‘I had no ambitions of being a producer’
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P3 APRIL 2018 www.psneurope.com
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hen I was 14 years old, I walked into my local record shop and picked up a CD copy of Nirvana’s In Utero. A few weeks before, a friend of mine had given me a copy of Nevermind on cassette, which I listened to obsessively, conscious almost instantly that this was a band that was going to change my life. I had yet to discover much else of their work by this point – I’d seen cuts from their sublime MTV Unplugged performance – but knew that I needed to hear more. Using the wages from my next paper round, I made for the store and headed to the ‘N’ section. The now iconic angel cover of In Utero was the first thing I saw, and within seconds I’d handed over my £12.99 and had it spinning in my Walkman before I’d reached the exit. If Nevermind singled out Nirvana as a life-changing band, then In Utero proved to be a life-changing record. The sheer force of the opening feedback-drenched squalls of Serve The Servants overwhelmed me in a way like nothing before, or since. Where other records I adored had lured me in with songs, In Utero was the first to do so with sound. Never had I experienced the sensation of feeling like a band was playing live in the room with me; the starkness of Cobain’s frazzled guitar and vocals, not to mention the notorious, thundering drum sound delivered – at least to my teenage ears – a listening experience like nothing else. Of course, the songs were incredible too, but never had I heard a record that sounded this exciting. As such, In Utero was the first record to make me take note of the name Steve Albini, an engineer – never producer (an important distinction) – whose work with the likes of Pixies, The Breeders and Manic Street Preachers I would go on to devour over the ensuing months and years to this very day. In our interview on P23, our conversation touched upon his rejection of the label ‘producer’. In his view, he is NOT a producer, NOT an auteur, simply an engineer for hire, employed purely to capture the essence of the act he is recording. Of course, he is almost certainly outnumbered by those who feel it is absolutely the role of the producer to apply their vision to a record, especially in the age of the so-called ‘superstar producer’. But that’s a debate for another day. Suffice to say, if all he’s doing is capturing the sound of a band in a room, then he’s doing it in a league all of his own. n
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P4 APRIL 2018
In this issue... People P6
James Gordon Phil Ward enjoys a rare, in-depth chat with the Audiotonix CEO
P11 Movers and shakers A look at who has moved where over the past month in pro audio
P13 SHOW TIME PROLIGHT+SOUND’S MICHAEL BIWER TALKS AUDIO AT FRANKFURT
P17 Prolight+Sound preview We hear from some of the biggest names in the business about their plans for the Frankfurt show
Report P29 The Nexo Factor The latest Italian X Factor live tour relied heavily on the French loudspeaker manufacturer’s systems as part of its live production. We find out how it performed from those on the ground
Studio P23 INSIDE THE MIND OF AN AUDIO ANTI-HERO STEVE ALBINI TALKS TODAY’S PRODUCERS AND 25 YEARS OF IN UTERO
P32 Carla Marie Williams The multi-talented producer and songwriter for the stars on the making of her upcoming solo release and her women in music hub Girls I Rate P36 MPG Awards 2018 PSNEurope hears from some of the big winners at last month’s awards bash
P42 Outline The company’s Fernando Rey Mendez tells Phil Ward about its new Newton system ahead of its appearance at Prolight+Sound
P38 MINOR SCALE PRODUCER K-MINOR TALKS GEAR AND BIG PLANS FOR 2018
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P6 APRIL 2018
Invisible Touch Phil Ward senses the intangible presence of intelligent design, as he catches up with Audiotonix CEO James Gordon…
Always innovating: James Gordon
he Audiotonix website says it all. It consists solely of five logos. Underneath each one is a link to another website, the one that goes with the logo. It’s a website that says: “Don’t hang around here. There’s nothing to see. Move on. Go about your business, and please close the door on your way out.” It’s a non website. I don’t know who charged for it, but the invoice had better not have exceeded a modest sum. Probably Minimalistwebsites-r-us. Dot com. Which kind of begs the question: why is it there at all? Why is there a thing called Audiotonix, and why does that thing wish to be left undisturbed? There are, of course, many large and loud (sic) groupings of pro audio logos in all sorts of configurations. Some collect
specimens, like the Natural History Museum. Others buy and sell like The Stock Exchange. Some of them do the audio equivalent of a barbecue (look up the origins of the French phrase de la barbe au cul and smile – the polite translation is ‘from head to toe’). In our terms it means a complementary chain of brands that starts at the microphone and goes with the signal all the way to the loudspeaker, ticking all the essential boxes along the way. This one doesn’t do that. This one is comprised of leading names that all do the same thing, give or take. In alphabetical order it is: Allen & Heath; Calrec; Digico; DigiGrid; and Solid State Logic. OK, DigiGrid is the odd one out, and not just because it looks like half time in a game of Pac-Man. This is the interfacing and networking
dimension, potentially the glue that binds all of the others together and a lot more besides. The rest, as if you didn’t know, are makers of mixing consoles.
Electra glide Unusually in today’s corporatised globe, Audiotonix – as the website reveals – is not an end in itself. According to Audiotonix CEO James Gordon it was a means to protect Digico from its own success. “Digico was becoming a sizeable business on its own,” he says, “and we as management were concerned, to be honest, that we might fall prey to the pattern of acquisition ourselves – which has not always been a positive experience for many brands. We wouldn’t want our culture and energy to be absorbed
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P7 APRIL 2018
and dissipated the way it can be in some instances. “If you grow quickly as a business, and emerge as an attractive target, you can either stick your head in the sand and pretend it will never happen – which can catch you out; or you can bolster your position. The cost of entry for any new product is a lot more than it used to be, mainly because the R&D effort just gets bigger and bigger, especially for digital technology – even more so if you want to innovate, as we do, rather than just keep up. Scale and expertise help you to do that, so making your own acquisitions begins to make sense.” This logic would explain the need to acquire within your own skill base, and not to step outside your comfort zone in the pursuit of acquisition for its own sake. “We know electronics and workflow,” continues Gordon, “so if we were to buy a business it would need to be one that we felt we could add value to and gain value from. It has to be beneficial both ways.” When private equity trust Electra Partners announced its investment in Digico in August 2014, it already had interests in both Allen & Heath and Calrec making the formation of a new professional audio group the natural outcome of the manoeuvre. Livingbridge retained a minority stake in the deal, and James Gordon became CEO of the group alongside chairman Malcolm Miller, already chairman of both Allen & Heath and Calrec. “When Electra presented the concept of a group including Allen & Heath and Calrec it made perfect sense,” Gordon reveals. “Although there is a crossover in what we do, it’s a ‘managed’ crossover in terms of brand positioning and customer relations. It meant that when we got the three heads of R&D together they all spoke the same language – faders, encoders, FPGAs, DSP chips – and this common knowledge leads to adding value very quickly around the group.” Gordon recoils from any suggestion of adding electro-acoustic technology to the basket, professing “no interest in wood and cardboard”, but signal processing – DigiGrid sits in the middle, remember – is another matter. “That’s a definite possibility for the future,” he says, “along with other forms of electronics that I wouldn’t rule out. We know how to value premium brands, they sit well with us, and we understand customers’ expectations from them. All the brands in Audiotonix are extremely highly regarded.”
Solid logic The latest addition to the group, Solid State Logic (SSL), seems not to plug a gap in the configuration. In broad terms the triad of Allen & Heath, Digico and Calrec completes a Venn diagram of market entry levels, industry sectors and brand equities that accounts for most criteria likely to demand the satisfaction of console users from DJs to national broadcasters, via Glyndebourne and Glastonbury. Where to place SSL on that diagram is less obvious, and prompts new questions about the role of Audiotonix. Gordon is fond of automotive analogies, and places
AUDIOTONIX IS AN ENABLING VEHICLE; IT DOESN’T APPEAR ON ANY PRODUCT. WHAT MATTERS TO THE MARKET IS EACH INDIVIDUAL BRAND. I’D WAGER THAT THE MAJORITY OF THE CUSTOMERS HAVE NO IDEA WHAT AUDIOTONIX IS. AND WHY SHOULD THEY? JAMES GORDON
Audiotonix in something of a parallel universe to VAG (Volkswagen Group). This makes Allen & Heath the excellent, versatile and popular Audi; Digico the far-ranging and best-in-class Porsche; and Calrec the rarefied Bentley. SSL emerges as the Lamborghini, prompting immediate and inexcusably unfair speculation about which further acquisitions would bring Skoda into the fold. In all seriousness, and notwithstanding the latter-day forages into live sound, SSL brings its unprecedented legacy of studio recording. “The broadcast products overlap with Calrec,” admits Gordon, “but if you look closely you soon see that broadcast is not just one market either. We’re getting involved with specialists in entertainment, sport, weather… one of our customers exclusively deals in the broadcast of live computer gaming, and of course the platforms are expanding like crazy on satellite, online, through Wi-Fi and other delivery to all kinds of devices and thousands of subscriber networks. “On the live side, pretty much every rental company buys into more than one brand of mixing console. They may standardise on one PA – or maybe two – and that’s where you get more of a brand exclusivity. Some of the top Digico rental companies have invested in Allen & Heath for a different part of their market, and naturally that works perfectly for the group.” The addition of SSL does add to the mounting swell of prestige. The rationale behind the move – “the support and resources of a larger group to help us achieve our aspirations”, in the words of SSL MD Antony David – is shared by all of the companies, forming a kind of guild that pools the twin values of common interest and safety in numbers. A group chief technology officer, Neil Hooper, acts as the conduit between the resolutely separate R&D departments of each company, not least because some pieces of technology simply need not be reinvented five times over. “A good example is the SMPTE 2022 module required by Calrec,” says Gordon. “When that was being designed it was ensured that it could be ported easily to Digico
and Allen & Heath desks – this was before SSL was in the group – and we’re doing some AES67 development at the moment that will be available to all the brands in the same way. We all have to do these interfacing options for the consoles, and it just makes sense to do such a basic job one time only. “Neil has a background in mobile phones, with experience of touchscreens, ARM processors and so on – a lot of the stuff we all have to deal with. His role is to manage how the knowledge share is passed around, without interfering with individual design concepts of course. Right now, Allen & Heath is expanding its Dante connectivity and SSL has a lot of that expertise, so Neil has put the right people together to help that go as smoothly as possible. The R&D teams turn to him as a facilitator.”
Magic buss Each of the five businesses is an independent centre of P&L with its own business plan, but if a brand needs or enters a concentrated phase of investment there is a discussion and Audiotonix invests. As CEO Gordon and his team are in a better position than anyone in The City to identify wise spending, such as the million or so directed towards Allen & Heath’s facility in Cornwall recently and the much anticipated Calrec Radio product launch at NAB this month. Audiotonix may be like an agency, or an enlightened bank, but it requires no branding of its own. “It doesn’t matter what the market thinks of Audiotonix, it’s not there for that reason,” Gordon explains. “It’s a holding company, an enabling vehicle; it doesn’t appear on any product. What matters to the market is each individual brand, and I would wager that a large majority of the group’s customers have no idea what Audiotonix is. Why should they?” Hence the website. But philosophers of a certain persuasion insist that the universe is ordered by an elusive and intelligent design, and didn’t just happen by chance. Sounds like Audiotonix to me. n www.audiotonix.com
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P8 APRIL 2018
Pro audio movers and shakers Stay in the loop with the latest job appointments and movements in the professional audio business over the past month…
Genelec appoints Michael Bohlin to senior sales role 25 years after he joined company
enelec’s new international sales manager Michael Bohlin told PSNEurope he hopes to “expand Genelec’s great network of partners” in his new role. Bohlin, who started his career with the company almost 25 years ago, will be based in Stockholm, reporting to international sales director Ole Jensen. He will be responsible for the development and support of distributor, dealer and key user networks for Genelec’s professional monitoring segment within Europe. Bohlin added: “I hope to further develop Genelec’s network of ambassadors so that we can meet future challenges and opportunities together in the everchanging audio landscape. These are exciting times at Genelec as we celebrate the first 40 years of our career.” Bohlin entered the pro audio industry back in 1994, working with Studioteknik, the Swedish Genelec distributor, as the brand’s national representative. In later years, Bohlin enjoyed a long career working for Avid, where he managed sales within the Nordic territories while based in Stockholm. Genelec managing director Siamäk Naghian commented: “Michael is an excellent addition to our
international marketing and sales team and it’s a true pleasure to welcome back a member of our extended Genelec family. As well as bringing tremendous professional audio expertise and experience to his
Martin Audio’s ‘adaptable’ team brings in Ben Tucker as product support engineer
QSC appoints Rajesh Mittal to director of sales and marketing in India office
Mike Roissetter named business development manager at FBT Audio UK
Martin Audio has appointed Ben Tucker as its new product support engineer, as the company looks to strengthen support services. Tucker has previously worked for Millstone Sound and also as a freelance live sound engineer. Dan Orton, head of Martin Audio’s product support group, said: “This appointment reflects the growth of the company and the demand for in-field support for live sound production and training. The now six-strong team is set up to be adaptable, in order to support customers anywhere in the world, rather than being region specific. With the success of recent product launches, the timing couldn’t be better.” Tucker added: “I’m delighted to join the team and to be involved in the increasing number of live productions Martin Audio is now dealing with and to help its customers get the most from its products.”
