Sound Spotlight: Jason Reynolds
"It's not just about the gear, it's about the people - people who have similar mindsets and approaches."
Author: Kevin Young
Early into the conversation with Jason "Redz" Reynolds, it was obvious to me that this guy never sits still. A highly experienced FOH/Monitor Engineer, Production and Tour Manager, Reynolds (pre-COVID) toured with the likes of Shaggy and Stephen Marley, and currently serves as Technical Director for Toronto’s Faith Sanctuary, and is a Production Manager, Tech and Account Rep. for Niagara-based boutique AV firm, Production Show Industries (PSI). Additionally, Reynolds regularly hosts mix clinics and educational seminars for the products he stands behind and works with during his artistic process (DPA, DiGiCo and KLANG to name a few). More recently, Reynolds has been hosting many virtual seminars, including his own Learn from the Pros series.
While matching the tools he uses to his workflow and core goals is important: “It’s not just about gear, it’s about people – people who have similar mindsets and approaches,” Reynolds says. “That’s a big part of my decision making from a ‘what to do’ and ‘what to be involved in’ standpoint. I stopped pushing faders for money a long time ago. For me, it’s about being aligned with people I have a desire to do work with – like Magic!, PSI, and GerrAudio.”
That principle has guided him since he began working in audio in Jamaica as a teenager, and continues to inform his work heavily, particularly in the design/install work he handles for houses of worship. “PSI is now my home for install work, but installs are something I’ve done for a long time, and I’ve developed a reputation with churches because I mix a lot of church sound and gospel artists.
In fact, his first audio work was at his church home in Jamaica. “I started doing sound on an Allen & Heath ML4000 at the Pentecostal Tabernacle in Kingston, and learned everything I know from a gentleman by the name of Paul Pryce. He ignited in me a passion for good sound.”
In addition to working at the church, Reynolds began looking for other opportunities to ply his craft and soon began working with an event management company run by his cousin. “They produced a lot of large concerts in Jamaica and I’d go out as a back line/stage tech, just to expose myself to larger productions. We did quite a few big festivals with artists like Kirk Franklin, Donnie McClurkin, Kurt Carr and Luther Vandross to name a few.”
After relocating to Canada in 2004 at age twenty, Reynolds studied commerce at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, but ultimately returned to audio, enrolling at Metalworks Institute of Sound & Music Production in 2005, and soon after created his own label: Jason Reynolds Pro Audio and Anjel Music Productions. “Commerce just wasn’t for me,” he says. “Live sound has always been my passion and I just couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”
At Metalworks, Reynolds made the most of every opportunity. “If they asked for a volunteer, my hand went up. I wanted to learn as much as possible about all aspects of audio.”
When the program ended, he freelanced with various Toronto-based audio companies, which ultimately led to a connection with Shaggy’s PM/FOH Engineer, Dean Pond. “They’d been looking for a monitor engineer and, on a friend of mine’s recommendation, Dean called me. That’s also how I met Veer Dhaniram (FOH for Stephen Marley), who asked me to come out with Stephen.”
Reynolds’ relationships with artists and other engineers has also inspired him to co-found Audio Maniax; a collaborative group of top Caribbean engineers, including Dhaniram, and Pond, that collectively services multiple artists. “If one of us can’t make a show we’ll sub out to one another. That way the artist has the same high standard of engineer, and the confidence that everything behind the scenes is taken care of, so they can focus on performance and being an artist. That’s how we keep the train moving. I take great pride in the comfort of the artists I work for. That’s my number one motivating factor and that ties into the install world as well.”
Reynolds continues to mix and tour: as FOH for JUNO Award winners, Toronto Mass Choir and PM for Shaggy. He also remains heavily involved with Stephen Marley, and with Faith Sanctuary, where he oversees the operation of, and handles maintenance of the audio system.
Looking back over his career, all of Reynolds’ diverse experiences in audio are tied together by the relationships he’s formed with others who share his dedication and work ethic, which factors heavily into his long association with GerrAudio. “We’ve been working together since I made the jump to DiGiCo about eight years ago and the support they offer is second to none. I’ll call them – sometimes when I’m on a different continent and actually haven’t checked the time difference,” he says, laughing. “But they always answer the phone and make time for me. It’s incredible how they treat people and how easy they are to deal with.”
In recent years my workflow has been skewed heavily towards DiGiCo,” Reynolds continues, “and so using DiGiCo naturally translated to working more with GerrAudio. DiGiCo consoles are probably the most rider-friendly out there. They sound amazing and the new 32-bit preamps are second to none, but they’re also incredibly reliable.”
That’s always important, but particularly in churches, he explains: “Not a lot of artists play 110 shows a year and most churches do at least that many services annually. And every time you use the system you want to know that it’s going to work.” DiGiCo consoles are also relatively easy for less experienced engineers to get a handle on, he adds; a critical point in church sound, where many production teams driven primarily by volunteers.
GerrAudio also introduced Reynolds to other products that now play an increasingly large role in his work on tour and as a designer/installer – specifically DPA microphones and KLANG’s Immersive In Ear Mixing platform.
“In my opinion, DPA are the best microphones on the market. I’m big on the sound of my source and if I have great microphones my job is much easier.” The same can be said for KLANG. “When I started with Stephen Marley, he’d just switched to IEMs, which can be isolating if you’re used to wedges.” KLANG offered an experience that bridged the gap, he says. “So it’s just progressed from there, and now all our church clients are interested in it.”
KLANG greatly improves on the capabilities offered by existing hardware personal mixers, and church users tend to embrace KLANG’s deeper functionality, including its immersive surround options. “Which definitely makes my job easier because there’s less song-to-song mixing and I can tailor the system to any workflow.” In a house of worship production technology is just as important to communicating the message as it is in a concert setting. “It’s the same as a touring gig and requires the same approach and seriousness,” he says, adding that any gear he deploys must match his workflow, but also enhance the creativity of preachers and artists alike.
“That’s why I choose DiGiCo, DPA and KLANG products. Technology isn’t the be-all and end-all, but it’s a very important tool. Paul Pryce always used to say to me, ‘We’re the extended voice of the preacher’. At the end of the day, we’re there to support someone’s vision, so I spend a lot of time talking to my install clients about that, because we’re not just in the sound business, we’re in the people attraction business. If you can operate creatively you attract more people, and when a pastor or artist knows they don’t have to worry about the technical stuff, that allows more room for creativity, which ultimately drives everything.”