Adventure Awaits

Lately I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my next step in life. I’m more than half way through university, and I soon need to work out what the hell I’m going to do when I finish. What’s for sure is that recording is my one true love (Minus my girlfriend, don’t hit me Charlotte).

So a studio seems the way to go, working in one or owning one. Both of these prospects are completely terrifying. In the UK, London is the go to place if you want to work in a commercial studio. But with moving to London comes London prices and living on nothing working as an assistant and I like being able to eat. But opening a studio requires lots of upfront cash and a hell of a lot of work. Even then you never know if people will come record and you may waste a lot of money for nothing. There’s no clear answer, just to try to do the math and see which seems feasible.

There’s definite pluses to each, there’s so much to learn from the professionals but equally lots to learn from trying to figure it out on your own. Dream scenario, I’d get a job at a big studio work my way up and eventually open my own studio. But we’ll see… Either way I want an adventure and I won’t settle for any less. Anyone who knows me probably knows I’m pretty stubborn and I’m not prepared to be bored at any rate.

Basically, I’m having an identity crisis. So as soon as I can I’m going to bury myself in mixing until everything makes sense. Mixing makes everything better. I think this is probably something everyone goes though, so If my fellow brothers (and sisters) in audio are feeling the same I hope this may comfort you. To the future!

Thanks for reading,

Liam.

What instrument do you play?

I play the mixing desk. I’ve slowly been realizing over the past couple of weeks the importance of performance. Obviously the most important part of a recording is the musicians themselves (I think us engineers/ producers can forget that sometimes, we’re not supposed to be the centre of attention). But our performance is also incredibly important.

I know it is very easy in the world of Pro Tools to manually draw in our automation, changing levels only a small amount from 3-6dB or what ever. But i think we’re falling into a trap. Why do we have mixing desk with real faders? Why not use them properly. Get your track rolling and record down to a stereo track. Grab hold of those faders and play that desk like it’s supposed to be. Maybe your plug in automation can be done with your mouse, but man, those faders deserve some action.

But saying that, I’ve also been thinking alot about the old “There is no wrong way” in regards to recording. It’s said over and over again throughout the many colleges and universities teaching recording. But what they should say is there is no right way. Nothing you will ever do will be perfect. Accept that. But you can make something spine-chillingly  awesome while not being “perfect”. But I think there is a wrong way. Some things don’t sound good, people can do a really shit job sometimes. We can’t hide that by saying it’s art, shit is sometimes just shit.

The beautiful thing is there are many ways to get it right. For example, mix engineer extraordinaire Chris Lord-Alge mixes out of protools into a bloody Sony 3348. A 48 channel DASH digital tape machine tape. Some people own a studio, some record in their garage and some people stick to a laptop and some plugins. As long as we have creative thinkers and great musicians we will get great records. The best bit, is every records journey is different.

Thanks for reading,

Liam.

2ube and Tape

So I thought I’d give you an update on what I’ve been up too this week. It’s been filled with stress, but the good kind. The kind you feel when the pressure’s on to do well that helps drive your passion.

For me this week it’s been a live streamed gig. At uni we have a weekly gig called The 2ube (Odd name I know, blame LIPA managers) that I help run. And every few weeks we have the great pleasure of livestreaming the whole thing. I say pleasure, but really I mean the feeling of wanting to pull your own eyes from your skull. It’s a lot of fun, but also a lot of work and most of the time everything that can go wrong does so. This time I was in charge of mixing the broadcast mix, for the whole world (Or the 200 odd people who listened anyway) to hear. Due to the usual chaos that ensues at this event, we only got half a sound check for the broadcast mix, meaning we had to mix the 11 piece band live from scratch, along with some others. But luckily, apart from a few hiccups along the way it mostly sounded good. I was mixing alongside my friend Sophia and I feel we did a really good job overall, but like i said, de-eyeing almost happened.

So after that I’ve been “mastering” the live performances that sounded decent. Originally we hoped to get five multi tracks out and recorded into Pro Tools, but as so often happens in the audio world, the ancient gods of recording had other plans so that didn’t work out. I say mastering loosely, because I’m essentially trying to improve on my live mixes using EQ, some stereo spreading and then limiting them. It’s actually working out surprisingly well. I’m sure I will post the results in a few days.

I’ve also been in the studio this week, learning how to use a tape machine and recording with a band. The band was just standard affair, it’s a folk band and we were recording guitars and vocals. The tape was more interesting. If you’ve never used a tape machine before I really suggest trying to get a hold of one and giving it a go. It really makes you feel like an actual sound engineer. Getting the screwdriver out to align the beast was a lot of fun. I love tape. It’s such a hassle and possibly not worth all the effort these days but It does sound great. It’s nothing particularly noticeable either, some slight harmonic distortion and roll of on the high frequencies but there is some magic in that magnetic strip.

One of my current projects is to record and mix a band full in the analogue domain. It’s more of a challenge for myself than anything, but they sound very Led Zepplin and I just couldn’t help myself. You’ll probably hear more about this later when I may have less hair due to ripping it out over this recording.

Anyway enough of my ramblings. I’ll leave you with a link to the livestream I mixed and hope you have a great week,

Liam.

I am an addict

Over the past few years I have slowly surccum to an addiction. An addiction to sound technology. I’m a huge gear head, obsessed with mics, outboard  and the idea of owning my own studio. As my addiction became worse I knew i would have to dedicate my life to the world of recording sound, and probably being poor for the rest of my life. Oh well, I guess I can’t complain when I get to do what I love. I’m currently studying sound technology at LIPA in Liverpool and having a great time practically living in their studios. I love what I do and want to share some of it with you all. It might be interesting crap I find on the internet, ideas I’m playing around with in the studio or even things I’m taught about at uni. In this case it’s the latter.

Today we were talking about a couple of interesting thing. The first is Steve Albini. The famous “producer” who refuses to call himself a producer. He is a great engineer, working with some of my favorite bands, Pixies, Nirvana and Fugazi. There is a letter he wrote to Nirvana when they asked him to produce their album ‘In Utero’ which you can have a read for yourself here. I really echo his sentiment, the idea that the producer or engineer is there to help the band and capture them at their best, not to take control and use them as instruments to create the music the producer or record company wants to make. In my opinion (and I understand that we all need to make a living), music should never be about making money. Music is something that helps and heals us and really should be created for enjoyment, not changed just to make a few extra quid.

The second thing I want to share with you is something from the strange mind of Brian Eno, the producer behind U2, Coldplay and many more. He and his friend, the artist Peter Schmidt, created the Oblique Strategies. These are a deck of cards to try and help defeat the monotony that idea creation can be. A series of words and phrases to help you break free from your standard routine. Now if they will actually help you with your songwriting or mixing, or just confuse the hell out of you depends on what kind of person you are. Regardless, I hope you find them as interesting as I did, even if just as an insight into the brain of Eno.

On a final note, I just got the first radio play of any song I’ve ever worked on! If you want to have a listen or check out any of my other work, head over to my Facebook.

Thanks for reading,

Liam.