QSC has named Rajesh Mittal as director of sales and marketing at QSC India. Rajesh joins QSC following his career at Samsung India Electronics where he served as general manager of visual display solutions. “We opened offices in India last year to offer a local and dedicated sales and support team to our customers in the SAARC region,” said Ron Marchant, senior director of sales, QSC Systems, EMEASA. “Rajesh brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to QSC, and we look forward to his integral role in helping us further develop our sales and marketing capabilities in the region.” “I am honoured to join the growing team at QSC,” added Mittal. “There is a lot of exciting growth opportunity here and I’m looking forward to bringing QSC solutions to the SAARC region.”
FBT Audio (UK) has recruited Mike Roissetter as its new business development manager for south Wales, the Midlands and south west England. Roissetter brings many years of experience to the role, with a strong background in audio retail for the Soundpad chain of stores, as well as distribution for numerous global brands. He has also worked with FBT MD Mark Parkhouse in the past, as Parkhouse explained: “Mike actually sold me my first PA, when I was 14. Since then we’ve had the pleasure of working closely together and I’ve also had the opportunity of watching Mike from afar as he has continued to excel in often challenging circumstances. He’s a true professional who will raise our already excellent level of customer service to new heights. I’m very pleased to welcome him to FBT Audio’s UK family.”
The right man for the job: Michael Bohlin
new role, Michael also has a deep understanding and appreciation of our company values. We’re delighted that he has returned to Genelec in this particularly special 40th anniversary year.”
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P11 APRIL 2018
Producer K-Minor is a regular host at Red Bull Studios London’s monthly #NormalNotNovelty nights, which provide workshops for female producers. Here, she tells us how she got involved and why it’s so important for the pro audio industry…
was lucky enough to go to the first ever #NormalNotNovelty event in January 2017 at Red Bull Studios in London Bridge and have been a regular ever since. A friend saw a post on Facebook about it so I signed up and went along not really knowing what to expect. All I knew was that it was a female only event and there were going to be workshops about studio engineering, DJing and electronic music production. I’m not going to lie - going there on my own was a bit nerve wracking and yet it was exciting at the same time. The idea of going into a roomful of other females interested in making music was intriguing, and at that stage wasn’t something I’d ever encountered. Right from the moment I arrived, I felt welcome and the vibe was amazing. The project was designed to encourage femaleidentifying music lovers of any knowledge level, providing opportunities to meet and learn from DJs, engineers and producers at Red Bull Studios London. The format of each event is based around three themed sessions that take place simultaneously: DJing, electronic production and sound engineering. Guests register their choice in a ballot a few days before the event, indicating which of the three workshops they’d like to attend. Each session is an hour long with a guest speaker who talks about their processes, workflows and shares industry insights and experiences with plenty of room for Q&As. After the workshops finish, the guests have the chance to mingle in the bar area where they can chat to the session leaders and socialise with the guests who’ve been in the other workshops. The atmosphere is super chilled and friendly – it feels like a genuinely safe space for women to interact and share their own experiences with making music, trying to break into the industry and everything else around it. My first impression being there really took me aback – it was so empowering to see so many women in one space and all there for the love of music. It was a far cry from when I’d attended production courses and workshops as a young teen, when I’d been the only female in the room. Ever since that first time I came down to #NormalNotNovelty, I’ve been so inspired by the events and the sense of community that’s being built and I’ve wanted to get more involved and help push things forward. I started as the regular host of the electronic music production demonstrations in April last year, assisting the guest session leaders with their setups
L-R: Hosts and workshop leaders Fiona Cruikshank, Bells Driver, Madam X, Saoirse, Sandunes and K-Minor
and fielding questions whilst they demonstrate their workflow and processes. At the last event we had an amazing producer/artist, Sandunes, who had come all the way from Mumbai to run the session. She’s a fantastic musician whose production encompasses a very diverse array of influences and styles from around the world. I would describe her music as a kind of futuristic chillout – a mix of soulful synths, mesmerising bass lines, electronic drum grooves and a sprinkling of magical samples that help to glue the whole soundscape together. In the workshop she opened up a new project in Ableton and built a track from scratch. She is someone who likes to create her own samples and seems to do this on her travels, whether that’s recording a brass band in New Orleans or making a field recording of bicycle bells in Mumbai! I found her workflow really interesting as you could really see the track unfold, section by section. The audience was so focused and locked into the production process - you could have heard a pin drop in there! Sandunes got a few technical questions about how she uses compression and the warp effect in Ableton. She took these in her stride and seemed to have the skills of a natural teacher when it came to explaining. I mean, I use a lot of compression in my music but that
doesn’t mean I think I could explain it very easily! She did it so simply in a way that made me slap my own forehead and go “of course!” It was fascinating to hear her talk about her experiences in Mumbai, and how the music scene is small but constantly developing there. She uses this creative energy to marry influences from ‘western music’ with her field recordings to create percussion grooves that give us a sense of Mumbai and sets her sound apart sonically. As much as I love the technical aspects of the workshop, the mixer afterwards is always one of the best parts of the evening. Everyone seems to be buzzing from the shared inspiration of each of the sessions and it’s nice to see the full range of people who’ve come down, altogether in one space. I’ve met enthusiastic young women who have attended the event with their mums, keen to take their first steps into music and then five minutes later found myself talking to people who have been in the industry for 20 years. I’ve been introduced to whole new genres of music and have incredible new friends, as well as being constantly inspired by talented musicians and producers. In a little over a year, #NormalNotNovelty has become a wonderful platform for women in music to take things forward on their own terms. n Read our interview with K-Minor on P38
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P13 APRIL 2018
Musik man: Michael Biwer
