SAE Industry Insight: Record Producer & Mix Engineer, Thomas Mitchener

06 Nov 2020

Thomas ‘Mitch’ Mitchener is a producer and mixer who has spent the last few years working with a raft of rock and indie bands, including Asylums, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, Hello Operator, The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, Gallows, and Young Guns. He is currently working with artists including The Futureheads, Strange Bones, The Pearl Harts, Kid Kapichi, Luna Bay and Naked Six. 

He produced, engineered, mixed and performed as bassist on the acerbic punk thrash of Blossom, the Top 20 debut album by Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes. Mitch also produced the follow-up album Modern Ruin which exploded into the charts at Number 7 on its release in January 2017, following three singles which were all named Annie Mac’s ‘Hottest Record In the World’ on Radio 1. 

A multi-instrumentalist who plays guitar, bass, keys, sax and drums (among others), Mitch’s experience brings an understanding of the bands he works with. He operates primarily from his own recording studio, Broadfields in Watford.

What does Mitch like about his job? 

Besides getting to be creative every day, Mitch enjoys working with a variety of different people in a variety of different ways on a broad range of styles and genres. He said: “Mostly, being involved in creating a unique piece of art is a huge honour and a great pleasure, I think that has to be the driving force behind why I do what I do.” 

What does an average day in the studio look like for Mitch? 

His day-to-day responsibilities change daily, depending on what he is working on and what he is doing. He said: “If I’m producing music with an artist, speaking very generally, I would say my main responsibility is to create a calm, creative, fun and safe environment for an artist to feel relaxed and confident enough to perform at their best, as well as assisting them in making the best decisions for their music.”  

He added: “On a more practical level, my responsibilities are to make sure I am fast and efficient at engineering while retaining high attention to detail, to make sure I stay focused at all times as well as ensuring the studio environment is a nice place to work in and that all equipment is working suitably. If I’m mixing alone my only real responsibility is to spend the time to learn what the artist and I are trying to achieve from the mix and stay focused until I get it there.” 

How did Mitch get to where he is today? 

Mitch said: “I have loved music and have been fascinated by sound for as long as I can remember. When I was a young musician in various bands I wanted to learn how to record and produce the music I was creating. From then on I started recording not only my own band but my friends’ bands and it all grew from there. But if I had to say what helped me acquire my current role, it would be having a good work ethic, learning and trying new things as well as recording as many people as I physically could.” 

What is Mitch’s greatest professional accomplishment? 

Mitch found this question somewhat difficult to answer as he’s not sure he has one defining accomplishment. However, he did say: “On my professional journey so far there have been quite a few things which stick out in my mind as important events. The first time a recording of mine was commercially released, the first time something I worked on was played on daytime radio, getting my productions featured on TV programs as well as achieving my first Top 10 album for a record I produced and played on have all been really important milestones.” 

Going forwards, Mitch hopes to work in some new genres and continue to challenge himself in different ways. He said: “I would like to broaden my writing and I love the idea of completely writing, producing and mixing an album and see it through from the initial idea to the finished work.” 

What obstacles has Mitch encountered along the way? 

Mitch feels that the hardest part of working in the creative industry is learning that how your work is judged is completely subjective and down to opinion. What one artist loves, another artist will hate. 

Additionally, he said that working in music production (especially in mixing) can be at times a rather solitary working life and it can be hard sometimes to get perspective on projects. He said: “It took me a while to learn that making sure you give yourself suitable breaks, that you do not work alone for long periods of time and that you try and manage your work/life balance as best you can will lead to your work improving. As much as working in music production can be exhilarating and exciting, at times it can also be immensely frustrating and tiring, so it is important to make time for yourself.” 

Is there anything he would tell his younger self about forging a career in the creative industries? 

Mitch would say: “Learn as much as you can, constantly experiment, meet as many like-minded and creative people as possible and stay focused on what you want to achieve. There are highs and lows in any creative industry, the important thing is to not let the lows knock you down too much but also do not let the highs lead you to be complacent. Aside from being the best you can be at what you do, be friendly, be reliable, be respectful and be enjoyable to work with.” 

What can SAE students do to ensure they are industry-ready by the time they graduate? 

Mitch’s view is that many people studying can tend to focus on the theory of recording and production, or get distracted by equipment and microphones etc. He said: “Although these things are important, they are nowhere near as important as how good you are with people, your communication and your own personal work ethic. You need to know how to get the best out of people, how to put them at ease, to understand what they want and how to get it, to gain their trust and respect as well as making the whole process enjoyable. You could have the greatest theoretical knowledge in the world and access to the best equipment available, but without those skills you will not make good records or get very far in the music industry.” 

Find out more about Mitch by visiting his website.

Note: SAE Industry Insight is an interview feature where we talk to people working within the creative industries about their roles and how they got there, with the intention of providing SAE students with career advice. The people we interview are not necessarily affiliated with SAE in any way.