“Being moved by what you hear. That’s what matters. That’s what lasts.” Words from Katie’s about on her website and what a perfect sentiment. Katie Tavini is a mastering engineer based in Brighton, UK working out of her studio, Weird Jungle, with bands and artists of all genres. Katie is fascinated by sound, she always has been. She began working as a producer and engineer in 2009 before a piece of advice changed everything for her. “I was looking to improve my mixes,” she recalls. “Someone told me that if I wanted to do that I should learn to master. Whether it was good advice or not I took it. I loved what I discovered and never looked back.” With a fine balance of curiosity and experience, she is now a mastering engineer with a rich and diverse client-list far bigger than any sound or scene.
When Katie isn’t at work she’s having a good cup of tea, “this counts as a hobby right?” she says. We think so. She also loves weight training twice a week stating how it’s done wonders for her mental health, something that is so important and needs to be talked about more these days. “There’s something really satisfying about lifting up very heavy objects that you thought you wouldn’t be able to lift“. She enjoys going to gigs, learning about space, practicing photography, and “I also really love cats“, same Katie, same!
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you to get into it?
I started off working as a recording engineer, and accidentally fell in to mastering! James Routh from Sonic Boom Six asked me to master a project for him and I basically didn’t know what I was doing and he agreed not to use it if it was terrible. So we worked together, and just sort of carried on, learning as we went. That was in 2011 – a whole ten years ago, and we still work together now!
What is a day in the life like?
Every day starts with a really great cup of tea (oat milk and one sugar) in the morning. I prep my work day at the end of the day before – downloading files, putting everything into folders, writing a to-do list for the day. My wonderful bookings manager, Carla, puts all my jobs into my diary, but I like to have this written down on paper too so that I can cross things off and write notes as I go.
My days really vary depending on the project – some days I can be mastering a 10 track album, and others I can be mastering 10 singles all for different bands and artists. I really love the variety that comes with working in mastering!
In your opinion what has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?
This probably sounds cheesy, but I really do love everything I work on! However, Nadine Shah‘s album Kitchen Sink is particularly special to me as I’d been a fan of Nadine for a long time, and mastering this album meant that I was taken more seriously as an engineer. Huffy by We Are Scientists released on 8th October is super special too – again, I’ve been a fan for a long time so it was pretty nuts getting to work with them! Also the vinyl release is being pressed in 10 different colors, just sayin’.
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
Probably being taken seriously as an engineer in the music industry as a woman. A few years ago I found this really difficult and wasn’t sure whether I should continue, but I’m really glad I did. It can feel so defeating having men on the internet leaving shitty comments or mansplaining why your studio isn’t good enough or even telling you what your job is (yes, really). But the bands and artists I work with are so lovely that actually I couldn’t imagine doing anything else! I also have a fab manager and close group of friends who are also in the music industry which is a great support network.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
Dive in, and keep learning! I’d really recommend Ian Shepherd‘s mastering series with Sound on Sound as a great intro to mastering.
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
Yes! My dad is a vinyl collector, which is how I became interested in sound in the first place. I remember when he played Seven by James on vinyl, just being amazed that different sounds came out of each speaker – one has a tambourine in it and one doesn’t, amazing! I was probably about 5 at the time, and didn’t really know anything about sound, but I thought it was so cool that you could put on a big disc and sound happened. I loved watching the tone arm move, it was so hypnotic. Current vinyl situation – need more storage!
What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about?
I guess I’m kinda worried about the massive delays with pressing right now. It’s forcing artists to either wait for a long time before releasing, or to release their music digitally and on CD and then release the vinyl version a few months down the line. There’s such a huge demand – pretty much all the albums I’ve mastered this past year will have a vinyl release, but the wait times are forcing artists to make some difficult choices. However, I’m so buzzing that physical formats have come back in a big way!
During this time we’re currently in, what message do you have for music and vinyl fans? How can we support you, the industry?
Keep buying music and supporting artists! Especially with live shows being cancelled during the pandemic, music makers need support now more than ever. Even sharing their music online helps!
Anything else you want to share? If not, tell me what you’re listening to:
Mr. Oizo! Long time hardcore fan – Quentin, if you read the Women in Vinyl site, please hit me up.