Secrets Of The Mix Engineers: Phil Tan
He may look almost unbecomingly young, but 37-year old Phil Tan is one of the most experienced and successful mixers in the American music scene. Talking from Jermaine Dupri's Southside studios in Atlanta, the Grammy award winner reveals details of his mixes of two tracks featuring Barbadian singer Rihanna, 'SOS' and 'Unfaithful', both UK No. 2 chart singles.
Malaysian-born Philip Tan graduated in 1990 from Florida's Full Sail Real World Education facility in the subject of Recording Arts. Moving to Atlanta, he embarked on a career as a recording engineer, first working at Soundscape Studios, and then at Babyface and Antonio 'LA' Reid's LaFace facility. His big break came in 1992 when he met 19-year old rapper/producer Jermaine Dupri, who'd just broken through with a huge hit for teenage rap duo Kris Kross.
Dupri invited Tan to work for him at his private facility, which was called Krosswire at the time (Southside Studios was built in 1999). "Between '93 and '98 I recorded and mixed everything Jermaine did," recalls Tan. "I was still independent, but I literally had no time to do anything, so I worked exclusively for Jermaine. I got a bit burnt out with the recording part of it, so in '98 I switched to mixing only. I still work for him and at Southside, but I do my other mixes mainly at a room I have at Soapbox Studios in Atlanta, with my own Pro Tools system and favourite Yamaha NS10 monitors."
Phil Tan's work has appeared on albums and singles that have sold in excess of a staggering 150 million in the US alone. He specialises in R&B and hip-hop, and his credits include Usher, Snoop Dogg, the Neptunes, Fergie, Ne-Yo, Nelly, Ludacris, Destiny's Child, Gwen Stefani, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson, Busta Rhymes, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Cee-Lo, Toni Braxton, Run DMC and many, many more. In November 2006, when this interview took place, 16 songs mixed by him featured in the US Billboard Hot 100 & Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, and 23 albums containing his mixes were in the Billboard 200 album chart