Growing up in Venice, Italy, IRKO got his first taste of manipulating sound while constantly messing around with the EQ settings in the car and home stereo as a child, much to his father’s chagrin. This “experimentation” eventually led him to falling in love with hip-hop due to the affect its low-frequency sounds had on him.
“There was nothing in Europe that even came close to that big sub frequency, the bass—all of that energy that is really impactful on any kind of song,” he recalls. “And so that was the connection [for me] between audio and hip-hop.”
IRKO’s love of hip-hop has taken him far. He’s worked with some of the biggest names in the genre, including Kanye West, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Jennifer Lopez, 21 Savage, Diddy, Pitbull, Rick Ross, Common, and David Guetta. And he scored a GRAMMY nomination for his work on Kanye West’s record-shattering album Donda. His success as an audio engineer can be attributed to understanding that delicate balance of achieving the artist’s and producer’s vision while infusing his own signature sound to the mix—a process he relies on in Pro Tools.
“I’m a super bass guy, so that’s pretty evident in all my mixes,” he says about his sound. “If you play any of my mixes, they usually have substantially more low end than anything else.”
His stereo positioning is another signature move. “I’m big on placing things in different spots in the spectrum… [like if] the producer is setting the hi-hat in this area, I will move it around. I will try to enhance it if possible—of course, still being respectful to the vision of the whole song… It’s nice to work with bigger artists, but at the end of the day I’m called in to perfect the sound and make it as best as possible—and that’s really it.”
“I’ve been using Pro Tools every day of my life for the past 20+ years,” he concludes. “When I hear music, I see Pro Tools. It’s an extension of my hands and my thoughts.”
Hear more from IRKO about what it takes to be an audio engineer and what it’s like working with Kanye in our That Sounds Great podcast…