Masaki Liu

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So, when did you officially become a ninja?

I can’t really say… Being a Ninja is in the eye of the beholder. No real ninja could ever claim they are a ninja because it is a work that is in constant progress.

On a more seriously note, how long have you been recording bands for?

I started recording bands when I was 20. I am 41 years old… so 23 years. I’m also bad at math.

Do you remember what the first band you recorded was?

I don’t actually. When I first started out, I was in the basement of a friend who started a small label called Narrowpath Records. It would have been something for Narrowpath. Maybe it was a band called Sincerely Paul… Hard to remember.

What projects have you worked on recently or any current projects you’d care to talk about?

I just finished an Independent artist Darryll Whaley, we got to use great studio musicians on the project so that was fun to work with some of the best in the business. Just finished an album with acoustic guitar great Peppino D’agostino, look him up, he’s amazing. Just finished mastering an album for Adrian Legg another acoustic guitar legend…Deer Park Avenue, Kenon Chen, Blood and Water, Johnny Hifi, Matt Bissonette, and various others… It’s been a busy summer.

Having recorded and been in bands, what are some of the difficulties you’ve faced?

The music business is a really tough business. I love it, but if you’re in it for the money and not the love of music then it can really disappointing. Being in a band is like having 3 girlfriends. There is a profound bond you have with the other members of the band. Type A personalities are bound to have conflicts. It’s really important that there is really good communication with each other. Passive aggressive behavior in bands will mark the start of the end of the band… (as it does with many relationships) Have a good understanding of the music business, the legalities and if you are looking at some sort of financial success, then make sure everybody has an understanding of their splits and shares. I know this may sound cynical and harsh, but I’ve seen a lot of bands and relationships get stressed and torn apart by the money aspect of the business.

Do you have any pet peeves when recording bands?

– being unprepared. Bands think they have their arrangements and parts down and in reality nobody knows what the other person is playing. Bass players and drummers are playing opposing rhythms, guitar players are playing conflicting chords. etc.
– egos. The studio is no place for egos. I’ve seen the songwriters not take constructive criticism from their band mates, producers, engineers, etc. They think they know it all when sometimes they have a very narrow vision.
– fragile egos. The studio experience is incredibly revealing and oftentimes people get their feelings hurt because their asked to do it again and again. The producers are just trying to do what’s best for the album, We all need to wear thick skin in the studio… including the producers.
– misguided expecations – a cheap $100 guitar amp does not and will not sound like a premium boutique $3000 amp… however sometimes that cheap one will be the right one for the job at hand. If you don’t have a lot of recording experience, trust your engineers and producers to help you with your tones.
– arguing in the studio over something that should have been worked out a lot earlier…
– showing up late
– people that tag along with the band that have strong opinions that shouldn’t… sometimes the “photographer” shouldn’t be talking dynamics of the song.
– people that say something is wrong with the click track it keeps slowing down…
– people that say ” it just has more energy live…” usually that means that they are rushing live and they haven’t figured that out yet.
… there’s more but I don’t want to sound too negative.
What’s it like working with one band (FIF) for their entire recorded career?

Working with FIF was a great experience. They were truly one of the great bands in music. They had amazing personalities and am amazing amount of integrity. They treated their opening bands better than any other band, no blue mixing, no fixed merch pricing. Their combination of personalities was perfect. They were a good balance of easy going and driven. They went through a lot of changes throughout their career, and it was always great to see how they used tough circumstances to grow and were always grateful for the good things. I feel privileged to have worked with them their entire career and their last show was indeed a special show. I’ve never been to another show like it. It was also great to work on all three Brave Saint Saturn albums.

Is there any chance Dime Store Prophets will get back together and/or record an album?
I have no idea. I would be open to it, but we all have so much going on now. If you haven’t checked out what Justin Stevens has been doing please check out.
Any quick advice for hopeful bands?

Avoid my pet peeve list. Good communication and good art is important to a band’s survival. Listen to what is going on in your genre. Music today is a very competitive market. If you aren’t as good as your competition than you need to be. Look at what makes great bands great… great songs, great performances… bands today are super tight, conscious of what each other are doing, great stage presence, tough management, and good business sense.

How much has the game changed since you started?
It’s changed tremendously. The digital revolution has been extremely harmful to music sales, but amazing for music production. I’m still amazed at what you can do with computers. It’s important nowadays to use the tools that are out there for you effectively. The digital revolution allows people to mass communicate for free… That’s an amazing tool… Use it to your advantage.
Do you have concerns or some things that you hope to see from the industry, in particular the Christian music industry, in the future?

Worship seems to be the buzz word in the Christian music industry, and although I’m a worship leader and rely heavily on the worship tunes that are out there. There’s a heavy trend towards worship tunes for profit. People are applying as many “buzz words” and catch phrases to songs just for the sake that they know they work. I’d love to hear a modern day worship song that is lyrically on par with Be Thou My Vision.

What good things do you see happening or shaping up in the Christian music industry?

I love the cross over bands, for so long we wished in the Christian industry that bands would be able to make it on the other side. The industry has recognized that a lot of the bands are profitable and can use the Christians to sustain be their core base to try and break them in the “secular market” It’s a great model and has proven successful for many bands.