He sits quietly, tapping his fingers and gazing off into the distance. There is a reserved confidence being exhibited, but under his silent aura lay the mind of a creative genius. Wunderkind Rattanak “RT” Ouk is a mastermind. He controls the soundboard like a flashy science fiction character, and the results are equally impressive. One would expect nothing less from the man that has had his work featured on networks like MTV to popular music radio.
This story does not begin in the beauty and freedom of America, but rather in the unyielding clutches of Communist Cambodia. RT's mother gave birth to him in a refugee camp in Thailand after fleeing the dreaded Khmer Rouge. Shortly after his birth, RT's father transported the family to the United States. With no money and an extremely limited English vocabulary, his parents worked tirelessly to provide RT with a good life and the true “American Dream”; it is mainly for this reason that his greatest heroes and influence are his mother and father. An avid music lover, his dad molded and fueled RT's musical creativity. He also credits his father for introducing him to ProTools, a popular music software program he uses to this day. RT learned to play the violin, guitar, and keys before eventually forming a band in high school and flexing his front-man talents. This is where his musical journey gained its unstoppable headway. The Hartford resident started the recording process with his band, but something was not quite right with the way the tracks sounded. The final sound was missing some key element—that last puzzle piece to create the desired product. So began a fifteen year journey to find the sonic holy grail.
Following in his father's footsteps, RT decided to attend the University of Hartford where he was accepted into the audio engineering program. It was here that RT learned the science of music and how to capture that desired sound. He soon built three of his own studios in Hartford. After honing his craft, RT transferred to Planet of Sound in downtown Hartford; the studio was a popular recording spot, having tracked artists such as The Pixies and Sevendust. RT worked tirelessly and eventually took over Planet of Sound along with two of his friends from college. It was here the young questing producer formulated his most impressive body of work.
RT's skills were on full display, and they were garnering major attention. He began working with successful hip-hop acts such as DJ Khaled, Lil Wayne, and Big Sean before branching out to artists like Rob Zombie and the wildly popular Jonas Brothers. RT lent his production talents to Demi Lovato's Camp Rock album as well as the hit single “Body to Body” featuring Chris Brown and Ace Hood.
But the Hartford producer was far from all flash and no substance. He also used his passion for music to reach out to the community. RT partnered with 106.9 WCCC to produce six different albums where all the proceeds were donated to charity. He also gave back to fellow dreamers through an LA-based internship program called Recording Connection.
Despite his successes, RT was still unsatisfied with his overall sound. He went into overdrive, often working all day and sleeping at the studio. His dedication was stellar and his focus razor sharp; but in early 2013 RT left Planet of Sound. He chose to step away from music for a short time in order to retool and reinvent himself. RT traveled back to his home country of Cambodia and became a monk. Reinvigorated, RT returned to the states, spending time in Miami and New York City. With a fresh outlook on his future, RT's production was noticed on a bigger stage. He produced a record for a Connecticut standout artist by the name of Jitta on the Track; Jitta was hand-picked along with RT to go on Drake and J Cole's tour where Jitta opened for 2 Chainz and French Montana. He moved back to Connecticut after the tour and initiated the process of building a studio—this time, with his always-supportive father. RT moved into an accessible facility on Asylum Street in the center of Hartford and began compiling an impressive amount of high-quality vintage and modern equipment.
The studio is visually arresting; the equipment is state-of-the-art and well-kept. I asked RT about his various production tools, and he perks up. Clearly, this is his forte, and he is happy to impart his vast knowledge.
“I just want everything to sonically sound good. I really pay attention to the science of it. You know when I upgrade [my equipment] everybody else upgrades.”
RT fires up his music software and plays a couple tracks he is working on. They sound great—industry quality great. He is a stickler for quality sound, but RT also realizes that it takes a serious artist who is willing to put in that extra work in the studio in order to create that professional sound.
“It's a collaborative process. Like you have to all work at getting that quality sound.”
He knows that it takes a team effort to succeed and with that attitude, Hartford's premier producer is primed to make big waves in the very near future. I ask him about his plans and where he sees himself in the next few years. RT's eyes light up as he discusses his future plans.
“[My] plans for the future include a label. Continue upgrading the Hartford Studio and then build a world class studio in New York where my sister and brother are.”
The sky is the limit for this dedicated producer, and whether or not he finally finds audio nirvana, Rattanak “RT” Ouk will likely never stop his quest for perfection. I shake his hand, and we exit the studio. He'll be back in a couple hours, making magic, and inspiring greatness.
For more information on The Hartford Studio visit www.TheHartfordStudio.com for a visual tour and a full list of all his vintage and modern equipment. Additional contact sites for The Hartford Studio are as follows: Twitter, Facebook.