The Sound of Musik In recent years, Prolight+Sound and Musikmesse have undergone a series of big changes, raising questions over the future look of the Frankfurt trade show. Daniel Gumble caught up with one of the show’s chief organisers, Michael Biwer, to find out what’s in store for this year’s pro audio visitors and why it is “sharpening the synergies” between the two components…
t’s been a busy few years for the team at Messe Frankfurt. Since 2014, the annual Prolight+Sound and Musikmesse trade gatherings have been subject to some serious changes, with timings, hall locations and structures all impacted by the organisation’s ongoing bid to fend off fierce competition from its international rivals. While LA’s NAMM show has remained constant in its appeal to the pro audio masses, the inexorable rise of the AV and integrated systems market has seen Amsterdam’s ISE hoovering up those floating voters whose budgets dictate that exhibiting at three major events in Q1 is simply one too many. Inevitably, this trend has somewhat forced Messe’s hand on occasion: distancing the opening days of Prolight+Sound and Musikmesse; running the shows concurrently; switching around the traditional hall locations of each event; opening its doors to the public;
each of these approaches have been adopted of late to help appease the regulars and attract newcomers. For some it has worked, for others it hasn’t. Both shows have cultivated longstanding relationships with certain exhibitors and attendees that have held steady during these years of upheaval, and look set to stand steadfast for the foreseeable future. However, it cannot be denied that the apparent uncertainty surrounding the direction of the Frankfurt expo and its various manifestations has caused consternation in some quarters. Still, in spite of the shifting sands of today’s fluctuating pro audio trade show landscape, there can be little doubt that the history and tradition in which Prolight+Sound and Musikmesse are so deeply steeped continue to ensure that Frankfurt remains very much part of the conversation for businesses across the industry. This year sees Prolight+Sound run from April 10-13
and Musikmesse from April 11 at the Messe Exhibition Centre, with organisers looking to build upon last year’s combined visitor total of around 100,000 visitors from 144 countries. And while the two shows will remain separate entities, the message coming out of Frankfurt is that there will be a strong emphasis on the various synergies between them. So, with show time almost upon us, PSNEurope editor Daniel Gumble caught up with group show director of the entertainment media and creative industries’ business unit at Messe Frankfurt, Michael Biwer, to find out more about what exactly pro audio exhibitors and visitors can expect from the Frankfurt show in 2018, how Prolight+Sound and Musikmesse can continue to compete with their international trade show counterparts and where he sees its biggest opportunities for the years ahead…
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There have been some significant changes to Prolight+Sound and Musikmesse over the past few years. What can visitors expect from this year’s show? This year, the show offers new and interesting programme items, particularly in the area of pro audio technology. The Future of Audio + Music Technology lecture series, organised by the Advanced Audio + Application Exchange (A3E), will be held for the first time during Prolight+Sound and Musikmesse. Another new feature is the Studio Forum, which gives exhibitors the opportunity to present solutions around professional studio technology and equipment. In addition, the topics of 3D audio and spatial audio play a major role at the event – for example in the Immersive Technology Forum and in the presentation areas of several exhibitors, including d&b Audiotechnik, Alcons Audio and Astro Spatial Audio.
Michael Biwer: ‘Our international profile is unrivalled’
What are the key things that have been learned from the changes to the show’s structure in recent years? As past experience has clearly shown, the synergies between Prolight+Sound and Musikmesse are important both for exhibitors and for visitors, particularly in the audio segment. For this reason, since 2017 the shows now overlap on three days instead of two. And in Hall 4.1 (Audio, DJ + Recording), the two fairs offer for the first time this year a hall that is part of both Prolight + Sound and Musikmesse and that appeals to both target groups. We will continue to take account of the strong interactions between these trade fair platforms in the future development of the shows. With NAMM continuing to attract substantial pro audio crowds and the rapid expansion of ISE showing no signs of stopping, how does Prolight+Sound compete? In the entertainment technology segment, Prolight + Sound offers a broader spectrum of sectors and topics than any other show, covering lighting, sound engineering, theatre and stage technology and system integration. Together with Musikmesse, this trade fair duo is the largest meeting place for the music, event and media technology industry in Europe. One of the success factors behind Prolight + Sound is Messe Frankfurt’s global sales network, which represents us at over 30 locations and helps us to market the event worldwide. Visitors from 144 countries came to the last Prolight + Sound and Musikmesse. Our international profile is unrivalled. Prolight + Sound is also a global trade fair brand with events in Frankfurt, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Moscow and Dubai. In order to underpin the long-term relevance of the show in this challenging competitive environment, we are continuing to develop Prolight + Sound. Firstly, we want to sharpen the synergies with Musikmesse. Secondly, we would like to devote special attention to the supporting programme of events and offer targeted, top-class content for the individual target groups – for
THE FIELD OF AV SYSTEM INTEGRATION HAS BEEN A CORNERSTONE OF GROWTH FOR PROLIGHT + SOUND FOR MANY YEARS
example in the areas of studio technology, sound, moving images, theatre technology, MICE and more. Is there pressure to reassure visitors in light of some major regular exhibitors either pulling out or reducing their floor space? In 2018, Prolight + Sound will once again be strongly positioned to present the latest ideas and innovations from key players from all industry segments. And we are delighted to see numerous new and returning exhibitors this year.
Participation in a trade fair and the scope of the presentation is always an individual corporate decision that depends on numerous factors. It is essential to remain in discussion with those companies that are not present this year, convince them with good reasons, and to take into account their wishes for the future development of the show concept. Our aim is to represent the breadth and depth of the industry as comprehensively as possible for the benefit of the exhibitors and the tens of thousands of visitors from all over the world. The integrated systems market is clearly a fast-growing one. Is there room for Prolight+Sound to make greater inroads into this space? The field of AV system integration has been a cornerstone of growth for Prolight + Sound for many years. More than 150 exhibitors showcased products from this segment at the last event and many key players are present this year. In particular, the ever-deeper fusion of event and network technology – especially in the audio segment – makes Prolight + Sound a very interesting presentation platform for relevant solutions.
