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Simon L'Esperance: from Prog-Rock and film scoring to surround mixing with AA

Creative musician, composer and producer, Simon’s work is touching rock, jazz, pop, world music and film scoring.

Recording and mixing engineer since 2006 he participated in numerous albums, recording sessions and scores mixes with a lot of local and international artists.

Simon teaches music technology and film music composition at University du Quebec and the University of Sherbrooke. Simon has been working with many artists as well as a composer for video games, films and TV. He is also a founding member of KARCIUS and main producer/mixer for all 5 albums.

Simon! Composer, Mixer, Producer, member of fantastic Canadian progressive-rock band Karcius. It is such a pleasure to have you here !

I am very honored, thank you!

We were blown away by your live performance at 2018 Crescendo Festival. And when you told us it was mixed almost entirely using our plugins we were excited. How did you approach mixing the whole project?

Well, I got to tell you I used the Pro Tools EQ7 a bit to clean some annoying frequencies and the Sans Amp for dirt and added some reverbs and delays. Not much though.

First of all, it was very well recorded by our engineer Arnaud Houpert - from U-Fly studio in Cognac, France. Like every recording, it comes from the source. I printed and committed a lot of stuff for the entire show which is 1 hour 40 minutes long, using AA plugins.

I wanted a cohesive sound for all songs so I had to make choices and commit to track at the beginning.

I use a lot of AA stuff in my template so I created a lighter one specifically for this live show. On the 2-bus I had El Rey, Taupe, Ivory EQ (for cleaning the mud), Ruby (for some sparkling and low-end magic) and LIFT.

I don’t even need to see the needle moving on El Rey, for it to glue everything together. It is very genuine and helps me give tracks depth and dynamic motion. Also, I tend to compress less on individual tracks.

Ruby and Lift give me the extra low-end power and air so again I don’t over process all tracks.
The rest of the mix is little tweaks here and there, lot’s of Taupe for toms and keyboards (helped me remove the digital feel of the keys and I commited it directly), used Pink EQ for guitars, Pink comp and El Rey for drum parallel compression.

Everything in that live sounds magnificent. Drums too, they sound killer. Any mixing tricks you feel like sharing?

Yeah, get a good drummer! He is the main trick!

Seriously the recording was good but was lacking vibe a bit. It all came from a digital board so I needed some warmth.
First, the drum bus chain is Ivory ( to clean the mud and add some snap) then it goes in a couple of parallel compression strips. Kick and snare is GOLD all the way. I use this plugin since day 1 and love the EQ and pres. This is the sound I want almost all the time. Tom bus is SAND, it’s the sound I am used to. I’ve learned how to mix on these consoles at Studio Victor back in the days. 

How did you discover Acustica Audio and what are your go-to plugins?

A friend of mine made me try some a couple of years ago. My first ones were Gold and Green, then I went nuts. It is hard to come back to other stuff when you are addicted to the warm sound and sonic magic of AA.

I really like the way I can commit to tracks and be more intuitive. The CPU limits me and it’s fine, I go back to trusting myself and play music with these tools. I am not a geek or a mad scientist so I need to feel something right away and when it feels right I just bounce the track. 

Do you mostly mix in the box?

All the time.

Now I use my main template in Pro Tools and switch between colors for different types of music. I did recently a fusion-jazz quartet with a lot of Pink for guitar and trumpet. Used Ebony for reverbs all the way.

I just finished mixing a soundtrack for a Star Trek video game named Fleet Command and used Sand on strings and woodwinds, Ivory and Green also for lots of bus processing. It's crazy how I can now paint and create shades with these tools. Sometimes one particular plugin works well for a source, the other day I pick another and I am able to craft the sound and vibe in a totally different way. It’s like having the best studio on earth for mixing all year long.

You compose and mix for picture as well. Where do you normally find inspiration for creating new pieces of music every time?

I use to say that we are the sum of our musical influences. I listen to a lot of records, I learn a lot from others and inspiration comes from hard work practicing. There is no shortcut.

Deadlines: good thing or just stressful?

A good thing. When it’s something realistic.
I like having a deadline and having to produce. When we were producing The Fold with Karcius, we took 3 months to compose, 3 months to produce and mix and that’s it. It’s the best record I ever made and I think it’s because we came back to trusting our guts and being forced to deliver. Even with films and video games, it’s the same idea. It’s a matter of focus. I hate having projects that never end, I love to cross things off my to-do list! It’s very positive for me having a deadline. It helps not being too geeky, remembering that music is for the pleasure of the listener not the mixer nor the band.

You are also an educator. In fact, UQAM is one of Acustica Audio's official educational partners. Technical knowledge aside, what are the most important concepts that you think your students should absorb?

Imagine how lucky they are to learn mixing techniques with these tools, thanks to you.
In music in general, you have to be honest, unique and never stop learning and listening to music. Always know who your audience is and how your music interacts with them. So many musicians forget that.

One last question for now: are Karcius coming to Italy anytime soon?

Ha man, please! I wish very soon. We are going to play in Germany with Pink Floyd’s drummer Nick Mason in July. That’s our next stop.  For now, it’s pretty hard for us to book shows in Europe but we are working on it. Italy is a prog treasure we would come to anytime.
In the meanti,me you’ll have the chance to see us on the DVD that will be released at the end of spring 2019. We are almost done with the video editing part and producing the live album as well as the 5.1 mixes of The Fold, which is printed with a lot of AA stuff.

We printed the whole mix in surround and mastered all 6 tracks with RUBY and LIFT. Seriously we are going crazy. Thomas (Karcius drummer) and me, we love to mix in surround with AA. Sometimes CPU is an issue but we manage to work around limits.

Thanks mate !


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