Los Angeles-based engineer, producer, and songwriter Carlos de la Garza has spent the better part of the last two decades stacking up an incredible resume. Whether handling recording, mixing or production, he’s been behind the desk for a number of Grammy-winning albums for artists such as Ziggy Marley and Paramore.

In addition to other projects, Carlos has recently been working with his daughters, Lucia and Mila, and their band, The Linda Lindas. If you haven’t heard the punk upstarts yet, you’re missing out! Carlos recorded, produced, and mixed the band’s latest album, Growing Up, which was released on the legendary punk label Epitaph Records. 

We recently sat down with Carlos to give him the Five Sounds With… treatment and talk about five of his favorite records that he’s worked on. Continue below to learn more about the making of releases from Young The Giant, Ziggy Marley, Cherry Glazerr, Paramore and The Linda Lindas. 

Young The Giant - Mind over Matter

Credit: Recording Engineer

The great Joe Chiccarelli did their first record and that certainly set the tone for the trajectory of the band. The second record was produced by my good friend Justin Meldal-Johnsen, whose musicality and attention to detail and aesthetics are at the forefront of his production style, especially when it comes to some of the keyboard layers and effects that were added to the tracks. I think he really pushed the band to improve their songwriting early on in the process as well. We did a pre pro process whereby the band went into JMJ’s production studio and tracked the ideas and made changes etc., and then went to Sunset Sound to really nail the tones/performances.

We tracked the basics live at Sunset Sound Studio 3, which is an incredible room with an amazing history. It’s always a wild and fun ride to track things live, as there are so many things happening at once. It can feel a bit overwhelming, but it’s also so great to hear everything back all at once and get a sense of things that are working (or not). We tried a lot of different tones with the drums and I remember we used a Ludwig Vistalite for only one song, but it ended up being the first single, “It’s About Time.” The guys in the band were incredibly kind and funny, and that was an experience I will never forget. 

Most if not all of the vocal takes were used from those live sessions at Sunset. Sameer [Gadhia] is an amazing singer and we would use almost entire takes to comp together his vocal performances, which is very rare. He would sometimes just do one or two passes and would go, “Let’s use that last one”. Gotta love that! As far as the vocal chain goes, I believe it was a Telefunken 251 into Justin’s Aurora GTQ2 into his Inward Connections TSL4

This was the second or third record JMJ and I had done together, and at this point, our working relationship was settling in more, and I kind of knew his desired processes. I was a big fan of him as a bassist during his time with Beck and NIN, so collaborating with him on something like this was an incredible experience. I learned so much from him. 

Ziggy Marley - Ziggy Marley

Credit: Recording and Mix Engineer

At that time, Ziggy was interviewing candidates for people to work with on the record, and as far as I know, not just on the technical side of the record, but musicians as well. One of the great things about Ziggy is that he is constantly seeking to push boundaries and trying out new ideas, sounds, and people to work with.

My first meeting was at his studio with him and his musical collaborator Beezy Coleman, and we just sat down, and they asked me some questions about music. I remember telling him that I had never worked on a reggae record before, and that didn’t seem to matter much to him. He said something to the effect of “Music is music,” which I think is so right on.

I’ll never forget looking above his API console and there was an awesome framed black and white photo of his father, and every time I sat down at the console I would look at it and think about the amazing lineage of music that he was a part of and that I was very lucky to be a small part of it as well.

For this record, we worked primarily in Studio A at Village Studios. I had always wanted to work at Studio A, and it was interesting to track drums in that room. It was a lot more narrow and not quite as large as I was expecting, but it was also very vibey and comfortable. I love that Neve console and our assistant Alex was great. Everyone there was super kind and helpful, although at one point Robbie Robertson, who was upstairs, did complain about how loud we were monitoring. I mean, it’s reggae music… It needs that bass! (Sorry Robbie!) The band was incredible on that session, which was Zac Rae on Keys, Lyle Workman on guitar, and Abe Laboriel Sr. on bass. 

We did track some live drums on a few songs with Steve Ferrone (Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers) at the Village, but the majority, if not all of the songs, are programmed drums. It was an interesting choice, but one that I think Ziggy felt gave the record a more modern feel. 

The mix process was interesting because there was a mix shootout involving some well-known mix engineers, so getting to mix that record was pretty validating for me then. Winning the Grammy for it was a pretty surreal moment too. We mixed it on Ziggy’s API 1608 with a few select pieces of outboard but mostly used the desk to its fullest capacity. I was unfamiliar with his studio, and so car listening tests were a big part of that process.

