You walk into a train station. Someone hands you headphones. You turn them on, and a live opera is beamed to you as you wander between the performers on the concourse.
All in a day’s work for engineer and producer Nick Tipp.
In the last 10 years, Nick has become the go-to engineer for live recordings and broadcast mixes in Los Angeles and around the world, with clients ranging from the country’s most critically and commercially acclaimed classical ensembles to the hottest alternative rock bands around.
“Wherever I am – an opera hall with an orchestra, a living room with a band, in L.A. Union Station with an avant garde group – I’m trying to make recordings and mixes that are not just rich and detailed, but also daring and non-traditional,” Nick says. “I try to use pop and rock engineering techniques to make acoustic instruments sound familiar and modern at the same time. The final product should be gripping: I want the players to sound very close to the listener, and I want their playing to sound complex and emotional.”
In 2006, he started recording concerts for Spaceland Productions, and has made live records of Cults, Andrew Bird, Ozomatli and many, many more bands at the vanguard of alternative music. Nick’s 2010 live concert recording of The Decemberists was packaged with the band’s Capitol Records album “The King Is Dead.”
In 2007, Nick became house engineer for the L.A. Opera. It was there he recorded and edited the opera’s performance of Kurt Weill’s “Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny.” The recording won two Grammy awards, for Best Classical Album and Best Opera Recording.
Nick has recorded and mixed in every imaginable place: pop-up venues, houses, concert halls, music festivals, and the best studios in the world. Anywhere music is made, Nick has set up microphones. He’s recorded Mumford & Sons at a festival; broadcast Little Dragon from a museum; sent out a live mix of The National to 71,000 streaming listeners. His live recording of chamber orchestra Wild Up playing Shostakovich in a photography studio was acclaimed as one of the year’s best classical releases by the Los Angeles Times.
One such project stands out in particular for the creativity it demanded: in 2013, Nick was tapped to be sound designer, audio producer and live mixer for the critically acclaimed headphone opera “Invisible Cities,” produced by The Industry at Los Angeles Union Station, a bustling bus and rail depot in the heart of L.A. Listeners heard a live opera performance in headphones that Nick mixed live as the audience wandered the halls of the station. “Invisible Cities” is slated for a second run in Bordeaux, France in June 2014 that Nick will also supervise.
“My favorite challenge is setting up microphones in an unusual space and capturing a captivating performance,” Nick says. “Whatever the style is, wherever the performance is, I want to create a sonic experience that the listener will never forget.”
Nick grew up studying classical piano and violin, and has played in orchestras, rock bands and jazz groups. He holds his B.S. in Music Recording from USC’s Thornton School of Music.