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P15 APRIL 2018 As well as playing a major role in the product halls, the AV system integration sector also features prominently in the supporting programme of events. For example, Messe Frankfurt is the initiator of the Sinus – Systems Integration Award, which has been presented annually at Prolight + Sound since 2004 and celebrates the groundbreaking use of media technology and system integration. The conference programme not only provides basic knowledge, for example around the use of media servers, it also highlights future topics such as AVoIP, digital audio networking and, more generally, digitisation in the event industry. In order to embed this growth market more deeply in the event, we plan to establish a dedicated conference on the subject of media technology and AV system integration at Prolight+Sound in the future. How crucial is education to the Prolight+Sound offering? Will you be upping the amount of education/ training content this year? These days, the relevance of a trade fair is no longer defined solely by its presentation of products, but increasingly by its offer of a high-calibre education programme. Altogether, there will be more than 80
lectures by acknowledged experts at Prolight + Sound 2018 – considerably more than last year. However, it’s not just the scope of the conference programme that has grown, the number of lectures in English has increased, thereby targeting an international audience. It seems that the music industry in general is finally starting to see some money filtering back into the business, with streaming now starting to take hold. How much of a knock-on effect does a healthy music business have upon our industries, particularly for Musikmesse? A healthy financial position gives the music industry the opportunity to market and establish artists over the long term. This also creates potential for the musical instrument sector. In the past, there have often been complaints about the lack of attractive role models to inspire the younger generation to make music. Other areas, too, such as professional studio technology and the live entertainment industry, can also benefit from growth in the music industry. Streaming is just one of many sources of revenue for musicians. For this reason, themes such as
merchandising, music education and the collaboration of new music acts with brands are even more important than ever at Musikmesse 2018. Wheere are the big areas of opportunity for Prolight+Sound and Musikmesse? There are numerous trends that are driving the event and AV media technology industry. These include immersive audio, digital audio networking, AVoIP, virtual and augmented reality, interactive signage, UC&C and many others. It is crucial for us to ensure that these themes are firmly embedded in Prolight + Sound – for instance, by creating appropriate content in the supporting programme and developing the best possible presentation opportunities for exhibitors. Musikmesse has also made great strides in the past, growing from purely a product showcase to a diverse content platform that offers numerous workshops, concerts and other events for a wide variety of musical communities. There is growth potential in the education sector: This year, we are providing an extra area for organisations from the fields of education and culture and will continue to expand our offering in this area in the future. n See P45 for more on Musikmesse 2018
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Broadcast 3.0 Audio Production
mc2 96 – Grand Production Console
With experience gathered over more than 40 years, German audio innovator Lawo is distinguished by its
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Prolight+Sound’s audio, DJ and recording sections will have a central position at the 2018 show
Why exhibit at Prolight+Sound? This month sees the pro audio and musical instrument industries come together for Prolight+Sound and Muskimesse, taking place in Frankfurt from April 10-13 and 11-14 respectively. With a more prominent position for pro audio firms and its dual B2B/B2C audience, how will Prolight+Sound fare on the trade show calendar? PSNEurope asked some exhibitors to find out…
t will be exciting to see which direction it will go in.” This was the response from Berlin-based loudspeaker business Adam Audio, when PSNEurope asked manufacturers exhibiting at this year’s Prolight+Sound fair to tell us more about their decision to do so. Replace the word ‘exciting’ with ‘interesting’, and you’ll perhaps better reflect the industry’s mood. When you consider the fast-changing landscape of trade shows in Europe at the moment, there have been a few question marks over the future of some of them. Stalwart show NAMM is a firm favourite for many in the industry, with the 2018 winter edition having taken place at the end of January. A few weeks after followed the Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) show in Amsterdam, which drew in a record number of visitors (attendees were up 8.6% year-on-year to 80,923, while its number of exhibitors also hit a record high of 1,296). Frankfurt’s Prolight+Sound will see some changes this year. Its partner show Musikmesse announced in October 2017 that it will merge its audio, DJ and recording segments in a new, central presentation platform across both fairs this year. Exhibitors that used to be spread over several halls at the two fairs will make their presentations together in Hall 4.1, a concept which “is the result of numerous discussions with
companies from the sector”, according to Musikmesse’s group show director of entertainment, media and creative industries Michael Biwer. In keeping with last year, Prolight+Sound and Muskimesse will overlap, with the former taking place
from April 10-13 and Musikmesse opening from April 11-14. PSNEurope asked some of the show’s pro audio exhibitors where the appeal lies for them and what sets Prolight+Sound apart from the rest... www.pls.messefrankfurt.com
Adam Audio: ‘It will be exciting to see which direction it will go in’ Why are you exhibiting at Prolight+Sound 2018? On the one hand, there is certainly the geographical proximity – Frankfurt is not far from our headquarters in Berlin. On the other hand, it´s a good opportunity to meet our distributors and talk to customers. What products are you bringing to the show? At the beginning of the year, we launched our new T Series. Therefore, at this year’s Prolight+Sound, we will be showing our new T5V and T7V models as well as one or two models from our flagship series, the S-Series, which we launched in 2017.
