Sennheiser’s Pro Talk Series on YouTube features interviews with the industry’s most respected sound professionals, including Music Producer and Engineer, Axel Reinemer, owner of Jazzanova Recording Studio (JRS) in Berlin, Germany.
Named in honor of the DJ/producer collective of which Reinemer is also a member, JRS represents a lifelong love for music and a longtime dream fulfilled.
For Reinemer, who grew up in GDR-era East Germany, it was uncommon to encounter Western music during his childhood. Yet, thanks to his grandmother, Reinemer managed to still get his hands on Hip-Hop records, which ultimately led to his developing the beat matching, mixing and scratching techniques that launched his career. When the Berlin Wall came down, he was able to team up with other mixers and expand his style.
Over time, Reinemer started to remix for international artists, from Tokyo to LA, working on new music whenever possible. Through the years, Reinemer became inspired to open a larger studio that was more reflective of his personality. “I wanted to be able to record bands [and have] the ability to record audio separately,” he says. “I wanted to attract world class clients [with] a facility that had flexibility (ie: using the editing room as recording room, or the lounge/kitchen as a vocal booth). Alternative rock-pop indie bands have a different approach. They need more rooms, more mic pres. With R&B stuff, you need one mic, one pre, one compressor and autotune.”
From Avant-guard Japanese jazz bands to R&B artists like Rhianna and Jason Derulo, JRS has certainly earned its place among the world’s leading recording studios. Reinemer is also well-known for his film scoring work. “The most impressive one for me was working with Ryuichi Sakamoto for The Revenant.”
Much of Reinemer’s success comes from his recording and editing style. “Maybe it’s a German thing, but sometimes we’re a bit shy. Not really cranking up the pres or making the compressors pump while recording. There is always the sense of ‘yah, let’s do a nice recording, but we’ll do the rest in the mix to give the signature sound. But that’s not the best. It’s better to put the energy in there while recording. It’s also inspiring for the artist. What I find very helpful is, if you think you’re done, leave the room. If it doesn’t grab you [when you come back], then the mix is broken.”
One example of Reinemer’s approach is from a session he did for Italian artist Malika Ayane, “We had a mic split, [with] one clean channel going to Pro Tools and one channel going into a twin reverb preamp,” he explains. “She had the twin reverb signal on her headphones, so when she sang louder, you could hear the reverb more and there was more distortion. It changed her performance. It was very inspiring. I think it was good for her and for me, when I hear this song, even when I’m 80 or 90, I will always remember that moment. And I think that’s also a really nice thing that you can create in a recording studio – moments. It’s a value, it’s personal. That’s what it should be about.”
At JRS, the studio is centered around a 32-channel Neumann console that was originally custom-made for the Berlin Opera House in 1991. “The mic pres are great, the EQs are fantastic and every one is different,” says Reinemer of the console. “For me, it’s not [just] that they are the best EQs. They are high standard, but all the EQs have different flavor. It’s all about the flavors and the possibilities we can achieve.”
Depending on the application, Reinemer also works in Pro Tools with hardware inserts. “And I also work with an SSL Sigma, which is a summing box, but also can control analogue levels,” he adds. “This box, I use for automating my levels on the Neumann board, automating my groups, my parallels, my masters. When I mix the drums, I have a TG limiter, which pumps really loud. If I don’t want to go back into the box, I can just ride this fader and make it louder in the chorus and then back it off. The flexibility of the board is really cool for this setup.”
When Reinemer launched JRS in 2013, he realized that he needed more microphones than those he had available at his previous, smaller facility. “I already had some good mics, the U 47, two U 67s, but still I needed more; I had to invest in my collection,” he says. “It’s good [to] have the biggest palate of tones that you can get. All mics are good for something. There is no ‘this is good’ or ‘this is bad;’ it’s just wide, narrow, clear, dark, round, crisp.”
In addition to his insight about microphones and recording styles, Reinemer offers insight for up and coming audio professionals. “You should be prepared for any situation, set up the most you can,” he says. “One engineer once told me – ‘you should compare it to a flight. Everything is set up when the people get on the plane and there’s some adjustments to make, but the plane is ready to take off.’ The artists have a lot of other stuff in their heads when they’re recording. Never distract them with technical stuff. Never bring negative energy over there, always have them trust in you.”