Please explain what just happened.

Weren’t you just there, asking me?

What is your earliest memory?

Puking. Good lord, puking. I think an enormous percentage of my formative years have been constructed around either my avoidance of, or terror of, somebody else ralphing. Why, just last week I marked the 25th anniversary of the last time I yacked.

Did I just jinx it?

If you werenʼt a ProTools engineer, what other profession would you choose?

Would it hurt my professional cred if I admitted that in my chest lies the heart of a historian? My wife just bought me two books for my birthday: How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower by Adrian Goldsworthy and Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 by Christopher Clark. When I showed my best friend what she had gotten me, he looked at me as though I had been shortchanged. But the truth is, I can’t wait to read them. (I’m still trying to figure out what the hell happened with Rome!)

Please describe the current contents of your refrigerator.

It isnʼt pretty, I have to say. My wife made an absurdly awesome turkey for Thanksgiving, mostly because she knows I think turkey is sort of pedestrian and I think she went out of her way to prove me wrong. The damned thing is that she got a huge bird and we went out of town right afterward. So today we played a little dirge for the remains. It was a cross between “Tears of a Clown” and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band playing a funeral march.

What verb best describes you?

“Meticulous.”

Wait. That’s an adjective. Is that contradictory?

“Am.” That’s a verb.

What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and have a conversation with yourself at age thirteen?

Drink a beer, for Gods sake, man! Don’t worry about it! Relax! Take a breather, step back and realize that you will not die if you yack (well, you might, but live a little!).

Those romantic interludes aren’t going to happen while you’re experimenting with cassette tape recorder head stacks; lets face it. You need to end up in a couple of ditches if you’re going to meet a girl, any girl.

And for Gods sake: cut your hair!

What are the steps you take to regain your composure?

You mean after all the mulling and sweating and rethinking and mental reorganization that takes place in the scant hours left to me at night?

Why, “Pass me a beer, please.”

Define “success”.

I’ve managed, through either hard work or dumb luck to find it. I know that there are many who seek but do not find; I often question how I ended up here. It’s mysterious, isn’t it? I mean, I work really, really hard, and I strive for a level of perfection in my career that can meet no harsher critic than me. But when I wake up in the morning, it’s to my five year-old son who’s very rapidly learning his second language, and a wife who designs palatial chicken coops in her off-hours.

I walk out my back door after taking my boy to school, and with coffee firmly in hand, open up a ProTools session sent to me via internet. I’m wildly fortunate to be able to work at home. I work on world-class artists. I have a worthy resume. But in the end, I step over some chickens preening on the back porch because my crazy wife is fond of them and pick up my kid at school who sings me Japanese nursery rhymes, and wonder at the mystery of it.

Success is finding comfort with people you love and respect, who love and respect you, while realizing that no matter how much outsiders admire and respect what you do, it’s the chicken in the doorway which just might be the barometer of your success.

From what or whom do you derive your greatest inspiration?

My mom. Good grief, she had it rough. She was our Rock of Gibraltar, and always made me feel as though I was worthy of my crazy flights of fancy. While I was reading the encyclopedia and collecting maps out of National Geographic, when all the other kids were outside, beating each other up and going on all those mysterious “dates” I’d heard about, she always thought I was clever. Maybe she just said that.

Anyway, she encouraged me when I adopted my instrument, which was really unfortunate for her since it was the drums. She even let us “practice” in the basement, which may have hastened premature hearing loss, though she tolerated it silently.

She was a single parent with two kids, but more than that, she carried the heartbreak of a lifetime in her without ever complaining. She lost the love of her life early on to illness, and really never recovered, but we were raised with all the love we would expect from two parents. She was incredibly brave.

What change do you want to be in the world?

I used to have pretty big ideas about my role. My band was political, I was political, my whole life I had been pretty wrapped up in politics of one form or another. I used to shout, and scream and jump up and down to make the world “a better place” (though my band had really great video behind us, which helped all the shouting and proselytizing go down easier). But as I’ve gotten older, which may be my curse, I’ve mellowed.

Now I’m more of the philosophy of “water against a stone.” I live lightly when I can, I appreciate the seriousness of our worldly problems, but realize that my time for changing it might have passed. Then again, maybe I’ll be re-invigorated into direct action when the neo-leftist-hippieenviro-freaks try to take my Hummer from me. (Kidding! I have a nine year-old Diesel Jetta and a bike!)

Are you pro- or anti-emoticon? Please explain.

That would be a solid “negatory.” I’m no bard, but I gotta say the level of written discourse has dropped a lot since the advent of the accursed 😉

I mean really. What the fuck is that? Some sort of half-wit Happy Day Face trying to ameliorate all the snarky shit you just wrote?

