l re-mixer l engineer
Sutton, aka "Ralph P-Funk", is a American Recording and
Mixing Engineer based in Los Angeles, CA. Sutton’s illustrious career
as a recording engineer spans the better part of three decades and
innumerable sessions with the recording industry’s elite. After
graduating from the Recording Institute of America, and taking follow-up
courses at UCLA, Ralph was hired at City Recorders as a runner,
and quickly advanced to second engineer.
He subsequently moved to Chateau Recording Studios where
he collaborated with Ken Scott, the great British engineer of Beetles’
fame and worked on recordings for Missing Persons, Kenny Loggins
and Kansas among others.
Sutton says through his many collaborations he has
developed his own style.
Sutton soon moved to Electra Asylum Recording Annex
where he participated in the recording of Motley Crue’s second album,
Shout at the Devil.
Between ’82-86 Ralph settled at Motown Hitsville, U.S.A.
where he began to record the R&B and funk sounds that garnered
the reputation he has today. “Besides
recording, the breadth of his experience encompassed all phases
of the process. “I worked on a project from start-- tracking--
to finish-- mixing, mastering, shipping, promotion and sales. At Hitsville, I cultivated the finer points
of engineering: microphone techniques, recording strings, horns,
and vocals and mixing, editing and mastering records,” says Sutton.
His clientele at Hitsville reads like a Who's Who in the
history of American music. Including his work with Marvin Gaye,
The Temptations, The Four Tops, and Smokey Robinson, he's also worked
with producing legends James Carmichael, Norman Whitfield, Holland-Dozier-Holland
and Hal Davis.It was at Hitsville where he developed his sound,
a menagerie made up of funk, rock and R&B, thus earning him
the nickname "P-Funk."
"I learned to mesh rock with that funk. It's that thing that's
hard to put your finger on. It's that old school flavor that I grew
up with in my house," Sutton said.“I mixed the Dennis Edwards single “Don’t Look Any Further”
with Jeremy Smith, and that song is still widely sampled today,”
adds Sutton. Later Sutton
collaborates with composer Michael Masser and Russ Terana on Whitney
Houston’s, The Greatest Love album. Soundtrack work during this period
includes: Get Crazy, The Big Chill
and The Last Dragon. Again paired with Russ Terana and Guy Costa,
Sutton handled all the prerecorded music for the Emmy’s in 1983
"You know I believe the most important thing I have learned
about collaborating is joint effort in the process, team work and
knowing your position on the team recognizing that on the playing
field, which is the studio and control room and the position I play
is engineer, if I do my job to the top of my ability and always
bring my A-game, not only does it make a better product, it makes
a better environment to work in where new ideas are created and
the energy is high," Sutton says.
It was also his grandfather, H. B. Price, that influenced Sutton's
musical tastes. Sutton said that Price, along with his mother and
slightly older aunts, exposed him to various types of music. "I
grew up listening to the Temps, the Tops, Smokey, the Stones, Elvis
and all kinds of Jazz," Sutton said. "It was a cornucopia
of different musical styles."
After six years, Sutton moved on to Kenny Rogers' Lionshare Recording
Studios. There he teamed up with producer David Foster and engineer
Humberto Gatica, and together they created music for Julio Iglesias,
Chicago, Barbara Streisand, Frank Sinatra and Dionne Warwick. Through
some of his many clients, Sutton began to master the fine art of
remixing. These include Michael Jackson, Paula Abdul, Jon B, Babyface
and Lionel Richie.
"When approaching a remix, I approach the song new in my mind
not the old," Sutton said, "Some just want to make what
they have better. Others want a new sound completely."
Nonetheless, Sutton's talents are not limited to single artist recordings.
He also has a long list of soundtrack credits under his belt. They
include hit films like Eddie, Bulletproof, B.A.P.S., Sprung Dangerous
Ground, The Big Chill, John Q, Bamboozled, Christine, and Get Crazy.
He says that when working on a soundtrack it is vital to have what
is needed, most importantly the appropriate studio and equipment.
