Capitol Studios’ Mastering King Goes Out on a Vinyl High

There’s a theory dubbed “nominative determinism,” a fancy name to describe people who gravitate to jobs that fit their names. You could hardly find a better example than the man who has sat alongside a mixing console and vinyl lathe in one of the basement studios in the Capitol Records tower for more than three decades.

“What better name for a mastering engineer than… Ron McMaster!” says Ben Blackwell, the co-founder of Third Man Records, who has worked with the veteran on several projects. “Look up his credit on the Demolition Doll Rods’ first album — it’s my favorite listing on a record ever.” A quick scan of the credits reveals the listing burned into Blackwell’s memory: “Masterfully Mastered by the Master at Tower Mastering — Ron McMaster.”

Down in Capitol’s room RR1 — a small studio space virtually no one in the tower knows by its proper name, because everyone just thinks of it as Ron’s room —  McMaster fields a question about whether name = destiny with a characteristically patient chuckle. “I wish I had a dollar for every time that’s come up,” he says, adding that it’s as if some are saying, “‘I don’t believe that’s your real name.’ What do I have to do, show my driver’s license?”


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