Award-winning Producer, Composer, Engineer and Surround Mixer Rich Tozzoli is a man on the go. From 5.1 mixes for the likes of David Bowie and Blue Oyster Cult, to recording guitars for Al DiMeola and Ace Frehley, to composing for a myriad of TV shows, his calender rarely has a day off in it. We were able to catuch up with him recently as he was leaving to record some live shows in Europe.
Q: How did you get involved in surround sound production?
A: Actually, I’ve always been fascinated with the ambience of acoustic spaces. I used to walk around New York with a small stereo mic and a DAT machine, recording subways, busses, fire engines and even following mumbling people around Grand Central Station. The sounds were amazing and got me interested in what was beyond two channels.
So a few years ago I hooked up with a great Post Production facility in New York called Gizmo, and we were some of the first in the city to have a dedicated surround room. Myself and mixing partner Brian Mackewich were able to spend a lot of time honing the craft, and learning the ins and outs of mixing for DVD’s and TV broadcasts. That in turn led to me being blessed to mix over fifty 5.1 projects for many great artists and networks like HBO and Rave HD. I just love being able to deliver the listener an enhanced experience that stereo can’t provide.
Q: And you’ve written a book on the subject?
A: I wrote ‘Pro Tools Surround Sound Mixing’, because I wanted to share my knowledge with others. I’ve also toured the country teaching the subject and educating those who want to learn more about it. It’s something Im totally passionate about.
Q: You’re also able to mix 5.1 at home?
A: Yes, I’ve set up a full surround sound mixing room in my studio, which is amazing. I had the room tuned with help from Russ Berger, Auralex and Vincent Miraglia, so for a ‘home’ studio it’s quite true. It’s nice to go to a surround mastering session at Bob Ludwigs in Maine and be able to confirm my frequenices are ‘on’.
I’ve mixed a bunch of 5.1 projects in this room, and just finished a surround mix for Hall & Oates latest HDTV and DVD anniversary concert called “Live from the Troubadour”. But when I don’t mix in my room, I’m working in New York with the crew at Gizmo.
Q: What speakers do you have?
A: I have a 5.1 surround set of the NHT M-00’s with an S-20 sub. I first heard them years back at a surround show in Beverly Hills, CA. I remember Alan Parsons was sitting there listening to them, so I figured - hey they must be good. I was so blown away them, I bought that set right off the floor and have never gone back.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about them?
A: Their compact size belies their sound. They’re accurate and true, and with the combination of the S-20, they can be relied upon to deliver exactly what I need. Honestly, I simply enjoy listening to music on them, and when you’re mixing hour after hour with no fatigue, it’s a sign of a great speaker.
I have to say, they are so solid that I often pull a pair of them out on mobile sessions. Since they’re damn sturdy, I literally just carry them in a beach bag – no kidding.
Q: What other gear is in your mixing room?
A: I have a clean, stripped down production rig. Pro Tools HD optically feeds a Grace m906 5.1 monitor controller. That directly feeds the NHT’s with good Monster Cable, so the path is as short and high-quality as possible. I have some choice preamps (Focusrite, Earthworks, ADL), a Manley Massive Passive EQ for the tube sound, and my computer is loaded with every piece of software you can imagine.
Q: So you also do a lot of composing to TV?
A: Yes, I’m constantly writing music for different shows. I started playing guitar when I was 14, after seeing Kiss. Funny that years later I ended up working with Ace Frehley. But my first break was writing some wild stuff for Nickelodeon, and since then I’ve been on literally hundreds of shows. FOX NFL has just begun to use some of my guitar heavy pieces, and VH-1 uses them every week on their “Best Week Ever” show. I always hear my stuff on Animal Planet and Discovery Channel without me knowing it was going to be on there - often through companies that represent my work.
Aside of guitar music, I also studied orchestration with teachers like Kristin Hevner and Steven Scotty Smalley. That helped me grow immensely, so I can combine my wicked Les Paul side with the symphonic production elements. It makes for a nice combination.
Q: Do you also mix your TV work on the NHT’s?
A: Yes. They are flexible enough to be able to go from 5.1 to stereo with the press of a button on my Grace controller. To be able to sit on my couch and hear my music and/or mixes broadcast over the TV that were done next door in my mix room is amazing. The fact that what I hear over the airwaves is as accurate as what came out of my mixing room is a tribute to the NHT’s. Seriously.