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BUST Magazine: Emily Lazar

February/March 2006

GIGS: Mastering Engineer

Emily Lazar plays with some expensive techno-toys as a mastering engineer, but her most valuable tools are priceless. "I mostly rely on my ears and aesthetic sense," she explains. Lazar knows what she's talking about-- from Bowie to Beyoncé, hundreds of recording artists have sought her finesse for their albums. "I get to work side by side with some of the most talented creative minds around," she says.

Emily LazarUsing a mix of analog tools and software programs like Sonic Solutions, a mastering engineer polishes raw mixed tracks from the recording studio and enhances their flavor. "In a nutshell, mastering engineers make albums sound better," she explains. Lazar, who grew up in a musical household, first got hooked on engineering while playing in her own band after college. In 1997, after getting her master's degree at NYU, Lazar founded The Lodge, a state-of-the-art mastering house in New York City. Her current projects include Garbage's “Bleed Like Me” and Mates of State's “Like U Crazy.”

When she wakes up in the morning, she never knows where her workday will take her. "I work on hundreds of albums every year--rock one day and hip-hop the next." The hours are intense and unpredictable: "When I’m in the middle of making an album, I pretty much leave the studio only to sleep." Lazar not only balances audio tracks, but artists themselves. Working on a new album can be an emotional process, says Lazar. "I often joke that a degree in psychology would have been even more useful than a degree in music technology!"

Lazar recommends three steps for breaking into the biz. First, "expand your musical mind" by listening to everything you can get your hands on. Second, learn everything about equalization, conversion, and compression processes. Last, find a mentor to help you synthesize your technical and aesthetic skills. "What you learn in academia is the technical theory, but how it's applied in practice is truly an art form," she says. Like other art forms, salaries are strongly based on your experience and talents--the more passion you prove, the more money you can make.

"Making music takes an unusual amount of dedication, intensity, focus, and passion," she says. But at the end of the day, Lazar loves the challenge. "Making a record is an amazing personal journey for recording artists. It’s such an incredible honor to play a creative role in shaping their body of work."

Theo Wargo, Photographer

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