Some of Sutton's most memorable moments include the "fellowship
and camaraderie" that was shared in the studio during his time
at Motown Hitsville. Sutton says that while there he enjoyed working
with the same artists he grew up on, like The Temptations, The Four
Tops, Smokey Robinson, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, and others.
re-mixed “You Are Not Alone” for Michael Jackson; “Wanna Take You
Down” for Lionel Richie; Paula Abdul’s “If I Were Your Girl” and
“Cry For Me;” and Stevie Wonder’s remake of Marvin Gaye’s “Stubborn
Kind of Fellah.” He has
recorded and mixed three of Norman Brown’s albums, Just Between
Us, After The Storm and Better Days
Ahead. For the exceptional recorded quality of After
The Storm, Sutton received Adlib Magazine’s Superior
Record of the Year in the Best Engineering Section.
On the heels of that award, in 1995, Sutton’s engineering
skills were requested at The Tracking Place.
This particular studio hails as one of the first recording
facilities that Babyface opened in Los Angeles through Yab Yum/
Edmonds Entertainment, and while there, Ralph re-mixed Jon B’s “Simple
Melody” and “Pretty Girl.” In addition, he recorded and mixed for Rotae,
Az Yet, and Take Six. 1996
brought further expansion into movie scores.
As Stanley Clarke’s engineer, Sutton recorded the scores
for Eddie and Dangerous Ground.
With Michael Boddicker, he recorded and mixed cues for Bulletproof. 1996 also brought expansion to international
shores. Sutton mixed the
album of Japan’s natural sonic artist, Yoshiaki Ochi, and was flown
to Seoul South Korea to mix an album for C4, their answer to house
music. The dawn of 1997 delivered two more movie scores with Stanley Clarke,
Sprung and BAPS.
The second half of the year through mid-1998, Sutton was
in the studio with Lionel Richie and recorded and mixed his album
“Time”. Subsequent recording efforts for 1998 include
remixes of Montell Jordan’s, “I Can Do That, “ and Rafael Saddiq’s
Lucy Pearl, “You Smell Like PuPu.” As Chief Engineer and Director
of Studio Operations for Wonderland Recording Studios Ralph recorded
and mixed for Stevie Wonder.
Past work includes soundtrack for Spike Lee
film 'Bamboozled’ and the upcoming soundtrack for Newline
Cinema, ‘John Q’ starring Denzel Washington.
was appointed by Mayor A.C. Wharton to the Memphis Music Commission,
he served as Chairman of the Producers and Engineers Wing of the
Memphis Chapter of NARAS where he sat on the Board of Governors.
work can be heard on Stevie Wonder's 2006 Grammy-winning single,
"From the Bottom of My Heart."
work includes: "The Grammy's Salute to Gospel" where Sutton
worked with various award-winning artists such as Cece Winans, Donnie
McKlurkin, and Kirk Franklin. Ralph engineered and mixed rapper
out of Jonathan Wells, Titanium's "From the Ground Up,"
produced by Jimmy Thomas at Suttons studio D at HOB. Distributed
by Universal, the new label is launched by running back for MA Vikings.
Sutton also worked on 4 tracks on Yo Gotti release on TVT
Records and engineered and mixed the entire album for female group,
Men-neffer on the Tonic Note label at studio D at HOB.
met Belz in 1997, and was later introduced to his partner
Pete Williams which lead to having his room at
House of Blues Studio D in Memphis. Sutton considers himself
to be more than just an engineer, he is a "techno artistic
interpreter" of sound. "I do consider myself an artist.
I believe that when I am in studio with the producer and the artist
that I am acting as the interpreter of what the artist and producer
and musicians are working on and creating," Sutton said. "I
become one of the artists as well in that they entrust my interpretive
skills of their music or project to my experience and mastery of
the tools involved in the recording and mixing process."
He advices the same principle to other industry hopefuls, along
with a few other pearls of wisdom, like reading trade magazines
and being as multifaceted as possible. He added that it is key to
always remember that the music or entertainment industry is a business,
first and foremost. Also education, awareness and practice are essential,
he adds. "Study the craft, understand the different aspects
so that you can take advantage of opportunities presented to you,"
says Sutton. As a veteran member of the National Association of
Recording Arts and Sciences, he advises industry hopefuls as well
as promotes the progress of the industry that he loves so much.
He has been a very active member since he joined NARAS in 1982.
"It gives me the opportunity as a music professional to get
involved in the community at large and to fellowship with other
professionals," Sutton says.