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On the Job

Recording engineer brings musicians’ visions to life

Music engineer Ed Valauskas.

Josh Reynolds for the Boston Globe

Music engineer Ed Valauskas.

The pride and joy of the Q Division recording studio in Somerville is a vintage Neve recording console that creates a warm, dynamic sound.

Music engineer Ed Valauskas, 46, who has produced for musicians such as Juliana Hatfield and Howie Day, said the studio is known for its classic gear as well as great “live” rooms that achieve optimum sound.

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“We all have a certain aesthetic here, and that’s to bring a musician’s vision to life,” said Valauskas, also the bassist for the local band Jenny Dee & The Deelinquents.

It’s not that difficult to set up a home studio. Why not just record in a garage or basement?

A lot of professional studios have closed in the last 10 years. But the general saying is that you can only get it so good in your house. We’ll see people who have spent the last four months trying to mix it on their own and ultimately not being happy and coming here.

What separates a good record producer from a bad one?

It starts with preproduction — rehearsing, critiquing, and choosing songs. The foundation is laid by tracking or recording the songs, then overdubbing, laying additional parts, like vocals, over the tracks, and mixing [it] together. The last part is mastering, where each song gets a final polish. Mixing and mastering is an art. A bad producer is someone who tries to put their own stamp on something, versus helping artists express their own inventiveness.

What’s your studio horror story?

The key for any band is a really solid drummer, and I was working with a super young band that had a drummer that couldn’t play very well. Six hours later, I pulled the singer aside and said, “This isn’t going so well — can we get a different drummer?” We ended up having another drummer come in. A whole day of this isn’t fun.

You’re raising money for the band The Gravel Pit on a Kickstarter-type website, PledgeMusic. Is this the new model for supporting up-and-coming musicians?

We’re trying to raise $10,000 to make a new album. PledgeMusic allows artists to generate support while engaging their fans in the process.

In your opinion, who’s the best record producer of all time?

My favorite producer would be Jim Dickinson, a Memphis musician and producer who worked with the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. His sound was very raw and real — he believed in capturing the moment.

You play in Jenny Dee & The Deelinquents with your wife, Jen D’Angora. What’s that like?

It’s wonderful to be creative with your significant other, but it also can be complicated. If vocals are off, you need to be diplomatic, instead of blurting out, “That was really bad.” And when you have a 2-year-old, every time we play a gig, it costs money for child care. Such are the realities of family life.

Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at cindy@cindyatoji.com.
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