Ariana meets Carles Zanetti
by ITAL Intern Ariana Pleasure
As I walked into the Townsend in Austin, I knew immediately that this downtown spot filled with bar stools and laughter was a great place to be in. Especially with a certain Mr. Carles Zanetti there to help put on great live shows for the people to enjoy. I recently got to sit down with Mr. Zanetti for a quick chat. He is an Austin based musician, producer, sound engineer and jack of all trades; he is also an Italian native.
Here’s how that turned out:
Ariana Pleasure: So, what part of Italy are you from? Carles Zanetti: I am from the Northwest coast near the French border. Near one of the seven wonders. It’s like a short stretch of coast, just west of Tuscany. It’s a paradise. There’s five tiny fisherman villages that were built on the cliffs, so there’s ocean and mountains. It's pristine and very isolated from everything else.
Pleasure: So, was there music there, and is that kind of how things started for you? Zanetti: Not even close to what we have in Austin. That’s one of the main reasons why I'm here. I've been doing music for the last twenty three (something) years, and I also play drums. But mostly I am a recording engineer, a producer and a live sound engineer. I do both studio work and live mixing work. When I came over the first time, I fell in love with Austin and the whole vibe.
Pleasure : What projects have you worked on? Zanetti: I'm involved in several different projects. Currently I work with this great ensemble with musicians from all over the world. I’ve been their stage manager and sound engineer for the past twelve years. We do a lot of touring around the U.S and abroad. We are going to do this Spanish tour in March. Last March we got to play at Carnegie Hall.
Pleasure: What was that like? Zanetti: Oh my God. I can’t describe it. I was like bouncing off the walls.
Pleasure: What do you like about your job? Zanetti: It’s satisfying, because whenever you do a good job, not just the audience appreciates it but the musicians as well. If you do it right you can make a difference. Every time I mix a show - whether it’s here or somewhere else - my work ethic is very very rock solid and i’m always trying to emphasize what’s happening on stage, having the best possible mix without killing everyone’s ears, you know?. Which is very very common in this town, if you go to different venues you need to have earplugs, because it’s either crazy loud or it’s not mixed properly. It took years but I am pretty well established now in town. My Reputation follows.
Pleasure: That’s so good! To be in a new city - well not so new anymore - but to have your name so well known. Zanetti: Yeah, I mean I basically pushed the reset button and started my life over, from the ground up. You know, different cultures, different city, slowly meeting people, making friends. It took me a good five to six years to crack into the scene.
Mr. Zanetti doesn’t hesitate to get to work when a musician is in the room.
As we talked, he took a pause to help set up for one of his musicians and didn’t rush anything. You can tell he loves his job and the people he works with by the way he treats everyone . He brings a creative and hard working energy into the room. All the employees of the Townsend greeted him gracefully as they walked by; it all seemed so genuine, just like when he talks about his work and his music. As he sat back down, we starting talking about the way he works with artists.
Zanetti: You see these kinds of relationships you kind of develop in time with the artists… they get to know you and respect you and you end up working together. You aren’t just there to push buttons. I’m a part of the band because if I do well they’re gonna sound way better. Everyone’s going to have a much better experience overall, and that’s gratifying.
Pleasure: How did you get started? Zanetti: I started making music in the early 90’s, but I was still working corporate jobs until 2001. I would work my 8-10 hour shifts, and then you know go into my little studio and study. Study miking techniques, recording techniques, and then I started working with bands, recording with bands, recording myself on drums. We released our first record in 2003, and then a second one in 2010, which was like a solo production. So it’s been a pretty long learning curve.
Pleasure: What would you recommend for someone wanting to get involved with sound engineering? Zanetti: Well, definitely what I would highly recommend - before even sneaking an eye on a board - I would definitely go and retrieve some physics books; specifically those regarding the physics of how sound travels through air and materials. So that once you really understand how sound works, how frequencies move through air, move through material, then you start to understand the key part of it. And then everything else that comes after is just about learning. Learning different boards, knowing your microphones, learning how to mic certain instruments with what mic, where to place it etc. And that comes also with experience.
Pleasure: Do you have any intern opportunities, and how can students get involved? Zanetti: Yeah, I train engineers, almost on a regular basis. Also because I need subs. They can come here and introduce themselves. I’d rather work with someone that already has some experience with live mixing, live setting up, knowing the frequencies etc.
He mentions that any UT student studying anything studio or engineering will have a good foundations of what needs to be done as a sound engineer.
I asked Carles to say three things for someone who’d want to become a sound engineer like himself, but in Italian. I am not fluent, but here’s what I did pick up:
He says the first thing you’ve gotta do is study and study hard. There is so much that is involved with sound engineering; thus to do the best you can, it is important to put in the work. Second is to be passionate about music and sound engineering. That and having a strong work ethic! Lastly, he says to expand your musical interests and skills. Get involved to give yourself the most opportunities possible. This goes along with gaining a sense of professionalism in the workplace, which certainly goes along way.
It is clear that Carles is passionate about what he does and there is no doubt as to why he is as successful as he currently is. He has worked incredibly hard and leads as an example that you can in fact do what you love for a living. Although most shows are unfortunately 21 and up, do make sure you go to The Townsend to be in such an incredible ambiance with great personalities and great music. You will not regret it and you will certainly notice the loving work that Carles Zanetti has put in to help make the space what it is.