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‘My approach is still old school’: Chris Lord-Alge on the new Waves CLA MixHub plugin

Lord-Alge gives insight into his collaboration with Waves in the development of the plugin and his signature method of 'mixing in buckets' that the product allows for

At NAMM 2019, Waves presented its new CLA MixHub plugin, developed with Grammy-winning engineer Chris Lord-Alge and described by the company as one of the most significant releases in its history. Daniel Gumble caught up with the man himself to find out more about the collaboration and why he considers the Waves team ‘part of his extended family’…

As anyone present at this year’s NAMM will attest, the overriding spirit across the LA show was one of warmth and positivity, and not just because of the glorious sunshine in which the Anaheim Convention Center was bathed for its duration. Throughout its four-day run NAMM 2019’s pro audio contingent was virtually unanimous in its praise for the show.

A vast and varied array of new products and innovations were launched over the course of the event, and among the most notable studio-related releases was Waves Audio’s new CLA MixHub plugin, developed in close collaboration with Grammy Award-winning mix engineer Chris Lord-Alge.

Indeed, the mood was no more upbeat on day one of the show than it was at the plugin giant’s booth, with company executives hailing the product as one of the most important additions to its portfolio in its history.

The partnership with Lord-Alge is certainly a significant one, with the engineer having built a reputation as one of the most successful exponents of his craft in the business. With multiple Grammy Awards to his name, he has worked with the likes of Green Day, Muse, Sugarland, Keith Urban and many others. The new CLA MixHub is the culmination of a lengthy collaboration with Waves in order to capture the essence of the engineer’s studio style.

The CLA MixHub allows users to mix up to 64 tracks – all from the same plugin window – using channel strips modelled from CLA’s personal console. According to Waves, it is the first plugin to work in ‘buckets’ – groupings of up to eight channels, in up to eight buckets in total. By mixing tracks side by side in buckets, users can gain a mixing perspective that allows them to immediately hear how one track’s processing affects others within a song. The channel strips were modelled directly from Lord-Alge’s personal console.

Once CLA is inserted on the channels in your mix, you can assign your tracks to buckets and begin making adjustments, such as mixing dynamics, EQ, saturation, and more without needing to switch plugin windows in your DAW. While mixing, you can flip between two plugin view modes: Bucket view, with control of up to eight channels at a time, or Channel view, focusing on a single channel’s processing chain. Each channel consists of five sections: Input, Dynamics, EQ, Output, and an Insert point. Each processing module can be expanded to reveal additional functionality. Speaking to PSNEurope, Lord-Alge explained that his relationship with Waves has been a close one, spanning several years.

“Waves approached me about presets for the SSL plugin some 12 years ago, and once I started using that plugin I became a believer,” he says.

“We then went on to create my CLA classic compressors and the CLA signature series. And every step of the way we worked together on the CLA MixHub. I give the credit to Mike Fradis, my product designer and friend; we spent a long time bringing this workflow to a plugin. I went to Tel Aviv and worked directly with everyone there and Mike came to LA to continue fine-tuning it right up until its release.”

Crucial to the product was its ability to convey LordAlge’s signature touches, not to mention the ‘mixing in buckets’ feature, which has been so central to his approach in the studio. “I just wanted to make sure it had features that were important to the way I work,” he continues. “It was created from scratch emulating my console and sound; dual compressor flavours and a super gate that is packed with features.

“Mixing in buckets is what I have been used to for 30 years. It gives the user the ability to see and make changes quickly because you can see eight channels at a time and up to eight buckets on one screen, making it possible to see 64 channels of EQ or Dynamics or Meters. It lets you see your whole song and adjust settings rapidly as you hear them.”

According to Lord-Alge, the sound and style he has cultivated over the past three decades has been shaped largely by problem solving in the studio, making the ability to adapt absolutely essential.

“All the key moments [in developing my style] were solving problems that are easy now, but 30 years ago were a challenge… SMPTE, synchronising, flying vocals, using drum samples, tuning vocals, punching in record with no way back, cleaning noise from tracks… endless! I have seen 16-track become 24-track then 24 become 48-track then analogue become digital and Pro Tools become endless. And everyone becomes an audio hoarder. The biggest thing that created my style was attitude – positive and confident.”

We then went on to discuss how the role of producer has changed over the years, and what his approach is to making a record.

He posits: “The songwriter or artist becomes the producer and everyone can record in their home. My approach is still old school. Rehearse the band; go to a great room and get great sounds; then do the overdubs however you can to get the best performance, and mix as you go.”

As for his preferred set up in the studio, he offers: “I have so much gear it could make a book! But I use all the tools I can – analogue and digital. I have a 72-input SSL G desk; SSL Automation; a 64-channel Pro Tools set up loaded with every plugin; racks of outboard gear, compressors, EQs, delays and reverbs. However, the most important gear are my ears and my discipline.”

On the subject of the future and his relationship with Waves, he confirms there is strong intent from both parties to continue working together. “I look forward to making more products with them. Waves is like my extended family, we have fun together.”

CHRIS LORD-ALGE’S TOP 5 SOUNDING RECORDS 

Back In Black, AC/ DC. Produced by Mutt Lange. Do I need to say more? 

American Idiot, Green Day. Produced by Rob Cavallo. Sound and performance at its best. 

Thriller, Michael Jackson. Produced by Quincy Jones. Timeless recording that is not over compressed, and simple and concise production that is Quincy Jones. 

Hysteria, Def Leppard. Also produced by Mutt Lange. Again, Mutt changing all the rules and stretching the boundaries. To this day it’s a big rock record. 

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles. Produced by George Martin. Geoff Emerick and George Martin, four tracks and a lot of imagination. This was where we began and the path was struck for the future.

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