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Keeping up with composer Scott Van Zen

Scott Van Zen
  Scott Van Zen

Guitarist/composer Scott Van Zen is in great demand these days. One of the reasons Van Zen is a much sought-after composer is the speed at which he works and the high-quality level of his material. He has composed the main titles, background and source music for FOX, MTV, CBS, NBC, ESPN2 and Paramount Television, commercials for Game Boy, Match Box, Hot Wheels and Nickelodeon, the animated series Dirty Pair, in addition to regular episodes of America’s Most Wanted. With as many as three or more projects in the works at any given time, Van Zen’s mainstay mixing console, the Mackie Digital 8 Bus, solidifies Van Zen as a marvel at multi-tasking.

Located in a small back-room studio at his home in Los Angeles, California, Scott’s varied music production work demands instant access to many on-going projects at once. “When I got my Mackie Digital 8 Bus console it was like adding three more of me.” Van Zen says. “From a working perspective, the most practical aspect of the D8B is the speed factor. If I’m in the middle of doing three projects, a toy commercial, a sports package and a drama mix for America’s Most Wanted, I can pull up mixes while I’m on the phone with the client. That’s something I could never accomplish before with any other console.”

One of Van Zen’s first set-ups was a Mackie CR1604 compact console and a couple of Alesis ADATs. Last year he moved up to the D8B and went to hard disc recording on a Macintosh computer using Steinberg’s Logic software. “Working with the D8B was fast and efficient right out of the box. I appreciate the D8B’s simplicity and ease-of-use––because the people I work for expect things to sound good and projects turned around immediately, ” he says. “When I make a demo and run it off to DAT it already sounds mastered and finished. I think that fact alone helps me get a lot more work. You can’t tell creative directors that it’ll be ready tomorrow. I can make any mix available in seconds, regardless of what odd hour a director calls and needs to hear something.”

One of the current projects that Scott’s been working on is a massive promotion package for Paramount Television. “I have done well over 30 spots, including changes, with lots of :30s, :20s and :10s, etc,” he says. “Being able to save multiple mixes has kept me in very high standing with the president of the agency. I would not have even come close to finishing so many multiple projects before I got my D8B.”

Since working on multiple projects is the norm––not an exception, Van Zen values the ability to always return to the same creative mixing moment he left at. “I can work on several songs at once, mix them on the fly and just hit save and be finished for with that song for the moment,” he says. “I no longer lose the tone or the feeling of the piece. With the D8B, if something gets intricate you automate it and you don’t lose a thing––plus the mix just gets better along the way. I like the fact that by the time I’m done recording, I am also done mixing, as well.”

Automation aside, what impresses Van Zen the most about the D8B is its sound. “I’m from the old school,” he says. “I love the warm analog sound and the ‘tone’ of the D8B is very warm. From a song-composition standpoint, that’s great. You can do albums on the D8B––the sound of it is so good and I have yet to load all of the new third-party plug-in effects! The one thing I like about the EQs is that there is a wide-range of them and they are really very warm and clean.”


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