Doja Cat's 'Say So' was already a worldwide hit when a new version featuring Nicki Minaj rocketed to the top of the charts. One man mixed them both.
'Say So' was both Doja Cat's and Nicki Minaj's first US number one. Doja Cat's original version, released on January 28th, reached number two in the UK and number five in the US. A remix, with Nicki Minaj adding vocals and a rap, was released on May 1st, pushing the song to the much-coveted top spot in the US (different versions of a song that meet certain criteria are counted as one).
The track also marks the first number one since 2014 for legendary producer Lukasz Gottwald, aka Dr Luke. Known for big hits by Katy Perry, Pink, Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry, Ne-Yo, Shakira, Miley Cyrus and many more, he's spent the last few years embroiled in widely publicised legal problems which appear to have diluted his stream of hits to some degree. The production of 'Say So' is credited to one Tyson Trax, and while neither Luke nor his team will confirm this, it's an open secret that the name is a pseudonym for the great producer.
Clint Gibbs is Dr Luke's chief engineer and occasional mixer, a role he also fulfils for Prescription Songs, Dr Luke's production company. "I do quality control," explains Gibbs, "final delivery, upload sessions into the archive, and help songwriters and producers with their setups. I also do the IT for the company, email, tech support, and so on. I wear an insane number of hats! But overseeing studio operations and being a mixer is my main one."
Renowned engineer Serban Ghenea remains Dr Luke's go–to mixer, but Gibbs has increasingly taken to mixing the big songs, and mixed both the original version of 'Say So' and the remix, as well as 10 of the 12 songs on Doja Cat's album Hot Pink (2019). To be able to have the time to do all his mixes, and be there for his wife and baby, Gibbs has taken a back seat at Dr Luke's studio and now mostly works at home. Engineering duties at Dr Luke's studio tend to be performed by Kalani Thompson and Tyler Sheppard.
Originally from Las Vegas, where he played in garage bands and was a fan of metal, Gibbs moved to LA in 2007, when he was 21. After studying at the LA Recording School he started work as an intern at Conway Studios in January 2008. It was here that he met Dr Luke, and started working for him and his then-chief engineer Emily Wright, in December 2010.
"Luke had a run–down studio in the Hollywood Hills, but it was super-private and great music was made there. Whenever we worked with big artists and finalised things we went to Conway or the Record Plant. After that Luke had a house in Malibu that we worked out of for a while, and in 2015 we started building our current studio in Hollywood. The studio is pretty simple, with huge PMC speakers. We are big fans of the PMC company, and they built us new speakers for that room. They really wanted to wow us, and to give us the volume we needed. In fact, they built their huge QB1 XPD‑A speakers because of our room. They are as tall as I am! The speakers have plenty of low end, but also are very detailed. I often work on them at low volumes. We also have some nearfield PMC twotwo8 speakers with two sub2s, and some small Genelec 8020s.
"Our mics are the Sony C800G and Chandler REDD Mic, for backing vocals and to record instruments. The C800 is great for pop, because of the detail and the air, which helps vocals cut through the track. But for hip–hop, where the new style is to stand away from the mic and to the side, with chains rattling, it's more of a challenge. Though I like all the extra noises! We want quality stuff going on, so we also have a rack of top outboard, which contains Chandler TG2 mic pres, which Luke has used since I can remember, and I know [producer] Max Martin [with whom Gibbs regularly works] also loves them. They warm up the top end of the C800. We also have the new UA 1176 compressors, which are quieter and more consistent. From there we go straight into Pro Tools. Of course, there are tons of vintage synthesizers and guitars in the studio, and they are recorded via DI and API 3124 mic pres. Once we are in the box, we are in the box.
"I have spent most of the last 10 years trying to keep up with Luke, often going until 4am, but I now do almost all my mixing at my home, also because of the lockdown situation. My studio is pretty bare-bones, with a kitchen table with my MacBook Pro and the latest Pro Tools, my Grace m905 monitor controller, a PreSonus FaderPort single fader for vocal rides, and then I have my [Universal Audio] Apollo 8p, Genelec 8020 and PMC twotwo6 monitors, a Beats Pill for speaker reference, and my Apple Mighty Mouse. I probably do the majority of my mixing here, but I am pretty flexible when it comes to my mixing. I can be anywhere. I will take my laptop, and I will go to the artist's place, or anywhere else. I also have Sennheiser HD650 open-backed headphones. Jerry Finn had them when...