Growing up in Fall River, Massachusetts, David Reitzas started his musical life as a drummer with big rock and roll ambitions, and by his mid-teens he was getting calls from local bands in his home state and Rhode Island to help them out in local studios. The studio environment fascinated him and he took an engineering class at Bristol Community College before studying music for a year at the University of Rhode Island and ear training, harmony and percussion at Boston’s famed Berklee School of Music. Reitzas’ main goal in moving to Los Angeles was to learn more about engineering so he could come back to work in studios back East, but he loved everything about his adventures in Hollywood and decided to stay.
Still aspiring to be a rock drummer, he attended the Institute of Audio Video Engineering. When he wasn’t spending his nights experimenting, composing and playing music in the schools labs, he was hanging around his apartment building filled with other students from the nearby Musicians Institute; his next-door neighbor and good friend was none other than future star singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley. Armed with his formal education, Reitzas decided to pursue the more practical path of becoming an audio engineer. His first job out of school was as a runner at Cherokee Studios, which led to a similar position at Sound City in Van Nuys hired by Paula Salvatore who currently runs Capitol Studios Recording Rooms.
One day while visiting Sound City as part of his second job as a messenger, he happened to answer the phone when someone from Rumbo Studios called looking for someone to cover a session for an assistant engineer. Caught up in the serendipitous moment, he offered himself for the job, and took on smaller projects at Rumbo before receiving his breakthrough opportunity to work on Appetite For Destruction. Guns N’ Roses producer Mike Clink was also at the time producing an album for the sister of multiple Grammy winning mega-producer David Foster; Foster had told Clink that he was looking for a new, young and hungry engineer ready to learn. Clink, impressed with Reitzas’ budding talent and ambition, recommended the young engineer.
The first day Dave went to meet Foster, who was in between his peaks with Chicago in the mid-80’s and his early 90’s success with Whitney, Natalie and Celine, he gave Reitzas the key to his Chartmaker Studios in Malibu and asked him to work with an artist that he had promised studio time to because David had to leave right away on a personal trip. “Wow, here I am, the first day meeting David Foster and he already has enough faith in me after only meeting with him for a half hour that he’s just giving me the studio to start working!!” Soon, Reitzas advanced to working on Foster’s 1990 solo album, River of Love, doing mixing, drum overdubs and synth programming in addition to engineering. This led to an incredibly fruitful eight year working relationship, during which time Reitzas also had a chance to learn from two engineering legends that were also longtime Foster associates, Humberto Gatica and Al Schmitt. “During this time,” says Reitzas, “I really learned how to listen and how to make important decisions in the recording process. Since this was the beginning of the digital age, I had the benefits of capturing the quality of classic analog style recording and also became one of the first engineers to embrace the beginnings of the new digital age. David was always on the cutting edge of technology and I gained greatly from his desire to use the best tools to make music. David always told me, ‘your name is going on this record, so it has to be your best.’ He has a great work ethic and is a very musical, can-do kind of person and I love him so much for letting me learn so much from him.”
The next phase of Reitzas’ career kicked in with Madonna, who was working with Foster on the two new tracks (“You’ll See” and “One More Chance”) from her Something To Remember collection. Madonna also asked if Dave would want to do a remix of “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore.” He jumped on that chance and she was so thrilled with his work, she flew Reitzas to London to record and mix her Evita soundtrack and later made sure he was at the controls for her groundbreaking release, Ray of Light.
Foster also introduced Reitzas to fellow mega producer Walter Afanasieff, who frequently hired Reitzas for his own superstar sessions with the likes of Celine Dion, Michael Bolton, Kenny G and many others. During this prolific period, Reitzas still found the time to, at last, fulfill his rock drumming ambitions—forming his own band, Midas Well, cutting demos at L.A.’s famed Record Plant and doing club gigs in New York at CBGB and L.A.’s The Viper Room. While in his band he also hooked up with L.A. based rock singer Beth Hart, who sang with Reitzas’ band and eventually scored a solo deal at Atlantic after Reitzas set up a meeting with Beth, David Foster and Jason Flom of Atlantic Records. Reitzas produced and co-wrote tracks on her first album Immortal, and mixed her second solo album Screamin’ For My Supper.
