Top 5: Matt Squire
American producer, mixing engineer and songwriter Matt Squire (Underøath, Panic! at the Disco, Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, to The Amity Affliction, One Direction, Sum 41, All Time Low) nominates his five most essential studio tools.
By Joe Matera
28 April 2022
UNIVERSAL AUDIO APOLLO TWIN
I do a lot of travel with the Apollo and not only is it full of features and a fully functioning studio, but it’s also rugged which suits me because I throw stuff in a bag and if it’s going to break, I can’t use it. The Apollo also integrates really well with every studio, so wherever I go I can always plug it in. And if I need to do a co-write at somebody’s house, or at their hotel room, the Apollo is the perfect tool. The functions are amazing and it sounds awesome and it’s got great headphone capabilities. When I’m at home in Washington, D.C., I do a lot of online sessions, as the business model now is more geared towards writing and getting placements, and then producing out individual tracks. So when I am in Los Angeles I bounce around for five days in five different studios with five different artists. I’ll always use the Apollo and then bring the tracks home to produce.
SLATE DIGITAL VMS ML-1 MICROPHONE
It’s a nifty mic because it’s a modelling mic, kind of what Kemper is to guitar amps, the Slate is to mics. Steven [Slate] is a perfectionist and has gone to great lengths to sample classic mics from his collection, from the NRG Recording Studios collection, and Blackbird studios in Nashville. The mic sounds good already and can sound good without those models but you have all this flexibility. When I get to the mix stage and something is not sitting right, I can literally change to a Sony C-800G for example or change to a AKG 451 and they will all morph. So it’s a great mic for normal tracking and for the online paradigm where it’s crucial as I can’t go to the room and clap and find out what the acoustics are and hear whether there is any ambience. So if I have an artist using it on the other end, I will have a lot of flexibility if I have to change things around. It’s got so much flexibility on the backend it’s literally a dream come true, where you can track it bare bones and don’t have to mess with it so much. I usually plug it into a Neve preamp and into an UA 1176 with four or five degrees of compression just to give it a little juice.
GLASS COCA-COLA BOTTLE
I’ve cut out all this other stuff in my life, like the types of food I eat, and I have no vices — no coffee, and I don’t drink alcohol anymore because I’m too old. Coca-Cola is my final vice — I have about one or two a day. For me it’s like a moment when I’m halfway through a session and everybody is kind of chilling, and that’s the time I drink my Coke and then the rest of the day is covered. I also use it for slide parts on many occasions. It’s the Mexican glass Coke bottle. The last time I used it for a slide part was on The Amity Affliction record, ‘Misery’ (2018) on the track ‘Beltsville Blues’.
GIBSON 1976 GOLD-TOP LES PAUL
That guitar has been on every single record I’ve worked on in the beginning, from The Receiving End of Sirens all the way through to Panic! At The Disco to All Time Low, Underøath and Amity Affliction. It’s my magic guitar. When I was in a band it was my guitar and it even survived an apartment fire in Boston where I was living at the time. It didn’t burn but it was completely water logged, so all the electronics were broken. I took it to a luthier, had it redone and rewired with new electronics, and it’s been a special guitar for me ever since. It’s my go-to guitar and it’s my sound. A few years ago, I did something sacrilegious, I put an EverTune [patented bridge system] in it as it just wasn’t holding the tuning but now it’s perfect and modern in that sense.
APPLE AIRPODS MAX HEADPHONES
They are ridiculously expensive and you’d think that there’s no way they could be that good but I walked into an Apple store and tried a pair on and I was like, ‘OMG they’re incredible!’.
I am notorious for mixing on headphones and going to my car to check the low end. But with the AirPod Max headphones I only have to go to my car once or twice rather than a dozen times — the bass response is that good. They’re so well dialled in. I have some mixing friends and they no longer use speakers, and believe me they may have the best monitors you can ever hear, but these headphones are game changing.