Sound Leadership: Interview with Steve Kravac, Record Producer

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Part of our new monthly interview series where we profile entrepreneurs, innovators, business leaders and project managers. Our goal is to bring in people from a diverse range of industries and backgrounds to explore different roles and challenges in leadership and project management.

Steve.PromoSteven Kravac is a RIAA gold accredited record producer, recording engineer, mixer, musician and composer.

Born in Canada, Kravac has been based in Los Angeles, Calif., for years, working with groundbreaking international recording artists in the punk and indie-rock scene. For five years he was head engineer at Westbeach Recorders, owned by Brett Gurewitz of Epitaph Records, home of chart-topping acts such as the Offspring and Rancid. Kravac engineered many bands there, including the album Cheshire Cat by Blink 182.
Kravac started Porterhouse Records in 1997, a small indie label, which released original works by new bands as well as reissuing classic Southern California punk records by bands such as X. Three years ago, Kravac opened his new recording studio Hell’s Half Acre, which is about an hour north of Los Angeles. This new facility is a combination of analog and digital recording equipment, and has already been used by Calgary-based folk-punk band Jenny, and the Los Angeles-based group Ex-Teens.
Steve Kravac can be followed on Twitter @stevekravac

What inspired you to do what you do?

I have been inspired to make records by being a music fan first and foremost. When I played in my high school punk rock band, we had a studio experience that was eye-opening for me. I hadn’t really given much thought to the actual process of making records up until that point. Once I realized what was going on in that part of the equation I became somewhat obsessed with it, and as my musical tastes broadened and became a little more refined, I discovered that there was a world of endless possibilities to explore. 

You sort of ask yourself one day after listening to Black Flag, “Okay, that’s cool, but how does a Roxy Music record get made?” Now we have documentaries and in-depth interview posted on the web that allow us to understand the process more, but 30 years ago we were left to our own imaginations as to what transpired and how these feats were accomplished. 

Did you learn your trade from a book or from real-life experience?

My trade was learned long-term (and continues to be learned) from real-life experience. I built my own recording studio in my 20’s and used it as my personal laboratory. I know many others who have done that, as well. While there is education for what I do, it seems that many who go down that road are left with a “degree” that doesn’t have that much relevance in the current word of music production. I think that many people who graduate college in other fields see this upon exiting the educational corridor.

I have always considered myself a leader when working with my clients because in many ways this is what artists expect. They want to know you have a plan for them and that those goals are attainable. – Steve Kravac

Opportunities in your chosen field can be few and far between, and for many the degree that they have earned holds a diminished value in real-world applications. This seem particularly relevant in an era when music production in professional studios is shrinking by the day and folks are making their own recording on their laptops.

Do you think of yourself as a leader? 

I have always considered myself a leader when working with my clients because in many ways this is what artists expect. They want to know you have a plan for them and that those goals are attainable. They also want to be freed from the daily scheduling and minutia that is part of making a record so that they can focus on their performance.

One’s leadership role can be defined by the relationship with the Artist and discussed prior to commencing the work at hand, but after years of performing these tasks and coming to a work path or system that is effective the client wants you use your learned leadership goals to help them accomplish their goals in an expedient and elegant manner. in fact, they expect it.

When you’ve got a band in your studio, what are you thinking about?

When working with an artist, I’m thinking about many different things. First and foremost, I am thinking about making a great piece of art that will have historical relevance. I am also thinking about the artist and what their goals are in the process. I always say that making records is not only about making art, it’s about personal growth and achievement. I always feel that I am guiding that growth and being influenced by it as well.

Budgeting time and talent, getting the right band member in the right space to make a successful contribution to the record and getting things done within the prescribed window are key. Working to keep communications open and productive is probably the most important issue of all.

What was your biggest career mistake and what did you learn from it?

I believe that my biggest career mistake has at times to be too controlling of the process, as opposed to letting the cards fall where they may. While artists do approach me because they like a record I did or heard something I worked on that strikes them, they also want to preserve a portion of what they do that is unique. Respecting those unique qualities and growing them, as opposed to controlling them is a line one must straddle very carefully.

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