C.R. graduate Adam Thein carves out a career in music

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Adam Thein on keyboard performs with "Djo" in Pomona, Calif., in May. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

Clayton Ridge graduate Adam Thein has carved out a name for himself as a mixing engineer, keyboardist, bassist, and producer specializing in indie and rock music. He and his wife, Carolina Hernandez, and their dog "Ludwig" currently reside in Houston, Texas. 

Local inspiration and support

Thein credits his musical talent and success to his parents, Peg and Mick Thein of Garnavillo. "Both my parents were very musically inclined and always had music playing at home as far back as I can remember," Thein recalled. "We were gifted a piano from our family friend, Carol DeSotel, when I was five years old. Both my older sister, Ashley, and I started piano lessons at that time." 

The talented, versatile musician is grateful for the music-minded people who surrounded him during his formative years.  "I would first like to thank my parents. My mom taught K-12 band and music lessons at Garnavillo Public School before the merger into Clayton Ridge," he noted. "My dad was actively involved in playing bass in local bands – Uncle Sam's Band and Backwater, and he and my uncle, Troy Thein, worked as audio engineers at the casino in Marquette running sound for the national acts they'd bring through for shows." 

The 2006 graduate further added, "I also am indebted to the many music teachers I had in the area — Barb Ruff, Cheryl Shafer, the late David Wilson, Dennis Hanna, Chris Sauke, Judy Waterman, David Poggenklass, and Bard Mackey,"

Hometown bands

Thein also made music with his cousin, Zach Thein, and their friends, John Collins and Joe Fangmann in a cover band called, The In Crowd.   He played bass guitar for Backwater with members  Bruce Bryant, Ed Dvorak, Scott Fischer, and Steve Dikkers, and performed with The Guttenberg German Band where he was lucky enough to travel with to Germany and Austria in 2005. 

Starting out

In 2010, Thein attended Grinnell College in Grinnell earning a degree in music. He considers himself primarily an instrumentalist and regularly plays keyboard instruments as well as bass guitar. Positive experiences in the music industry helped mold Thein's successful business venture. "I didn't know anything about making recordings until I joined a band called Dolores in Madison, Wis.," he explained. "In 2013 I bought a four-track cassette recorder and started writing and recording songs.  That jump-started a love of learning about recording music and in turn music production and post-production, like mixing and mastering.  I didn't expect to be doing this for a living but one thing led to another and now I work full time as a self-employed music producer and mixing engineer." 

Mixing engineers are responsible for taking all of the raw recorded multitracks from a performance and balancing them together into the final blend music lovers hear when they listen to a recording. Thein likens the process to cooking. He told The Press, "You can think of mixing like cooking — taking the raw ingredients and preparing them and blending them into completed delicious dishes!"

Much of Thein's work is completely computer-based. "I use software to produce and mix music as well as some older analog equipment including tape machines, and old vacuum tube audio processors," he added. 

On stage at Lollapalooza

The mixing engineer's most notable collaboration is with Djo, which is the music project of Netflix's popular series Stranger Things starring Joe Keery. "I also work with independent artists around the United States including Temporex, Kainalu, GLU, Moon Panda, Ancient Cat Society, and many others," he listed. "I currently am only a performing member in Djo and don't have any of my own bands. I mostly am a free agent of sorts helping other musicians and artists take their music to the finish line to a final recording." 

Thein's collaboration with Djo landed him on stage at Lollapalooza 2022, a four-day music festival held at historic Grant Park in Chicago, Ill.    Thein shared his experience. He said, "Honestly, it was a bit overwhelming!  I had never been on stage in front of a crowd that size before. I had played with Djo throughout the year, and we had performed at some other festivals where the crowds were close to three to five thousand, but Lollapalooza was probably closer to about 20 thousand. It definitely brought up stage fright I thought I had gotten over earlier in my life!  But when the crowd would cheer it's hard to beat that feeling of positivity that washes over you on stage."

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