Sunday, March 5, 2017

31 Women in Audio: Anna Frick

Mix Messiah Productions presents: 31 Women in Audio, a series celebrating Women's History Month.

Day 5: Anna Frick, Mastering Engineer, Airshow Studios

Today, we are featuring Anna Frick, Senior Mastering Engineer and Restoration Center Manager at Airshow Mastering in Boulder, Colorado. 

Leslie Gaston-Bird: What childhood experiences do you think led you to a love for the field of audio? (e.g. parents’ record player, making mix tapes, etc.) 

Anna Frick: There have been quite a few experiences that, in hindsight, lead me to a career in audio. I spent a lot of time doing field recordings of my parents with my Fisher Price tape recorder. I wanted to show my dad how dumb he sounded yelling at football refs (it didn’t help). I’d make mix tapes from the radio and record myself. I used a mini-cassette player to capture my friends’ songs or capture our conversations.  I remember one time attending a big concert. We happened to have seats a few rows behind the soundboard. I remember looking at all the knobs and buttons and faders and thinking that whoever knew what all those buttons did must have the coolest job. Then I looked over the sound guy was playing a Gameboy. And I thought, yeah I want that job. 

LGB: What was your earliest experience with recording?
AF: The first time I was ever in a recording studio was in high school. I decided I needed a good recording of my friend’s songs to take with me to college. Some friends of mine were in a band at the time and had just released an album. I got to talking to them about where they recorded it, called the studio and got my friend in to record. I produced the album, though I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. Taking it from conception to fruition was quite the education – everything from getting the best performance from the musicians, learning the process of how an album comes together in the studio to completing the artwork and burning CDs (we didn’t manufacture it). I was flying by the seat of my pants, but my desire to learn was insatiable. At the end of the project the engineer said to me “Hey, you’ve got a knack for this. You could make a career out of it.” That set the wheels in motion.  

LGB: What questions do you DISLIKE being asked related to women in audio? 

AF: I try to avoid the “us versus them” type conversations. We’re all in this together. It should be gender-neutral. It’s a hard balance though. I really appreciate the camaraderie amongst the women I know in audio. There’s a solidarity there. But we can all geek out together, right?  I can’t deny that I’ve gotten some clients simply because the client would prefer to work with a woman, maybe because they prefer my communication style or because they’re an all-female outfit that wants to keep the girl-power going on throughout their project. There’s a lot of competition and I’m just getting started in my career, so I have to embrace the opportunity to stand out.  I think my goal ultimately though, is to not be a female leader in my field, but to be a leader who just happens to be female. So at some point, the gender conversation just has to go away and we have to look at each other as equals. 

LGB: What questions would you PREFER to be asked related to women in audio? 

AF: Bringing more women into the audio field is an effort to diversify the skill set of the profession. We operate differently than men in a lot of regards, especially when it comes to building relationships, problem-solving and communication. So, I’d like the conversation to be more about amplifying the strengths of both women and men so that we can work as a better team. That’s what’s going to move the profession forward – having a community that has all strength leads to more advancements in research and best practices.  I guess the questions we need to be asking then are how do get women excited about audio? How do we reach out to show young women what their options are? Careers in audio weren’t listed in the career counselor’s office when I was trying to decide what to do with my life. I just got lucky.   

LBG: What female role models do you have, fictional or real? 

AF: First and foremost would be my mom. She was adamant that I pursue a career in math and science because “we need more women in those fields, so it’s up to you to change that.” I admire any woman who is able to rise above the status quo, carve her own path and still stay true to herself throughout the process.  In the audio world, Leslie Ann Jones, Piper Payne, EveAnna Manley and about a zillion kick-ass female musicians.   I probably get inspired by someone new every day. 

LGB: What upcoming projects are you excited about? If none, how about a favorite recent project? 
 AF: This is always a hard question for me because a project doesn’t last long in my world. I can finish an album in a day and I don’t always know what my next projects are going to be. I’m just wrapping up an album for a Minnesota-based acoustic trio called The Last Revel. Their energy, songs and voices are just awesome. And they recorded the record all live while renting a cabin in the woods.  And of course I always have to mention the Rise & Fall of Paramount Records. That project was just so intense and awesome and took about a year to complete both volumes. I don’t think it got nearly the recognition it deserved. It literally tells the history of the blues. 

LGB: Finally, be sure to tell me about anything you’d like to promote: website, recordings, films, etc. 

AF: You can check out more about me on Airshow’s website – or on our Facebook page. There’s a video of me talking about my approach to mastering, SoundCloud links to listen to some of my recent clients and other really useful information about everything from mastering to restoration.     

-Leslie Gaston-Bird
Owner, Mix Messiah Productions, LLC