How long have you been working as a producer/mixer?
I’ve been involved in music since I was a little kid, but I’ve been making an earning off capturing vibrations in the air for only a couple of years.
How did you become a producer/mixer?
I started very young, maybe 8 or something. I think what started it off properly was finding an old Home Alone Talk Boy Dictaphone I had, I’d go around making noises and recording weird things.
In my teens, I got hold of two cassette decks and a Laney bass amp speaker that had a stereo RCA inputs. I’d record on one deck, then play it out the speaker, and overdub onto the other deck. I always wanted to record my music; there must be a label out there looking for crappy teenage tape recordings? Could be the next thing?
I think where it got serious was at university (LIPA), where all of a sudden I was challenged to make bigger and better sounds. I really broke my balls over staying up and learning new things, I’d read Behind The Glass over and over. I wasn’t amazing at the theory, I even re-sat exams, but I really loved being hands on. Sennheiser awarded me with the Studio Excellence Award when I graduated, which included a neat Neumann TLM 102 as the prize. At the same time, I’d work as a runner or assistant for a few inspiring producers and mixers like Markus Dravs (Arcade Fire, Coldplay) and Ruadhri Cushnan (Mumford & Sons, Ed Sheeran).
A few years after university, and I’m working with some of the UK’s most exciting new acts and I just signed to Transgressive Records management. Not sure how I made the jump from hoovering studios to producing, but I’m very happy right now.
What is your DAW (Digital audio workstation) of choice?
I use Pro Tools mostly. It’s not as free flowing as Logic in many ways but its editing functions are amazing and I’ve learned to love it. Tab to Transient is hands down one of the best functions, a life saver for speed.
Do you prefer to mix alone or with the band/artist you work with?
I try to mix alone. The artist has to be happy with the final sound, but there is a level of artistic integrity as a mixer, and I think every mixer and producer has something different to offer, everyone has their own stamp. Plus, who wants to sit in a dark room for 8 hours with me?
Are you drawn to certain projects or do you take on whatever presents itself?
A bit of both really. I can keep busy when there aren’t projects going because I also work as a songwriter and as a musician playing in Spring King.
I find working with new people very exciting. Music is probably 70% of the experience; a lot of it is hanging out and having a good time too.
Do you have a studio where you prefer to work from or do you move around?
I move around. One of the nicest, cosy, places I’ve been to recently is Press Play Studios down in London.
Andy has a lot of nice gear down there. I believe King Krule did a lot of his album, if not, all there. I like hiring spaces when there is a budget. Parish halls, churches, community centres. It’s more exciting and you can get weirder sounds. These places generally have a lot of smaller rooms surrounding a bigger room so you have a lot of variety in acoustics.
For unsigned bands heading into the studio, what are your top three pieces of advice to get a band ready for recording?
Rehearse, the more you rehearse the less you have to think about what you’re playing and the more you can feel what you’re playing. Please don’t throw up, its cheesy but it’s completely true.
Open your mind to every possibility. One little change can send things in a whole other trajectory and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Don’t worry about what everybody else is doing. As soon as you compare your record to another, you’re headed for unnecessary pressures. Be inspired by other artists but do your own thing. Cliché, but everyone has something individual that should shine, it’s just about whether or not you’re ready to release it.
If a band has no budget and can only record at home or in a rehearsal room, what’s your advice on getting the best out of DIY project?
So many options these days. Depends what you can get hold of, but at the most basic of levels you can still do loads. One microphone and a laptop, and although not the most natural, but you can record every single thing separately. Just keep overdubbing, even if you wanted, record every single drum separately. It’s a bit clinical but you’d come out with a lot more control in post-production than recording it all live with one microphone.
If your rehearsal room has a mixing desk, put everything into it, then record the stereo outputs from the desk to your computer. It may be a bit rough and un-editable but if you tweak the levels for a while, it’d be a good demo.
Should unsigned bands find a producer they trust before investing funds into a recording?
I think having a producer from early on, if you want one, is a big help. If you are on the same wavelength and it develops into a working relationship, what more could you ask for…
It’s not a bad thing when a band doesn’t know what they want their record to sound like. If anything it opens up doors to try new things at early stages. Trying producers out can really inspire a band to try new things. This might include investing funds to try them out, everyone’s gotta live.
Is there any other advice that you think unsigned bands could benefit from at all?
Good music will always stand on its own feet. A hit isn’t always 3 minutes and 30 seconds, and Arcade Fire proved this yesterday when Reflektor was leaked.
Music is meant to move you, if you aren’t excited by an idea, work on it or move on. You can come back in a year to an old idea with new head-space. Make music because you love it, or else life will bite you in ass, and if life doesn’t then the record company will.
Photo by: Szelmostwa Światłoczułe