What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
1984, 12 years old, MIDI. Well not that simple obviously, but that is where it began. I started using computers to compose as soon as the first MIDI card came out. During the late 80's/90's I was playing drums professionally as well as working as a live sound technician. I bought an IBM 386 and MPU-IPC and used it to compose and arrange music for school productions. Over the years the technology changed and improved. I was an early adopter of Virtual Studio Technology and began using computers as a complete DAW. Due to injury in 2002, I really couldn't play the drums professionally any more so I decided to focus solely on audio production with some time to do a bachelor of visual art. Always keen to learn, I decided to refresh my skills in 2011, but instead of just doing a course, I did the whole bachelor degree. Why just DO things when you can OVERDO things, right?
How would you describe your style?
My style takes great influence from New Wave and Rock with just a little from EuroPop. I lean toward the British sound more so than anything else, which would make sense seeing as two of my top three music producers are British. I'm a firm believer in getting the drums right.
Which artist would you like to work with and why?
Toyah Wilcox. She was the sound of my youth. In 1981 when I first heard "I want to be free", it cemented New Wave as one of my favourite genres, just as Kraftwerk cemented electronica as one of my favourite genres when I first heard "Autobahn" in 1975. I still listen to Toyah's Anthem, the album from which "I want to be free", came from regularly. I don't have all of her albums, but when she returned to music with a new album "In the court of the Crimson Queen", I went to great lengths to get it as it wasn't released here in Australia. I should say I buy things on CD rather than digital download.
Can you share one music production tip?
Soft Synths are a great asset and sound great, however they tend to sound a bit lifeless. What I like to do is run the output through something analogue and push it a bit to get some harmonics back into the sound. I often use the Avalon VT-737 for this. However not everyone has one of these, so I'd suggest re-amping. You can use studio monitors or a keyboard amp or what ever. Place a mic in front of your monitors (or speaker cab) and re record the soft synth. You'll get some harmonics back in as well as some "Air" from the room. Just make sure if you use studio monitors that the output from the mic input is going to a dead bus. You'll know it if you don't. I used this technique using a small portable mono speaker once with great results. The synth part didn't have any lower register notes so the small speaker was fine to use. I did use a MS mic setup to fatten the sound in the mix. In this case phase was my friend.
What type of music do you usually work on?
Compositionally, if I said Electronic I'm sure everyone would think EDM. No, I generally don't work on EDM music. The electronic music I work on is somewhere between Ambient, Industrial and New Wave. As a mix engineer I work on various genres, but usually in the Pop, Rock, Funk and Blues genres. I once worked on a track that was a very theatrical, Hip Hop, Soul blend. I loved working on that track.
What's your strongest skill?
I'm going to avoid the obvious attempt to match a skill with music production and say the ability to learn. If you can't learn a new technique or skill there is no stimulation for growth. I love to learn new things; I do have two bachelor degrees after all.
What do you bring to a song?
Hard to say. Being introspective isn't really my best trait. However those who know me well and listen to my work all say there is always a bit of "Me" in the songs I work on, and for the compositions I do, I'd agree. However for production and mix it's harder to quantify. I will say I don't like the cookie cutter approach, so every track I work on is treated as an independent and unique project.
What's your typical work process?
Depends on my role. As a mix engineer, I will often ask if there is a track the client would like me to reference. If not then I take direction from the producer; if it's not me of coarse. As a producer, It's my job to get the best performance from artists. Studios can be intimidating places, so it's important to make the artists comfortable. I prefer to record a scratch track first if possible, however since most of my clients are solo artists, this isn't usually needed. Pre production is vital. I'm not a big believer in the "fix it at mix" ethos. It is always better to plan the sound first in pre production, such as the right microphone for the artists voice for example.
Tell us about your studio setup.
My studio is quite small and suited to composition and mixing "In The Box". It has custom acoustic treatment in a "Live End - Dead End" configuration with a custom Quadratic Residue Defuser. It's filled with instruments from the 80's and 90's such as a Roland JX-8P, SPD-8 and Casio CZ-5000. Monitoring is provided by Yamaha HS-8's. There are also a large amount of soft synths and drum machines that are often used. All that said, I will often use larger studios should the client require it and budget allows.
What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
The top three music producers that inspire and have influenced me are Hugh Padgham, Nick Tauber and Julian Mendelsohn. These guys are the reason I got into music production and mixing. I didn't know it at the time, but after speaking with Hugh and Nick, I discovered we all followed a very similar path; especially with Nick and I being drummers in our past. As for musicians, David Bowie hands down is the most inspiring. I was devastated to learn of his passing.
Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
It's a nice blend of production, composition and mixing. What role I play depends on what the client needs. For clients I'm working with remotely, there is a definite bias towards composition and mixing, however there have been times when I've been the producer as well; which can have some issues to overcome when unable to work real time.