How does the show distinguish itself from other trade shows on the pro audio calendar? Prolight+Sound is currently redefining itself and it will be exciting to see which direction it will go in. In the past two or three years, many new, specialised exhibition formats have been created in addition to PL+S and Musikmesse, such as the Superbooth in Berlin. I believe that – at least as far as the recording industry is concerned – events with a B2C approach have a great deal of popularity if visitors can broaden their knowledge and skills. Andre Zeugner, head of marketing
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Photo: Erica Basnaki
Sherif El Barbari, director of L-ISA (left) with Carlos Cortes, director of sales at L-Acoustics
L-Acoustics: ‘The sheer size allows Prolight+SOUND to continue to serve manufacturers well’ Why are you exhibiting at Prolight+Sound 2018? For many years, Prolight+Sound has been the international show of choice as it attracts a widespread selection of our key partners and clients and, of course, potential clients and partners. Visitors from across Europe and beyond converge in Frankfurt and that makes Prolight+Sound an important moment in our yearly calendar. Many of our German and European partners make the L-Acoustics stand their home base at Prolight, meeting with their clients and taking orders. Prolight has also traditionally provided a key moment for us to hold our international Certified Provider meeting, allowing L-Acoustics and our partners to share best practice, success stories and for us to announce our upcoming strategic initiatives to our
PROLIGHT+SOUND IS THE MAIN EUROPEAN EVENT FOR THE LIVE SOUND INDUSTRY, ALLOWING US TO MEET WITH A GOOD NUMBER OF OUR KEY PARTNERS
global network of partners. What products are you bringing to the show? At Prolight+Sound, L-Acoustics will demonstrate the new L-ISA Immersive Sound Art technology which is currently embarking on pop singer Lorde’s Melodrama world tour, and present new hardware and software
tools – including the P1 networked digital audio processor, which begins shipping in June – that will make it easy for L-Acoustics partners to quickly realise optimised performance. Demos and presentations will be held in the Kontrast Room, Hall 3. The L-Acoustics booth – C11 in Hall 3.1 – will showcase the new L-ISA Island, a complete integrated personal auditorium that plays the high-definition Blu 23.1 format as well as any other media, all housed in a stunning piece of furniture designed to entertain highlevel music lovers. How does the show distinguish itself from other trade shows on the pro audio calendar? The sheer size of the Frankfurt Messe allows Prolight+Sound to continue to attract and serve manufacturers well. Prolight+Sound is the main European event for the live sound industry, and the show attracts a wide cross-section of L-Acoustics’ key partners. It also allows us to meet simultaneously with a good number of them. Jochen Frohn, director of business development
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D&B audiotechnik: ‘Prolight+Sound brings together all the strands of the industry under one roof’ Why are you exhibiting at Prolight+Sound 2018? 2018 is shaping up as a stellar year for d&b audiotechnik as we continue to deliver two technology innovations into the market in one year. Having launched immersive sound system processor, the d&b Soundscape, in February at ISE, winning a NewBay ISE Best Of Show Award, Prolight+Sound 2018 now becomes the perfect occasion to officially introduce our next generation line array technology, the d&b SLSeries – GSL System. Sitting above the J, Y and V Series systems as the apex of the d&b range, the GSL-System sets a new standard by delivering low frequency extension, headroom and a cardioid dispersion pattern performance over the entire operating range. In short: it’s the ultimate touring machine. What products are you bringing to the show? Prolight+Sound will give us the opportunity to continue
presentations of our new sound system processor, the d&b Soundscape. Operating on the DS100 Signal Engine and utlilising the familiar d&b Workflow, the d&b Soundscape opens up a whole world of creativity for sound designers, artists and audiences. At the d&b stand you will also find the complete d&b product range including all loudspeaker series E, T, J, Y and V-Series, as well as xS, xA and xC-Series. There will also be a d&b Workflow station on the booth featuring NoizCalc, ArrayCalc and ArrayProcessing. d&b has already announced a number of integration partners for the DS100 Signal Engine including show control standard QLab by Figure 53, TTA Stagetracker II by TTA, as well as with Digital Audio Workstations (DAW) systems in either VST or AU formats. More integration partner announcements will be made in the near future. d&b Soundscape presentations will take place in the Messe Forum for the duration of Prolight+Sound.
How does the show distinguish itself from other trade shows on the pro audio calendar? Prolight+Sound is a major date on the event calendar that brings together all strands of the industry under one roof and the d&b audiotechnick family certainly feels at home there. We expect the show to be the finale of a multi-year development phase for the company, kicking off the new journey of two products which we hope will be highly regarded as audio technology innovations. David Claringbold, chief marketing officer
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Power to perform XY-3b Make an impression with the XY-3B, designed to deliver a coherent & natural sound for large venues and outdoor events.
We are exhibiting at Prolight + Sound 10-13th April, 2018. Find us in Hall 3.1, Stand A81 & A91.
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Avid: ‘Prolight+SOUND and Musikmesse bring the European live events industry together’ with confidence. Adopting live sound equipment that can be integrated seamlessly and cater for a diverse range of productions has become a necessity. Prolight+Sound gives organisations and producers a head start in acquiring the latest powerful, cutting-edge live sound solutions. Placing attendees at the forefront of these innovations, Prolight+Sound lets customers engage with groundbreaking products and meet with experts to help discover the best solution for their production environment, however unique and specialised. Derk Hagedorn
Why are you exhibiting at Prolight+Sound 2018? At Avid, we believe that industry trade shows are go-to events for those spearheading the latest developments in the pro audio market and those looking to expand their live sound capabilities. Keeping up with these developments can be challenging as the market becomes more crowded and competitive. Attending trade shows like Prolight+Sound allows customers to digest the vast amount of systems available, meet with leading developers to deep dive into their respective technologies, and choose a new live sound solution
What products are you bringing to the show? We will be showcasing the latest version of Avid Venue Software and the new Avid Venue On-Stage iOS app for the fully modular and scalable Avid Venue S6L live sound system. The new free-of-charge Avid Venue On-Stage iOS app gives monitor engineers using the S6L the ability to remotely control any mix from any location. With the app, engineers can fine-tune individual monitor mixes on stage, hearing exactly what the performers hear. Avid will also be demonstrating its new Venue 5.7 software, which delivers seamless support for Waves SoundGrid servers, with full tactile control of Waves plug-ins directly from the S6L surface knobs and deep integration with the Venue software.
