A down-to-earth guy with a refreshingly honest style, Frank Filipetti is well-respected by his peers. Hes also an independent thinker and was one of the first engineers to embrace digital. His credits include mixes for such Number One singles as Foreigners I Want to Know What Love Is and I Dont Want to Live Without You (which he also produced), Kiss Lick It Up and The Bangles Eternal Flame. Hes also recorded and mixed albums for Carly Simon, Barbra Streisand, Vanessa Williams, George Michael, 10,000 Maniacs and James Taylor, whose elegant Hourglass Filipetti produced, engineered and mixed, winning Grammy awards in 1998 for Best Engineered Album and Best Pop Album.
A proponent of surround sound, Filipetti has nine 5.1/DVD projects under his belt, including works for Billy Joel, James Taylor and Meatloaf. And lately, this accomplished studio engineer has been taking his chops on the road, recording and mixing numerous live albums including the Pavarotti and Friends series, last years Minnelli on Minnelli, James Taylors Live at the Beacon and most recently, Elton Johns One Night Only. Hes also recorded original cast albums for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum featuring Nathan Lane, the Grammy-winning Annie Get Your Gun, and this years Tony Award-winning and Grammy-nominated Aida, among others.
Mix spoke with Filipetti during Christmas break, when he was enjoying some time off at his New York home before heading to L.A. to begin recording the latest effort by rock/metalists Korn.
As a singer/songwriter and drummer, you actually had a musical career going when you switched gears to become an engineer.
I was brought up in Bristol, Conn., where I had a band in high school, whose claim to fame was that we got to open for the Dave Clark Five. When I went to the University of Connecticut, I formed another band called Park. After college, we made a demo tape on a 2-track Tandberg, and we took it to New York City. A producer heard it and signed us up, and we ended up moving there. After that, I had a couple of minor record deals, and, in the process, I won first prize as a writer in the American Song Festival. That led to a publishing deal with Screen Gems, where I was signed to a salaried contract. I also recorded an album for Lifesong Records as a solo artist. Upon finishing the album, I was informed that theyd lost their distribution deal with Epic, and suddenly everything in my life began to crash. Screen Gems decided not to pick up my option, and my girlfriend and I split up. She got the apartment, and there I was on my 31st birthday: no job and no place to live. I decided that it was time for a new approach. Id been trying for nine years to make it as a
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singer/songwriter, and I was always so close to having something happen. But it never really did.
So the next logical step was
I thought Id be good at engineering, because I was always interested in sound. So I went to Simon Andrews, the owner of Right Track Studios, where Id done my album. At the time, it was a 16-track demo studio, and Id gotten to know Simon because he would engineer my demos for Screen Gems there. I said to him, Im 31 years old and its a little late to be changing careers. I know I can do this, but I cant afford to be an assistant for two years. Would you give me a shot at engineering? He said, Why not? So for 30 days I assisted other guys. Then he started putting me on 4-track demos, and I did very well. After six months, I became chief engineer, and, not long after that, I got a very fortuitous gig with Peter Asher.