Brilliant lyrics, amazing voicing, and exceptional musicianship get lost in flawed productions, poor recordings, and hit-or-miss mixes.
Super-producer Jeff Tomei sees it happen every day. It makes him sad to see talent go by the wayside. He said, “Nobody says hey, let’s make a crappy song. Yet, it happens all the time. I have never understood why artists and bands, who are looking to make a career out of their talent, devote so much time to their craft only to bury their light under muddy recordings and undefined mixes.”
Investing In Your Brand
Successful business people always hire people better than themselves to bring product to the marketplace. Even if you are awesomely great at all things, as a businessperson heading a budding empire, you have more things to do than you have hours in the day. Yet each task must be executed well to move forward successfully. At some point certain tasks must be delegated if one is to be efficient and have a life. Three of those tasks should be recording, producing, and mixing. It’s not an expense to outsource these: It’s an investment in your brand.
Tomei explained the creative process. “Look, you’ve been writing the lyrics and the music. You’ve been playing around with all sorts of versions of it and living with it night and day. You may think you’ve got the best handle on the song, and nobody can birth your baby like you. But what happens is that your mind begins to fill in those things that are missing in the actual production. Yet you don’t know anything is missing.
“Bringing highly trained, fresh ears to your project will show what is missing, will allow those holes to be filled,” Jeff said. More importantly, he continued, “It will also pinpoint those key hook elements that are there but which could be made even more brilliant than they already are.” Jeff’s goal is to have everybody think your baby is remarkable.
Rockit Productions, 35-year veteran Tomei’s music production company, is based out of state-of-the-art facility Cock of the Walk in Kennesaw, Georgia. The studio is large enough to accommodate full bands yet is still right for overdubs and mixing. From producing, recording, and mixing only one song to EPs to full-length albums for bands, artists, and movie soundtracks, Jeff Tomei and Rockit Productions do it.
Making great music is hard work. Selling music is even harder work. You have competition for radio play and publishing and licensing opportunities — and only one shot to make that big impression. Your fans will only be as committed to your music and art as you are. Bring them a bad listening experience and they probably won’t come back again. Or if they do, you’ll have to spend even more money to get them back. It’s a business; we do this for a living.
Jeff Tomei believes you deserve to be paid for your creative output whether through publishing, licensing, or branding of self-releases. After all, your output is or will be bringing value to the listener: Riding in their car after a hard day’s work or taking their girl out dancing on the weekend; or attracting customers to businesses: Who license it for their customers through services who supply restaurants, elevators, malls, and more with background music.
He’s been at this for 35 years. Yeah. Thirty Five. He knows the competition because he has been there producing, engineering, or mixing for them. He makes records that sound like the band, not the producer. If you don’t bring a high value to your fans’ tables, you won’t be around long. Producer Paul Fox knows this and brings to his team those elements that will move them to profitability.
Fox, whose credits include XTC, The Wallflowers, 10,000 Maniacs, Phish, and others, stated, “Jeff Tomei has worked with me on many records, such as Sixpence None the Richer’s Divine Discontent, Grant Lee Buffalo, Tyler Hilton, C. Gibbs, Meredith Brooks’ Deconstruction, Agents of Good Roots, and more. Jeff continues to move forward with his great knowledge, his great personality, and his ability to work on pretty much any type of record that he is asked to record, and those are usually some pretty great bands. My favorite of his works — aside from my own, of course — was Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream. How do you top that?”
You top it with a quote from Butch Vig, producer of Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Soul Asylum, Foo Fighters, and many more. “When we recorded Siamese Dream, we set the bar high, very high. Jeff was instrumental in helping us achieve sonic nirvana. He is an amazing engineer; has a tireless, professional work ethic; and kept a sense of humor throughout the long and sometimes grueling sessions. After recording guitar overdubs with Billy Corgan for 12 straight hours, Jeff would look at me, smile and say in his southern drawl ‘Is it sweet?’ That always made me laugh!”
Not to Name Drop, but…
Time after time, project after project, Tomei has become the go-to guy bringing the best quality sound and production to artists’ projects and helping them satisfy the ears of discriminating consumers, rabidly loyal fans, and new audiences everywhere in every genre. Like who?
Projects with worldwide rollouts backed by major labels, such as: Smashing Pumpkins, Matchbox Twenty, Jerry Cantrell, Skid Row, Corrosion Of Conformity, Brother Cane, Soul Asylum, Collective Soul, Edwin McCain, Jonathan Davis, Colt Ford, Wayland, Dynamite Walls, Mother’s Finest, Jesse James Dupree and Dixie Inc., Sixpence None The Richer, Warren Haynes, doubleDrive, Grant Lee Buffalo, Golden Smog, Meredith Brooks, Queen of the Damned “Soundtrack”, Heather Nova, Operator, Radford, The Superjesus, Agents Of Good Roots, Abra Moore, Angie Aparo, Art Alexakis, C. Gibbs Group, Jackyl, Nigel Dupree Band, Christy Hemme, El Pus, Cool For August, Enhancer, Erase the Grey, Michelle Malone, Menthol, Micki Free, and Brother Clyde.
Established indie artists seeking to present their unique sound to larger audiences, like: Hailmary, Gasoline, Big Engine, Black Swan Lane, James Hall, Stone Rider, Sand, Blackberry Smoke, Leticia Wolf, Player/Kommander, Telestrion, The Swear, Christy Hemme, Connor Christian, Diane Durrett, George Lewis, Ryan Hamner, Three5Human, Vibrolush, Open Sky Separators, Align, John Wayne Bailey Project, and Jessica Mitchell Band.
