Dax Liniere runs Puzzle Factory Studios in the ACT, a business he’s been at the helm of for over a decade. In his time working in the industry he has collected a wealth of knowledge, and not all of it is acutely technical. As he explains to us, the most important thing in the production of a great song is not always the equipment used to produce it, but the people and the attitudes behind it.
“Basically I was working a job that I was really unhappy with. I thought, ‘well, I’ve got the gear and I’ve got the enthusiasm, why not give this thing a shot.’ I started out in Sydney in 2001 and I relocated to Canberra in 2010. To be honest, it’s less about Puzzle Factory and more about Dax Liniere, there are plenty of studios out there that have a good reputation, but then what they’re putting out is dependent on who you get on the day. If you get someone that’s not so experienced with the genre you’re working with and so on and so forth, then you’re not going to get a good product. So I focus on me as a specific producer and not any specific studio site.” In his time working with Puzzle Factory, Dax has received an enviable amount of praise from his peers, earning attention for his work and being rewarded with experiences that most aspiring engineers could only dream of. “In 2012 I was awarded a Winston Churchill fellowship for my work in audio engineering and music production, which saw me journey to Europe for a six week research project where I learned from some of the world’s best. The guys that have done Grammy award winning albums for artists like U2, Coldplay, John Mayer and Nine Inch Nails, which was an absolutely phenomenal experience.” Though his experiences alone hold him in high regard, it’s the ingenuity he applies to his work that distinguishes him from others out there.
“I realized that very early on I was calling myself an audio engineer… but I realized that when I was working with bands a lot of them didn’t know what a producer was and that it would be advantageous to have one. To be honest, at the time I barely even knew myself. I noticed though that quite frequently I would be one that would solve problems… I came to realise that the thing I was doing all those years was producing. It’s not simply button pushing, you have to be involved with the process. That’s one of the reasons I say that it’s mostly about the people. It’s knowing how to record something in a technically correct way, it’s about the music and how to make it better, but mostly it’s about how to deal with people and support them in the way they need in the studio.”
Recently Dax worked on Sydney band Dumbsaint’s album Panorama In Ten Pieces. It is a notable release because it also operates as a start to finish soundtrack to a film created by the band. It presented Dax with an opportunity to present a record in a unique manner that is more reminiscent of film scores than it is of contemporary music. Essentially, as Dax explains to me, in contemporary music dynamic quality is consistently compromised in order to make songs louder, and therefore more attention grabbing when it comes on the radio. It’s called ‘the loudness war’, and the way Dax operates is in direct opposition to this. “One of the questions that I always ask a band [is] ‘what serves the song best?’, not what serves the ego of the musicians or anything else; it’s what serves the music. The loudness wars do nothing to serve music; it’s a misguided technique that’s rooted in marketing.
“Dynamics are an extremely important part of contemporary music, as they are in film. There are loud passages and some quiet passages, and it’s the difference between those that gives you the impact. That’s one of the things that that struck me straight away as soon as I started pre-production with Dumbsaint, the potential to release the album in a high dynamic range (HDR) presentation. As I look into it more, it’s something that hasn’t been done before in the heavy music genre, there’s nothing that’s been done this way.”
Presenting an album of this style in a high dynamic range is certainly unique, perhaps even revolutionary, and it’s something that Dax is extremely proud of. It’s not solely an issue with heavier music either. The loudness wars are relevant in most contemporary genres, and the HDR approach is something that, in Dax’s opinion (and mine also), should be applied more often across the board.
Preserving the power of music is clearly something he’s deeply passionate about, and at the end of the day, isn’t that the kind of person you want your music in the hands of?