Cherry Glazerr - Stuffed And Ready

Credit: Producer and Mix Engineer

Cherry Glazerr had already recorded a version of that record that they felt wasn’t quite right, so we just reworked/rerecorded every song. We would just sit in my studio and work on a basic song structure, starting simply, often with just a bass line and a simple programmed beat, and try to build them up from there. Tabor (drums) and Devon (bass) would come in and track over the basic structure that was laid out. They were so fun and great to work with, and we kind of wrapped it up fairly quickly.

Sasami [Ashworth, former Cherry Glazerr synth player] had just left the band at that point, and the previous version of the record did have all of her synth parts on it. When we re-recorded it, I think there was an effort for it to be decidedly more guitar-rock focused. Some of the keyboard parts were kept/replayed, some were lost altogether, and some new ones were just added, but it wasn’t cut live like the previous version, so it was kind of a different thing altogether. 

I remember we experimented with the Vermona DRM1 drum machine on a few of the tracks. I love that thing, and it ended up staying on a few of the songs that were maybe initially intended to be performed on a live drum set. For keys, I have quite a few synths that are patched in and ready to go in my studio, so we would just kind of bounce around quickly until we found something that was working. Most likely, it was some combination of Roland Juno-60 and Moog Minimoog.

As far as guitars, I think we tried a bunch of things, but I remember Clem bringing in her Mesa Boogie amp. I think it was a Mark lll. We also borrowed some amps from our good friend Bobb Bruno. I think an Oliver amp, or maybe a Magnatone. I think at that time she was playing either a Rickenbacker or a Strat, though she may have used whatever I had laying around the studio as well, maybe my Jazzmaster. For guitar mics, I think I used the Sennheiser 421 and Shure 57 combo, and I think at that time I was using the LaChapell 992EG tube mic pres a lot.

When it comes to mixing, I mainly work in the box, but I occasionally try to implement some outboard gear in an insert situation. I remember at this time really liking the Standard Audio Stretch on vocals, and I think I had just received my Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor, so I was trying that on the mix bus. I still had my Wunder Audio Wunderbar console at this time, so I may have been using it as a kind of summing thing, but I probably was just staying in the box.

Paramore - After Laughter

Credit: Recording and Mix Engineer

The evolution of Paramore’s sound is always very deliberate on the band’s end. I think they are just trying to evolve and try new territory and do what feels genuinely exciting to them, which is what every great artist should try to strive to do. 

Production-wise, this was a collaboration in which JMJ and Taylor York co-produced, and I engineered and mixed. We recorded this at RCA Studio A in Nashville, which Dave Cobb was gracious enough to let us use for a few months. That was the first time I had tracked anything in Nashville, or spent any significant amount of time in Nashville for that matter, so that experience was pretty unforgettable in a number of ways.

This was also the first time I met and got to track Zac Farro on drums, and that in itself was one of the highlights of this record for me. He is not only one of the best drummers I’ve been able to record, but also one of the funniest humans I have ever met, so it was a great combination to be around. We tracked most of this live with JMJ on bass, so it was a tricky balance to have two producers who were also performing in the live room. That room was pretty unique in that it was so large, but it didn’t really have tons of reverb-y ambience like you would expect in a big room. 

As far as gear goes, between what JMJ had sent from his studio, Taylor’s own vast collection of gear, and what Dave Cobb had around the studio, there was plenty to work with. The main monitor console was a vintage API, and monitors were ATC SCM25s and I think JMJs AE-1s. I remember we used a lot of ribbon mics on this record, specifically some vintage RCA mics like the Varacoustic, as well as some newer ones from sE and Stager

The drums were mostly vintage Camco and Gretsch, with a few Craviotto things here and there. There were tons of vintage and modern amps that were tried, both for bass, as well as guitars. I remember sitting in the control room and just hearing the sound of them playing the songs live sounded really great and inspiring.

For Hayley’s vocals, we started with a Telefunken 251 in a small booth, then she graduated into the large live room with some gobos around her. We ended up doing some of the tracking in the control room with a handheld mic, I believe a Neumann KMS 105. As far as mic pres go, we had an awesome Neve BCM10 console, as well as the vintage API console. My first preference was the 1073s in the BCM10 whenever possible, especially after doing a little mic pre-shootout one day between everything in the room. The 1073s were the clear winner. Even the noise floor was much lower than any of the modern contestants. I actually don’t use a ton of compression when I track except for vocals or maybe bass. On Haley’s vocals, it was more than likely the Inward Connections TSL3 or TSL4.

