An Interview with an Italian who engineers hits

When you listen to Jennifer Lopez, Kid Kudi, Jay-Z and Common you probably don’t think there’s an Italian influence in the songs.  That’s why it’s so exciting to learn that behind some of the biggest hits there’s the fascinating work of an Italian musical mind.  His name is Maurizio Sera, but in his work as a audio engineer he goes by IRKO.  Working in a recording studio he makes sure that by the time you hear the music of your favorite artists it sounds perfect.

Irko at work

Common and Irko at work

Tell us about the name IRKO. Does it have a particular significance?
Back in my graffiti days (it was the summer of 1562 LOL) I needed a good looking name, so I did some research for cool yet real names. I found IRKO. I liked the fact that if you flip the R it kinda looks like a mirrored K.
Most children don’t know what an audio engineer is, so what did you want to be when you were little? 
When I was a kid I was very intrigued by wheeled stuff.. bikes, cars, skateboards, whatever … but I had no idea what I wanted to do.
Irko screen shot

Irko going through the steps of engineering a song


How did you decide audio engineering was what you wanted to do? 
I was producing music for different artists and when I would take them to the studio to record and mix I was never content with the outcome of the product as it pertained to the audio. All this happened in little home studios in Italy so it was probably like I was trying to squeeze juice from a rock.  It got to the point where I was literally telling the ‘engineer’ what knob to twist and stuff.  When I found myself in this weird position of telling the guy what to do while paying him I stopped and said “Wait a minute! Something’s terribly wrong here!” So I went to audio engineering school, interned for my teacher, opened my first studio and on and on…
What kind of a relationship do you have with the amazing artists you work with?
Sometimes it’s very personal, sometimes it’s not; it really depends. Most of the times I’m hired by the producers or the managers or the label people, but it does happen that I get to discuss everything with the artist. It’s all about trust. They’re handing me their ‘babies’ you know? The more comfortable the situation is the better it is.

Irko at work

Irko in the studio with Common

You travel a lot for your work.  Is there anything you always bring with you that you think is particularly Italian?
My leather shoes made in my hometown Conegliano! And my leather briefcase. Oh and my glasses and shades.
Do you love all music or do you have a favorite type?
I definitely started as an hardcore Hip-Hop head. Nowadays you can find all kinds of Music in my iPod. And I mean from Beethoven to Madonna, from LMFAO to Groundation, from Foster the People to Rick Ross …
What is on your playlist right now?
I don’t really do playlists, I still love albums. One of my favourite album layouts is 4 songs for side A, 4 songs for side B, a total of 40 minutes of music. That’s my idea of a ‘playlist’ for an album.
Lately I’ve been playing:
Passion Pit’s latest album ‘Gossamer’ for my alternative taste,
Nas – ‘Life is good’ for when I feel like Hip-Hop,
Kimbra – ‘Vows’ for my pop moments,
Rye Rye – ‘Go! Pop! Bang!’ for my gym workouts,
Feist – ‘Metals’ at home
Also Common, Skrillex, Chris Webby, Gotye, Justin Bieber, And many many more…
Irko in studio

Irko in studio