INSTEAD of sitting in front of a television or a mountain of books, electrical engineering senior Joey Oaxaca spends his Sunday nights in front of a soundboard, mixing audio for a live band on KVRX Local Live.
Interview by Emily Gibson
Photos by Sarah Montgomery
DID YOU ALWAYS WANT TO STUDY ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING?
Yeah, I guess. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, and my dad was an electrical engineer, so I went with it. It seemed interesting. I kind of wish I hadn’t done it. I wish I had done physics instead and then gone into engineering afterwards. You get to do a lot of cool stuff in engineering, but you don’t get to appreciate it as well as if you were studying physics.
DID YOU GROW UP MUSICAL?
No. I took piano in middle school for like five years. I was good at piano, but then I quit. I guess I thought it was lame or uncool because I was a shithead middle school kid. So I quit, and then I forgot everything. I was kind of musical in high school I guess – I started playing guitar in high school, and that’s really when I started getting into music. But I didn’t grow up with musical parents or anything.
DO YOU STILL PLAY GUITAR?
WHY HAVEN’T YOU MADE A BAND?
I just don’t have time. I wish I did. I have so many friends in bands so it feels like I should, but I haven’t had the time or the opportunity, really.
TELL ME ABOUT HOW YOU GOT INVOLVED WITH KVRX AND LOCAL LIVE.
Oh, wow, that’s far back. Okay, I was a freshman at UT. I made a bunch of friends at orientation and we were all enthusiastic freshmen. I think KVRX was tabling by Gregory Gym, and then we went to a show downtown at the Parish — it was their back-to-school showcase that they throw every year. That was the first time I started getting involved. It was a really cool show. A lot of bands I work with now were playing that show.
I lived in Dallas, and there’s not much music there, at least not really good live music. So when I first saw good live music, it blew me away. I got so excited about it and I really wanted to get into the music scene in Austin.
YOU’VE HAD A FEW JOBS AROUND TOWN, TELL ME ABOUT THEM.
First, I’m a full time student, and that’s a job in itself at UT. I’m the production manager at KVRX, which means I run Local Live. So I oversee all of that. So that’s one of them.
I used to work at a tech company up north, and I still kind of do, but not really. I just don’t have time to go up there and work. It’s called Avenson Audio, and it’s up in Pflugerville. That was actually founded by a former KVRX guy, who went here back in the 2000s. He was studying EE too, and now he has a tech company that makes pro audio equipment.
I actually met him through my other job at a studio on the East Side called Cacophony Records, which was founded and is owned by the guy who ran Local Live from like 1998-2002. I met him through Local Live, from a band we recorded here once who was really impressed with the sound stuff and introduced me to him. I started interning over there at first, and then he kind of made me his assistant and started paying me for stuff. I still do that. So it’s been a chain of KVRX.
SO IT’S LIKE A FAMILY.
I’ve gotten all of these jobs because of KVRX. We all take care of each other. It’s really good to know alumni because they have businesses and stuff established. And since you’re KVRX, they know what it’s like, because they were like that when they were a kid. They know that all you want is the opportunity to do something, and they give it to you.
TELL ME A BIT ABOUT WHAT YOU DO.
For Local Live, I do all the recording. And then for bands, I record music for them. It’s always a weird process of recording, because it’s never a straightforward process of, ‘Hey I want to record you,’ or ‘Hey I want you to record us.’ It’s more like I’ve met people, and then we’ve gotten into the conversation about how I work at a recording studio and their band is cool, so we should work together. And then it happens.
So I guess what I do mostly is record EPs and albums for bands, get their music out there and try to help them express their music the best way they can. So that’s it in very simple terms.
HAS WORKING WITH AUDIO CHANGED THE WAY YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC?
Oh, for sure. I don’t think I can ever listen to music the same way as I did before I started recording. You just hear so many different things. You’re listening for so many different things. You’re actively listening when you’re recording. I feel like being a recording engineer for so long, I’ve trained my ears to hear these things, these little subtleties in the music. So whenever I listen to music recreationally, I can’t not listen that way. I listen to music in such an active way.
WHAT’S THE MOST EXCITING THING YOU’VE EVER WORKED ON?
In general, I helped record a band at Cacophony called Holywave. It was awesome. They’re incredible. They’ve been one of my favorite bands for a while, so
working with them there was awesome. I also got to work with Adrian Quesada, who is a Grammy-winning producer. There were a lot of cool session musicians who came in and played there, so that was a cool experience.
I got to work on the new Golden Dawn Arkestra record that’s coming out sometime next year. That one is cool because they gave me credit as a sound engineer, so my name is on it now. I’ve never had that before, and it’s on a big album that’s actually well known — so it’s exciting.
My own stuff? Man. The Summer Salt album, because we didn’t touch a computer the whole time. We did the whole thing to tape, which was a big thing for me because I’ve never gotten an opportunity to do it all analog before. Music now is all digital, so doing it the way they would have done it in the ‘40s or ‘50s when they didn’t have computers was really cool.
DOES IT SOUND BETTER, OR DIFFERENT?
Different, for sure. I think better, but I don’t know. It’s all preference.
WOULD YOU SAY YOU’RE A TRADITIONALIST?
I’m a mix of a traditionalist and an extreme experimentalist, I guess. That’s kind of weird. It’s a weird mix because they’re extreme opposites, but I’ve taken a lot from both sides.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE YOUR IDEAL POST-COLLEGE LIFE TO LOOK LIKE?
I graduate in May. I don’t know what the fuck I’m going to do afterwards. I’m trying to stay in Austin for a little bit. Who knows? I’m just going to start looking for jobs and see where that takes me. If I can find a job in Austin, that’d be tight.