Revival of the saysaysay feature: After interviewing the last 3 featured people in German – now it’s about time for the first interview feature in English. Exciting isn’t it?
For this special occasion I asked my good friend Wolfgang Manns to answer me 7 private questions.
Wolfgang and me know each other for nearly 10 years now. I used to work with him for quite a few years on multiple projects, all strongly connected with music. Actually I cannot count the endless hours we spent in the recording studio together. I remember this time as one of the fruitfullest and most instructive stages in my life, both professionally and private.
To be honest, Wolfgang has always been a kind of role model for me. His dedication and entrepreneurial spirit, his reliabilty and not to forget his inner creativity is absolutely inspiring to me. Although he is not a loudspeaker or self-promoter, Wolfgang is well-known for his work and an internationally acknowledged expert in his field.
With his very own Toolhouse Studios, he managed to put himself into an outstanding position, where he can merge his family life, his creative passion for nearly every kind of art and his job perfectly. As far as I can see, Wolfgang is getting more and more awesome from year to year with the Toolhouse’s business excelerating – more interesting clients, broader genres and lots of international recognition.
Welcome to the good life.
Check out saysaysay featuring Wolfgang Manns below.
Wolfgang, tell me something about yourself and your current situation, for example: What do you do for a living? How do you feel?
I’m a professional Recording & Mixing Engineer and Producer having my own Studio called “Toolhouse” in Rotenburg an der Fulda, right in the middle of germany. This is where I work most of the time. I built the whole building from scratch in 2003 and merged my private life and my creative business into that location. The studios are located in the lower floor and part of the 2nd floor, my living space makes up for the rest of the building.
I’m 38 years old and I own the company for 18 years now, professionally working on bigger and major projects since about 12 years.
Pretty much all the steps that are needed for a release/radio ready music production are carried out by my company. I’m working with artists and bands right from the beginning – songs and arrangements, doing early demos and preproductions, recording and mixing of the final results – also including doing all the steps in between. So often I’m just mixing songs or albums that were recorded in another studio or the artists recorded it themselves. Most commonly the artist, or the producer is attending the mixing process – from time to time it happens that they just follow the whole process via internet. For that I use a pretty clever streaming software, that enables the clients to follow me through the working process from whereever they are ….
I’m really happy and thankful that I was able to turn my passion into a working business. It never feels like a job actually, it always feels like a living.
What inspires you?
I’m interested in pretty much everything. Visual things like films, pictures, fashion ….. most of the time simple minor design ideas are the things which fascinate me most. I always take care to not limit my mindset on my job only. As said, films and photographs are a big source for my inspiration – but of course musicians, songs and sounds are, too.
I love being in big cities and international places.Urban life inspires me – just watching people and situations, learning how things interact.
I’m also into the art of b-movies and older or recent trash films, which sometimes have a lot of soul within their story and their implementation.
Within my daily Job, inspiration for me is, when I have the chance to pick a band to work with by myself. To be truly inspired I need things, in that case musicians and songs, that really touch me. Given that, you are able to create things nobody expected before.
I have a giant collection of equipment, which also inspires me everyday. Having a great color palette like a painter, I could choose whatever needed, being it different sounding microphones, guitars, synthesizers. But even non technical things could lead to actions which are able to impress you at the end. Just a short example: I recently worked with a band and we were stuck on that one song. We recorded the whole band, tons of guitars, vocals, sounds ….. everything turned out in a big mess and never felt right. Then we overthrew everything and started again from scratch. Out of a mistake we put up a microphone on the large 2 floor hallway at my studio and just used that large reverberant signal. We all were so excited how the vibe and soul of the song was working…. to cut a long story short, that’s what ended on the actual record. Just that cloudy guitar sound and a lonely vocal…. these are moments, where something leads to an outcome you never thought of. So even mistakes could be inspiration.
Working fast helps me really keep the inspiration flowing and not being bored by doing things over and over. “Decide and move further” is a pretty good description of my workflow – that keeps me excited.
What specific personalities do you admire? Why?
I admire all people who ever had a vision AND made it happen. Certainly I admire producers, who believed in somebody, being it actors or being it bands. Beside thousands of other great people, George Martin was somebody who really believed in 4 guys from Liverpool, for example.
But there are many more people who take their chances and turn stuff into something amazing, some only for themselves and others hopefully for many people, as well.
I have a couple of “flavour of the day” personal heroes but they are changing all the time, so it would be useless to list them ….
What is your favourite activity?
Besides that I really love what I’m doing and can’t wait to try out new gear and work with exceptional personalities, I love a couple of things and try to enjoy them as often as possible.
Since a few years I’m really interested in photography – hi end digital cameras as well as lofi stuff like polaroid, holga and lomo. The analogies to my recording job are sometimes too obvious. It’s all about the moment in which you capture things, the composition and the point of view. But I would always keep that as a hobby…..
If I have the chance to be out of my usual life for a couple of days, I like to spend time in cities and try to find spots that are the least popular, just watching the “real life” go by.
Also I love spending time in landscapes and silent places, where you just have the soundtrack of the nature which brings all your senses down to earth.
But the “subtle reality” which follows me, keeps me always connected to informations and the internet, haha
Describe a moment that changed your life?
There are 2 major moments that in a way changed my life. I could split them into the materialistic change and the the immaterialistic change.
The materialistic change was definitely the decision to build my studio complex from scratch after 5 years in a rented industry floor. To have a homebase without compromises, that is built exactly how I need it to be, is amazing. To know that I only have the chance to go forward when starting such a project really changed my life. After about 2 years building time it came out great and everything worked out as expected – and I got rid of all the limitations I had before.
The immaterial moment that changed my life was about 10 years ago, when I was working my ass off to built a client base and let my skills grow to please them. Then the moment came where I worked more and more for name people and got calls from great artist that heard about my work. This really changed my life for the better, as I felt that I finally create things people enjoy and in the end makes them to hand me over their stuff to work on it.
What do you like best about your life?
I might have stated that before, but what I really like best about my life is the possibilty to fill every day and every minute with something which makes absolute sense to me. Something that I never regret spending my time with.
I also really enjoy the diversity of music genres I work on. I did countless HipHop and R&B productions in the early 2000s. With the improved facilities, like big recording rooms, I am now able to work on a lot of different styles of music. A couple of weeks working on an album for an Indie Band, then doing experimental electronics with an exceptional danish female artist, then completely reduced singer songwriter stuff with just a guitar, a voice and songs which come from the heart, then maybe followed by a great americana band from philadelphia right after recording an blues rock album with an irish artist – that’s what keep me excited and that’s what I like about my life.
Any big plans for the near future? Please be concrete.
A question which comes a couple of years too late – I pretty much fullfilled all the BIG plans I had.
Well, actually I have a few really interesting projects coming up, where I will record some parts in a London studio and hopefully a production where we will record in a legendary recording studio in New York for the basics and will do the rest over here. But situations will change all the time, so maybe I could update you in a year and talk about a big thing which I don’t know yet ….
Wolfgang Manns on the web: