Felix Voon is a sound mixing engineer that specialises in mixing album and single productions. His range of work spans many genres including pop, rock, jazz, metal, orchestral/classical, EDM and experimental genres.
He was nominated twice for “Best Engineered Album” at Anugerah Industri Muzik, the Malaysian version of the Grammys, in 2013 and 2014 consecutively, and twice for the BOH Cameronian Arts Awards “Best Sound for Musical Theater” in 2013 and 2016. Notable artists that Felix has worked with include Malaysian icons such as Dato Siti Nurhaliza, Faizal Tahir, Aliff Satar, Siti Nordiana, Sarah Suhairi, Harris Baba amongst many others.
For those who are unfamiliar with mix engineering, could you give us a brief overview of what your work encompasses?
Mix engineering is one step in the entire process of creating a song track that you hear on the radio or on Spotify. From composing to writing lyrics and recording the track, the mixing process only comes after the singer and music has been recorded and edited. I am responsible for stringing together the different sound elements that make up the song/track and combining them in such a way to create the best sound balance. This, of course, is dependent on my client’s musical style and which elements would be the most important in the track to highlight.
Simply put, my job is to make the music sound as appealing as possible to the end listener; tailoring it according to the artiste’s and producer’s creative vision.
Could you walk us through what a normal workday looks like for you?
Mix new songs, go through mix revision notes by clients and having the occasional meetings. It sounds mundane but it is exciting to be able to meet new people and work on songs in various genres. In my line of work, it is all these day to day tasks that add up and eventually culminate into the end product. Seeing the final result after months of tedious work is always the most satisfying part of the job.
Were there any incidents or events that inspired you to enter your field?
I was first exposed to music production through messing around with the 1st edition of Garageband in 2005. I realized that it was another form of creating music and found audio production to be very natural for me.
I came across studio mixing on accident; my decision to go into it was almost entirely circumstantial. In mid-2012, I resigned from my studio assistant job of 2 years and not knowing what to do next. My friend (who is a composer), Onn San, asked me to mix a church musical theatre album shortly after that and by early 2013, my friends and music producers Mike Chan and Anas Amdan got me to mix my very first Malay pop album. Most people in Kuala Lumpur typically didn’t do mixing as their only source of income. I decided to give it a try not knowing whether it would work out at all.
All these were eye opening experiences for me, despite being very green and knowing very little about sound mixing from a technical perspective. However, it was these opportunities that showed me how much the field had to offer and solidified my determination to pursue mix engineering.
Be easy to work with, be kind and never stop learning
Was the work you were doing before very different from mix engineering & did you take any skills from your previous work into what you’re doing now?
I taught guitars and drums and taught music technology at a school. Having knowledge of musical instruments and knowing the timbres of as many instruments and vocals as possible helps a lot in mixing as it makes you far more sensitive to the ways in which different sounds combine and create certain moods or effects.
This skill has been integral for me in understanding what combinations of instruments or digital tracks sound well together. It has allowed me to be more creative in the techniques that I use to mix music, opening up the potential for vastly different sound worlds to be created through the mixing process.
How were you able to build up your range of work over the years?
I’m very fortunate to have people who believed in me and have kept working with me. Having said that, be easy to work with, be kind and never stop learning. Keeping these characteristics in mind and applying them in everyday life is absolutely critical to develop a good working attitude (whether in the field of music or not).
It is very important to continue learning and to remember that the accumulation of knowledge doesn’t ever stop. In mix engineering, if I don’t keep up with the latest developments in music technology, I will be losing out on learning ways in which I can better serve my clients, thereby compromising the quality of service that I can provide. At the same time, no matter how good you may be from a technical perspective, people will not give you the opportunities you are seeking if you don’t first prove yourself to be a cooperative team member. Thus, such characteristics go hand in hand together; I believe that being faithful in these things have helped me build my reputation and have helped my clients gain confidence in my services.
I wanted it so badly and failure wasn’t an option
Describe some of the tough times in your career and how you pushed through those incidents.
There were so many tough times, especially when I was first starting out in mix engineering. From getting people to trust you to understanding emotions in a song and going through some months without work.. Not to mention the early days of sustaining 3 jobs, 16-hour work days to make the music career work. It was physically and mentally exhausting.
I’m not quite sure how I got through the tough times. I only knew 2 things: I wanted it so badly and failure wasn’t an option. I think this only goes to show that if you want to do something badly enough, you will find ways to make it work out no matter how hard it is.
What do you think is a misperception that the general public has about your job, or an aspect to your job that many people aren’t aware of?
Many people think seeing artistes recording in the studio seems cool and an easy part of the job. However, in reality, the process is an arduous one for the artistes, producers and engineers involved. The music doesn’t magically sound the way they do after it is recorded. A song can go through numerous different mixes throughout the editing timeline; this can be a very tedious and time consuming process. It takes weeks, months and even sometimes years to refine a song until it is deemed fit to be released to the public.
I constantly measure myself against what is being produced regionally and internationally
As someone in the creative industry, how do you make sure that you are always improving your skills & delivering the best possible product for your clients?
I listen to a lot of new music, experiment, read and watch interviews of people producing massive worldwide hits, and I constantly measure myself against what is being produced regionally and internationally.
On delivering the best possible product for my clients, I constantly listen to their feedback and always look to find ways to incorporate their comments into my work. It is, after all, their song and I want them to be as happy as possible with the product.
What have been some of the highlights of your career? (people you’ve worked with, experiences etc.)
I’ve been really lucky to work with so many different artistes, producers and styles of music. Mixing songs for Faizal Tahir and Dato Siti Nurhaliza were dreams come true for me, given their iconic presence in the Malaysian music scene. Recording and mixing Faizal Tahir’s live concert at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas was a wonderful experience, working in the beautiful concert hall and amazing acoustics. The opportunity to mix the music for the 2017 SEA Paralympic Games opening and closing ceremonies was also a notable personal and professional highlight for me as well.
What do you think has been critical in your success so far and what are you most looking forward to in the future?
God, for the gift of listening to audio frequencies and opening doors for me to pursue this passion. Mom, Dad, sister and my partner, Serene their unconditional love and support in everything that I do. The clients who push and challenge my abilities, who push me to continually improve so we can realise their creative visions and goals.
Also it is really important to listen to clients and understand what they want for the end product. After all, at the end of the day, I am an instrument to aid them in creating music; it is about them, not about me.
I look forward to continuing to do what I do and I really hope to be able to work on more projects regionally in South East Asia or Asia in general.