An In-Depth Interview with David Kimmell
Indianapolis-based mix engineer David Kimmell launched his career as a sax player in middle school. In due course he embarked on a misfired relationship with Indiana’s Ball State. Ultimately he graduated from Orlando, FL’s Full Sail University with a degree in live sound. During his career’s infancy, he enjoyed managing the backline and went on to establish Masthead Audio, his own space. Artists he’s mixed for include Aretha Franklin, Elton John and Rick Springfield. He’s also engineered live events Bonnaroo and the Chicago Blues Festival, among others.
Every career has a starting point. With luck and determination, each also has a turning point. For Kimmell, that came when he began work with former Frank Zappa and Steve Vai guitarist Mike Keneally. “That was at [Muncie, IN venue] Headliners,” he recalls. “That’s when I realized that I could make a career out of this; that I could make a living from it.”
There are, of course, differences between mixing live shows and mixing in the studio. Kimmell keeps tents staked in both camps. “I make most of my money in studio,” he says. “But live sound is much easier. There’s not as much scrutiny and less time to get into a specific sound. A band doesn’t want to wait while you crank a kick drum for 10 minutes. There’s less pressure at a show, although some people may feel the opposite. In the studio, there are always opportunities to make things better. At a live event, you don’t have that kind of time.”
Kimmell’s a fan of Dangerous Music Analog Summing & EQ, particularly the D-Box and BAX EQ. “I was an in-the-box guy; I had my MOTU stuff that I loved,” he explains. “But I had issues when I’d bring the kick up and it would sound great; then I’d bring the snare up, bring them together and the main bus would slip. It was always a fight. When I was introduced to Dangerous’ Analog Summing, they showed me how easy it was to bring things up and make them sound good. It was like mixing on an analog desk at a live show again.”
Although he’s a graduate of Full Sail, he doesn’t prize a formal education above skills earned in the trenches. “I learned much more by watching other sound guys work, asking questions and being passionate about it,” he asserts. “They exposed me to certain things and I appreciate that part of the education. For someone that’s coming up, it’s unnecessary. You can get by without it, especially if you’re interested in live sound. That’s an easier path and it’ll pay much quicker.”
Kimmell finds that working for himself isn’t always the romp that others may imagine. While he answers to no master, he’s also responsible for every aspect of running his studio. “I’ve got to bring in the business,” he observes. “No one hands me a schedule and then I go do my thing. I’ve got to make the schedule. The business part of this is what I like the least.”
Currently he looks forward to recording several new live shows and continue his expansion of Masthead Audio. He also anticipates the growth of his gear collection.
Contact Paul J. de Benedictis / Press & Artist Relations Services