[Photo by: Elizabeth Lee Cunningham]
A lot of producers like to operate within one genre of music that they’ve grown to know intimately, but then there are producers like LA-based Colin Brittain who work all over the map. Having worked with artists from many genres, there is clearly no type of music that Brittain will overlook. While he doesn’t specialize in one particular genre, that doesn’t mean he does a subpar job on his projects for the sake of expanding his portfolio. To the contrary, Brittain’s most recent records — All Time Low’s Last Young Renegade and Papa Roach’s Crooked Teeth — have rocketed to the top of music charts.
Fellow producer Nicholas “RAS” Furlong played an equal role in the success of Papa Roach’s and All Time Low’s albums. He co-produced Crooked Teeth and half of Last Young Renegades. “Ras is an equal partner on the things we produce together,” says Brittain of his partner. “He's really a visionary and a crucial part to how the whole project comes to life.”
So what is it about Brittain that helps his artists break through the ceiling? For one, he never expects anything less. “Look,” he says, “here’s the thing: If you don’t think your team is gonna make it to the Super Bowl, then there’s no point in trying.” But like any NFL team’s hard-fought, season-long journey to the playoffs, it takes a great deal of work to reach the ultimate goal. “[It takes] a lot of patience and listening and really just trying to live life to the fullest and get the most experience out of it,” Brittain explains. “There’s a lot of grind work that starts. Song selection is key [and] there are a lot of hard choices to be made early on.”
For instance, Brittain started working with ONE OK ROCK years before Ambitions’ release. “I go to Japan a lot to hang out and write with the guys,” he says. “We started writing this record in Tokyo two years ago and wrote ‘We Are’ and ‘Start Again’ in those sessions.”
The producer also likens the recording process and his approach to that of a painter’s task. For him, it requires a great deal of precision and balance to actualize his and the band’s vision: “It’s kind of like a painting for me. You have to figure out how the band is intending to sound and each layer of sound that you put in, you would layer it like a painting. If you put too much in there and it’s all over the place, it’s kind of like smudging a painting; it’s not really clear. My idea for overall sound quality and overall intent is for the artist’s idea to be very clear and upfront.”
And working on All Time Low’s Last Young Renegade was no exception. “Alex [Gaskarth] and I would sit literally for hours at a time and comb through reverbs and such,” Brittain says. “The attention to detail was remarkable.”
In spite of such successes, Brittain remains humble. He cites his dedication to his craftsmanship as a byproduct of having been able to work alongside producers such as Kato Khandwala (Drowning Pool, Pierce The Veil, Paramore), John Feldmann (Beartooth, the Used, We Came As Romans), and Nicholas “RAS” Furlong (Blink-182, Good Charlotte, Sleeping With Sirens). Being exposed to such talent for years has helped Brittain perfect his own method. “I think I cover a lot more detail than some people are willing to,” he explains, “all the way down to every individual sound and how that energy supports the rest of the song.”
On the surface, it might seem like micromanagement, but in the end, it’s all about the big picture and the emotional reaction that everyone involved with the project has to the final product. For Brittain, that’s what makes weeks of intricate work worth it. “Without a doubt, my favorite part is the last 30 percent [of the process], when the mix is starting to come together and then the energies all just flow,” he says. “There’s usually one moment when everybody goes, ‘Aha! Yes!’ Everybody kind of lights up, and it’s a pretty pivotal moment for every song.”
While working with Papa Roach on their new album Crooked Teeth, Brittain says, “[These were] probably the most energetic sessions I've ever had. Jacoby [Shaddix] has the combined energy of four grown men who each just downed a liter of stiff coffee all at once.”
After landing a few chart-toppers, Brittain has hopes of one day working with the likes of Ed Sheeran and the xx, but also insists he is more than willing to work with any genre and anyone who approaches making a record with the same kind of zeal and perspective he does. As far as he’s concerned, all music is good music, and he’s not about to stop now.