Copyright © 2020

Cattski Espina

MUSIC PRODUCTION • PERFORMANCE & SONGWRITING • MUSIC BUSINESS & EDUCATION

"It’s all about instinct, the sense to cajole the equipment, and the foresight to direct my collaborators to deliver the sound in my head."

I’m a designer of experience and a peddler of emotions. I’m not a sound engineer, a beat maker, or a MIDI programmer. I am a creator. I capture moments– the fleeting and magical, and even the accidental. I weave them together like a collage or watercolor painting, but in audio form. With every new song, I start with a blank page, and the job is to do something new. It’s an attempt to create something that nobody has heard before. Nothing is the same with every project, I am always presented with a new problem. None of that repetitive motion. It’s all about instinct, the sense to cajole the equipment, and the foresight to direct my collaborators to deliver the sound in my head.

IT'S A VIBE

Technology, though necessary, isn’t my best tool – not my best asset. My assets are people.

I work with session musicians on a regular basis. Every musician has a skill-set and it’s important that I know their style by heart so I can determine exactly which song we can work on together. Every musician has something to bring to the table and, for me, they can provide more value to a song better than a computer programmed arrangement. Not that I don’t use MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface), I actually use it heavily as well, but if it can be helped, I’d like to capture a musician’s energy and the sheer human magic because it just sits better with my ears.

I am lucky that Cebu is gifted with a lot of amazing and talented musicians. My primary roster of session musicians was, with all things considered, carefully handpicked. And I can count on them with whatever music project that falls on my lap. You don’t need the absolute best or the super skillful, and you don’t need a lot to make a recording session a successful one. You just need a vibe. You need the right people.

It’s almost like creating the balance between noise and signal. It feels as though I am the heedful controller of the intercourse between old and new.

Cattski Espina

ANALOG GIRL IN A DIGITAL WORLD

I employ a ‘think-analog-work-digital’ approach to my work, precisely because digital technology is what’s readily available to me. I would have preferred to have a Neve console in my studio, but it’s exorbitant and it’s simply not sustainable. But that doesn’t stop me from being fascinated with the old analog technology in recording.

I have experienced watching recording sessions with both the Neve and Solid State Logic consoles during my audio workshop in Jungle City Studios in New York City. It was during those sessions that I understood how these analog boards can have defining characteristics in artisanal music production where digital technology is just one of the tools and not the main tool.

One thing I find fascinating with analog recording is the presence of noise. Signal and noise are always joined together in the analog world. And I really believe that noise is just as communicative as signal. But in the digital world, noise can be easily eliminated – a convenience that can often be a mistake. Something gets lost in a signal when there is no noise to restrain it. It becomes somewhat unnatural.

I stay conscious about the things that work well in the analog realm. I don’t want to destroy its magic in the hurry of digital construction. You see, our senses remain analog – we hear numbers being counted aloud, we see the drumsticks hit the snare drum, or feel the vibration of the guitar strings. These sensations are not digital. They can never be replaced.

My default is to choose real instruments with actual musician energy over any expensive virtual library and skillful programming. I prefer to use analog guitar pedals and put dynamic mics on tube amplifiers than use digital effects and amp modelers. I prefer to focus on the artist/musician and motivate them to have a great performance so I can capture it.

And this is all while working via digital means – the audio workstation, the analog-modeled digital console, the mic pre-amps, compressors, and more! Thanks to the advancement of audio technology, hardware has become software; and what used to be mechanical tools have become plug-ins. These are all within easy reach through product download and online subscription.

The excitement of my job involves this mindful mediation between analog and digital. It’s almost like creating the balance between noise and signal. It feels as though I am the heedful controller of the intercourse between old and new.

ANALOG GIRL IN A DIGITAL WORLD

MY SPACE​

Room Eleven Recording Studio is my recording space. Personally, I believe that the recording space is just as important as the process and the equipment. I consider it as an instrument and the unique environment is the effect. That’s why my discipline is different from that of a bedroom producer.

For sure, my studio is far from perfect, and it is miniature compared to the studios I visited in Nashville and New York. But it is real and alive and, more importantly, available for me to exploit.

This is where I make big and small decisions, execute bold ideas, and push artists to be at their best. From microphone placement, to the balance of different sounds, all the way to the final stage of mastering, my space is where I work closely with my team of musicians and audio engineers and make those important audio decisions in order to create a quality product.

At the end of the day, my job is to serve and satisfy a song, and to elevate artists that I work with using my stockpile of knowledge, available tools, and irreplaceable experience. It is a privilege to be in my position, and I consider every recording session an adventure!