Behind The Boards: Brian Sumner
Words Dan Rys
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

It’s a cliché that life moves in mysterious ways, but for recording engineer Brian Sumner, a twist of fate turned everything around. The 46-year-old Maine native had been a lawyer for two and a half years before realizing that his career plan was no longer making him happy. An ad for an audio engineering class at the University of Maine at Augusta piqued his interest and by 2000, the then-32-year-old had graduated from Arizona’s Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences, moved to L.A. and got a job at Enterprise Studios in Burbank, Calif.

By the end of 2003 he had gained enough experience to become a freelance engineer, working on Kanye West’s Late Registration and becoming the regular engineer for both Nas and The Game. Now, almost a decade after first working on Game’s Doctor’s Advocate, Sumner is again behind the boards for the L.A. MC., this time prepping The Documentary 2, which is due out later this year. XXL spoke to Sumner about working with Kanye, meeting The Game and engineering the rapper’s new LP.

XXL: What project would you consider your first career breakthrough?
Brian Sumner: I’ve always been the sort of engineer where I bounce from thing to thing. But probably the first big album that I worked on was Late Registration with Kanye West. Technically I can say I am a Grammy-nominated engineer, because I have an engineer credit on that album. I’m always a little sheepish to say that, because I did the last two weeks of the project, but you know, I did some significant recording on that project so I’m pretty proud to have been involved in that.

What’s it like being in the studio with The Game?
It’s great. Time passes really fast with him, 'cause he works so quickly and he’s so creative and so energetic and it’s a lot of fun. He likes to have a lot of people around the studio so there’s always people coming and going. Especially with The Documentary 2, he’s been having some big name people come in and listen. It’s just exciting working with him; it’s fun, he’s a good guy and he’s easy to get along with. I mean, it’s been almost 10 years now.

What has stuck out to you about these sessions?
There have been a lot of moments, and it really sort of centers around the people who came through. Rockwilder came through, Busta Rhymes came through to listen, Sway, Diddy came through to listen; one time I looked up and El DeBarge was in the studio ready to do a part for the album. It’s just been sort of one thing after another like that. A lot of moments that have sort of stuck out.

Check out more from our Fall 2015 issue including our cover story with Future and interviews with Mac Miller, Scarface, Damian Lillard and August Alsina, a look at the beef between Meek Mill and Drake compared to 50 Cent and Ja Rule, profiles on Southside, Metro Boomin and London On Da Track and more.