Mastering engineer Dave Kutch is celebrating the tenth anniversary of his Mastering Palace studio in 2017.
Kutch has mastered some of the biggest records of the past year, and has over the past decade earned the trust of artists such as Beyonce, Chance The Rapper, Justin Timberlake and Alicia Keys.
A Bronx native, Kutch began his career in 1992 at 19, assisting Tiki Recording Studios’ owner/engineer, Fred Guarino on a Debbie Gibson album being produced by the legendary Phil Ramone. That led to an assistant engineering slot with the late Hit Factory owner Eddie Germano, and to an opportunity to work with some of the best producers, tracking and mixing engineers of that era. An early collaboration with Alicia Keys led Kutch to brokering a deal for her to buy Tiki Studios, and provided him with the seed money needed to gear up a studio of his own.
“I’d been busy long before opening the doors of my own studio,” he says. “It felt like only months ago that I discovered a decommissioned firehouse a few blocks from Harlem’s Apollo Theater and turned it into a mastering studio. But it was 2007!”
Today, the Mastering Palace features two custom mastering studios, piloted by Kutch and his talented cohorts Tatsuya Sato (A Tribe Called Quest), Mark Santangelo (Metallica) and assistant engineer Kevin Peterson.
The recent Grammy Awards provides a telling illustration of the span of Kutch’s client base. “We mastered 14 2017 Grammy nominees,” he reports. “Beyonce’s Lemonade was up for nine, including Record of The Year, and Album of The Year, and won two. Coloring Book, Chance The Rapper’s debut won for Best New Artist, Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Album.”
Biding his time as he searched for an appropriate site, Kutch began gathering gear for his own studio. In 2005 he left Masterdisk and signed on with Sony Studios. In 2007, when that studio was sold to condo developers, Kutch purchased all the gear he’d been using in his Sony Suite. In a flash of perfect timing, Alicia Keys, her then producer/partner Kerry Brothers and engineer/studio owner Ann Mincieli asked him to master Keys' As I Am album in her Oven Studio – the same room where he began his career as an intern 15 years earlier.
Setting up on Long Island provided Kutch with a temporary home for his gear and enabled the Keys team to quickly provide custom mastered remixes of her hit No. 1 single on request for radio play. “They’d finish mixing a cut at noon, I’d master the song at 1pm, and it would be on the air at 2pm,” he recalls. “It worked so well I mastered Alicia’s next album the same way.”
The process inspired Kutch to design a ‘Private Mastering Service’ for other artists who prefer to master in their own studios. “I can have the entire studio ready to begin work anywhere in the world in two days time,” he says. “It provides artists with the comfort, and security of their personal listening environment. In fact, I mastered Beyonce's Lemonade album this way.”
Above: Dave Kutch
By 2007 when he was ready to settle into his new Harlem digs, word was out on Kutch’s skills and service. “The vibe was right at The Mastering Palace,” he says. “Artists and record labels got what we were doing. They heard it! I was amazed when I took a step back and realised this is my tenth anniversary.”
To help grow his business, Kutch reached out to accomplished mastering engineer Tatsuya Sato. “Tats had worked on some incredible projects as a recording engineer including Michael Jackson’s Invincible and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Kutch says. “He’d also been Grammy nominated for Kanye West’s The College Dropout. We have a simpatico work ethic and mastering philosophy. We added a dedicated studio for Tats in 2015.”
Mastering engineer Mark Santangelo rounds out the engineering team with his extensive rock background and credits that include Slipknot and Metallica.
Assistant engineer Kevin Peterson began working with Kutch in 2012, and quickly became a crucial team member by building mastering credits like Tinashe’s Nightride.
“Over the past ten years we’ve cultivated an exceptionally talented team at The Mastering Palace,” Kutch concludes, "[and] clients pick up on it immediately. Artists know their music and their messages will sound exactly the way they envisioned them and with five winning Grammy nominations this year, it looks like the rest of the industry agrees."