Some said Australian band Hailmary, influenced by Alice In Chains and that post-grunge sound, risked becoming another AIC clone by using the services of Tomei, a producer for Alice In Chains’ main man, Jerry Cantrell’s solo album. But Hailmary found it very much worth their while to travel around the world to get the sounds and production Tomei is known for.
Kevin Curran of Hailmary, said, “Our record… has a certain shine to it that sets us apart from sounding like just another Perth band.” This highlights another of Tomei’s abilities: Keeping the intent and soul of a genre while setting a band apart from others in it.
Brand new artists needing take-no-prisoners, high-quality marketing pieces that say, “Here I am, you can’t ignore this”, such as: Sadie & Sariah, Beauty School, Babi Mac, John Wayne Bailey Project, Player/Kommander, The Ladies Of…, Dull Hiss, The Greater Vavoom, Wake Of The Titan, Trowar, Fundamental Sounds, I Am Carpenter, The Saturn 5, Novacaine, Addison Croft, One Perfect Minute, Travisty Theory, Stealing Seasons, Paperstreet, George Lewis, John Kolbeck, Erath, and John Krueger.
Around the Country to Around the World
Tomei has worked on huge projects with studios in Los Angeles such as: A&M, Henson, Capitol Records, House of Blues, The Village, Larrabee West, Paramount, Hollywood Sound Recorders, American, Sound City, The Music Grinder, Sound Control, and NRG. In NYC: Electric Lady, Loho, The Magic Shop, and Water Music. In Atlanta: Cock Of The Walk, Triclops, Southern Tracks, Doppler, Sonica, and Chase Park Transduction. In Nashville: Emerald, Oceanway, and The Bennett House.
And those on very tight budgets, like brand new artists with lower-end recording equipment in their homes, or small project studios, bring him their tracks for repair or to “Give it a bigger sound.” They say, “We know the tracks are not recorded well, but are confident you can make them better.”
The Roots of Tomei’s Genesis
While it is true that every generation throws a hero up the pop charts, Jeff Tomei’s parents’ taste in music was wide-ranging. From the Beatles to Nancy Sinatra to the Platters, there was always music playing on the stereo in the house, laying the tracks in his mind for what top-quality production should sound like no matter the genre. That early imprint, and Jeff’s passion for music, made him first aspire to be a guitar player.
He said, “If my instructor had shown me how to play just one Beatles song, I would probably have kept it up.” He laughed, “Yeah, I would have been up on the stage, wailing my heart out, running from the paparazzi. But truthfully, I’m happy to be in the studio.”
Talk about a story of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Long before Jeff knew he wanted a career in the music business, he studied the music itself, and poured over liner notes. He simply had to know where the record was done; who produced, engineered, and mixed it; and also who the players were. Using the original downloading technology of the day, he first recorded his favorite hits from the radio onto a mono cassette recorder. The first three cassettes he was given were the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour, Johnny Cash’ Live From San Quentin, and The Nazz. He devoured the sound. When he earned his own money, he was at the record store once a week cherry picking the shelves.
“The whole business of recording and production was fascinating to me,” Tomei remembers. So when he grew up, his wife’s uncle offered him a job in his studio in South Georgia. But Jeff wanted to live and work closer to the Atlanta music scene. Her uncle recommended getting in touch with a couple of studios closer to where he lived and was soon hired by Master Sound Studios.
“At Master Sound, my first job was duplicating cassettes for corporate clients. I also made reel-to-reel duplications for radio, learning how to edit tape in the process. This became a much-needed skill in the days before Daw-based recording. But after hours, I stayed late, learned how the machinery worked, and how to record. I worked late nights behind the scenes recording local bands and learning the craft of recording. I was determined to succeed. I knew if I gained the reputation of having a great work ethic — first in, last to leave, and on time delivery of top quality product — I would succeed.”
In 1991 the owner retired and Jeff was left to find independent work. Jeff attempted the radio route but knew immediately it wouldn’t be a fit. With the closing of Master Sound, Jeff was thrust into independence. With no track record to speak of other than a few major label projects and many local bands’ demo recordings, he did like a lot of people do: He kept after it, even if he couldn’t quite define what “it” was. Before too long he got a call from Isaac Hayes’ road manager who said their F.O.H. guy was not available.
“So in 3 days we were leaving for San Francisco; I would be the new front-of-house guy though I never mixed live sound before,” Tomei said. Overnight he went from studio recording to live sound. He realized quickly that live sound was not where his passion lay. Tomei craved the studio and the creative process that went with it.
With that clear, he made the commitment, and with the help of a few good friends, returned to his studio roots. Thankfully Tomei did not look back. His first major record upon his return was Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream. The record did very well, and its success turned into offers to do other major records. In any business that would be called “a break.” Since then, he has been fortunate enough to work and learn from many great producers from Butch Vig to John Custer to Paul Fox. Next step for Tomei was hiring a manager.
This break began a four-year journey making a major label record about every eight weeks and living in Los Angeles almost 8 months of the year. But he missed home and family, so in 2002 he moved the majority of his workload back to Georgia and partnered with Jesse James Dupree’s studio Cock of The Walk. This afforded him the ability to spend more and more time with his wife and children.
Honing. Learning. Applying. Helping. Mentoring. Sharing. Excelling. With you, for you, and on your behalf.
Tomei. Will this name be on your project?