Producer, engineer and mixer Sean Beavan was first featured in Producer Crosstalk in 2012. As of his return to the column, much has changed. He’s worked with bands such as Black Veil Brides, Marilyn Manson and Guns N’ Roses, notably on the much ballyhooed and fractious Chinese Democracy. Through friends, he’s segued into film scores. Indeed, it’s become his favorite type of work and he aims to do more.
There are significant differences between collaboration on a record and work on a film score. For one, there’s a greater level of self-reliance. “There’s more alone time,” Beavan observes. “In scoring, you’re pretty much doing the same kind of recording ideas. But you’re not as concerned with coming up with that hooky melody that’s going to capture the nation. You concentrate more on creating an atmosphere to go along with the emotional content of the film. I’m the melody writer and I support the dialog that comes from the topline writer. I make it cooler, more exciting.”
There are two ways to look at the [film] music you’re doing, he says. “You’re either describing the arc of the character at the moment or telling the audience how to feel. You sometimes include foreshadowing or callbacks to things that happened earlier. You can do that with motifs—little melody ideas—or with things that will reappear in more dramatic ways. In the beginning, you can foreshadow with a light string or even a sound; perhaps a drone from the high frequency range. When people hear it fleshed out, you want them to remember [the earlier foreshadowing].”
When MC spoke with Sean Beavan in 2012, his favorite piece of gear was Universal Audio’s 175 (or 176) compressor. Some things have rotated out while others like the UA compressor remain at its center. “There’s nothing like it,” the producer asserts, “especially on a mono drum mic. It accentuates the snare. I also love it for vocals. My favorite compressor for guitars is the Renaissance Axx plug-in. You throw it on and it works. On clean guitars, I like the Chandler [Limited] LTD-2 on the way in. It puts the sustain in the right pockets and has that nice [Neve 2254R] Class A vibe.
“There’s a quirky thing I do for room mics,” Beavan continues. “I have an Audio-Technica electret stereo mic. I run that through a Panasonic Portadat and use the built-in limiter. It sounds like an SSL talkback compressor. That’s my go-to room mic. I bring it everywhere I track.”
Beavan takes pride in helping bands resolve tension in the studio. “When I was young, my parents called me Tom Sawyer,” he recalls. “I would get the neighborhood kids to do my work by telling them how great it was. I’m good at what I consider benevolent manipulation—manipulating people for their own good. That’s been one of the more interesting parts of the job. There are moments, though, when creative tension leads to cool music because everyone’s trying to one-up each other. I saw that between Marilyn Manson and [Manson guitarist] Daisy Berkowitz.”
Sean Beavan and his wife devote time to 8mm, a band they started in 2004. Work on a new record is slated to begin in September. The band’s songs have been on One Tree Hill and Grey’s Anatomy, among others. He recently reunited with Jeordie White (a.k.a. Twiggy Ramirez, Marilyn Manson bassist) to mix Belgian black metal band EMPTINESS at Redrum, Beavan’s L.A. home studio. Lastly, he’s collaborating with longtime friend Brad Stenz, formerly of the band Moth, on a Broadway-style musical.
Photo by Denny Ilic