Avid will also demonstrate Pro Tools 2018, the latest version of the industry’s leading digital audio workstation, which enables faster, more collaborative music creation. How does the show distinguish itself from other trade shows on the pro audio calendar? Prolight+Sound is a desirable event for companies to showcase live sound innovations that are set to change the industry. With an attendance of more than 45,000 visitors from 139 countries, it’s evident that there is a growing demand to acquire modern live sound technology in order to stay ahead ahead of market changes, production trends and industry pressures. For live sound and events, it has become increasingly important for live sound systems to meet every production requirement and deliver high-quality sound seamlessly, regardless of the production’s complexity. Having both Prolight+Sound and Musikmesse open in Frankfurt at the same time provides the ideal platform to bring companies and professionals together from the European music production and live events industry. We’re excited to be involved and to catch up with our existing and new customers. Derk Hagedorn, senior marketing manager (live sound, studio consoles and controllers)
Adamson: ‘prolight+SOUND a great opportunity to make new connections in several global markets’ diverse pool of international pro audio professionals from various industry segments. From touring and live events to AV integration, Prolight+Sound is a key event to meet many of Adamson’s global partners, customers, and end-users and a great opportunity to make new professional connections and drive business in several global markets. Marc Weber
Why are you exhibiting at Prolight+Sound 2018? Adamson is exhibiting at Prolight+Sound 2018 because of the show’s ability to attract a large and
What products are you bringing to the show? A highlight for us is the install-focused IS-Series, which packs Adamson’s tour-grade technology into sleek, unobtrusive cabinets that complement the architecture in any install application. On display will be the brand
new IS7p and IS10p two-way, full range point source cabinets along with the existing IS7 and IS10 two-way, full range line array cabinets and IS118 and IS119 subwoofers. Adamson’s tour-grade E-Series and compact S-Series loudspeakers will also be shown, including the E15 three-way, true line source enclosure that is a fixture of major international tours by the likes of Imagine Dragons, Shawn Mendes, Indochine, and Sia, in addition to major festivals like Vieilles Charrus, Rock Werchter, OVO Fest and many others. Marc Weber, director of product and brand management
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X-LINE ADVANCE FORWARD-THINKING FEATURES, REAL-WORLD EXPERIENCE
“I love the fact that you can use either a compressed or static array technique. Doing a compression rig, two guys can fly a 12-box array in 20 minutes. Can’t beat that!” Dave Hallock, Senior Engineer, Mountain Town Music “It’s truly a game-changer in terms of performance-to-size ratio and overall value in line arrays” Brent Naylor, Windy Shores Sound
10. - 13.04. 2018 Hall 3.1 / Booth G84
10. - 13.04. 2018 Hall 3.1 / Booth G84
“They’re smaller, lighter, and louder. What more could you ask for in a box, in a day and age where truck space is important?” Ben Stowe, NLFX Pro “A fantastic combination of high sound pressure, extended high-frequency response and linear low-frequency output.” Neal Allen, Merlin PA
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Photo: Francesca Colasanti
‘I cry no tears for the death of the corporate record business’
For more than three decades, Steve Albini has cut an increasingly divisive figure as a punk rock provocateur. Revered and feared in equal measure, to some he is an anti-establishment antagonist, to others simply a jobbing studio engineer with a no-compromise commitment to his craft. Daniel Gumble was granted a rare conversation with Chicago’s finest to talk ‘super producers’, the future of rock, the death of the recorded music industry and how he feels about In Utero 25 years on… www.psneurope.com 23-27 Steve Albini Interview_v4final.indd 23
Photo: Francesca Colasanti
t’s hard to determine whether Steve Albini’s long-standing reputation as one of rock’s great contrarians has been a cumbersome burden or a blessing in disguise. The near mythical status the Chicago native has obtained over the past three decades as some kind of audio outlaw dealing in a sonic currency inaccessible to the masses has no doubt contributed to his edgy cool among those who rail against the synthetic sheen that coats so much contemporary rock and pop. Indeed, to discover the words ‘engineered by Steve Albini’ – never ‘produced by’ – lining the notes of a record is to discover a badge of indie honour; a hallmark decreeing that precisely zero compromise has been made in delivering the truest representation of the artist’s vision. For the uninitiated, the root of Albini’s status as a provocateur stems largely from his swift and economic approach to engineering. From day one he has refused to acknowledge himself as a producer, claiming that his job is to record and represent the sound of the client as purely and accurately as possible - nothing
more, nothing less. To be clear, this stance is not, and has never been, an exercise in false modesty or punk rock posturing. He famously doesn’t take royalties on the records he engineers, favouring what has been described as a highly affordable one-off payment on a project-by-project basis. It is a decision that has demonstrably resulted in a lack of earnings relative to what he could have earned over the years otherwise. When he once described producer credits and royalties as “an insult to the artist”, he meant it. Unsurprisingly, his devotion to aural authenticity has proven particularly popular with staunchly independent artists opposed to the more frivolous trappings of mainstream production techniques. This approach generally involves a no frills recording style, little to no post production tampering or double tracking and a strong emphasis on getting things done as quickly and efficiently as possible. This business-like attitude has seen him engineer thousands upon thousands of records, ranging from his own band Shellac and a wealth of local underground bands and personal friends,
to bona fide rock legends like Nirvana, Manic Street Preachers, Pixies, The Breeders, PJ Harvey, The Stooges and, most recently, California garage rock poster boy Ty Segall. However, his intolerance for record label interference combined with an unfiltered contempt for the mainstream music business has unquestionably prompted consternation in certain quarters. Indeed, there have been instances where records bearing the Albini name have been hampered by his association. Just last year, The Cribs’ Ryan Jarman, who worked with Albini on their 2017 album 24/7 Rock Star Shit, told PSNEurope that a UK radio station that had traditionally supported the band would not give the record any air time simply because its bosses deemed Albini records “too lo-fi”. Such accusations are nothing new for Albini, whose most famous work, Nirvana’s 1993 masterpiece In Utero, was met with hysterical shrieks of commercial suicide when it was revealed that the band would be following up their 1991 collosus Nevermind with a
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THE RECORDS BEING MADE IN BIG FANCY STUDIOS WERE AWFUL. THE GOOD MUSIC WAS BEING MADE ROUGH AND READY. THAT ASPECT HASN’T REALLY CHANGED
record helmed by one of rock’s most divisive figures. Twenty-five years and 15 million shifted units later, it’s fair to say that In Utero - of which there’ll be plenty more later - hasn’t fared too badly in light of Albini’s involvement, yet its success did little to quash his notoriety as an anti-establishment icon. Based out of his Chicago studio, Electrical Audio, Albini’s economical recording process is now arguably more of a draw than ever before. In his formative years as an engineer, there was little indication as to the fate that would befall the studio sector some 30 years later. Now, with record label purse strings pulled suffocatingly tight and self-sufficiency the predominant form of survival for artists, time truly is of the essence. “There is a moment of realisation people have fairly quickly that if they are indecisive it’s going to cost them a lot of money, and that goes a long way toward shaping people up,” Albini affirms as he reflects upon his career over the course of a lengthy and wide-ranging phone conversation with PSNEurope from Electrical Audio. “Twenty or 30 years ago, musicians were
somewhat insulated from the cost of their recordings because budgets were being provided by record labels. People were more inclined to be indecisive because they weren’t having to pay out of their own pocket ultimately the cost did reflect back on them due to the book-keeping practices of the labels. Now, pretty much every artist is funding their own record. If there is a budget available it is going to be modest. The financial reality of wasting time dawns on people very quickly.” Despite these financial constraints, Albini is adamant that this trend has not hindered the state of contemporary rock, and may have even elevated it. “I cry no tears about the death of the corporate record business,” he declares. “Bear in mind that the records made under those self-indulgent conditions in big fancy studios were awful. The good music was being made rough and ready and that aspect hasn’t really changed. The people who labour over their records endlessly and torture themselves over every decision… those records are awful. People who can make a record in a fairly direct manner can execute it in a way that satisfies their expectations, because they have been willing to define their expectations. They will stick a stake in the ground and say, This is my aesthetic, this is what I want to do.” He continues: “What has changed is the economics for studio owners. Studio owners used to love pampered, indulged artists who couldn’t make up their minds, because the budgets were available for them to waste a bunch of time and they profited from it. My client base and the people that I’ve worked with my whole tenure in the business have been independent artists spending their own money and were conscious of the costs. The democratisation of the music making process is such a universally good development that I have a hard time finding fault with the fact that it is costing me money. Yes, it does put pressure on studios, as they now have to scrabble to get clients to fill their hours. But our client has always been this independent artist anyway.”
