Like many audio pros, Grammy-winning mastering engineer Evren Göknar touched down in L.A. with a guitar in hand and success in mind. He attended Musicians Institute for a time and performed locally before it occurred to him that he’d amplify his value as an engineer if he had studio access. So, he flipped open the latest issue of Music Connection magazine and found a small studio with an internship opportunity. Later he moved on to Paramount, engineered there for five years and then graduated to Capitol Mastering, where he spent the next quarter century. He has since worked with artists including Kiss, Nick Jonas and 2Pac. He also masters for the popular NBC show The Voice.
In 2020, Göknar published his book Major Label Mastering. It was inspired primarily by his teaching experiences and desire to share the knowledge he’s amassed. “We worked from one of the known books on mastering for the class I taught at Cal Poly Pomona and it was good,” he recalls. “But I felt that the students needed a more step-by-step book about the process. I’d also worked at Capitol for a long time and saw that it was becoming rarer for people to come in as a runner or a second engineer and learn [on the job] the way they used to.”
Although he taught himself his craft through direct experience, he also recognizes the value of a formal engineering education. “When I was coming up, it was a sort of apprenticeship system,” he recollects. “You had to have the kind of personality that made people want to interact with you. There are a lot of entrepreneurial interchanges with artists, producers, labels and so forth. This field can get very technical and lean on things like electrical engineering and electronics. You need to dig in and either do some coursework or read some books. Even if you do go through a formal program, you still have to show up and do the work.”
Gear can almost seem like an engineer’s fingerprint or a strand of his or her DNA. It helps to identify them and may even illuminate aspects of their background. “I use these Manley Pultec-style mastering EQs,” Göknar says about one of his favorite pieces. “They don’t make them anymore but they’re very musical and smooth-sounding, as far as analog equalizers go. As for plugins, I love the DMG EQuilibrium. Often when I use it, I’m amazed with what they did. It models old consoles quite effectively.”
After 25 years of mastering at Capitol, Göknar now works from EGM - Evren Göknar Mastering, his own mastering space. “I had it built from the ground up,” he explains. “It’s a room within a room with isolated electrical and ground. We use QuietRock, which is a sound-reducing drywall so there’s no audio bleed in or out. During the pandemic I was able to transition to doing Capitol’s work here and then once they closed, a lot of my old clients stayed with me.”
As to his current and upcoming projects, recently Göknar began his 11th season mastering for The Voice. He also works with a number of independent songwriters and producers, many of which he finds by way of previous clients. Determining where he fits into the market and how he can be of help to artists has been one of his most vital formulas for success.