Jimmy Ether is a professional producer/engineer with over 12 years of recording experience. He offers a complete selection of services for recording artists, which cover every aspect of production from initial audio engineering and mixing to compact disc mastering, artwork and replication. In addition, he provides free custom website designs for bands, labels and 'zines who host their site though JimmyEther.com. He even offers advice to home recordists, and can help indie artists get the most out of their budget by providing advise on various technical aspects of their production. SPB's own Jonathan Pfeffer got a chance to sit down and chat with Jimmy via e-mail:
SPB: What was your first musical revelation? In other words, when did you know you wanted music to play such an integral role in your life?
Jimmy Ether: I sort of knew when I was about eleven or twelve. I found I had a knack for learning instruments quickly. I don't remember there being a moment of revelation really. I just kept taking little steps that would allow me to reach further as a musician and writer. Songwriting, performing, engineering, producing, mastering, running a label, designing artwork, programming websites, photography, etc. -- all those interests developed from the desire for artistic freedom and independence. I wanted to have a high level of competency with every step involved in making and releasing good records, and I wanted to be knowledgeable about every aspect of the industry.
SPB: Tell me when and what exactly got you into the production game? Did you have any formal training?
JE: Yes, I have a degree in Commercial Music and Recording from Georgia State University. It was a broad program and covered nearly every facet of the music industry and general business principals. It didn't really allow you to hone your recording skills, but no school can really do that. The way you become a good recording engineer is to work with people who are experienced, read everything you can get your hands on, and just record as often as possible. It's a craft, just like learning how to be a blacksmith. You learn by doing and by watching others who do it well.
As soon as I finished school, I was lucky enough to get a job working with one of the best engineers in town -- a guy named Donal Jones. So, I sat in as 2nd engineer on sessions with him for a few years. Eventually, I started bringing in little local bands and friends to record after hours -- a case of beer as payment... that kind of thing. All this time I was recording my own bands' records as well. It took a long time, but after a few years I realized I was pretty good at it. At that point I started to branch out on my own.
SPB: How did the Jimmy Ether pseudonym come about?
JE: Long story short... there was another engineer in town named Ryan Williams. He had even been in the same recording program at GSU a few years ahead of me. He was assisting for Brenden O' Brian out of a studio called Southern Tracks in Atlanta, so, he had some big-label credits to his name. People would always assume I was him, and it got old quickly. I also wanted to build my own reputation away from the major labels, so I created the pseudonym. I picked 'Ether' as a sir-name because I wanted something that was 'from out of nowhere' and my first name is James... hence 'Jimmy'.
SPB: What are some things you think make Jimmy Ether a cut above the competition?
JE: I don't really think about it honestly. There are so many people out there who claim to be engineers and producers that it's futile to really worry about where you stand. People come to me because they like my work and I'm affordable to the average musician. I've been lucky in that my business is all word of mouth. Bands have come from all over the country to work with me, which I still find surprising, but it is a very nice feeling. Even the bands that can't afford for me to be involved with every aspect of the production seek out my advice regarding their home recordings and later have me mix and/or master their records. So, I guess that flexibility allows me to work with a lot more people from just about any location. Most professional studios turn their noses up to home recordists, but I love working on those kinds of projects. The diversity of music is far greater than what you would find in just your typical local music scene.
SPB: Could you give me a little history behind The Ether Family Presents...?
JE: John Clark and I have been in bands together since college. He was in the same recording program as me, and we started working together on various album projects back in late 1992. We put a few records out and gigged around for about five years, but eventually, all the bands split up. So, he and I decided to make a little low-fi record under the name subReal in 1997. That was really the beginning of my own studio and the beginning of what would become The Ether Family Presents... My wife, Val, joined on bass and vocals and Chris Pollette came in on drums. And, of course, I forced them all to take 'Ether' names. Out first official record was Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, and we've since been putting out a four-album conceptual series called How To Get Lost In A Time Consuming Ego Trip.
SPB: Tell me a bit about The Aloha State.
JE: The Aloha State is a project born out of one of the earlier experimental bands I was in. Just before the band broke up, we were recording improvisational noise sessions, which I would later edit into fairly cohesive pop songs. I always felt that approach had a lot of potential, so I decided to revive the idea as The Aloha State. Essentially, I'm bringing in various groups of musicians to screw around with oddball instrumentation for a few hours, and then I can chop it all up and use it for samples and loops. So, the idea is to build pop songs out of this -- letting these moments of chance not only influence, but create the inspiration for the songs.
SPB: Tell me a bit about Headphone Treats.
JE: Headphone Treats is my second record label. The first one, subReal Songs, was created as a vanity label to release our own records. But I decided it was time to get serious about releasing records and start bringing in other projects and artists to the roster. A 'headphone treat' is a quirk in a recording that you don't really notice until you hear it through headphones. I'm always harping on how much I love to leave those quirks in the mix, so it seemed like a fitting label name. We're still a very young label with only a few releases under our belt, but I'm excited about its future.
SPB: What are you up to these days?
JE: Currently, we're finishing Part 2 of the How To Get Lost... series, I'm producing Adam McIntyre's second solo record entitled Nothing Means Anything, and I'm getting ready to record again with Blake Rainey on his next solo release. Other than that, people are always keeping me busy with mixing and mastering work.
SPB: What's next on the agenda?
JE: The next big venture is a company I'm starting with John Clark called RecordPlug. It's a web-based community for do-it-yourself record promotion and networking within the indie music scene. We're really excited about it. It takes the social community concept and makes it a useful networking tool for bands, labels, zines, promo companies, etc. We've been developing the idea for several years now, and we hope to have the beta version of the site released by the end of 2004.
SPB: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10?
JE: We will probably relocate to Athens in the next few years. The music scene is much more fruitful there, and it's becoming the music hub of the southeast. We have plans to build a bigger studio there, so hopefully the scene will support it or at least give me a chance to record bands passing through on tour. I'd also like to see a following build up around the Headphone Treats label over the next decade -- the kind of reputation where people will give a release by an unknown band a chance just because it's on the label. I have a good feeling that RecordPlug will also keep me very busy if things go the way I expect. Mainly, I just want to have the freedom and energy to continue making good records and an effective means of getting those records heard.