Mike Pepe is a writer, producer and mix engineer based in LA at the legendary Barefoot Studios. Known for production and mix work with Taking Back Sunday, Silverstein, Emarosa, Sundressed, Hearts Like Lions and writing and various work with members of Queens of The Stone Age, Haim, Holychild, Sugar Ray, My Chemical Romance and more, Mike has produced and mixed several Billboard charted songs and is a leading producer in the rock genre.
Mike created a pack of 50 Wet Reverberator settings he uses daily on his clients’ mixes and productions that you can download for free at our download page.
We sat down with Mike to discuss starting a career producing music, his thoughts on recording guitar and the ways the Wet Reverberator plug-in has enhanced his productions and mixes.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Part 1: Introducing Mike Pepe
Part 2: Mike's Thoughts on Mixing
Part 3: In Depth With the Mike Pepe Preset Pack
What has the Wet Reverberator plug-in been most useful for you in the mix process?
Truly, and you can tell by how many presets I have, I literally use it on everything, and I’m not just saying that. I have literally tried it on everything, but when I reach for it most is when I want a theatrical vocal reverb thing to happen. You really feel that plugin happen. For instance, coming out of a big chorus back into a smaller verse and I’ll go to the Wet instantly to make that big vocal thing fade back into the verse. It does that really well, it’s very natural sounding, there’s no deep cutoff on it, I guess there can be, but it’s so good at being open and airy and making itself known and when I’m looking for something theatrical sounding I haven’t found anything better than that plugin to do that.
You’ve got 2 presets, “Your Kick Drum is Breathing On Me” and “Your Snare is Breathing On Me” is there a specific session that ties to or is that a feeling you’re trying to create?
Actually, the snare one is where that came from and the kick one I just liked the name of, but it’s actually from the Hearts Like Lions sessions, on one of the songs the snare, Nick said something like, “I really want a snare that sounds like it’s breathing.” So it would be like there was enough to pre-delay that it was pre-delay, attack, pre-delay, attack, in rhythm of the song. So I was working to make it feel like the snare was like “ahh” and I thought the idea was funny of a snare breathing on me like, “Excuse me sir, your snare is breathing on me.”
For the kick drum, I really liked that setting so I made the same setting but with more kick drum friendly EQ curves.
In this preset pack you make pretty strong use of the bit depth and width controls in the plugin. When you’re adjusting those what is that accomplishing for you typically?
The width is one of the things I love about the plugin, just like I was saying about making things wide and using m/s processing, one of the things I’ve found when you pump the width up to 150%, the widest it can be, it feels really getting it wider than stereo. It is literally getting it pushed out the sides, it’s not just a fun number you put in, it’s really doing something a stereo imager would do but on a stereo reverb. What I like about that and why I use it so much is because when I push it out to 150% and start my m/s processing I feel what starts off in the background come up and create ambience in my mix, because the reverb is literally being thrown out to the sides, it’s not just stereo, it’s like wide stereo. So m/s processing loves that. If I have that on a snare drum but set to 150% width, when I do my m/s processing the snare feels really fucking good. That’s one of my favorite new things I’ve found this year using this on my mixes.
For the bit depth, I love bit crushers. I think they’re really cool, they’re just fun to play with and it’s really just a different sound. I love this effect box that Eventide put out called the H3000 and one of the reasons I love that box is because the reverbs on there kinda sound shitty, they don’t sound good. They sound cool, but they’re 16-bit because it’s from the 80s. So that bit slider on the Wet makes me feel like I’m using an H3000 because I can set the bit depth at 16 bits or lower and make a reverb feel like I’m using one of those machines which I haven’t found in another plugin. Everything tries to be so cool and modern and slick, I like that I can bring it down to a bit depth of 8 and the verb on a vocal sound will sound like it’s running through that H300 and it sounds cool.
You have the slappy drum room, and my favorite of the slapback presets was the Wide Slap and Pitch Lofi, when you’re mixing do you typically dial the predelay for the tempo of songs or move it until it feels right?
I actually treat predelay pretty mathematically, which is different than most of my other production techniques where if it feels good and sounds good, it is good. Pre-delay to me is a time based effect just like an echo. I’m going to take the tempo and divide by 2 or 4 and set the predelay based on that, maybe moving it up or down if I want it to swing.
The Dark slap on a vocal are one of my favorite settings for a vocal because slapbacks in general can become so prevalent and you don’t want it to be prevalent, but it also adds a lot of depth to a vocal without adding a lot of effect to it. The Dark Slap is nice because you don’t necessarily hear the sibilance of the vocal but you hear that the vocal is wider all of a sudden which is really cool.
I actually modeled one of the hallways here in Barefoot in the plugin. Drum Hallway B Room Clone. There’s a hallway here in Barefoot by the B room that I love micing up when I’m doing drums and and keeping the doors open to the drum room and keeping a stereo pair of mics in the hallway because I love the detail on the snare in there and it just sounds cool. There was a session when I couldn’t do that because the drum room being open was a bit loud for the other rooms, so I couldn’t leave it open which was a fucking bummer for me, I was like “What am I gonna do, I don’t have those microphones.” So I went back to old sessions and soloed out those hallway microphones and modeled that mic sound in the plugin and it got pretty fucking close actually, I was pretty stoked.
The preset pack sounds really phenomenal.
It’s really a testament to the plugin. To be honest with you, as far as reverb plugins go, it’s by far the most versatile one I’ve used. Like I said I’m doing slapback and it’s a reverb plugin, at that point I’m not using it as a reverb even, I’m using it as an echo.
It’s so intricate and cool, the attack and decay and dampening, attenuation and tilt EQ, I don’t know who came up with that but it’s genius, it’s not a high pass or low pass, it’s truly like tilting the EQ to what frequency grouping you want to highlight and that’s something I would normally do with my Massive Passive. I’ve never seen that on a reverb plugin or most plugins in general.
Has the attack been useful for you? What are you using that to do?
I’m usually using that in tandem with the pre-delay setting. Depending on where I have my pre-delay set the attack will change. If I have a longer pre-delay set around a quarter, I find the attack being down makes the pre-delay sound cool. You’re really hearing that attack in the reverb right away. If I have a shorter pre-delay and the attack all the way up it’s almost like getting this weird chamber, far away thing. For snare drum, you don’t always want that stick right away in the reverb, maybe you want to lay back on the stick. With the attack you’re not getting that crack out of the snare drum, just the explosiveness of it, it’s pretty useful man.
Part 1: Introducing Mike Pepe
Part 2: Mike's Thoughts on Mixing