Growing up, metal musician-producer-engineer Adam Dutkiewicz taught himself Metallica riffs. He started with bass then expanded to guitar and drums. He took his first steps into engineering when he bought a four-track cassette recorder. Later he enrolled at Boston’s Berklee College of Music and interned at a local studio. He did good work, more projects came his way and he began to build clientele. He’s since worked with metal artists including Killswitch Engage (he’s also in the band), Underoath and All That Remains. Serpentine Dominion, his latest project, released its first record through Metal Blade Records in October.
Adam Dutkiewicz's approach to helping artists realize their vision is simple. “I listen,” he explains. “You hear what the personality of the band is. You listen for their strengths and traits. You want to embellish upon those. If somebody can do something that no one else can or has a specific talent, make sure the world hears it. And when you find something that takes away from the quality of the song––the groove, the ebb and the flow––always address that with the band.”
Perhaps a disadvantage of having engineer ears is becoming sensitized to everything. That includes the shortcoming of projects. “Many metal records have lost their charm,” the engineer observes. “It doesn’t feel like a band. The world has fallen in love with records that sound too perfect. There’s a fine line between keeping it real and editing. You have to edit some things. If people didn’t, it would be shocking. But the level to which many producers and engineers have taken it is too far.
“When you get too much of one thing, tastes can change,” he continues. “I don’t see how that couldn’t happen. The dirty groove or metal thing could come back and become more popular than the polished-sounding things. You can tell when a band doesn’t care about over-editing drums. There are records on which a band didn’t bother to record a live drum kit. That’s crazy.”
The biggest challenge he finds is mixing. More specifically, getting a mix to sit correctly. “It’s a difficult thing,” Dutkiewicz says. “There are so many subtleties to it. You can’t just cram a bunch of instruments together and hope for the best. It’s a lot of careful carving, weaving and bumping.”
For Adam Dutkiewicz, time spent in the studio is often equal parts joy and, alas, agony. “Engineering’s fun; other times it’s frustrating,” he says. “I love putting thoughts and sounds together. When you hear an idea become enhanced by giving it a sonic quality, I get a rush. Of course, when your ideas don’t work––not getting the right sounds and things don’t fit––that can be frustrating. The most important part about engineering is to have a vision. You want to picture what it’ll sound like before you begin.”
Serpentine Dominion’s self-titled album dropped on Oct. 28, a record that was seven years in the making. “That’s because of the scheduling involved,” Dutkiewicz explains. “The singer and I both have other bands. This is our side project and we always seem to be on opposite schedules. Any engineer who’s given that kind of time-frame will beat the heck out of a record. After working on it that long, I couldn’t hear it anymore. I should have maybe put it down and let it sit for a while.” Songwriting with Times of Grace, another one of his bands, also consumes much of his time.
For more information, contact Kenny Gabor at Strong Management.