In modern music, the mixer is perhaps the least visible link in the chain of creativity that brings music from the songwriters and the artists to the public. Yet there is no more important player in this process – and none is more respected by his peers than Bob Clearmountain, the man who defined the mixer’s role and continues to set its standard of excellence. “Clearmountain’s fame was key to elevating the role of mixer from obscurity to center stage,” observes Electronic Musician. “His work, a seemingly effortless combination of technique and feel, inspired and influenced a generation of engineers.” It also created the sonic contexts through which some of the most important contemporary music has claimed its place in history. Thanks to Clearmountain, the sound is as vital as the performance, the composition, and the lyric in the impact made by Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. album, Roxy Music’s Avalon, David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, Aimee Mann’s Whatever, along with classic records by the Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, INXS and many others. The recording establishment has recognized his contributions, through Grammy and Emmy Award nominations, a Grammy and a Latin Grammy Award, nine TEC Awards from The Mix Foundation, and acknowledgment in the industry publication Sound on Sound that “there was a time when it almost seemed as if nobody but Bob Clearmountain could mix rock albums that would become international best sellers.” What’s nearly as imposing as this track record is Clearmountain’s preference for working as far as possible from the spotlight in which his clients thrive. Like many of his colleagues behind the board, he began as a musician. He was just out of high school in Connecticut when his band first went into a New York studio to cut some tracks; that experience was enough to persuade him that his true home wasn’t on the stage but behind a console. He’d already suspected as much, though. “I remember being a little kid and going to see a TV game show with my dad,” he says. “He raised my hand to participate in the show itself, and I was really upset because I couldn’t get to watch the cameramen, the lighting guys, and the sound guys. I never liked being onstage. I was always the guy in the band who would be recording the rehearsals and gigs.” Clearmountain broke into the business as an engineer and began producing a few years later. He racked up impressive production credits quickly, through sessions during the Eighties with artists such as Bryan Adams, Hall & Oates, The Pretenders, Simple Minds and Tina Turner. But as improvements in technology widened the creative opportunities at the mixing stage, he found himself drawn toward that area of specialization. “I’ve worked with some producers that dictate every note until it becomes their record more than the artist’s record,” he explains. “I don’t particularly subscribe to that way of thinking. As a mixer, I usually get projects when they’re finished or they’ve pretty much finished recording them, and for me it becomes a matter of putting everything into the right perspective and bringing out the artist’s vision.” Working from his home studio whose facilities include state-of-the-art digital gear, vintage analog equipment, a Bösendorfer grand piano, an outdoor kitchen and a pool with a 35-foot water slide, Clearmountain is able to put into perspective his journey from studio delivery boy, transitioning to assisting on a Duke Ellington record date on his first day at work, to the definitive mix master of our time. “Back in the Eighties, the style was huge drums, with lots of echo and reverb,” he recalls. “As the sound of records progressed things got dryer, which is mostly where we are today. But basically I’m still doing exactly what I did then. I’m trying to make records sound as listenable as possible, bringing out each artist’s ultimate vision of their music.” “I’m a mixer,” he concludes, leaving it to others to clarify that Clearmountain is the mixer.