Sylvia Massy

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Sylvia Massy
Birth name Sylvia Lenore Massy
Born Flint, Michigan, United States
Occupation(s) Audio engineer, record producer
Instruments Singer, drummer
Years active 1985–present

Sylvia Massy is an American entrepreneur, music producer, mixer and engineer, writer and artist in the United States. Massy is perhaps best recognized for her work on 1993's Undertow, the full-length double platinum-selling debut for Los Angeles rock band Tool [1] and her works with System of a Down,[2] Johnny Cash[3] and Red Hot Chili Peppers.[4]


Massy started out in San Francisco circa 1985 as producer, engineer, and mixer for Rat Music for Rat People, Vol. 3, a compilation album released on the CD Presents label.[5] It featured several notable acts, including Adolescents, Raw Power, Doggy Style and Mojo Nixon, among others. This led to her producing the punk band Verbal Abuse for Boner Records,[6] engineering two projects for metal band Exodus[7] and co-producing the Sea Hags independent album with a young guitarist Kirk Hammett,[8] who had just finished the "Master Of Puppets" album with thrash metal group Metallica. She also produced "Television, Drug Of A Nation" by a band named the Beatnigs whose leader Michael Franti went on to re-record with his later group The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy.[9]

From Green Jellÿ to Tool[edit]

Towards the end of the 1980s, Massy moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles and took a job at Tower Records on Sunset Blvd.[10] At Tower she met the members of a Buffalo, New York band named Green Jello (later known as Green Jelly) and helped them record their debut independent album. After finally getting on staff at Larrabee Sound in West Hollywood, she was hired by Zoo Records/BMG to produce Green Jello's major label debut,[11] which featured members of a new Los Angeles group called Tool. On Green Jello's "Cereal Killer" album, the voice of Tool singer Maynard James Keenan is heard on the song " Three Little Pigs", as well as Tool drummer Danny Carey playing on the album.[12] This began a relationship Massy would have with the band Tool that would span two records: Opiate and Undertow.[10]

Los Angeles and Larrabee sound[edit]

During her time in Los Angeles, Massy was also an engineer, producer or mixer on recordings from a diverse group of internationally-known artists, including Aerosmith, Babyface, Big Daddy Kane, Bobby Brown, Prince,[13] Julio Iglesias, Seal, Skunk Anansie,[14] Paula Abdul, Ryuichi Sakamoto and many more. She worked with manager Gary Kurfirst on Irish rock band Cyclefly for Kurfirst's Radioactive Records.[15] At Larrabee Sound, Sylvia connected with producer Rick Rubin and would work with him on several projects spanning seven years.

Sound City[edit]

From 1994 until 2001, Massy's vintage Neve 8038 console and other specialized recording equipment occupied Studio B at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California. Besides Massy's own work at Sound City, several other successful projects were recorded on Massy's equipment during these years, including albums by Sheryl Crow,[16] Queens Of The Stone Age,[16] Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Smashing Pumpkins, The Black Crowes and Lenny Kravitz.[16] Massy's equipment is visible in many scenes of Dave Grohl's "Sound City Movie".

Rubin and beyond[edit]

Massy engineered and mixed several projects for veteran producer Rick Rubin, including Johnny Cash's album Unchained,[17] which won a Grammy award for Best Country Album in 1997. With Rubin, she also recorded Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Slayer, Donovan, Geto Boys, The Black Crowes, Danzig, and System of a Down's debut album.[18] In the '90s, Massy also produced many popular artists, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sevendust, and Powerman 5000, which featured guest appearances from Rob Zombie[19] and actor Malachi Throne from Star Trek fame. In 1997, Massy co-produced, engineered and mixed Foo Fighters, Björk, Patti Smith, Sonic Youth and others for the Beastie Boys' "Tibetan Freedom Concert"[20] in New York with Adam Yauch and producer Pat McCarthy. Massy produced an album in the mid-nineties for young rising star Pauley Perrette[21] who went on to play the part of Abby Sciuto in the NCIS television series.

RadioStar Studios and international acclaim[edit]

Starting in 2001, Massy owned and operated RadioStar Studios out of the Weed Palace Theater[22] until its closing in 2012. She acquired the theater property in 2001 and operated it as a recording studio for 11 years, with notable clients having been Sublime, Dishwalla, Econoline Crush, Cog, Spiderbait, Norma Jean, Built To Spill and From First To Last (featuring Sonny Moore of Skrillex[23]). Massy's production of Lisa Haley's "King Cake" album was nominated for a "Best Zydeco Album" Grammy Award in 2004.[24] Several international hits came out of RadioStar Studios with Massy, including Spiderbait's "Black Betty" which reached #1 on Australia's ARIA chart in 2004; Cog's "The New Normal" album received the Australian Triple J "J Award" in 2005; Seigmen's "Metropolis" which reached #4 on Norway's sales charts; Klepht was named "Best Portuguese Act" by MTV Europe; Econoline Crush received a Canadian Juno nomination and Platinum sales status for their "The Devil You Know" album; and Animal Alpha's EP reached Gold sales status in Norway in 2005.