I mixed the record at my studio and Taylor flew out to help me. I would typically try to get a mix going that was pretty close and then bring in Taylor and Justin to make final tweaks/adjustments. Then we would go back and forth, drive around and boom it in my sweet Volvo station wagon, make some more tweaks and repeat! It was super fun and extremely rewarding to get to take that record all the way to the finish line.

The Linda Lindas - Growing Up

Credits: Recording Engineer, Mix Engineer, and Producer

It’s been such an unexpected and exciting ride to be on. I’m so proud of them. You know how a kid will come home from like first grade with like a doodle or something, and the parent will hang it on the fridge and tell the kid how proud they are? Well, it's kinda like that x1000 [Laughs].

To be able to watch them grow as musicians and to help them learn the ropes of the music industry in all of its facets, from record-making to touring and everything else along the way, is a special connection with my daughters that I simply never thought would be a thing. Maybe because when they were growing up they didn’t seem at all interested in making music. I think perhaps them seeing me work with bands was just a part of the fabric of their lives in this way that I think they may be thought it was boring or something. I don’t know, but I certainly appreciate that they’ve come around to it.

It’s tough for them because they are all still full-time students, as well as being in a band full-time, so making Growing Up, or anything else they do for that matter, revolves around their school schedule. With that in mind, we set out to make the record as soon as they were off for summer break in 2021, so we got through it during that summer. 

We tracked it all at my studio, Music Friends, and did it by kind of sketching out the songs to a click, and then each member replaced the demo parts. Then we tracked overdubs and did some final touches before I mixed it here at the studio. We had so much fun making it, with lots of snacks and boba to help us power through the long, hot days.

For the bass track, I had just received one of the Ampeg V4B heads with the matching 4x10 cab, and we used that for most of the bass tone, along with this awesome pedal from Earthquaker Devices. It’s called the Hoof Reaper, and is like two fuzzes in one. I think I had also just received the Neumann 47 FET, which is my favorite bass cab mic of all time, so I used that on the cab, and for DI it was probably the Avalon V5. The bass is probably my 57-reissue Fender P Bass, which is my go-to.

For guitars, I really love this newer Magnatone amp called the Super Fifteen, so we used that for Lucia’s guitars and for Bela, I used one of the new Fender hand-wired Tweed Deluxe amps, which to me is like one of the greatest amps of all time. I just love the tone and vibe of smaller amps, for this kind of music especially. For pedals, I think at that time we were using the KTR and the Boss Waza Craft SD-1W for overdrive, and our good friend Chris from R2R makes these amazing treble booster pedals, so those were on practically every song as well. For guitar mics, I love my two Royer 122V mics, so I used those and a modded 57 on one amp, and a beyerdynamic M69 on the other. 

In general, I think just their progression as writers and musicians was a joy to witness. There was a moment when we had like a mini-concert in our living room before we started recording and each of the girls performed a few of the songs that they had written, and it was a really special moment when we just heard these beautiful new songs and everything come together and it felt like they were ready to dive into it. A tear may have been shed at that moment ;)!

Paramore - This Is Why

Credit: Recording Engineer

I had just finished mixing Hayley’s second solo record, and previous to that tracking and mixing her first solo record, and so I think being involved in the new Paramore record just felt like a continuation from that, in a way. 

Throughout the pandemic, the band was just starting to kick around a few ideas and demo’d some songs and asked me to be involved. I flew out to Nashville to listen to a few tracks and discuss making a new album together and the vibe just felt really great. We decided to proceed even though they didn’t have nearly enough songs written for a whole record at that time. We basically committed to a time frame and worked hard to make deadlines work out, and they committed to write more songs as they went. It was a bit challenging but I’m extremely happy and proud with how everything came out.

We did initial tracking at Glenwood Place and then we kind of did the last chunk at United B. It was fun to break it up and work in different rooms, get a different perspective on everything. We had some amazing additional players who came in and laid down the heat, namely Brian Robert Jones on bass, Phil Danyew on keys, and Henry Solomon on sax/woodwinds.

I feel like this band is in a constant state of evolution and this record is certainly a reflection of that. This record reflects some of the bands/artists that influenced them early on but it contains elements from everything that they have done as well as new territory that they are moving forward in.

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