Kevin “Brandino” Brandon
Kevin “Brandino” Brandon was blessed with an incredibly musical upbringing, beginning as a self-taught pianist at the age of four. He moved on to the saxophone at seven and received his first electric bass for his ninth Christmas. Although he’s a four-string lifer, Brandon’s formal training included some time as a flautist in his high school days, a venture decorated with a Jazz Soloist Award at the Orange Coast College Jazz Band Competition.
Brandon’s musical success earned him a full scholarship to the University of Southern California but he passed on it in order to attend Long Beach City College and California State University—Long Beach. He graduated from the latter with a degree in music—as if you expected any different!
All that training paid off in spades. Now a veteran session bassist, Brandon is a first-call sort of guy. One may wonder how he finds the time to fit so many A-list clients—Robby Kreiger, Outkast, Justin Timberlake, Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, and Jamie Foxx—into his schedule. After all, a bassist can’t be in two places at once. But with seven Grammy Awards and three Emmy Awards, the proof is in the platinum.
Aside from being a session bassist, Brandon is also a composer for film and television, scoring original music for such shows as Santa Barbara, Pit Boss, The Squeeze, Ancient Aliens, and most recently, Lockup.
In his spare time, Brandon writes instructional books and runs a humanitarian organization to benefit inner-city youth, dubbed You Can Do it if You Try.
So how does he do it all? Speed and versatility. The man’s hands are a blur on the bass but that’s not the only relationship he has with quickness. An early adopter of PreSonus® Studio One® Professional, whether he’s working on a session for another hit record or a TV show, he’s all about being able to get results yesterday.
“TV is a different beast than record production,” Brandon explains. “Usually with this TV stuff, they wanted their music a week ago. They call me on Tuesday needing music for Thursday. Well, why didn’t you call me a week ago? I need a DAW that works fast, and the bottom line is, as long as the client is happy with the mix, I’m happy with the mix.”
Brandon makes extensive use of third-party VST instruments in Studio One. “It’s gotten to the point where, in my studio, I have racks and racks of equipment I’ve accumulated over several years. I get so many last-minute calls for TV, and it’s more time-consuming to have a rack of gear to deal with. Also, most people don’t even know how to repair rack-mount equipment anymore, and with hardware, you have MIDI latency. It’s gotten to the point where it’s more efficient to use VSTs. I can’t use something just because it comes with the program; I need to use whatever sounds satisfy the client, and Studio One lets me use them all.
“I create my own song templates,” notes Brandon, elaborating on his workflow. “Every show is different, and sometimes even the seasons are different. Let’s say I’m doing music for Lockup. A lot of times I’m doing atmospheric cues for that show, but Ancient Aliens requires something more sample-based. I do a wide variety of shows, so I set up templates from scratch on a per-project basis. Usually I open up last season’s template and see if it will suffice for the following year and start with that. But on Pitbulls and Parolees, for example, on the latest season I had to use more dobro and banjo, more than I had done before, because the show’s production had moved down to Louisiana.”
Brandon has a great tale to tell about his introduction to Studio One. “When Teddy Riley did the Michael Jackson record Michael about two years ago, I played bass on that album. We were at the Record Plant, and we were all looking at what Teddy was using. It wasn’t Cubase, it wasn’t Logic, and it wasn’t Pro Tools. Obviously, it was an early version of Studio One. We had a whole string orchestra in there, and everyone was asking me what they were using. I had no idea. Eventually I found out! Studio One hadn’t hit commercially at that time. It was a great record, and Teddy did some great production.
“But when I learned Studio One was cross-platform,” Brandon continues, “That’s when I went for it. That caught my eye because I use both Mac and PC. All I have to do is put my Studio One project files on my Dropbox, and I can open them on a PC or Mac and continue working. When I first got Studio One, I was producing work in three or four days. Once I got my MIDI controller hooked up and VSTs running, it was on! The MIDI timing was superior to Logic and Pro Tools, and from the time I loaded the program and got started, it wasn’t a big fiasco.”
A DAW aficionado who has tried them all, Brandon speaks from experience when describing Studio One. “The thing my engineer and I have talked about is the way the code is written for Studio One. Sonically it is just better. We love the way the included instruments and effects sound. We run with many of the presets out-of-the-box. I wanted to use a Waves plug-in on the Master fader once, and he stopped me, saying ‘it sounds good the way it is!’ The included presets are so good that there’s often nothing that needs to be tweaked. I can just sit down and start working, spit it out, render the file, and send it off. I don’t have to do any more tweaking.”
Again, it all comes down to efficiency. “The bouncing is faster, too,” Brandon insists. “It’s like seven to eight times faster than real-time when bouncing or rendering. That saves time. I can send a song out, and if the client needs fixes, it’s no problem for me to make the fixes and send it out again.”