Mastering Engineer Focus: Leon Zervos

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Mastering Engineer Focus: Leon Zervos

In a career spanning over three decades, Leon Zervos has mastered a swag of Grammy and Aria Award winning music with album sales totalling over 100 million. Moving to New York City in the early 90’s, Leon worked as a senior engineer at renowned mastering houses Sterling Sound and Masterdisk. In 2009 he relocated back to Sydney Australia, where his career began, to rejoin the Studios 301 team as a Senior Mastering Engineer.

Staying busy, Leon has most recently mastered music for the likes of Cold Chisel, The McClymonts, Pete Murray, Jessica Mauboy, Bernard Fanning, Thundamentals, sleepmakeswaves, The Jungle Giants and Amy Shark to name a few. If you care to peruse his discography further, it’s just like looking through a collection of your favourite albums spanning the last 30 years. There’s no doubt you’ve heard many a tune mastered by Leon, you just may not have known it at the time.

SANTANA – Shaman

Debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart in 2002, Shaman was the follow-up album to Santana’s Grammy Award winning Supernatural. Continuing from where Supernatural left off, guest features included Musiq, a 16 year-old Michelle Branch, Chad Kroeger, Seal, Macy Gray and Dido.

Words from Leon:

“This was such a great album to work on. The label was ARISTA run by LA Reid at the time, and the A&R was Josh Sarubin. The album came in on multiple formats, from one inch and half inch tape to files on discs and drives. There were many different producers, mixing engineers and studios, so putting it all together as one album was the key to it sounding great. ‘Shaman’ has amazing artists on it; Citizen Cope, Seal, Placido Domingo to name a few. Big hits on the album were “The Game of Love ” featuring Michelle Branch and “Nothing at All” featuring Musiq. I had been a big fan of Santana, so this album was a joy to work on. ‘Shaman’ debuted at No.1 and went on to achieve multiple platinum status.

I also mastered the surround release of the big album ‘Supernatural’ mixed by Elliot Mazer. Elliot is known for producing CSN&Y, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and many more, so being in the studio with Elliot was very cool indeed”.

MAROON 5 – Songs About Jane

Maroon 5’s debut album, Songs About Jane, boasted five charting singles including hits “Harder to Breathe”, “This Love” and “She Will Be Loved”. The album sold over 10 million copies worldwide, peaked at No.1 on the Australian albums’ chart and projected the band into stardom. While Maroon 5 is very much a singles act these days, Songs About Jane stands as their most complete album with cohesive storytelling that’s weaved through every track.

Words from Leon:

“This was a huge album. I remember traveling after its release and everywhere I went I heard this album playing. Great music, great band. The A&R for this album was James Diener from the then new label, Octone Records”.

MUSE – The Resistance (5.1 surround sound mix)’

Released on 15 September 2009, The Resistance topped the album charts in 19 countries and debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. It also won the Grammy award for Best Rock Album in 2011. Critics praised The Resistance for it’s genre-breaking scope and Matthew Bellamy’s stellar arrangement of classical-inspired instrumentation. The version mastered by Leon Zervos was a limited 5000 copy release, which included a DVD containing a 5.1 surround sound mix of The Resistance and a longer version of “Unnatural Selection”.

Words from Leon:

“I mastered the surround version of the album with the band. I remember what a great bunch of guys they were. The mixes were fantastic and the end result in surround was spectacular”.

MODJO – Lady (Hear Me Tonight)

If you weren’t living under a rock in the year 2000, you’ve heard mega hit “Lady (Hear Me Tonight)” by Modjo. Debuting at No.1 in the UK, the revivalist disco track became the 16th best-selling single of 2000, and a top 10 charting hit in thirteen countries. The track took French house to its highest peak; a peak that despite the current revival movement, has yet to even come close to what it was in the late 90’s/early 2000’s.

Words from Leon:

“Lady by Modjo” was a smash hit. The A&R was Mark Davenport from MCA, and the song still sounds amazing with a great melody and groove”.

*NSYNC – NSYNC

In 1996, *NSYNC were shipped off to Sweden to record their first single at Cheiron Studios with Denniz Pop and Max Martin. In 1998, their debut self-titled album (introducing us to Justin Timberlake), was released worldwide during the boy band era that was 1995 – 2005. NSYNC peaked at No.2 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, and spent a total of thirty weeks in the top 10. Fun fact: when NSYNC blew up in 1998, it was four years before American Idol hit the airwaves, five years before MySpace and iTunes launched, and seven years before any of us watched our first cat video on YouTube.

Words from Leon:

“I mastered the US and worldwide release of the ‘NSYNC’ album. I could tell it was going to be big with so many potential singles on the album. The A&R was Dave Novik from BMG-RCA. Dave had some massive hits as an A&R Manager – a highly respected man”.

LOS DEL RIO – Macarena (Bayside Boys Remix)

Voted the ‘No.1 Greatest One-Hit Wonder of All Time’ by VH1, the “Macarena” spent 14 weeks at No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, which remains one of the longest runs in history atop the Hot 100. The Spanish pop duo, Los Del Rio, had been together for three decades by the time they wrote “Macarena” in 1992. However it took four years and several different versions before a remix with English language verses became the worldwide dance phenomenon.

Words from Leon:

“What a worldwide hit this song was! It had hit written all over it and I remember it being used in the Democratic National Convention in 1996!!The A&R was Carmen Cacciatore and Dave Novik from BMG-RCA”.

POWDERFINGER – Golden Rule

Golden Rule is the seventh album by Powderfinger, produced by Nick DiDia, and released on in November 2009. It went 2 x platinum in Australia, and was No.1 on the Australian Albums chart. Golden Rule is a departure from Powderfinger’s signature sound with unusual instrumentation, dramatic angular structures, dissonant strings nestling between harder riffs and experimental harmonies. However it still maintains the band’s knack for producing classic rock songs.

Words by Leon:

“A great band and album produced by Nick DiDia. Powderfinger have so many great songs on this album”.

INXS – Welcome To Wherever You Are

Welcome To Wherever You Are established a new grunge and alternative direction for INXS, incorporating sitars, a 60-piece orchestra, and a more “raw” sound to their music. It peaked at No.1 on the UK charts; the first Australian band to do so since AC/DC’s Back in Black. Michael Hutchence and the band often commented in interviews that this was their favourite album, even more so than Kick.

Words from Leon:

“INXS were a huge act all over the world. This album was amazing. I really enjoyed working on this one and still love it. It doesn’t seem that long ago…!”

AVRIL LAVIGNE – Let Go

Avril Lavigne’s Let Go was the biggest pop debut of 2002 going 6 x platinum. The No. 21 top-selling album of the decade, it launched Lavigne’s career as a “pop punk princess”, and contributed to the rise of female fronted punk-influenced pop music.

Words from Leon:

“I mastered a single called “Complicated’ and it just blew up. Soon after I mastered the album, it went on to be huge worldwide. Great mixes by Tom Lord Alge from South Beach in Miami”.

AEROSMITH – Nine Lives

Produced by Aerosmith and Kevin Shirley, Nine Lives peaked at No.1 on the Billboard Top 200. One of its singles, “Pink”, won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance with its harmonica-spiked, bluesy feel, and ended up as the album’s biggest hit. The horn-driven lead single “Falling in Love” and power ballad “Hole in My Soul”, also charted.

Words by Leon:

“This is one of my all time favorite albums I worked on. It was done before and after the holidays in 1996, it sounds amazing. Produced and mixed by Kevin Shirley at Avatar in New York. Steven Tyler was a gentleman”.

MOBB DEEP – The Infamous

Embedded with hyper-visual lyricism, dark soundscapes, gritty narratives and hard beats, The Infamous marked Mobb Deep’s transition from a relatively unknown rap duo to a commercial success. Upon its release, it debuted at No. 15 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, and No. 3 on the US  R&B / Hip Hop albums chart. Featuring guest appearances by Nas, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, and Q-Tip, who also contributed to the production.

Words by Leon:

“This was a groundbreaking album for East Coast Rap. Rob from Mobb Deep along with Matty and Schott from Loud records were there for the mastering. It still sounds fresh today”.

THE BLACK CROWES – By Your Side

With the release of By Your Side, The Black Crowes regained commercial and critical ground, with the album reverting to the soulful rock swagger of the band’s best-selling debut, Shake Your Money Maker. Released in early 1999 on Columbia Records, By Your Side debuted at its peak position of No. 26 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.

LEON QUOTE:

“I mastered the album ‘By Your Side’ and all the catalogue albums for a new release. This band is so underrated . The perfect combination of rock and soul. The band were such a great bunch of guys and amazing musicians”.

DREAM THEATER – Falling Into Infinity

To prog metal enthusiasts, Dream Theatre need no introduction. For their fourth album the band took a far more commercial and “radio-friendly” approach to their usual offering. The fans and critics shared mixed opinions, some called it a “sell-out” and “trimmed-down”, while others hailed it as Dream Theater’s finest moment. Falling Into Infinity is the band’s first and only album to feature keyboardist Derek Sherinian, following the departure of Kevin Moore in 1994.

Words by Leon:

“I mastered many projects for Dream Theater. What an amazing bunch of musicians. Produced by Kevin Shirley. Being a drummer myself it’s great to know and have worked with Mike Portnoy – he is amazing”.

BIG PUN – Capital Punishment

Capital Punishment is the debut and sole album released by late rapper Big Pun. His lyrical prowess mixed with a newness embodied the sound of 90’s hip-hop. With critical and commercial success, Capital Punishment was the first solo Latin hip hop record to go platinum. It peaked at No.5 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, No.1 on the Top R&B Albums chart, and was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 1999 Grammy Awards.

Words by Leon:

“Big Pun was so original. Nobody was like him. So this album was one of a kind. Pun was at the mastering along with Sean C from Loud Records”.

LOU BEGA – A Little Bit of Mambo

Propelled by the success of the smash single “Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit of…)”, A Little Bit of Mambo went platinum in over ten countries. On VH1’s 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders, Lou Bega remarked, “I knew it wouldn’t swim in the middle because it was too different from all the stuff that was outside, so I’m quite happy with it. Mambo makes you happy, Latin music makes you happy; it’s sexual, it’s erotic, energetic, I think that’s the point.”

Words by Leon:

“A fun album. Lou Bega’s music is timeless”.

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