Twenty-year recording veteran Jim Lee is a living legend in Taiwan’s music industry, with his distinctive brand of imagination and creativity indelibly stamped on a long list of hit albums.
Described as one of the industry’s few true all-rounders, Jim has earned a wealth of experience as a record producer, sound engineer, acoustic engineer and quality control manager, while amassing a collection of awards.
As if that wasn’t enough, Jim also writes and arranges songs, leads digital audio projects and edits client master tapes for real-time audiophile-quality cassette duplication. Earlier in his career, he established the Working Master Corporation to provide specialist services such as record direction, sound engineering and acoustic engineering for large-scale concerts.
He said: “I have loved music for as long I can remember. In fact, my childhood dream was to become a great guitarist, vocalist and composer – but that didn’t happen! Instead, I discovered a talent for producing and engineering music.”
Among the many stars to benefit from Jim’s magic touch are Eason Chan, A-Mei Cheung, Sandy Lam, Lee Hom, David Tao, Joey Yung and Aaron Kwok.
In fact, Jim has been a frequent winner of the Gold Music: Best Producer Award and has been showered with accolades for records released by artists such as Emil Chau (Gold Music: Best Producer), Sandy Lam (Best Producer of the Year, The Association of Music Workers in Taiwan: Top 10 Topics of the Year), Eason Chan (Hong Kong: Top 10 Topics of the Year), Karen Mok (The Association of Music Workers in Taiwan: Best Topic of the Year) and Lee Hom (Gold Music: Best producer, The Association of Music Workers in Taiwan: Top 10 Topics of the Year).
Jim has also had a hand in producing acclaimed TV commercial theme songs for household brand names including adidas and Johnny Walker.
Away from the studio, Jim has worked as sound engineer and control director at live performances that have featured Jonathan Lee and Sarah Chan, as well as Emil Chow and Chao Chuan’s Concert in Shanghai and Beijing, RTHK’s “Solar Project Annual Concert”, Anita Mui’s “Anita Classic Moment Live”, Eason Chan’s “Moving On Stage 2008 World Tour” in Taipei and A-Mei Cheung’s “Star World Tour”. Jim also served as music director at the “Soul Power Live @Hong Kong”.
He gravitated naturally to the technical side of making and recording music after shining in electrical engineering and computer science in his formative years. This grasp on technology also helps him to choose the “tools of his trade” with precision.
“The reason I choose Shure microphones is that, in my experience, they always work and sound the best, especially in live situations which are often unstable and quite unpredictable. Shure microphones are rugged, yet they reproduce sound with great clarity,” he explained.
As far as Jim is concerned, live concerts call for Shure wireless systems and the KSM9 – his favourite microphone for live vocals. He explained: “This produces the sound of a studio-quality condenser microphone, but can handle the rigours of a live concert environment.”
A turning point in Jim’s early career came when his mentor sound engineer was unable to get to the studio to perform the final mix on a crucially-important song recording.
Jim takes up the story: “He encouraged me to do the mixing on my own, which enabled me to discover a knack for shaping music to best effect. This opened up my career because I found I was able to handle all the recording, producing and mixing myself.”
He added: “Virtually all the albums I’ve worked on involved Shure microphones, notably Beyond’s ‘Sound’, Eason Chan’s ‘Special Thanks To’, Lee Hom’s ‘Revolution’ and Sandy Lam’s ‘At Least There’s You'.”
This breadth and depth of experience helps Jim to deploy equipment in a way that always delivers a winning sound. For example, he favours the supercardioid Beta 52A to mike up the bass drum in a kit, while opting for cardioid dynamic SM57s placed below and above the snare drum, along with Beta 98s for tom-toms. Jim believes miking up guitar speaker cabinets is best done with Beta 57s or SM57s.
He explained: “Talking to other experienced engineers and experimenting with sound design can really improve one’s technical skills. In addition, regular technical updates from equipment manufacturers, such as Shure, keeps me current on state-of-the-art gear and what works best in any given environment.”
And his advice for aspiring producers and sound engineers?
“Learn your craft well, select the right equipment for the job and be able to improvise when faced with adversity – but most of all, stay focused on making music.”