Sound Machine Retooled

Nominated for a Best Producer Latin Grammy for his work with Carlos Vives, Gian Marco, Rabanes, and Carlos Baute, Sebastian Krys tells his own tale about Estefan Enterprises and Crescent Moon Studios

I think there's a lot of misconceptions about what goes on at Crescent Moon. I've heard about people who've been unhappy and moved on, but you rarely hear about the people like me who are happy to work there. I've been with Emilio for ten years. I started out as an intern. There's a lot of camaraderie and healthy competition. It's a really cool environment.

I don't necessarily consider myself a pop producer. I've sort of always looked at production from the standpoint of a fan. If I'm working with somebody and I'm bored listening to what they're doing, as a fan, I'm not excited about it. I'm very careful about the artists I work with. I like to work with artists that have originality and talent and something to say. They have to be people I respect. I told Emilio up front if there was an unknown rock band and a higher-profile [pop] project that I thought I couldn't really contribute to, I'd rather work with the unknown.

I don't think [my work] is that unusual [for Crescent Moon]. [In addition to Thalia, Alejandro Fernandez, Cristian Castro, Shalim, and other pop stars] there's been [recordings by virtuoso bassist] Cachao and [Cuban diva] Albita. There's a lot of people who like pop. There's people like myself who love more eclectic singer-songwriter stuff. There's people like Pablo Flores who love dance music. I learned a lot from Pablo Flores. I learned a lot about music, period, assisting on [a recording by jazz trumpeter] Arturo Sandoval. The [traditional Cuban] Mi Tierra album [with Gloria Estefan] opened up a whole world I never knew existed. You have people who come from jazz, who come from rock. Tom Mitchell [producer of Shakira's Laundry Service] toured with Bob Seger for years. He comes from a total rock background. You'd never think you'd see Bob Seger's rock guitarist there.

I think it was only a matter of time before some of this other stuff started happening in the company. [Emilio] gives you the support to do that. Like anything in music, it's a little bit of hit and miss and waiting for the right timing.

It's funny with this Grammy thing. I'm pitted up against all these people I used to assist [Humberto Gatica, Kike Santander]. A lot of people on [Emilio's] team started out as assistants or receptionists. You never know who might take off. You have people who are incredibly talented bringing you your lunch. It's rare, [to find] people who not only let you grow but push you. Everybody at one point was just a guy who brought coffee.

I went to a recording school, Full Sail in Orlando. I was there for a year, then I had to move back in with my parents [in Miami]. I saw a picture of Crescent Moon in Mix magazine. At the time, from a technology standpoint, Crescent Moon was the top studio in Miami. Really far ahead. They were doing the stuff that was really big, although at the time there were not a lot of Latin projects. I called the studio for three months, but I could never get through the receptionist. She thought I was a crazed Gloria fan. Then one day I called early enough and the studio manager answered the phone. That's how I got started.

A couple of times I left. The grind of music production takes a toll, especially when you're assisting. I worked in television, which is more of a 9-to-5 thing. I worked at Nickelodeon for a while, mixing their shows. I needed a break. You work 80, 90, 100 hours a week. Once you get into a project, you're with that project until it's done. As an engineer or a producer, you might work ten hours. If a producer works a fifteen-hour day, the assistant is there eighteen hours. You lose all perspective. You don't know what season it is. You're working on a Christmas album in the middle of the summer. Time and seasons and weekends and holidays: It's all a blur.

Now that I'm a producer, I try to be a little more sane about it. Although last night, the sanity went out the window. I was mixing until three in the morning. I don't like to say what I'm working on. I'm Argentine, and Argentines are very superstitious. When you mention [a project] to somebody, generally [the label will] redo it. Someone will say, "I thought you did this." Then the thing comes out and your name's not on it.

I still do a lot of mixing. People say, "Why don't you just produce?" Number one, mixing is fun. I enjoy it. I love working with people who do stuff I don't usually work on. If I'm doing production, then I go mix and it just keeps things interesting. And it's allowed me to meet a lot of people I've done productions for. I mixed three songs for [vallenato-pop star] Carlos Vives's [1999] album Fruta Fresca. I worked with him for no more than a week, so I couldn't believe it when I got the call that he wanted me to produce his next album [Dejame Entrar, nominated for six Latin Grammys].

When someone like Carlos calls you up to do a production, you sort of go, "Why?" You end up working with all these [folkloric Colombian] musicians you haven't worked with before. You have your background and they have theirs. Somebody who loves the Beatles ends up with a bunch of people who never heard the Beatles. Dejame Entrar is absolutely 100 percent Vives's vision. You try to capture that vision and really make it come alive, to bring out the best of that artist and not let your own ego get in the way of what that artist wants to achieve.

With [Panamanian folk-punks] Rabanes, we all grew up with the same background of music: the Clash, Ramones. I used to play in punk bands. I was in that whole [Miami punk] scene, playing in a band called the Suburban Delinquents. We played with [local punks] Quit. That was the heyday of the scene. It was a lot of fun. I learned a lot about production from that experience. Our drummer and our singer would say, "If I'm not having fun, whoever is going to hear this isn't going to enjoy it."

For me, that album Money Pa' Que? has a lot of that feeling. We all speak the same musical language, bringing in that element from Panama, so it wasn't just punk. That was probably the easiest record I ever produced. It was very dynamic. Let's go this way. Let's go that way. Even the single "Everybody." Let's just do a dance song and break into Miami Bass. Let's just do it. We can't worry about what people say. It wasn't a very conscious thing. If you have to think about it, it's probably not a good idea. You can tell we're having a good time.

My job is to make the music. The record company's job is trying to find a way to sell it. I look at it from a personal standpoint. Is it going to be fun or not? To me, music has absolutely no rules.

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