Los Angeles, CA, March 3, 2022 — With 18 Grammy® and Latin Grammy® Awards under his belt, Rafa Sardina has built an eclectic, international clientele working with artists including Stevie Wonder, Lady Gaga, Luis Miguel, Alejandro Sanz, D’Angelo and so many others. If there is one thing that is consistent across his work — which now consists mostly of producing or co-producing projects — it is that it spans multiple musical genres and inter-cultural influences. Indeed, his most recent Grammy Award from 2021 was for Best Tango Album for Tinto Tango play Piazzolla — an album he co-produced with artist Tinto Tango.
While Sardina still gets called on to engineer and mix the big LA sessions, he is increasingly selective on the types of projects he will become involved in — 80 percent of which are usually production-type projects, he says: “To me, I am drawn to the projects that have a strong creative imprint rather than the pop flavor of the month. The charts don’t provoke me anymore,” he says. “You have to lead with your body of work, and you have to be in the studio every day actually doing it. Right now, I am working on a huge array of projects: jazz, classical, pop, folk — it’s all over the musical spectrum.”
As Rafa becomes drawn towards a range of certain musical projects, he has also adapted his current tool set to align with how he works — particularly as he is often traveling or working alongside his staff on different dimensions of a given project. His most recent tools include Solid State Logic’s UF8 and UC1 controllers. “I am a big SSL fan and have been for ages,” he says, sitting beside his Duality console which is the cornerstone of his AfterHours Studios. “I have been working on SSLs since the very beginning, and along the way I became aware of the need for a controller — you really need an additional layer to control your workstation and workflow the box.” When SSL announced its UF8 and UC1 controllers, Sardina didn’t miss a beat on acquiring both of them:
“The reality is that I travel a lot, and even when I am not traveling, I use a lot of satellite rooms,” he says. “Even in here at After Hours, I am using the UF8 and UC1 controllers to work on arrangements, rough mixes and post-production.” Having been raised on the legacy of SSL consoles, Rafa really appreciates the feel and response of the faders and knobs that are present on UF8 and UC1. “I am a very tactile person and I need to be able to do moves intuitively and automate things, even while I am recording. So to me, the UF8 and UC1 have become an essential part of my kit.”
He says that the quality is as expected on the UF8 and UC1: “I love that SSL really put the work and love in these machines,” he says. “The faders feel great, the automation feels great. You can have the fader banks cycle together or have them cycle individually — that’s the way we have it configured at my artist’s studio in Bogota for a project I am working on right now. While we were working together in Bogota, UF8 really saved my life!”
Even when Rafa is not traveling and instead tracking a local session at a top Los Angeles studio, SSL controllers have become an essential fixture in his workflow: “Right now, I am going to have some big band dates at East West and Capitol Studios and I am going to bring my own UF8 and UC1,” he says. “I always call the studios beforehand to make sure they have the SSL 360° software installed and running on their computers before I arrive because I want control over my projects in the box.”
Rafa’s processing chain sees a lot of SSL’s plug-ins: “I use the SSL Native Drumstrip and Vocalstrip 2 a lot. On every drum subgroup I always have the Drumstrip set up, even on the shaker. There is something about that SSL sound that is just different!” he says.
He finds the UF8 particularly useful when he is controlling both a knob and a fader, much like he would on a Duality or other SSL large format console: “When you are changing several parameters, listening to how they interplay is very important. For instance, when you change a compressor setting, you are also immediately changing the output gain,” he observes. “Having this kind of tactile control over these settings on the UC1 really helps.”
“That’s the way we used to do it when we were searching for the right sound,” he says. “The sound searching mentality had to do with effecting several factors simultaneously, not just one. In this light, the UC1 gives me a huge advantage as a creative tool. The huge advantage of having these controllers is to be more in touch with the reality of how you get closer to the sound.”