After several more years of freelancing in the late 90’s and beginning of the 2000’s, Reitzas hooked up again with Foster for numerous recordings, including the soundtrack to Moulin Rouge and Barbra Streisand’s Duets. Reitzas was later on board when Foster experienced a chart renaissance working with some of the current decade’s most acclaimed male vocalists, Michael Bublé, Josh Groban and Andrea Bocelli. While continuing his work as a first call studio engineer, Reitzas’ Emmy winning success with Barbra Streisand’s Timeless: The Millennium Concert has led to numerous opportunities to do live concert engineering and mixing. His most recent live performance work was for Hit Man: David Foster & Friends, a concert honoring David Foster recorded in May 2008 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas featuring Groban, Bublé, Bocelli, Streisand, Peter Cetera, Boz Skaggs, Brian McKnight, Kenny G, Charice, Babyface, Celine, Katharine McPhee, Renee Olstead, and several new Foster discoveries performing Foster written songs.
“I have had the incredible opportunity to work side by side with some of the greatest producers, artists and musicians of the past century,” says Reitzas. “These are some of the giants of the record industry and I have been blessed with the opportunity to sit side by side for countless hours learning their techniques and drawing inspiration from their musicality. They bring such a wealth of history into each session and I’ve grown so much through the process of helping them add to their great legacies.
“Over the years, I’ve really learned how to enjoy the process of making a record, finding pleasure and excitement each moment along the way,” he says. “I like being the first one in the studio and the last one to leave, staying focused to make sure it’s a great experience for everyone involved. The key to my success has always been to make the artists comfortable and help give them the confidence to bring out their best. I help them focus on the best aspects of their performance. It’s crucial to key in on what’s working well rather than dwell on any minor imperfections, unless it’s those imperfections that bring out the emotion in a song.” I put all my energy into making a project run effortlessly. The goal every time out is to focus emotionally on that record until the artist has fulfilled everything he or she came to the studio to express. Artists are generally very hard on themselves and they need someone to help them dig deeper and deliver that extra five percent that gets them from great to timeless. My philosophy is, ‘If you can imagine it, I can do it!’ When a project is done I move right on to the next one, but the artist I have just worked with has to live with that recording the rest of their careers, so I give my all to make sure we’ve made it the best it can be. I’ve really been blessed to work with so many great artists on such a wealth of classic songs and that’s been very gratifying. At the end of the day, I’ve done my job when I can make the artist happy.”
Renowned for his infectious optimism, attention to every last detail and commitment to making each session run smoothly for the artists and producers he works with, Reitzas is an engineer intent on delivering top quality recordings in a truly professional manner every time he sits behind the boards. He sees the art of record making as a very collaborative process between the engineer, producer and artist. Developing an unspoken understanding with producers, he learns their little quirks and can intuitively run two steps ahead of them. Believing that much of the success of any session comes from good preparation, he’s as comfortable recording a single solo guitar track as he is engineering for a 150-piece choir and orchestra.
Over the years, Reitzas has discovered that his role is more than simply helping create a great sound for a record. In addition to taking care of the technical organization, he works hands-on, often one on one, with the artists, helping them achieve the goals they set out to reach. He will do whatever it takes to help create a mood, a strong vibe and a comfortable working environment for the artists—even going so far as to bring in mood setting items in his portable vibe box like candles, lava lamps, colored lights and incense.
Reitzas is known as one of the industry’s true pioneers in taking Pro Tools systems to artists’ houses long before Pro Tools became portable, and was the first engineer to do a session in a guest room at the Beverly Hills Hotel for singer Michael Bolton. Always ahead of the curve in keeping up with the latest technology, he regularly transports racks of his personal collection of standard and esoteric equipment, highlighted by his NTI EQs and preamps; SPL spatial gear; and a fine assortment of the best reverb processors by Bricasti, Lexicon, EMT and AMS. (For a complete gear list see the gear page.)