Recently, I was fortunate enough to interview Michael Cusion Jr., a mixing/mastering engineer from Long Island, New York who has worked with names such as Tory Lanez, Young Joc, and Jim Jones.
First off, what is your name?
My name is Michael Cushion Jr, better known as Mike C but you can call me Mike
Mike, thanks so much for letting me ask you some questions. When did you first become fascinated with sound engineering? How old were you?
Not a problem! Growing up with my mother being a DJ and my father being in a band I was highly influenced by music as a child. In that time I wanted to be a musician, which worked out for a while. I started recording my own songs and during the process, I became infatuated with handling behind the scenes work, specifically Mixing and Mastering. At 13 years old it became my focus and I knew I had to turn it into something.
When I first started recording my own music, I used an old tape recorder. What did your first setup look like?
Same! The first tools I had available were my father's tape recorder and microphone. I used to record the background music from old video games, then live instruments to spice it up and finally recording vocals making very silly music haha!
The industry has moved to digital. What are the pros and cons of digital opposed to analog in your opinion?
See in the beginning, it was something to be afraid of because it was new and different, but most importantly the idea of sacrificing the warm and unique audio quality only analog equipment could produce. As technology has been progressing there are becoming ways to get that same sound digitally. In 2016, I completely trust the digital industry. We can only move forward and that means some things just have to go. Digital is more efficient, it lets you work faster, equipment and software are more affordable, it's portable, you have tons of plug-ins instantly at your fingertips, physical space is freed, plus so much more while still making it possible to get that classic analog sound. What I do also like is there is still analog equipment being made in smaller packages in case you need it!
Do you still work outside the box? What kind of equipment do you have?
I've transitioned to completely in the box, my setup is simple. High-end Mac, SSL Nucleus and three sets of monitors. I don’t do recording or production just Mixing and Mastering and I believe that less is more, the real magic lies within the engineer.
Pro Tools is the go-to DAW, but you work in a few different ones. Which do you use?
ProTools is great, I’ll use it when I absolutely need to but my go-to DAW is Logic Pro X. I have everything single thing I need in Logic, the workflow is great and the abundance of plugins and features are amazing. I can get to work right away and get things done quickly and efficiently.
There is an abundance of great industry standard plugins. Which ones are some of your favorites?
I really love Logics stock compressors, they definitely get the job done and there's something different for each task. I also really love the “Match EQ”, It's like a hidden gem, that thing is magical when used the right way, It can really help clean up your mixes fast and easy!
What is your favorite part of the production process?
My favorite part is actually before the process even begins! I love working on different music every day, opening the project for the first time is like opening presents on x-mas! Besides that, I love when I work on a mix and rest my ears and come back to it hearing the amazing work I've put in, it makes me proud every time and really puts a smile on my face.
You have your own studio; how long did it take to build? Where is it located?
I work in my private studio located in Long Island New York, I've built it from the ground up customizing it to my exact needs and comfort, I would say it took me about 4 months to build, (time is money!) but it's never really complete as I'm always switching things around haha.
Mike, you have an impressive and extensive resume and clientele base. Who are some of your more renowned clients? What are some accolades that you have received?
My more renowned clients are based in the urban music genres. I've worked with artists like Bobby V, Young Joc, Chingy, Jim Jones and most recently Tory Lanez, just to name a very few. All which have had #1 songs on Billboard. Each major artist I work with its a trophy in my book!
Who are some of your favorite clients to work with?
I don't have a specific list of favorite clients, but I do love working with foreign clients. It's really cool to work on and learn about music created in foreign countries worldwide. I feel like it brings me closer to the people from all over. Sometimes I get lucky and receive gifts from these clients as a thank you for the work I provided. Which makes me feel good knowing someone across the world genuinely appreciates me and my work.
What are some less fortunate experiences that you've had with clients?
A less fortunate experience I rarely have is not being able to completely 100% satisfy a client. No matter how good you are unfortunately it does happen. Everyone is different and has different tastes, which makes it not always a bad thing but it definitely does suck.
With the accessibility of mixing and mastering one's own music these days, what do you think is the biggest mistake you hear from novice mix engineers?
These days a lot of guys start a mix with the intention of just making it loud and sharp and always over-do it with excessive processing and tons of compression. I am a strong believer that less is more. I also see a lot of engineers spending too much time to make a mix “perfect”. There is no such thing as perfect. Mix the song, take a day to rest your ears come back for anything you’ve missed and finish up!
Electronic music seems to be the prevalent genre right now. Which direction do you think the popular music scene is headed?
To be honest, music is getting too weird for me, things are going in all kinds of directions for all genres, nothing is what it used to be and there are sooo many sub-genres now. I really don’t know where its headed in the future but I am hoping for the best! Now I see what my parents and grandparents mean when they speak about music in their day.
Who are some engineers that you hold in high regard?
Big fan of Dave Pensado and Bruce Swedien, those men are absolutely genius in my opinion, Their work talks for itself!
As a mixing/mastering engineer, what are your top five albums?
I'm going to base this off of sound quality, production, and overall great music =) #1 Definitely Michael Jacksons Thriller without a doubt. Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP The Beatles Abbey Road always a classic! Dr. Dre’s The Chronic
Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring engineers?
Mixing and (or) Mastering isn’t something that can be learned overnight. It takes years of practice to obtain the skills needed and to train your ears. If it's something you want to do, you must learn to be patient and accept failure, the only way to get better is from your mistakes. Work hard and never give up.
Thanks again to Mike for letting me ask him some questions regarding his craft! He is a really nice guy who is incredibly passionate about his work. If you want to get in contact with him, get at him here: