Industry Feature Friday: Hamilton Cholowski (Recording & Mixing Engineer, FOH Mixer, Tour Manager)
Welcome to Industry Feature Friday, putting the spotlight on the people behind the music! From producers, radio DJ's and radio trackers, to photographers, managers and everything in between. These are the music business professionals who work hard to help put your favourite artists (emerging, independent and hit makers) on the charts, DSP's, radio and on the map through their work behind the scenes!
I cannot remember how or where I first met Hamilton, but I am VERY happy I did. He's the bomb dot com!!! I have ran into him at a few events over the last few years and always had great conversations with him - thus, the reason I NEEDED him to be on IFF!
Thank you for joining me this week, Hamilton!!
Based out of Edmonton, AB.,Hamilton "Hammer" Cholowski is:
"...a Canadian Recording Engineer, Mixing Engineer, Front Of House Mixer and Tour Manager. Whether it's in the studio or on the road, Hamilton is in his element behind any console. He started his musical career in Vancouver BC and is now living/working out of Edmonton AB. Hamilton has worked with broad variety of artists including Country artists Wes Mack, Kadooh, JoJo Mason, Andrew Hyatt, Hailey Benedict, The Chris Buck Band and The Tanner Olsen Band as well as various rock and pop artists like Hotel Mira, The Zolas, El Niven and The Alibi, Clayton Bellamy, Ryan Stead, Royal Oak, We Hunt Buffalo and The Faceplants." - hamiltonaudiomix.com
As you can see, he is very versatile and is open to working with any music genre and excels in a constantly changing work environment! Who wouldn't want to work with that?! He's incredibly creative and a very significant asset in the Canadian music scene!
Hamilton continues to build and maintain positive relationships with artists and bands he works with. He is also well respected by promoters, record executives and labels!
What makes Hamilton the industry superstar he is, is that he is continually learning (and loves to learn!) about new audio technology, he educates himself and keeps up to date on the ever changing music business, and is truly all about the music!
For the artists, whether Hamilton is your recording/mixing engineer or FOH Mixer or Tour Manager, he is going to yield GREAT work. He'll exceed your expectations so you can focus on your music and your performance!
He is someone you NEED to know!
Get to know more about Hamilton Cholowski here:
Sarah Scott (SS): Hamilton, this is the first time I've had you on a Studio B platform and I'm over the
moon about it! I have three questions mixed into one! With that said, tell me more
about how you got involved in the industry and about yourself! You do a lot - you're a
tour manager, front of house audio engineer, producer, mixer. All super impressive and
important. How did you know and when did you know this is what you wanted to do
and be? Who have you worked with?
Hamilton Cholowski (HC): Hey Sarah, thanks for inviting me to be part of your Industry Feature Friday! Usually, I’m just in the room while the artist or band is getting the questions before or after the show, so different experience for myself.
I consider myself an Audio Engineer at heart, but that has lead me to two paths when it comes
to working in the music industry - Studio and Live Shows. I am a studio engineer, mixer and
producer when I’m in a studio setting. When I’m working in a live setting, I’m a Front Of House
Mixer, Monitor Engineer or Tour Manager. My role changes from day to day or even hour to
That’s half the fun of working in music.
I went to school with some incredible musicians, but it made me realize I may not be the
drummer or guitarist shredding the stage but I can be the guy recording, mixing or producing
the music for them. I love the behind the scenes and technical aspects and have always been a gear nerd. I still have the tape echo that my dad would let us sing thru as little kids and mess with the knobs to change the reverb and echo. As for live shows, it all started from helping haul gear,
tech and mix for friend’s bands back in high school. I would take any opportunity whether live
or in a studio to work or just be around music.
Over the years I have been able to work with some incredibly talented artists and musicians like
Wes Mack, JoJo Mason, Andrew Hyatt, Kadooh, El Niven and The Alibi, The Chris Buck Band and The Tanner Olsen Band. Most recently, I just came back from United States club tour with Hotel
Mira And The Zolas.
SS: Tour managers (TM) are meticulously organized and budget-conscious and someone who directs all logistical trip-related procedures. You craft itineraries and book applicable services, oversee visa applications, and also liaise with other members of the bands/artists team to ensure a smooth tour (or as smooth as a live tour can be!). You recently went on a really cool tour with Hotel Mira and The Zolas (as a tour manager and front of house mixer), which looked so fun! Tell us about this experience.
HC: The "tour manager" description is correct, but more for stadium and arena shows. The TM just does all the organizing and paperwork. The role changes and is quite different with smaller venues and artists. The label or advancer takes care of a lot of those things. The TM for smaller tours is more day to day and is the "tour dad." Basically responsible to get the band or artists to and from everywhere from shows, interviews or meals from city to city and show to show, but you are in contact constantly with label, PR manager and booking agent.
The USA tour with Hotel Mira and The Zolas, I was responsible for everything from last minute hotel changes, making sure all the gear is loaded in and out of venues and hotels safely, following, writing up and adjusting the day sheets and itinerary's. Venues can change load in times or add or remove opening acts. This tour, we didn't bring a front of house console with us, so I was also making sure the equipment at each venue does work for what we need. It also meant studying up on each console brand and its quirks, as it was most often a different mix console every show. Dealing with merch and the venues house merch person. Doing the settlements after the show with the venue management. organizing in person or phone/zoom calls for band interviews, making time for the artist to be able to do in person interviews when requested, guest lists for each show making sure PR and photographers have the passes they need and guests of the band can get in with no hassle.
Sometimes it even means saving the singer from a clingy fan at the meet and greet after the show. Everything and anything that needs to get done to make the tour go smoothly.
SS: Tours aren't always going to go smoothly - it's life. So, give me an example of when you thought outside of the box on a tour. Was it successful? How did you keep the show on the road, so to speak?
Half of touring is just troubleshooting. It can be gear or instruments failing, miscommunications between the venue and booking agents, travel delays or even musicians dealing with personal issues back home. You have to be calm, cool, collected and most importantly stay positive! Lead by example. The stage could be on fire or the console under three feet of water, smile, laugh and work thru it. The best case nobody knows there was ever a problem to begin with because you didn’t panic and calmly made it work.
We had a show on this last tour where the house engineer factory reset his console by accident right after we left our soundcheck. There was no time to re-check! So, during the changeover with the opening act it was just a sprint to get the bands monitor mixes as close to before as possible. I told the band not to worry - I had made notes from previous shows on what they need in their monitors! Once that’s set, it's just mixing on the fly. The combination of my notes, staying calm and being positive helped keep the band in the right mindset when they hit the stage and the show went great!
Another thing, the singer of Hotel Mira asked for a straight stand with a round base, but we rented most our backline in the States so we wouldn't have to fly back with a ton. So we bought the mic stand and said at the last show and we would just give it to a fan. I ran out and bought some spray paint that matched the latest single artwork and got Charlie to spray it up in the parking lot and he taped "HM" for Hotel Mira. One lucky fan took it home in New York.
SS: What are some of the most important skills for a FOH audio mixer/engineer/live sound mixer
to have? What kind of background or skills do you need?
From small coffee shops to big festivals, if you have a good understanding of audio signal flow you can make any mixer or console work for you. You also need to be a good “hang”. You're traveling with the same people in small quarters in a high stress and long hours situation. Nobody wants to be stuck in a van or hotel room with someone negative, grumpy all the time or with someone you can't have a conversation with. You're working with people who have the same passion for music as yourself, it can't be that bad.
SS: Artists/bands want to make sure their audio quality stands out from other performances in
the area. How would you/do you go about doing that?
If any artist or band playing any size venue wants improve the music coming thru the PA, they
NEED to be able to hear themselves. This doesn’t mean just turning up the volume, in fact it can
mean turning the mix down overall in your ears or monitor wedge so you can hear yourself sing
or play. If an artist can hear themselves they will play or sing much better... even if they are a
10/10 on most stages, it will just bring it to an 11.
Also, if (as a band) you're able to bring a FOH Mixer with you, it will change your show massively
and bring consistency to your sound. You want every show to sound as amazing or even better than the night before. Having a FOH Mixer who knows you, the sound you’re going for and knows your songs, it will let you just focus on your performance and not worry how it sounds out front.
You know it's taken care of.
SS: Bonus question! How can an artist communicate with you (while they are on stage and you're
mixing away) if something isn't sounding so great or an instrument needs to be turned up...etc?
We hear the artists sometimes say, "Hey, can you turn up the vocals/guitar/bass...?"
For Festivals and bigger shows you will have a dedicated monitor engineer side stage with his or
her own console so it's much easier to either sneak over or signal them. For shows where
monitors are mixed at Front Of House, each musician has their own way of signaling. Usually
while still playing, if they are really good (the artists/bands), the crowd can't even tell! The audience just thinks the band or artists are rocking out. If a band is running In Ear Monitors I can use a mic to talk directly to them individually or as a group in between songs or during without the crowd hearing. Hotel Mira called it the “compliment mic.”
Ps: remember to mute it or the band will hear your singing along from the console!
Learn more about and contact Hamilton here: https://hamiltonaudiomix.com/