“Speak Heartz” Interviews Henry Sarmiento

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How did a 16 year old from New York get into the music industry at such a young age? Was it a matter of your own ingenuity or were you just at the right place and right time?

I had decided to hitchhike to a Max Creek concert whilst in high school, but managed to get a ride on the way there, so I arrived 5 hours early. I happened to sit myself down in a sunny spot that I didn’t know was the loading dock for the venue, when a huge truck pulled in unexpectedly that was full of the band’s equipment. Since I had just been sitting there waiting for the show to start, I offered to help out the crew, and got to see how a live production was set up. They gave me a stage pass and I got to see the whole show from the side of the stage, much to the surprise of my friends who were in the audience.

After the show, the band told me that they were headed to New York, which is where I was from, so they took me with them and we did that show as well. Following that, they said “When we do any future shows, if you want to come early and help with the set up, you’re welcome to do that“. So I would spend hours of my high school years driving to shows to help them out.

After having gained more experience with working at live shows, I moved to California at 17, with $200 in my pocket. Since I had roadie experience at that point, I would ask the reggae bands in Santa Cruz if they needed any roadie help. Most of them said “maybe“, until I asked a friend of mine who was a live sound engineer for a reggae band if they need help and he said “Yeah, tomorrow“. So I started gigging with them as a roadie, until 6 weeks later my friend left his job, and made me the new engineer. It was a serious thing for me because my friend hadn’t told the band that he was leaving. He brought it up the day before he left because he knew they would flip out. So I had to learn everything about live sound in that 6-week period. That’s why I don’t buy it when young people today say that they don’t have the time to learn how to do technical things. I already know it’s possible if you really want it. Anyway, the band was obviously nervous about having the roadie kid who had been pushing equipment take over sound duties. In reggae music, the sound engineer is like a band member because using reverb, delay and EQ to tailor the final sound for the audience is a part of his job. But I managed to do my first Sacramento show without any problems. The band even had their friends in the audience listening to my mix to see if I could pull it off, and they were surprised at how well it sounded. They even said I mixed bigger than the last engineer. So from there I did a lot of shows with them for the next 3 years, and started getting paid for it.

Why did the band feelĀ like your live mixes sounded bigger than their previous engineer’s?

BecauseĀ I wasn’t afraid of emphasizing bass, and I wasn’t timid about using the effects on the board. I found that using reverb on the snare and delays on vocals to be exciting.

For live sound, I’m all about analog sound boards because you have all the auxiliary channels in front of you. With digital mixers you have to find where the banks are and press twice as many buttons, and I never liked that because my hands need to be able to move quickly. So in the studio, I don’t have any mixing boards, but for live sound, which I don’t work with anymore, I preferred analog boards.

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