Write with verve and backbone, people!

How are you six degrees from Kevin Bacon?

He should be asking how he’s six degrees from me.

What makes you feel most guilty?

How dare you climb into the deepest reaches of my tortured psyche like that!

Please list three things you never leave home without.

Socks. I learned from being on tour with a bunch of smelly, dirty dudes in a van in the middle of nowhere that you may not have much; you may have mold growing in your duffle, you may have old cheese some dickhead left on your dashboard threatening to create new life forms (oh, wait…that was me), but if you have clean socks, you have it all.

Really.

What is the worst piece of advice youʼve ever gotten?

“You should sell all this old gear and get some newer stuff!”

What is the best advice youʼve ever given to someone else?

To a fellow music editor: Stop looking at music.

What do you consider the harshest kind of betrayal?

Humanity against the earth and all its creatures. It’s a good thing I’m not a viral researcher. I’d get all “12 Monkeys” on your ass.

Of all the game shows that have graced our TV screens throughout history, which one would you want to be a contestant on and why?

This doesn’t make sense to me. That I could spend more time on this question, that I have actually moved on from it, answered all the other questions and then come back to it, that I have actually expended precious minutes when I could have been absorbing gamma rays from my microwave or growing bacteria in my elbows, that this, of all questions, is the one that stumps me, is some sort of Divine Cruelty concocted by the most evil-minded of interviewers.

Well played, Nervous Breakdown. Well played.

What do you want to know?

More about Frederick the Great.

What would you like your Last Words to be?

“Jesus H Christ, that was the most amazing…”

Please explain what will happen.

Tomorrow my son will stumble into our bedroom. He will immediately perk up when he approaches the bed, and demand much energy of me as I curse the dawn and wish that iRobot didn’t just make Roombaʼs but made coffee robots as well, which poured it directly into my mouth before I have to rise from bed.

I will then look longingly at my bed, where my wife still sleeps obscured in the half-dark by our comforter, and wonder how she lucked out with the night shift. I will make breakfast for my son before school, which I have become surprisingly adept at: I make pancakes from scratch and have mastered the art of scrambled eggs with cheese.

Pack the Lunch box, trip to school for a drop-off, kiss on the cheek from him if I’m lucky, and back home to the coffee pot. Then I will mull the day. Do I have a vocal to tweak? Some acoustic guitars that need some love? Will it be tomato plants into the yard waste bags? Will I fritter away the hours on the internet reading the New York Times and GearSlutz? (Let me clarify–NOT PORN!)

Will I try to patch up the cold drafts in the doors now that we’re in the middle of a deep freeze? My wife will stumble out of bed later, not rested despite sleeping later than me. We’ll chat over coffee, and then go our separate ways for a while. It’s a fluid thing. Sometimes we’ll catch lunch together; if I’m working she’s on duty all the time, but when I’m not, we both wrestle through the domestic chores together, making sure the dishes get washed or the laundry gets done, and then take breaks together

Son comes home, correcting our abysmal pronunciation of “You’re Welcome” in Japanese, even though the little dickens is only five. Again, when I’m working, I won’t really see anyone for hours, days, weeks, even though I work at home. But when I’m not, we all hang together fluidly, taking each day as it comes.

So. What will happen?

TAGS: , , , , , , , ,

LARS FOX is an audio “performance optimizer” with credits on three recordings up for Grammy awards this year: Dave Matthews Band (nominated for Album of the Year & Rock Album), Colbie Caillat (Best Pop Vocal Album), and Bon Jovi (Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals).

His music career got underway in San Francisco, where he started an industrial band called Grotus and began to learn how to manipulate audio on a computer---the seed of his future career.

After several years together, Grotus signed to a major label, but the honeymoon ended soon after. The band and its label executives were at odds from the outset. Their first record was called Handjob, since, as Fox puts it, "thatʼs what [label executives] were giving us." Scant tour support, zero publicity, and a broken down van were the ultimate result. "We were chum in the great ocean of Pop," he later said. "Left to flounder in ignominy, where we whimpered to our sad conclusion as a footnote on a Korn tour.”

But there were better things in store. Soon after the dissolution of Grotus, Fox met his engineering destiny in the form of an old friend, Art Alexakis, who had hurled himself up to the top of Pop Mountain successfully with his band Everclear. The two re-ignited a professional relationship that would lead them through the next seven years. Fox was now working on the bleeding edge of ProTools editing. Being an “early adopter” of music editing software, he learned many of its gifts and pitfalls well before the public learned that Cher could sound as though she was created in a lab.

Today, Fox finds himself struggling with the double-edged sword of the tools he’s come to wield with deadly precision. “In the hands of people who respect music, it’s a mighty asset," he says. "But if abused, it can render music impersonal, and worse, unlistenable.”

As a vocal specialist, his philosophy is to tread as lightly upon the performance as possible, while striving to make it the very best it can be.

“I never forget that I’m working on someone else’s art," he says, "and like a surgeon, I want to leave no visible scars. I’m proud to have worked with a vast range of artists, from pop to country to indie to some dude and his theatrical reading of the Bible, complete with wacky sound effects. I may not want to listen to all of them when I’m home, but I’ve made it my mission to make the best performance the artist could give into an even better one.”

Fox has comped over 2,200 lead vocals and his work can be found on records with combined sales of over 75 million copies.

In 2007, he was named “Hot Secret Weapon” by Rolling Stone magazine in their annual “Hot” Issue.

15 responses to “21 Questions with Lars Fox”

  1. Quenby Moone says:

    Hello, sir. I find you fascinating! Tell me more!

  2. Excellent. So, if I sent you a recording of me singing you could actually make it sound, like, melodic instead of like goats having sex?

    I think success should absolutely be measured by the chickens on your back porch. You have the right idea.

    • Quenby Moone says:

      Look, in some countries goats having sex is considered the finest pinnacle of art, okay? Stop messing with perfection, baby!

  3. “Drink a beer, for Gods sake, man! Don’t worry about it! Relax! Take a breather, step back and realize that you will not die if you yack (well, you might, but live a little!).

    Those romantic interludes aren’t going to happen while you’re experimenting with cassette tape recorder head stacks; lets face it. You need to end up in a couple of ditches if you’re going to meet a girl, any girl.

    And for Gods sake: cut your hair!”

    Right on, man.

  4. Ben Loory says:

    i gotta say, i’m kinda happy grotus didn’t make it big, cuz if i had to go around hearing people say the word “grotus” all the time i’d probably lose my shit.

    also, i seriously need some chickens.

    🙂 !

  5. Lars Fox says:

    “i gotta say, i’m kinda happy grotus didn’t make it big, cuz if i had to go around hearing people say the word “grotus” all the time i’d probably lose my shit.”

    me too! I’ve been around loads of famous people now, and I have to say, it just seems like an endless pain in the ass.

    and yes Megan, I could at least make your voice give the goats some stiff competition!

    • Quenby Moone says:

      So when, in British slang, people suspect that you’re “surrounded by birds,” do you think they mean hot women? But they’re really “hot chicks” of an avian variety?

      I’m completely confused.

      • Lars Fox says:

        Then there is the whole “crisps” and “chips” conundrum.

        I can’t hardly even pronounce crisps. Say it out loud. Go ahead.

        • Robert says:

          Lars,

          I used to watch your shows in the bay area and always loved the video you guys played during the show. Is there any possibility of getting a copy of some of it for personal use?
          robert at steal1 dot com

  6. Reno J. Romero says:

    ooh. reno likey. great Qs, great rock and roll answers. i second what greg said: i need some chickens.

  7. cmoone says:

    Hey Lars, I keep thinking about riding in the car with you the other day, listening to NPR or some other highbrow station. Bing Crosby was crooning, and you said, “No one these days can make a recording like that. Just walk up to the mike and nail it.” What you do is make it seem like the people you tinker with do just that. It’s so subtle you can’t even hear it, but you know it’s not a robot voice like the one on the answering machine. Some of those turkeys don’t really deserve it, but you give them your best. There ought to be a special Grammy category for the sonic engineers like you, with before and after cuts of the performance–of course, no one would go out and buy the CD after. Then you might have to eat the chickens! Maybe it’s best you continue to labor in obscurity. But you are a successful man in my book.

  8. Greg Olear says:

    Are you enjoying the history books? Not sure if you have a specific period, but Titan, the John D. Rockefeller biography by Ron Chernow, was quite fascinating.

    This was great — I love the line about success and chickens.

    Oh, and it was lead in the pans that wiped out the Romans. The entire upper and upper middle class died of lead poisoning, and without any viable leadership, it was only a matter of time before the place was toast.

  9. Justin says:

    huge grotus fan. still to this day. i met lars twice. i always remembered him as having a sweet, honest, intelligent personality. this interviewed made me happy, 1993 style.

  10. […] who dazzle like diamonds when sunlight plays upon their skin.  She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, a musical genius, and their son, whose genius needs no […]

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