Maor Appelbaum: From Sleepless to Mastering
Maor Appelbaum is one of the most sought after Mastering experts in the industry today, having worked on projects with the likes of YES, Faith No More, Rob Halford and more!. Before he became known as the Go-To person for all of your mastering needs, Appelbaum spent time in a few bands himself – namely Sleepless (who were on The End Records) and Vultures. In this interview, we embark on Maor’s journey from rocking Israel to mastering an entire world! Read on…
First of all, looking back on your work in Sleepless, what do you think of that album now?
HI am very proud of the Sleepless – Winds Blow Higher album, it came out more than 18 years ago and it still brings me to a very emotional state. It touches a lot of aspects of life and has a very special mood. I can still feel it as something that relates to the current world. It was a “ sign of times” for us then and represented a lot of what was going on in our life in our early 20’s living in Israel and being creative, thinking outside the box.
You were also in a band called Vultures. What are your impressions of that project in retrospect?
We were all about braking ground and keeping it raw, clashing and exploding in people’s ears – I think we had delivered our idea across very well and our audience was getting the dose of industrial / experimental – metal shock they came for every show. But with that we were like a time bomb and we had detonated ourselves before we could have become something bigger.
What made you decide to transition from being in a band to an absolute master in mastering?
I was always interested in the art of audio engineering and found myself growing a deeper interest as I as working with other bands – mastering their demos, singles, EPs and albums. So this was a natural progression in which I felt very connected with and decided to take it in to full mode and that is what I do for a living.
What was it like working with the legendary Sylvia Massy?
I came to the USA to work for Sylvia Massy and learn as much as possible about the production process – from pre-production, recording and then the mixing process. It was an eye opening and interesting experience to learn from such and industry icon. There are so many aspects that are part of the process and they involve decision making and dealing with emotions of putting the efforts in making sure the artistic vision comes out to the world
What was the very first recording you mastered professionally and how did it go?
It’s hard for me to remember, I have mastered thousands of songs, hundreds of albums and EPs. So it’s hard to remember them all. But I do remember that it was a huge learning process and even when the results were good there is always more to do and improve. Sometimes it was harder and it was a huge challenge but I had educated and improved myself as I had progressed from each project.
What was it like working with Rob Halford on his various projects?
It was amazing. Working with Roy Z on those projects and the fact that I am a metal fan and I got to work with one of metal’s greatest and iconic singers was like a dream come true. I had mastered two solo albums of HALFORD (HALFORD III – Winter Songs and HALFORD IV – Made Of Metal). And then I did a few live CDs, DVDs/Blue Rays : (Rock In Rio 5.1, Live In Anaheim, Live at Super Satima Arena) and some other bonus tracks and versions. I also had Remastered a FIGHT album “A Small Deadly Space“ it was all an awesome experience and I had enjoyed it very much. I feel very blessed to have been part of that.
What was it like working on the remaster of Faith No More’s debut album We Care A Lot?
That album was way ahead of its time, so listening to it in retrospect and working the audio was a very interesting and educational experience. The mixes were taken from the original tapes and transferred to digital prior to coming to me – they sounded very clean and nice – You hear what a band did with minimal gear and recording options and the music just spoke for itself. This proves that good music with good production can be authentic and engaging in an organic way. Matt Wallace and the band were very in tune with what they had created. My approach to the remastering was being very sensitive to the organics of it and how to bring to most of what the mix offered by enhancing what the original process and formats couldn’t reproduce. The end results was a fuller and tighter sounding album that still represents the music but with an extended range. This came to me after I had mastered the Faith No More Sol Invictus comeback album. Which came out a year and a bit before. Both albums for me were super important as I am a fan of the band’s music.
How did the mastering of the various YES albums come about?
Billy Sherwood who is the current bass player of YES. Worked on mixing all four albums that I had mastered. He and I have been collaborating together for some years, we had worked on more than 30 albums which include his own solo albums, his bands Circa:, World Trade, The Prog Collective, Various Tribute albums, and other bands and projects he is involved with producing, playing or mixing. It was a great pleasure working with him on mastering those albums and is fun working on the music of this legacy band that inspired generations of prog rockers.
What are some of greatest challenges you’ve faced with vinyl mastering since records are coming back in a big way?
The challenge really is finding the right pressing plants that care for the quality and the product. There are so many variables in this process that can ruin the results and create a lower quality pressing. Its starts with planning the side splits right to getting it cut right and then the whole process of vinyl making. I hope that the artists are making enough efforts in picking and choosing the right places in order to benefit from what the format can offer.
What are some of the current projects you are mastering?
I had just worked on mastering the main theme for the video game FALLOUT 76 and ELDERS SCROLL-BLADES, also mastered new albums for SIGH, ARIA, SPIRITS OF FIRE, VOODOO KUNGFU, BURNING RAIN, HARDLINE, THE END MACHINE, ERIC GALES and a bunch more some of which I can’t talk about yet.
What are you looking forward to the most about the upcoming NAMM show and will you be doing your lecture this year?
As always I am excited to see the new gear, the new exhibits and meeting up with friends, colleagues and catching up on what’s new. I will be doing as lecture on Sunday at 12:00 PM till 1:00 PM. At the Hilton: https://www.namm.org/thenammshow/2019/events/mastering-changes
What’s up in the New Year for you?
A lot of exciting projects to do my mastering works on and also some custom gear designs for my studio. Also contributing to some audio software plug in developers by writing presets for them. Such as WAVES and a few others.
(Interview by Ken Morton – Photo by Steve Harvey)
Maor Appelbaum Mastering Official Homepage