How Ross Hogarth Uses Dangerous Music Converters to Produce a Vast Spectrum of Award-Winning Music.
By Brooke Bilyj
Over the last four decades, Grammy-award-winning producer/engineer/mixer Ross Hogarth has worked with a wide spectrum of recording artists hailing from vast musical styles. Never one to be pigeonholed into any genre, Hogarth’s studio work at Hoax Productions is committed to versatility.
“I’m mixing all sorts of music all the time,” says Hogarth – who has worked with artists including Van Halen, Roger Waters, Motley Crue, The Black Crowes, John Mellencamp and Jewel, and has scored multiple Grammys for his work with Keb’Mo’, Ziggy Marley and Taj’Mo’. “I need versatility. I need convenience. I need headroom for the many different styles of music that I mix.”
Hogarth realized that the digital audio converters he’d been using for his mix bus didn’t provide the headroom he craved, and often collapsed when he pushed the levels too hard. So earlier this year, he decided to audition the CONVERT-2 and CONVERT-AD+ from Dangerous Music.
“I’m not someone who takes very long to make decisions,” he says. “That day when the converters showed up, I swapped them into my rig, printed a pass, and it was instantaneous. I was like, okay, these are awesome, I’ve got to own them. I pulled out the old ones, put in the Dangerous ones, and they’ve been there ever since. It literally took more time plugging and unplugging than it did to make a decision.”
That day, last spring, Hogarth was in the middle of mixing a jazz-inspired cover of “Strawberry Fields Forever” for David Garfield’s record with Alex Ligertwood. The minute he plugged in the converters, he instantly heard the difference in his mix. The sound was “wider, more open, with more headroom – just all better,” Hogarth says. “All of a sudden, it’s way more musical.”
The Dangerous Difference
The converters weren’t Hogarth’s first experience with Dangerous Music; he’d already been using the BAX EQ for several years to sweeten his sound.
“I really love the BAX EQ,” he says. “I’m using it in one of the simplest forms, where it knocks down the lowest low at 12 Hz and cleans up the highs at 70 kHz, to clean up my mix before it gets any compression.”
Switching to Dangerous converters was “a big deal” that has made an enormous difference on his mix bus. After adding them to his chain, he went back and started reprinting previous mixes that weren’t released yet because, “it just sounded better.”
Hogarth recently finished mixing and mastering his first full-length record with the Dangerous converters: a 50-year anniversary record for Richie Furay of Poco, to commemorate Poco’s live album, “Deliverin’,” that was released in 1971.
The more he played around with the Dangerous converters’ capabilities, the more sonic possibilities Hogarth unlocked. By switching on the transformers and kicking in the Emphasis Circuit to add new levels of EQ/compression control, he noticed the music improve even more.
“The magical knob is that XFormer/Emphasis knob,” he says. “The minute you pop that in, it just expands, adds air, opens it all up another degree. It just seems to bring out more music.”
The best part, in Hogarth’s opinion, is how these tools expand the sound without adding unwanted color – giving him the transparency he needs for analog mixing.
“There are converters that are very colored, and you can’t uncolor them, so you’re stuck to that color on every single record,” he says. “The nice thing about popping in the XFormer Insert and the Emphasis Circuit is that even though they add coloring, you can turn them off – but even when you put them in, I find it’s a good additive to my mix bus. It tends to always make things better, so they live on my mix bus 24/7.”
“I like the fact that I can hit these converters really hard if I want to, and they don’t collapse,” he says. “They hold up. You can tell it’s a quality product because the knobs, the build, the metering – it’s all really well put together. Dangerous always makes a solid product.”
Johnny Winter Tribute
The next project on Hogarth’s docket will demand the versatility that he’s come to expect from Dangerous Music’s converters, as he prepares to honor the influence of blues icon, Johnny Winter, with a tribute album featuring an all-star lineup of recording artists.
Edgar Winter asked Hogarth to engineer, co-produce and mix a tribute album he’s making to revere his older brother, Johnny, who passed away in 2014 at age 70. Hogarth had just lost one of his brothers in 2017, so the project became a meaningful catharsis for both of them.
“What a great way for us to both honor our brothers, because we were massive fans of Johnny and Edgar in my family,” Hogarth says. “Edgar wouldn’t have been in the business, had it not been for Johnny inspiring him. He finally became inspired to honor Johnny with this record, bringing together all sorts of special guests who loved him and his music.”
Known for his fast-fingered fluidity, high-octane intensity, and fleecy white hair, Johnny Winter drew the attention of Rolling Stone magazine in 1968. The next year, he landed a record-setting $600,000 deal with Columbia Records, and then ended up on stage at Woodstock. He went on to pack arenas throughout the 70s and produce several Grammy-winning albums for Muddy Waters before becoming the first white musician to join the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1988.“Johnny was known for his intense energy and spirit,” Hogarth says. “He came flying onto the scene as this albino in the late 60s, early 70s, playing Chuck Berry and the Stones. He brought his Texas heritage to rock and roll as a blues guitar player.”
Edgar, a star in his own right with songs like “Frankenstein” and “Free Ride,” started pulling in special guests last winter to record their takes on songs that helped establish Johnny’s career. The tracks include “Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo,” and “Still Alive & Well,” both of which Rick Derringer wrote for Johnny in the 70s, along with some of Johnny’s favorite songs to cover, like Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited,” the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” and Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.”
The guest list reads like a who’s who of great guitarists, including Billy Gibbons, Joe Bonamassa, Warren Haynes, Bobby Rush, Buddy Guy, Waddy Wachtel, Joe Walsh, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Derek Trucks, Doyle Bramhall, Jr., and Steve Lukather. Ringo Starr is joining the lineup to play drums on a song, too.
“The goal is to honor Johnny – not just do cover versions or karaoke,” Hogarth says. “Each artist brings their own style, and then Edgar, with me overseeing, will maintain the integrity and cohesiveness, so it doesn’t just sound like a mish-mosh.”
There’s no release date set for the album yet, but one thing’s for sure: Hogarth’s mixing bus will be equipped to master a wide, open range of sound to pay homage to Johnny’s iconic versatility.