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Patrizio “Teezio” Pigliapoco’s star has been ascending since he was a teenager, engineering for Juicy J while he was still in recording school. Today, he’s a first-call producer/engineer for rap and hip hop royalty, sculpting the sounds of Kid Laroi, Lil Nas X, and Polo G; he’s a longtime studio collaborator with Chris Brown, whom he’s worked with since 2016.

We chatted with Teezio about his mixing work on the title track of H.E.R.’s Grammy-nominated Back of My Mind and on the singles “Industry Baby” and “Dead Right Now” from Lil Nas X’s Montero, which is nominated for multiple Grammy Awards. While we were at it, we got the scoop on how he uses Auto-Tune to dial in Chris Brown’s signature vocal sound.

Teezio Is Nominated For:

Album Of The Year 
Montero – Lil Nas X

Album Of The Year
Back Of My Mind – H.E.R.

How long have you been using Auto-Tune?
Teezio: Since I first started engineering. In the beginning it was just on singers, who would use it so that they could be more in pitch; some singers wanted an Auto-Tune effect, like Chris Brown back in ’05, ’06, ’07. Now, after T-Pain changed everything, all these rappers want Auto-Tune on their vocals.
Do you mostly work with Auto-Tune or do you use other Antares effects?
Teezio In the beginning it was just Auto-Tune. Now, Antares has tons of amazing products, like Harmony Engine, which can create those Imogen Heap-style vocals that sound like chord pads. There are a bunch of vocal tools, like Throat, that give more presence to the vocal.
Do you print vocals with Auto-Tune?

Teezio: Yeah, I’m completely in the box now. I use analog outboard gear as hardware inserts, but I sum in Pro Tools and bounce everything offline. To me, there’s no compromise in sound quality, and it helps to streamline the process of final exports and deliverables to the label.

You don’t ever get notes from an artist after you do a mix where they’re like, “can you turn the Auto-Tune down a little bit?” Usually they’ve been listening to the reference forever and that’s how they want it to sound.

Let’s talk about the Grammys! You’re nominated for your mixing work on tracks on Lil Nas X’s Montero, which is up for Album of the Year.

TeezioI mixed the songs “Industry Baby” and “Dead Right Now.” At the time of the mix, the record had already been mixed by two different people.

I had a demo; the session was massive. I remember I got the link, it was 15 gigabytes and I was like, “Wow, they sent me the whole album to mix.” But when I opened it, it was one song. It was 280 tracks. But the reference gave me the guideline that I needed.

They were recording in Logic, and when they stemmed out the session so that I could put it in Pro Tools, that Auto-Tune became printed into the vocal. The only things I had them separate were the effects: the reverb, the delay, all that stuff. A lot of times it’s preferred just to print Auto-Tune, because it’s one of those things that you don’t want to mess up.

Let me ask you about H.E.R.’s Back of My Mind, which is also nominated for Album of the Year. You co-mixed (along with Jaycen Joshua) “Come Through,” featuring Chris Brown.

Teezio: When I’m working with Chris, we do a lot of features for people. I’ll sometimes get to mix the entire song, because the artists that we’re featuring don’t use a mixer, or whatever the case may be. With H.E.R., she’d already been working with Jaycen.

 Because Chris wants me to mix everything, I got Jaycen to send a rough, leaving a gap for Chris where his verse goes. I put his mix into my session, and then I mixed Chris into that.

The way he records is, his vocal comes into Pro Tools, and before it reaches the Record track, it’s going through an auxiliary. The microphone feeds the auxiliary, hits Auto-Tune, and then leaves that auxiliary and goes straight to the track. No one will ever hear Chris’s vocal raw. It just doesn’t exist.

His voice is his brand, so to speak. You don’t want to leave those tweaks to somebody else.
TeezioExactly. You can’t have it be the day before the song comes out, they send it for approval, and you’re like, “Whoa, this doesn’t sound right.”
You’ve worked with Chris Brown for so long; has the way you use Auto-Tune on him evolved?

Teezio: The whole process has always been, I start the Auto-Tune with the Retune speed at 10. And if he wants more, I’ll give him more. He rarely says less

There are times when we’re cutting songs from demo writers, and that demo singer might have the Auto-Tune at zero, because they’re not good at singing. And when you hear the demo you’re like, “Wow, I love this song.” You start to feel like part of what makes it so lovable is that there is a lot of Auto-Tune on the vocal. In those cases, he’ll be like, “Hey, can you bump up the Auto-Tune?” So I’ll put it up to five or six.

What’s next for you?
Teezio: I just wrapped work on Jack Harlow’s new single, “Nail Tech,” which was released February 17.