a job but a way of life.
What has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?
Wow, that’s a real toughy! I have had the great fortune to work on many cool projects, Steely Dan’s “Aja” and “Breakfast in America” by Supertramp are just two. I would say recording Blondie’s “Autoamerican” album is a big favorite because of the diversity of the songs which allowed me to be very creative in my recording approach to each one. everything from the first hit rap song with music, “Rapture”, to the Caribbean style pop song “The Tide is High” with full blown horns, strings and tons of percussion. I had a blast!
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
These days it’s clearly making a decent living. With streaming and free downloads very few people are actually buying music. Thankfully, the current interest in vinyl provides a welcomed opportunity to recoup some of the recording costs and maybe even make a profit. Fortunately, I have other audio skills which provide me with revenue streams and afford me the chance to create music which is my passion.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
It’s a very different world now from when I started engineering and producing records. Recording technology has changed dramatically and now virtually anyone can afford to make a record, good or bad. I made a very good living as a recording engineer at one point. These days I consider my music creation more of an artistic endeavor, my passion.
If someone is truly interested in recording I suggest learning basic recording techniques, ProTools and critical listening skills. Learn what instruments really sound like. Learn about microphones and mixing techniques. There are many YouTube videos that are quite informative. Several universities and technical schools have extensive audio recording and production programs as well.
Consider other audio careers such as production and post production for film and TV. Lots of content is being created right now and it all needs sound.
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
Absolutely! I’ve been a vinyl record enthusiast since I was a child and have a fairly extensive collection, most acquired personally and others from older family members and friends. In the mid 80’s, when CDs first came out, many people got rid of their vinyl and I gladly took them off their hands. I’m from the era where we would wait eagerly for a great record to come out, run down and buy it and then listen with friends intently, reading the liner notes and lyrics. Most of my vinyl is all analog as it’s the original pressings and not digital reissues or new releases. All frequencies are present and there’s a real emotional response. Yum!
What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about? i.e. innovation, or trends you’re seeing.
What I’m seeing currently is that the pendulum is swinging back from digital to analog with tape recording again being a viable recording format choice. The combination of the two formats is being used more and more and the desire to record all analog / legacy quality is on the rise. I’ve started doing analog tape recording workshops for interested pros and up-and-coming engineers. This is a skillset that all audio engineers should have in their toolbox. I can tell that more engineers would record to tape if they knew how.
Finally, tell me what you’re listening to right now that you’re loving:
I’m a big fan of World Music, Brazilian, African, Celtic, Hawaiian. Also Americana / roots, R & B, New Orleans jazz, not much I don’t like. I’m with Duke Ellington, “There are only two kinds of music, good and bad”. I’m enjoying Mondo Cozmo, Leon Bridges, St. Paul and The Broken Bones, lots out there these days!