Why Is the Recording Engineer Gender Gap Still So Wide: Sylvia Massy (Tool, System of a Down) on Pensado’s Place

A general rule of thumb at Gear Gods is we that like to avoid creating pointless divisions where they don’t belong, like focusing on someone’s gender instead of their skill as a musician. It’s 2014, and I like to believe that most of us realize that our genitals and our playing ability have no correlation. However, it’s hard to ignore that for whatever reason there’s a sad lack of diversity in the field of recording engineers in our metal community. While there are certainly a few, the only big name that quickly comes to mind is Sylvia Massy, and even most of her work is outside of the scene for the most part. She does have two pretty major notches on her belt though: Tool’s Undertow (which she produced and engineered) and System of a Down’s self-titled album (which she engineered but Rick Rubin handled production on).

I’ve asked quite a few producer associates why they think the field has become such a boys-only club and have never heard a great response besides the acknowledgement that these things tend to self-perpetuate. Hopefully some hot shit album with mind-blowing production will come along, with a woman’s name in the credits under “recorded by,” and it will alter this perception. But in the meantime I was reminded of how mindblowing Undertow was 20 years ago while watching Massy’s appearance on Pensado’s Place, which I’ve included below.

Written by

Chris Alfano has written about music and toured in bands since print magazines and mp3.com were popular. Once in high-school he hacked a friend's QBasic stick figure fighting game to add a chiptune metal soundtrack. Random attractive people still give him high-fives about that.