Chris Athens Chats About Putting The Final Touches On Drake’s “VIEWS” Album

May 19, 2016 by Danny M

Interviews

Chris Athens Chats About Putting The Final Touches On Drake VIEWS Album

Chris Athens chopped it up with MTV News earlier this month about his contribution to Drake‘s brand new album, VIEWS, which is available in stores and online now.

The mastering engineer spoke on what it means to master a project, what it was like working on VIEWS, receiving the music just 48 hours before it was supposed to drop, putting the finishing touches on it about 12 hours before the release, how Drizzy‘s team found out about his work, and more.

You can read everything Athens said about working on Drizzy Drake‘s VIEWS album after the jump below!

MTV News: In layman’s terms, what does it mean to master an album?

Chris Athens: I think in lay terms, mastering is really a combination of quality control and, sort of, the last round of creative application of making either a single or an album. It’s compression and EQ.
The best way to describe EQ is the balance of spectrum or the balance of frequencies. High end is the top end information, or the high parts, like cymbals and the Ss on vocals. Bottom end would be things that you expect: kickdrum, bass. Everything else falls in the middle, and that’s mostly referred to as midrange. Compression is mostly about making the loud parts softer and the soft parts louder.

MTV News: What was it like working on Views?

Athens: Noah [“40” Shebib] and [Noel] “Gadget” [Campbell], the guys who mixed it and produced it, are very technically adept. They know what they want. They know their sound. And they know how to get it. So when it comes to guys like that, there’s a few songs here and there [that I’m changing]. It’s really spectral balancing — some songs have a tendency to be a little darker than others, some a little brighter and not enough bass. Those are the kind of things that we tweak, but it’s all very modest changes. They’re important to those guys. I’ve always thought that I work more for the people involved than for the general public, even though I’m the last guy to touch a record. If they say, “Wow, that’s awesome,” and nobody else hears it, I don’t care. I’m here to be the last arbiter of quality and taste, on their behalf. It’s their vision, I’m just adding a somewhat artistic, really technical service to what they do.

MTV News: When did you get the music?

Athens: We got the music maybe 48 hours before it was supposed to be released, and we ended up changing everything about 12 hours before it was supposed to be released. Things changed right up until literally the last minute. I was sending the masters to the label and the label was like, “Come on, we’re waiting.” It was as late as you could possibly get.

MTV News: It hit iTunes late the night of April 28. So you’re getting the music on the 26th?

Athens: I’m getting placeholders that aren’t gonna be the final thing. I had an idea of what we were going to do going into the last day, before it was released at midnight, but I didn’t have the final files. They were still sleeplessly working on the stuff.

MTV News: When you say you’re getting placeholders, those are earlier versions of the songs that give you a sense of what you’re going to have to do?

Athens: They give me a sense of the timing, of the flow of the record, and I can kind of approximate my final EQs and compression on the entire record. It’s almost like a warm up for what’s really coming. And they tend to be really close, because a lot of the changes are kind of arrangement changes, or a few vocal things here and there; Drake is extremely creative, so he’ll get an idea at the last minute, and they’ll throw it on there. But, generally, they’ve lived with the musical arrangement for a while and they don’t change that enough that it totally knocks off what I’m doing.

MTV News: When did you find out that you would be working on this?

Athens: I didn’t find out until about the week before. It’s very last minute and, again, I think that’s partially intentional. They’ll tell me a week in advance, “Hey, man, sorry to do this to you, but we need you this weekend.” So I’m like, “OK, here we go, Drake record! It’s gonna be a barnburner.” Because it has a hard release date.

MTV News: You also mastered Nothing Was The Same and If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late for Drake. Do you have a sense of how Drake’s team first caught wind of you?

Athens: I know exactly how. DJ Khaled got signed to Cash Money Records, and I’ve always done Khaled’s records. The guys at Cash Money really liked them, and they started sending me Nicki Minaj and all these other people. And they said to Khaled, who’s doing your mastering? And they told him. And I got into a shootout with their old mastering engineer, where they sent us both “Hold On, We’re Going Home.”

I was on vacation, at a beach house in Galveston, Texas, and I was watching my kids and my wife on the beach when the song came in. All I had was my headphones and my laptop. And I remember they said, “Do you want to be in a shootout for the next Drake record?” So my choices were, turn it down, or say, fuck it, I’m not gonna be home for a week, but let’s make it happen with me and my headphones at the kitchen table. I won the shootout. It was not because my shit was louder than the original guy. They just liked it better. And they’ve been working with me ever since.

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One Response to “Chris Athens Chats About Putting The Final Touches On Drake’s “VIEWS” Album”

  1. Tunechi Says:

    He gets my highest honor, I respek this guy mastering skills

    Reply

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