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Atmos: In Conversation with Mike Hillier

Atmos: In conversation is our series of interviews about all things Atmos and 360 RA. 

In this issue we sat down with Mike Hillier, mastering and Atmos engineer at Metropolis Studios, to talk about his recent work with Calvin Harris.

Tell us a bit more about your work with Calvin Harris. 

Mike Hillier: The first track I worked on for Calvin Harris was “Miracle” with Ellie Goulding, and since then I’ve mixed the Atmos versions of “Desire” with Sam Smith, “Body Moving” with Eliza Rose, and “Lovers In A Past Life” with Rag’n’Bone Man.

Why do you think Calvin’s music benefits from Atmos mastering?

Mike Hillier: Atmos is a bigger canvas to work on than stereo, allowing us to portray the music in a new way. Each new song that I’m sent presents new challenges and has to be approached on its own merits. And for Calvin Harris, those challenges involve finding a space where each song is allowed to live up to its own potential, whilst still sounding like it’s part of a consistent whole. I don’t want the listener to have to completely reset for each new song, but I also want each song to fully explore the creative decision-making it pushed me towards.

Was there anything challenging about Atmos treating these tracks? 

Mike Hillier: One of the best things about working with Calvin Harris has been how interested he was, right from the start, in doing everything he could at his end to make my job easier and more creative. When he came in for a playback of “Miracle” after I’d mixed it we spent a lot of time discussing the best ways he could make stems and because he does that I have a lot of freedom to be as creative as possible with each of the mixes.

As Calvin Harris has been in the industry for a long time, how does his sound stay relevant in your opinion? 

Mike Hillier: I think if you listen to the few songs I’ve worked on so far there’s a huge range of genres and ideas being put forward. There’s very little in common between say “Miracle” and “Body Moving”, and yet the two tracks both have a very strong sense of what they want to achieve. I think by doing this he can keep himself fresh, and while you never know what you’re going to get next, you do know that whatever it is he’s going to have brought everything he can to make it stand out.

What was the most unusual environment where you heard an Atmos track you worked on?

Mike Hillier: I don’t know if it counts as unusual, but I went to the immersive audio playback of the Slowdive album “Everything is Alive” at L-Acoustics HQ in North London. They played the album from start to finish in pitch black. It was a beautiful experience sitting there allowing the music to completely wash over us.

Listen to our latest Atmos releases here.