Instructor Spotlight: James Ruehlmann

Get to know more about James Ruehlmann aka Mutrix, one of ICON Collective’s Music Business, Arrangement, Studio Techniques, and Songwriting Instructors.

James Ruehlmann

We are proud of our talented instructors and their accomplishments. They are the beating heart of the Collective experience. Our innovative team is more than highly experienced industry professionals; They are your mentors, collaborators, and music industry connections.

About James Ruehlmann

James Ruehlmann is one of the latest rock stars to join the teaching staff at ICON Collective. His professional career began as a touring guitarist for the metal band ‘At the Throne of Judgment’ signed with Rise Records. His passion for heavy sounds soon transitioned to electronic music. He quickly built a following under the name ‘Mutrix‘ by releasing a slew of originals and official remixes for the likes of Krewella, Borgore, I See Stars, and more. After getting signed to Circle Talent Agency, he once again took his music to masses – this time as touring DJ.

James now has several different artist aliases, some getting traction in the music licensing world. Recently his music was used in the Official Trailer of James Franco’s hit movie ‘The Disaster Artist.’ He has also had television placements on E!, VH-1 as well as scored commercials for Red Lobster, Special K, KIA, and more. At ICON, he is a true Swiss Army knife, teaching classes on Music Business, Arrangement, Studio Techniques, and Songwriting.

In the following short interview, James talks about his experiences teaching at ICON Collective, his diverse music career, and early days as a music production educator. James also shares how his background in heavy metal influences the way he produces electronic music and opens up about how the collective community has inspired him.

You’ve got a couple different aliases/projects going on. Can you tell us a little about each of them?

Right now I’ve got four different solo aliases I’m releasing music through and several other projects I’m producing/engineering. It’s never been enough for me to just create one type of music. I keep myself inspired musically by trying new things such as experimenting with different sounds, plugins, and production styles. Most people in the EDM scene know me as ‘Mutrix’ for very aggressive bass music. I’ve also got a synthwave project that has a really retro, analog feel. Another project is ‘Lux Pacific,’ which has a chill, downtempo, organic-electronic vibe – in the vein of Odesza or Petit Biscuit. Then I also have ‘Mutonal,’ which is mostly for instrumental theatrical sounding stuff – or just anything that doesn’t fall into the other brands.

You have a strong background in heavy metal (that’s why we get along so well). How has that influenced the way you produce electronic music?

It has a major influence on the way I make my drops when producing stuff like dubstep. Melodically and rhythmically metal is just in my veins! I just gravitate to dark melodies and chunky, aggressive riffs. I also approach things more from a musical perspective than sound design. If my drop can’t be played by a live band and make people headbang – it’s not gonna cut it for me. That’s what makes it a “song” in my opinion. If you can’t play it or translate it to an instrument, then it’s just sound design over a beat.

How long have you been teaching at ICON? What have you learned about yourself since being a part of the collective?

Man, I’ve learned so much about myself in the last nine months. I thought I had a lot to give, but I didn’t realize how much I would grow. When I get done teaching a class and students fist bump me because they are stoked and inspired, that feels just as good – if not better – than getting off stage after playing a killer show. I’ve also realized how important and rewarding it is to me personally not just to entertain fans, but to inspire other artists and arm them with the knowledge and fire they need to make the world a more beautiful, interesting, creative, colorful place.

Your teaching career really began with making YouTube tutorials. How did that help prepare you for teaching actual classes?

Besides just developing the ability to break down a concept, add some humor to it, and create analogies for someone new to understand; I kind of became this guy that everyone sent their music too and asked for feedback. I became really good at critically listening to a work in progress. Not just hearing what needed to be fixed but also recognizing the potential in a song or producer. I’ve also helped work through so many different scenarios with producers and artists at so many different levels. Whether it’s a brand new producer struggling with basic music theory or an established artist trying to accomplish something sonically. All the years of doing this and conversations that I’ve also had really helped me communicate in the classroom and mentor sessions.

How do you continue to learn new production skills now at this point in your career?

Having a community of friends that are producers to bounce ideas off of and discuss technique with helps a lot. It also definitely inspires and innovates new ideas. That’s what is so cool about the environment here at ICON – a bunch of producers trading ideas, challenging and helping each other grow. You have to realize that every few months some new genre will come along or some plugin will come out that will change the game. So you can never get comfortable doing the same thing, or you’ll get left behind. I’m always searching for what that new thing is and then figuring out how it’s done!

Connect with James

About Icon Collective

ICON Collective is a Los Angeles and Online music production school that teaches you core technical skills while unlocking your unique creative process. Mentorships with industry professionals let you access real-world insights and help you personalize your music education. Check out our Music Production Programs.


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Summer 2020

Jun 8

Fall 2020

Sep 7