Ever wonder how your favorite songs are made? Ever wonder what happens between the time it takes your favorite artist to record a song and the time it plays on the radio? The process of making music is a specialized art, and there are many amazing technicians working behind the scenes to help engineer the hits we all love and enjoy.
We recently sat down with esteemed engineer and music producer Ann Mincieli. For nearly two decades, Ann has worked alongside Alicia Keys as her longtime engineer, album coordinator and studio designer. Today Ann is a Grammy Award-winning industry veteran and is using her knowledge base to usher the New York recording community into the future.
As the owner of Jungle City Studios, one of New York City's distinguished designations for high-end recording services, Ann oversees the creation of great albums while simultaneously managing an award-winning studio space. Some Atlantic Records titles that have been recorded at Jungle City Studios include Some Nights (2012) by the band fun. and x (2014) by Ed Sheeran.
Check out some of the highlights from our conversation and learn more about the behind-the-scenes process that helps create the music you love!
When did you first realize that you had a passion for engineering music for artists/musicians?
It was 1990…My friend did session work at a studio at the time named Skyline Studios, which was a pretty big studio back in the 90s. People that were in there were like Carole King and Judy Collins... I just really figured out that there’s a lot of people who work behind the scenes who are successful in the music industry. I really wanted to be part of making records.
I always studied credits back in the day… who was on what label… which studios were popular... what was the engineer’s role... what was the producer’s role. So I always had a passion for all of [the roles] and never limited myself to just one thing. So I started answering the phones and doing the most basic things that [developed] some skills other than just engineering.
Who are some of the producers and engineers who have inspired you throughout your career?
I love Tony Maserati. He really helped develop the New York sound in the early 90s. He really distinguished that sound with Biggie [Smalls] and Mary J. Blige and Puff [Sean “P. Diddy” Combs]... that was a staple of New York. I love Al Schmitt… He’s a legend. I love to listen to what he has to say everytime I meet him or when I’m at an event with him. Frank Filipetti. I think he has golden ears… I’ve assisted him on a few sessions. Producer-wise, I love… Walter Afanasieff. I’m a huge fan of a lot of the Beatles’ [music], so [I’m obviously inspired by] Geoff Emerick. I think the Beatles were so iconic. They only had four tracks and look at the sound. We’re still trying to match that these days. I also love producer Michael Beinhorn… I got to work with him and Outkast. Susan Rogers [inspires me]... She was Prince’s engineer for many years. I worked with her a lot at Quad Recording Studios.
Why did you decide to open Jungle City Studios in the heart of New York City?
I always dreamed about having my own studio, and my sister was really the one who was like, “We should open a studio." I wanted to make a piece of art… and if you walk through Jungle, there is all this art mixed with music… What inspired me more and more was I thought there was a need to have a place for inspiration. The location [of Jungle Studios has] a panoramic view of New York City… and the way it was designed was a work of art. I used a lot of ideas I saw around the world.
Tell us a little about the technological design of the studio and the gear selection that makes Jungle Studios so special.
I wanted to mix retro and new gear... I wanted Jungle to feel like some of the small studios in Williamsburg that offer old vintage keyboards and guitars. [The studio’s] most prized possession is an old EMI TGI 12345 Mark IV console that came from EMI Brazil by way of AR Studios.
Some major Atlantic Records releases have been recorded at Jungle City Studios (fun. – Some Nights, Rick Ross – God Forgives, I Don't, Ed Sheeran – x, et al.). Any interesting stories to tell about making these records?
fun. was one of the first sessions at Jungle City after it opened. I got a call from Ann DeClemente [Vice President, A&R Administration, Atlantic Records]... She said, “I have this up-and-coming band...” I was like, “Look, just come in. I don’t care about the budget.” And that band [ended up being] fun.
They met Jeff Bhasker, who had been working with Alicia [Keys] since early 2009. He and Alicia were doing some work together [at the same time at Jungle.] fun. and Jeff did the bulk of the work [for Some Nights] in two of my rooms… It’s really kind of cool because we weren’t even open yet. A couple of years later they were up for the [Grammy Awards] for Song of the Year… and Record of the Year. So for us to start our studio with those types of records is pretty incredible.
Do you remember the first recording you worked on for Atlantic Records? Can you tell us a bit about the experience?
The first thing that I engineered was “The Boy Is Mine”. [The 1998 duet single featuring Monica and Brandy]... We were in two rooms at Quad Studios. Rodney Jerkins was the producer, and we were tracking and mixing at the same time. Back then a lot of the mixes went coast to coast because we used tape. It wasn’t like a mix was done in one place, in one room. We flew to New York and finished the song.
What’s your favorite piece of recording technology/gear?
If I had one piece of gear that I couldn’t live without, it would be my M16 microphone by Telefunken… Bruno Mars worked with Alicia on a song called “Tears Always Win”, [and he loved the way his vocals came out.] ...He asked me for my vocal chain. I was like “I’m only using a Neve 1073 and Tube-Tech CL1B,” but the difference was my M16 microphone. It’s one of the earlier Telefunken prototypes… The coolest thing about this mic is it’s $1600, and it goes up against some of the more expensive mics out there. No matter what I shoot it out with, it always wins.