Bonzai Beat with James Saez

Mr. Bonzai

In the latest episode of the Bonzai Beat, Mr. Bonzai speaks with engineer, musician, producer, and songwriter James Saez as they talk about Saez’s path from a student at Berklee of College Music to his professional work in television and film.

Bonzai Beat with James Saez

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Saez earned his degree in music production and engineering in 1993. While still in school, he was hired to work alongside mastering engineer Joe Gastwirt at the renowned Complex Studios. Shortly after graduation, Saez joined the team at The Record Plant Hollywood, where he worked as a second engineer for the next four years. During this time, he worked on albums, including Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Stones In The Road, No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom, Bonnie Raitt’s Longing in Their Hearts, Social Distortion’s White Light, White Heat, White Trash, and System of a Down’s At Last For You, among others.

In 1996, Saez left The Record Plant to tour as the guitarist for Porno for Pyros, and upon the conclusion of the tour, he began working for Bob Clearmountain at his private mixing studio, Mix This. While there, Saez worked on many records, including Rufus Wainwright’s debut album, and with artists like Jon Brio, Semitonic, Richie Sambora, and Don Was. Two years later, Saez co-produced a record with Mike Ness of Social Distortion, which led to working with Ness as a producer, engineer, and mixer on five later records.

In 2000, Saez joined Warner Bros, where he started a 17-year stint recording, editing, and producing online and mobile content which included work alongside artists like The Black Keys, Aretha Franklin, Greenday, Gorillaz, Led Zeppelin, Linkin Park, Metallica, Muse, Tom Petty, Prince, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The White Stripes, Neil Young, and countless more.

A decade and a half later, in 2015, Saez teamed up with legendary composer Dave Porter. The duo began engineering and scoring for the TV show Better Call Saul and other shows, including The Blacklist, Documentary Now, Flesh and Bone, Hightown, Preacher, and for films like Breaking Bad: El Camino and The Disaster.

Today, Saez works as a consultant for Iconic Artists Group. His work in television continues, with new credits to be released shortly.

Mr. Bonzai is an award-winning photographer, author, and interviewer. He has written more than 1,000 articles for outlets in the United States, Europe, and Asia. He has published numerous books, including Studio Life (Mix, 1984), Hal Blaine and The Wrecking Crew (Mix, 1992), The Sound of Money (Focal, 2000), Faces of Music (Cengage, 2006), Music Smarts (Berklee Press, 2009), and John Lennon’s Tooth (BookBaby, 2012). His photos and articles have appeared in Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Billboard, Mix, EQ, Keyboard, Daily Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Los Angeles Magazine, Disney Channel Magazine, Sound & Recording, and Relix, among others.