Joe has worked on hundreds of live shows and studio recording with artists including Land of Trees, Clara Alm, Dion Isaiah or Mary Mi. He owns a mastering studio outside of Stockholm, Sweden.
Joe, how would you define your profession?
It has evolved over the years. I’ve worked with live sound for the most part of my life going back to when I was 12 years old and took charge over school discos. Then doing live shows and tours all over as a sound engineer. For the last 7 years or so, I lean more and more towards studio work. I’ve been doing both recording and mixing but ultimately found my place in mastering. Earlier this year I made a total makeover of my own studio and finally got it to where I wanted it. Then the pandemic came which forced me to do more or less only mastering work. And I really enjoy it.
What role does listening to music play in your life?
Listening to music IS life. It’s all that I am. If I don’t actually listen to music there is still music playing in my head. When I work intensely with a song it plays so loud in my head that it wakes me up at night. And working with mastering really suits my passion for music. I get to work with a lot of music and it’s never boring. I get to listen to incredible new music every day, it’s just super duper!
“I wanted something simple but powerful and transparent. Audirvāna met all the criterias so I bought it. And wow! All music kind of came to life. Not in a hyped way, just in a very natural way. From that day it changed my way of listening.”
How much attention do you pay to sound quality?
You know, I’ve been struggling with that one. I’ve been deep down in the rabbit hole of 192kHz vs 44.kHz vs 24BIT vs headphones vs Spotify vs Tidal vs whatever … And my conclusion is: It depends. And the easiest way to explain it might be to divide it into “hearing” music and “listening” to music. When hearing music it might be in your earbuds on the bus or on the bluetooth speaker in the kitchen or in a café. In those cases sound quality is not a big factor. Just about anything will do. But when “listening” to music sound quality makes all the difference. This is of course my opinion, not a universal fact.
When I really want to listen and truly experience music it has to be good sound quality, there’s no way around it. For me lossless is absolutely good enough. It doesn’t have to be 192kHz. Some of the best stuff I’ve ever heard is 44.1kHz. And it of course has to be well played, recorded mixed and mastered as well.
How long have you been using Audirvāna? What did you think when you discovered it?
I’ve been using it for about 2-3 years or so. It all started when I was listening to my mixes using Windows Media Player. It never sounded as good as it did in my Digital Audio Workstation. So I started to look around for a better player and quickly found that it was kind of expensive. But it’s a funny thing, when you have identified a sound you cannot unhear it. So I started to hear the “Media Player sound” in everything and it drove me crazy. So I started to look around for players again. I wanted something simple but powerful and transparent. Audirvāna met all the criterias so I bought it. And wow! All music kind of came to life. Not in a hyped way, just in a very natural way. From that day it changed my way of listening. Now (and this is kind of silly) I can wait to start it up until it gets dark and the house gets quiet. Then I turn down the lights, make a cup of coffee and sit down in my armchair with my headphones. It’s a whole procedure. And then I select an album that fits my mood and just disappear into the music. It’s like meditation.
How do you rate listening from your computer with Audirvāna compared with other equipment?
For me it’s different things. Going back to hearing or listening to music. I have a lot of different devices that play music. But all of those are for hearing music. When I’m listening to music it’s from the computer with Audirvāna, my nice DAC and preferably headphones. So it’s like comparing apples and fish tanks, two different things.
Do you talk to people about it?
I try not to! hahaha. I think anyone who knows me knows what an audio nerd I am and most of them might be afraid to talk to me about it because I can go on for hours or days. So for the sake of being invited to the next gathering I try to find other things to talk about. But whenever it comes up I love talking to people about it and I always recommend people to upgrade their listening environment. It’s just more enjoyable when it sounds good.
What are your passions outside of music?
I love photography. It’s in many ways similar to music in creating compositions and editing the image to express the feeling I’m after. For me it’s the perfect combination to music because it’s quiet. I can still be creative and make stuff I really like, but also rest my ears. And being quite new to photography I have so much to learn which is very inspiring. It feels like I learn new stuff for every picture I take. When thinking about it I learn new stuff for every song I master as well, even though I’ve been working with sound for 30 years. And I guess that’s the beauty of it all. There’s always more to learn, if you’re open to it.