INTERVIEW: Anne Gauthier on Engineering at La La Land, Influential Albums, and where to get Poutine in Louisville!

Anne Gauthier is a Louisville treasure who made her way here by way of Montreal to grow as an audio recording engineer. Since relocating to the Derby City she has spent her time working with renowned producer Kevin Ratterman at La La Land where she’s had a hand in some of our favorite recent Louisville records including Anwar Sadat’s Ersatz Living and James Lindsey’s Same Sky. She was also a co-engineer on White Reaper’s The World’s Best American Band and an Assistant Engineer on Ray Lamontagne’s Ouroboros (go here for her full discography). Needless to say, her resume is legit. 

I’ve had the pleasure of working with her on Quiet Hollers and Frederick The Younger tracks as well as a few songs on the upcoming Louisville is For Lovers release. After spending some time with her, there’s no question Anne knows what she’s doing in the lab, but she’s also one of the most kind-hearted and easy-g0ing people you could possibly spend locked up in a studio with for 10 to 12 hours at a time.

I reached out to Anne to see what she’s been up to and how she ended up here, read on to find out. 

Never Nervous: How did you get into the recording game?

Anne Gauthier: I started tinkling with boom box recorders as a kid, then moved up to a 4 track cassette and a couple of Radio Shack 58’s a friend lent me in my early twenties which I used for a couple of years. I recorded 2 albums in the summer of my 26th birthday at Breakglass Studio in Montreal (with awesome and kind engineer Jace Lasek), and it really dawned on me that summer that my favorite moments of being in a band and playing music had most always been hanging out in recording studios. It seemed like such a cool mix of being both very technical, creative and instinctual all at once. I built a home recording studio from then on and had that for a few years before moving to Louisville.

NN: How did you end up in Louisville/La La Land?

AG: I was looking at getting more into the analog recording scene a few years ago and found a Tape Op article written by beloved local musician/artist Jason Noble about Kevin Ratterman and his work. I pretty much cold call emailed Kevin and he was nice enough to get back to a complete stranger! We kept in touch and a couple of years ago he needed help at the studio so I decided to take the plunge, get a work visa and come down here. I’ve been very, very fortunate to find such a kind and talented mentor/co-worker!

“I pretty much cold call emailed Kevin (Ratterman) and he was nice enough to get back to a complete stranger!”

NN: How has your approach to recording changed since being here?

AG: Having access to a lot more gear, and to a big tracking room has definitely changed a lot of my recording decisions. My approach to recording has always been about finding the best recording color to fit whatever project’s personality. Using gear as a means to represent the band in it’s most natural and/or interesting light. So even if I wouldn’t call myself a gear head to any extent, it’s been really fun having a wide array of classic recording gear to experiment with while recording.

NN: Have there been any specific growing experiences while working at La La Land?

AG: As an engineer, I would say the diversity of the projects we get here has made me a more complete engineer — We get everything from hip hop, jazz, metal, rock, pop, roots and country bands and all kinds of things in between. On growing experiences as a person, just meeting so many kinds of people/personalities and working so closely with people in sometimes vulnerable situations. I think that has made me an even more patient and compassionate person.

NN: Are the music scenes in Montreal and Louisville comparable?

AG: The music scenes are quite separate in Montreal since it’s a bit of a bigger city. I love how the Louisville art scene is a lot more connected and finds it facilitates more collaborations between different styles and scenes.

“I love how the Louisville art scene is a lot more connected and finds it facilitates more collaborations between different styles and scenes.”

NN: Where should a musician traveling to Montreal visit first?

AG: The more obvious places would be Sala Rosa and Casa Del Popolo, which are venues owned by the some of the members of GSYBE. There are lots of free outside music festivals in the summertime, my favorite one is “Festival des Nuits d’Afrique”, which always has amazing programming. A lot of the fun things for me tend to be a bit more hard to find, there are quite a lot of really cool DIY spaces that pop up every year where they have shows and dance parties, which was always the most fun I had going out and living in Montreal.

NN: What engineers do you find influential?

AG: I go through periods in terms of taste, I seem to gravitate naturally towards recordings that have been tracked to tape or used a good amount of old gear. I really love the vibe of old country and Motown records so a lot of my inspiration would be from there. I usually like specific albums that engineers have done. 80’s era Micheal Jackson, tiny drums and huge vocals of Margo Guryan’s “take a picture’, orchestral-overdoing-it of Bobbie Gentry’s production, tape almost disintegrating sounds of Selda Bagcan s/t

In terms of more recent recordings that are great albums and  influenced me over the last couple of years: Mary Gauthier “Mercy Now” (Gurf Morlix), Mac DeMarco “Salad Days,” Vivian Girls “Share the Joy”(Jarvis Taveniere), Black Mountain s/t (Colin Stewart), Wye Oak “Civiilan” (John Congleton), The Dead Weather “Sea of Cowards (Vance Powell), Big Thief “Capacity” (Andrew Sarlo) and obviously a whole slew of things we’ve worked on here at La La.

NN: How has your journey as an engineer been different as a female in a male dominated industry?

AG: You definitely attract a lot more attention as it is still unfortunately a novelty. I am somehow used to it being also a drummer and coming from another non-traditional field, so it wasn’t a total shock when I started. I can count on half of one hand the amount of famous women engineers, which is mind blowing. I’ve heard that almost half of the students in some recording schools are now female but have not been seeing that effect in studios and the music industry though.

I’ve been lucky enough to be supported in my endeavors, but being able to navigate a big spaceship-looking control room with complicated-looking knobs, faders, buttons and a 15- row patch bay has probably helped people in not doubting my abilities as an engineer. My female friends who are doing live sound would definitely have very different stories to share though since they are mostly dealing with very difficult old school house live sound engineers and opinionated non-musicians show-goers.

“I can count on half of one hand the amount of famous women engineers, which is mind blowing. “

NN: What makes Poutine so good? What is the correct way to make it?

AG: Great question, you know what Montrealers really care about. Something about the “healthiness” of it, mushy-ness factor and melty-ness makes for a perfect combo. It’s not the most visually pleasing look but once you give it a chance, you’ll never go back. Not over-doing it would be the correct way to make it. Double fried red potatoes (frozen fries are not real poutine), brown sauce (I get St-Hubert hot chicken packets sent to me from Canada every year) and fresh cheese curds.

NN: Before you go, can you tell us if there’s anywhere in Louisville to find legitimate good poutine?

AG: My house! Everywhere else seems to be trying way too hard by changing ingredients and overcharging for it. Poutine is/will always be Quebec working class food. You can fancy it up with other classic ingredients (corndogs/hot dogs, smoked meat, ect). The only allowed veggie version in my book would be green peppers and mushrooms. The best poutine fries I’ve found in Louisville for my homemade version are at Home Run Burgers (if only i could convince them to add it to their menu it would make my day) and Wisconsin cheese curds at Lotsa Pasta.