Seasoned studio engineer Dave Fore has heard his share of hits and misses.
From rap to silky soul, gospel, reggae and hick hop (you read that correctly), his ears have also been taken to some of the furthest sonic reaches known.
For hours and sometimes days, there’s no stopping until the final sweet take and a commitment to excellence that often borderlines on mad scientist-like obsession. Call it what you want, but for Fore, it’s what keeps him in the business.
“It’s a roller coaster ride and for the life of me I can’t figure out why, but it seems like it’s either feast or famine,” he said from his home, describing life as an independent studio owner where a healthy number of hits have been crafted and launched into sound systems and earbuds around the world.
“The ebb and flow of projects piling up and then having no projects at all.”
His latest milestone: a sound mastering credit for the 2019 album “Hybrid” by American reggae artist Collie Buddz. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard reggae charts in May and continues hovering atop as one of the genre's biggest summer sellers of the year.
“Ninety percent is all referrals from other people in the music business. Your network absolutely determines your opportunities in this industry. However, some of my biggest achievements are the direct result of meeting and interacting with a small handful of people on social media. Social media should complement your hustle, not be your hustle.”
Drawn to the science and intricacies of sound engineering at an early age secretly taking apart his family’s transistor radios, he eventually pursued a formal music education taking up piano, saxophone and vocal lessons. All of that proved vital ear-training before analog synthesizers and drum machines and their associated mediums to record them helped turn his passions into a career.
“I learned audio engineering in Los Angeles at the tail-end of analog tape and large format mixing consoles. That experience still benefits me to this day working in the digital domain. Now I prefer a mix of both analog and digital gear to get the sound I’m looking for.”
The list of artists Fore has collaborated with reads like a who’s who of hip hop and RnB, including best-selling rappers Snoop Dogg, DJ Quik, Xzibit, N2Deep, Tech N9ne, E-40, gospel icon Fred Hammond, and platinum songstress Deborah Cox, whom he’s never met. Some like Cox send their tracks to Fore’s studio for sound mastering without ever meeting.
“It’s interesting because I primarily work from my private studio at home, so most of the time I am sent projects that have well-known artists featured on them. Some I get to meet or talk to on the phone and some never even know I exist. That’s the music business today.”
Fore’s work with Georgia-based rappers, The Lacs, known for their eclectic mix of country-laced Southern rap known as “hick hop” a wildly popular subgenre has also boosted his professional reputation. Poke fun at the group's music all you want, there's no denying their appeal.
“The Lacs projects have been really fun to work on. They fall into the rap category which requires an engineer who can make that low-end bump. These guys are some of the hardest working artists in the industry, on the road like 75-percent of the time. Their fans are extremely loyal so much so that Wal-Mart stocks their CDs in stores. One of the songs off an album I mastered for them is getting close to hitting 25 million views on YouTube. That’s exciting.”
Any advice for those interested in entering the studio business?
“A good portion of all the big, iconic studios from the past are out of business, so it goes without saying that this is a very difficult business to be in. If you’re a great engineer who gets booked a lot, you might consider opening your own but many engineers make their living working out of other studios. Build your client base first and then decide if it makes sense to open shop. Put in the work before you start complaining about the results. Overnight success usually takes 10 years.”
Artists of every genre interested in working with Fore can visit his website davefore.com and fill out a contact form. While you are there check out Fore’s extensive list of projects, music samples and more.
Fourth of July Playlist
Everybody loves a good playlist to celebrate the birth of our nation, but instead of a repeat of those old dusty regulars, try flexing some real freedom, loosen up and go deep with these tracks to commemorate the original 13 American colonies (in no particular order).
“Hands of Time” – Margo Price: A Midwestern tale any prodigal daughter can relate to. Sometimes you just can’t go back home to the farm.
“Freedom of Choice” – Devo: A timeless tune about the absurdity of mindless consumerism in the land of the free.
“National Anthem” – Lana Del Rey: Summer love finds the pair in this song filled with passion, pain and too much heat.
“Bullet the Blue Sky” – U2: These Irishmen perfectly capture the plight of the everyday American from Wall Street to Joshua Tree.
“Capitalism” - Oingo Boingo: A sarcastic and satirical new wave essential for the ages.
“4th of July” – X: A tale of life on the rough, working class side of town on Independence Day.
“Sprawl II” – Arcade Fire: Perfectly captures what it feels like to be a stifled teen in the American suburbs.
“Last Dance with Mary Jane” – Tom Petty: “You may think “American Girl” is the ideal Petty song for this list, but “Mary Jane” is the quintessential American girl with the quintessential tragic story.
“One Nation Under a Groove” – Funkadelic: Let go, free your mind and your American booty will follow is the message of this p-funk dance classic. Do it.
“North American Scum” – LCD Soundsystem: This garage dance jam pokes fun at the kids coming to America with big dreams while lamenting the reality of being young on this side of the pond.
“Kids In America” – Kim Wilde: A catchy pop number with a punk undertone born in the Reagan era.
“One Time One Night” – Los Lobos: An elderly man reflects on heartache by those living the so-called American dream.
“American Music” – Violent Femmes: Memories of being young, irresponsible and having fun without a care in the world. Amen.
Happy Birthday America!