Klaus “Heavyweight” Hill Mastering Engineer
Klaus Hill is a world class Mastering Engineer living in Sydney, specialising in Electronic music – or Russian Dance if we take Google at it’s word:) With over 20 years experience in England and Australia, Klaus has built a reputation for not only delivering top class masters, but also for his commitment to his clients – guiding them with mix suggestions, helping them to get the best possible sound that they can. We recently caught up with Klaus for a chat and to find out if Russian Dance is really a thing.
How did you get the Heavyweight Hill nickname?
Pirate radio days….always been a big lad. My dad was a heavyweight wrestler, Commonwealth Games, British Champ. One of the guys used to call me heavyweight and it stuck.
At what point did you decide to become a mastering engineer?
I never decided to become one, it just happened. I’d been mixing records for people for a long time but decided to stop DJ’ing and producing my own stuff and mix full-time.
I had a pretty successful DJ and production career from the 90’s into the early 2000’s. Got to DJ all over the world many times and release on some legendary labels from back then. Mastering was just a natural progression. People asking for a quick master to play out turned into, can you master the whole EP.
Were you always into Electronic Music?
I’ve got a wide musical taste, from metal to jazz. I just loved underground music growing up, used to hunt for obscure releases. Was into lots of early subpop stuff and US/UK metal from the late 80’s early 90’s as well as all the electronic music.
Were you part of the English summer of love?
The summer of love was from 88 to 89, clubs like Shoom etc. I was part of the next generation, where the music turned from acid house to hardcore and then for me, jungle.
How was that?
No words to describe that time in my life other than AMAZING! Not sure we will ever have a period like that again in electronic music. It was a melting pot of cultures mixed with a real life struggles outside of the clubs, politics. The creative jumps made back then by people set the tone for what followed.
Did it influence your music career?
The biggest influence of all. I would not be doing what I do if it was not for that period.
Why move to Australia?
Met someone in the UK who was Aussie. Came over for 6 months, ended up married with 2 kids and never left.
When did you arrive?
Did you have any contacts here?
A few people. I knew them from touring the UK and a few people at labels, but that was it. Internet was still developing into what we have now, so you still had to meet people out and about, be social!
Can you remember the first commercial track you mastered?
One of my own releases probably. As for a client’s track, that went to the mists of time I’m afraid!
Have you ever received a mix that’s so good that, as a mastering engineer, there was nothing to do other than to make sure the levels are correct for streaming services?
All the time. The hardest thing for mastering is knowing when to leave it alone.
Would you prefer this or do you get more pleasure from making a crap mix sound good?
If the mix is crap I go back to the client with pointers. When a track is like that, mastering is only a band-aid. I would rather give feedback and have them fix in the mix. A much better way to do it. But to answer the question it’s always nice getting great mixes and would be my preference. Fixing crap ones on a stereo file can be a headache.
What is your pet peeve when it comes to mastering submissions?
People mixing into a chain and then taking it all off because they think it’s their mastering chain. It’s not mastering, it’s part of the mix bus chain if you mix into it from the start. Take it off and the track falls apart. We are not mind readers – either leave it so it sounds like the mix you were happy with or maybe pop in some screenshots. Saves a lot of time and surprises. The best engineers/producers send me multiple versions. They send the pres with their mix bus, without it, and a limited version for reference.
Are people still sending you mixes that are already limited and compressed?
Yes…Compresson is ok, sometimes limiting is ok as well (within reason). Sometimes its just part of the sound and its the best version to use. But give your engineer options
Do you do stem mastering?
I’ve moved more into it as the years go by and its now my main thing. Makes life so much easier as a lot of my clients are touring DJ’s working a lot on the road, so mixes need a bit more attention.
Do you think this is more mixing rather than Mastering…what’s the difference?
Depends on the track. Mixing does tend to be a lot more detailed work. Lots of automation etc, processing parts, and a lot more of the basics like individual sound compression etc. Stem mastering is really more about track balancing for me. Thats where most people struggle, kick and bass balance etc. You can fix that really quickly in stems. But yes, sometimes it does feel a bit more like a full-on mix.
Do you work in the analogue, digital or a combination of both?
Combination – going more and more ITB as plugins get better.
So what’s your process? Do you have a default signal chain that you always gravitate to?
I’ll do any sample rate conversion that’s needed at the start and check out the file in RX. I give the track a good listen, and see if anything is poking out, if anything needs correcting or if the track needs some compression. I then set a ballpark final level through my chain, setting the loudness where it needs to be. I then fix any issues, then work on any sweetening, width etc. I then come back to the final level, setting it with all the changes in place It’s different every time, what I use, but my order of doing it all is always the same.
If I’m an artist and I want to get you to master a track, what do you want me to do in preparation?
Make sure you are happy with the mix, and send me a pre-master at the native sample and bit rate of the project. The old -6db headroom is a myth that goes back to the days of DAT. The old DAT players used to shit themselves if u hit them too hard, and -6db was a great point. Just make sure the files are not clipping and you are good to go. I can turn it up and down my end, no sweat.
You’ve been using the Genelec 8351’s for some time now. Why choose this specific speaker?
GLM and the coaxial design. Just loved they way they sounded. I can get them sitting a bit closer to me, giving me a more intimate feeling and I’m able to keep the volume at a more sensible level as I’ve got older.
*GLM is Genelec’s Proprietary Room Calibration Software. It is built into all speakers in the Genelec SAM Range – it is unique to Genelec. Read more about GLM HERE
You’re obviously running GLM. Did you find you had to tweak much?
Never, I’ve been happy with the initial results.
You’re temporarily moving to a mobile rig and are using the tiny Genelec 8010A speakers. What makes the Genelec 8010’s the speaker for you?
COVID lockdowns in Europe changed everything for me. Got stuck in the UK for months and still had to work while at home. Built up a mobile rig that I’m super happy with and that I can go anywhere with and work. Adding the small Genelec’s to go with my headphones.
I’m sure you use some headphones too. What are these?
Audeze are the king of headphones for electronic. I own multiple pairs, LCD X’s, LCD5’s. Also use HEDDPhones on occasion.
*** We never did get to the bottom of the Google Russian Dance Genre specialisation. When mentioned to Klaus he was surprised and didn’t know it was there, however, if you’re a Russian Dance Genre Producer that needs a track mastered…hit up Klaus, I’m sure he’ll do a fine job.
Contact Klaus HERE