Artwork, writing and music festivals[edit]

In the 2000s, she wrote a regular column in Mix Magazine called "Gear Stories" [25] which discussed vintage recording equipment vs. modern equivalents. She wrote an essay about Thomas Edison's contribution to the recording industry which helped award him a posthumous "Technical Grammy" award,[26] which the Edison family received in 2010 at the Grammy Awards. Massy's written submission about Thomas Edison was included in the official Grammy Awards Program. As a graphic artist her artwork recently appeared on the cover of Grammy nominated Lisa Haley's "King Cake" album. In 2011, Massy co-founded the 4&20 Blackbird Music Festival[27] which operated for two years in downtown Weed, California. The festival drew approximately 7000 people and featured 250 musical acts during its run.

Current status[edit]

Massy lives in Ashland, Oregon and works out of her private studio. Most recent projects in 2014 include Pink Grenade, which she engineered, mixed, produced and arranged strings. The album features performances by members of the Wu-Tang Clan and actor Johnny Depp.[28] She also mixed for Cage The Elephant and Soilwork.

In January 2015, Massy began to write a book called "Recording Unhinged" for Hal Leonard Publishing.[29] The book will be released at Winter NAMM in January 2016. Interviews and contributors for the book include Hans Zimmer, Geoff Emerick, Bob Ezrin, Bruce Swedien, Michael Franti, Bob Clearmountain, Al Schmitt, Elliot Scheiner, Linda Perry, Ross Robinson, Matt Wallace, Ross Hogarth, Shelly Yakus, Paul Wolff. Massy will also be illustrating the book.

Massy continues to work as an independent producer, educator and music promoter. She recently appeared on an episode of "Pendado's Place", an industry video program with producer/mixer Dave Pensado. Massy was nominated for "The Big Award" at the Pensado Awards in 2014. The award was presented to industry icon Al Schmitt. Massy has also been a longstanding member of music industry organization NARAS, where she has served on the P&E Wing Steering Committee[30] and Advisory Boards. In 2009, she traveled to Washington D.C. to lobby for Musician's Performance Rights and continues to be involved with musician, producer and educational advocacy work on behalf of NARAS.


Sylvia Massy has worked with the following musicians (roles abbreviated here are P, E, and M for Producer, Engineer, and Mixer, respectively):


  1. ^ Massy, Sylvia (2010-01-01). "Gear Stories With Sylvia Massy". Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  2. ^ "Sylvia Massy: From Tool to Mount Shasta... | Tape Op - the Creative Music Recording Magazine". Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  3. ^ "Recording Johnny Cash". Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  4. ^ "RHCP -One Hot Minute". Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  5. ^ "Various - Rat Music For Rat People Vol. lll (Vinyl, LP)". Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  6. ^ "Sylvia Massy Discography". Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  7. ^ "How to Be a Record Producer in the Digital Era - Megan Perry". Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  8. ^ "CD Presents - Timeline Photos". Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  9. ^ "Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy, The Discography". Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  10. ^ a b "Producing Hit Records - David John Farinella". Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  11. ^ "Dream Factory or Just a Bad Dream? - latimes". 1997-03-24. Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  12. ^ "Three Little Pigs by Green Jelly Songfacts". Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  13. ^ Massy, Sylvia (2010-02-01). "Gear Stories With Sylvia Massy—Prince and the Gemini II". Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  14. ^ "Sylvia Massy | Credits". AllMusic. 1992-05-19. Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  15. ^ "". Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  16. ^ a b c "Artist List – Sound City Studios". Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  17. ^ Massy, Sylvia (2010-01-03). "Gear Stories With Sylvia Massy: Johnny Cash and the Sta-Level". Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  18. ^ Forlenza, Jeff (2006-01-08). "Sylvia Massy Shivy's RadioStar Studios". Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  19. ^ "Tonight The Stars Revolt! Review | Powerman 5000 | Compact Discs | Reviews @". Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  20. ^ "Various - Tibetan Freedom Concert (CD)". Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  21. ^ "Woman Thing Music Dance Single Creative Brief" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  22. ^ Forlenza, Jeff (2006-01-08). "Sylvia Massy Shivy's RadioStar Studios". Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  23. ^ "30 Things You Should Know About Skrillex". Nme.Com. Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  24. ^ "Lisa Haley Official website - Cajun Zydeco Music". Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  25. ^ Massy, Sylvia (2010-06-24). "Gear Stories With Sylvia Massy: Cockroaches and SM58s". Mixonline. Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  26. ^ "Special Merit Awards: Family of Thomas Edison". Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  27. ^ "Photos: 4&20 Blackbird Festival rocks Weed - Mount Shasta Herald - Mount Shasta, CA - Mount Shasta, CA". Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  28. ^ "Pink Grenade (Dipstick Video); A Sociological Experiment in Hip-Hop Music". RebelPundit. Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  29. ^ "2015 NAMM - Hal Leonard Corporation". Facebook. 2015-01-26. Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  31. ^ [1][dead link]
  32. ^ "Brazilian Band | About South Cry – How We Began |". South Cry. Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  33. ^ [2][dead link]

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