Radio Friendly Unit Shifter In February of 1993, Nirvana commenced work on what was to become their third and final studio album. Less than two years before, the band’s Butch Vig-produced second record Nevermind hauled the Seattle trio from relative obscurity and thrust them into the spotlight in a way that not even their most ardent followers could have predicted. A sparkling set of power pop singles infused with Beatlesque melodies, Sonic Youth’s noise rock aesthetic and the breakneck ferocity of the Pixies’ quiet-loudquiet-loud dynamic saw Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl catapulted from the confines of friends’ studios and dank dive bars to the top of the charts and festival headline slots the world over. With major label backing and a now legendary Reading Festival headline performance in 1992 behind them, the pressure being exerted upon the band from
fans and record company executives to deliver an equally crowd pleasing follow up was immense. Cobain and co, however, had other ideas. Already a fan of Albini’s work with alt rock luminaries Pixies, PJ Harvey and The Breeders, Nirvana set about recruiting his services for In Utero, a record that, while still in possession of the pop sensibilities and anthemic angst that made Nevermind such a widespread smash, was an altogether different, harder-edged beast. Recorded not at Electrical Audio but Minnesota’s Pachyderm Studios in trademark Albini style, In Utero was recorded and mixed in just 12 days and presented Nirvana’s music in all the unadulterated glory of their frenetic live shows. The sound of Cobain’s threadbare, guttural screams combined with his frazzled guitar tones served up an eviscerating assault on the eardrums, while the album’s now iconic and much sought after drum sound delivered the aural impact of having Grohl’s entire kit assembled immediately around the listener’s head. According to Albini, despite the band’s standing as one of the biggest acts on the planet, they approached the recording with all the amiability and diligence of his typical client roster. “Everything about that session was consistent with all the other sessions I had been doing,” he explained. “The band set up to play live, they knew the material and there wasn’t a lot of writing or arranging done on the spot. Everything proceeded in a very straightforward pattern. I was using the same live band recording methodology I’d been using with all my friends’ and peers’ bands that I still use today. “The one remarkable thing about that session was the way Kurt conducted the vocals. We had set some time aside to get started on the vocals not knowing how long it would take, and he basically sat down and in one session sang the entire album. He did a couple of test recordings to get comfortable with the sound of the room and the mics, and then sang the album in one go. There were a couple of things that were redone that may have stretched out over two days, but it was extremely efficient and obviously a very taxing process for him, and he did a remarkable job.” Albini also recalls an accidental stroke of good fortune in Cobain’s vocal sessions that helped embellish the record. “One of his comfort mechanisms was that he always wanted something in his hands, “ he elaborates. “He was playing with instruments the whole time that he was doing the vocals. At the start he was using a rainstick – a percussion instrument – but the sound of it coming through the vocal mic was obviously imposing on the session and he didn’t like it, so he ended up redoing those takes. But he eventually settled on having a somewhat broken acoustic guitar to hand, so that acoustic guitar you can hear in the vocal sections of the songs is not a separate overdub but the sound of his guitar while he was recording the vocals.”
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While In Utero divided fans and critics upon its release, it still landed in the US albums chart at No.1 and has since gone on to sell over 15 million copies worldwide. The recording process also helped win over Albini, who confesses that he was not “actively a fan” prior to commencing work on the record. “It would be too much to say there was a rivalry, but there was an awareness of the different personalities of the different locales of the music scene at the time,” he notes. “New York and LA bands were often seen as driven by hype and image. The Seattle bands were reacting against that but had also embraced some of the trappings of the hair metal and glam rock culture that the Midwestern punk identity was in opposition too. The bands I cut my teeth on, like The Effigies, Naked Ray Gun and Killdozer, were absurdist bands, either ignorant of or in opposition to the show business and image plays of other scenes. So Seattle’s musical identity was that it had taken the garage rock sound and applied to it some of the trappings of the glam era in a very crude way. I felt like Nirvana were a competent band but they were not my favourite expression of that identity and I wasn’t familiar with their music until I started working with them. But having come to know them and see them in action for a couple of weeks and hear them at the peak, my respect grew immensely and I consider them a great band of the era.” He continues: “They were firing on all cylinders. They attained a level of success where they didn’t have to ask anybody’s permission to do anything, so they made a record to suit themselves and Kurt’s vision for his music and his voice for that record were intensely personal, and I feel like he wasn’t handcuffed in any way.
Photo: Nathan Wind
“It’s not just the biggest record I’ve ever done, it’s the biggest record I’ll ever do. And they behaved exactly the same as all of their peers in the underground. They were prepared, they were well rehearsed. When they came into the studio Kurt had a notebook full of lyrics that were fully fleshed out. Their approach was very matter of fact and they got in and chopped wood. They worked with the same urgency as a band that was spending their rent money on their first record.”
The future of rock At the time of Albini’s work with Nirvana, the pairing of the two was no doubt a controversial one. Today, however, Albini sees such partnerships as a far more common prospect, especially given the lack of money powering the record industry. “As the vertical monopoly model of the music business collapsed, more and more bands had to become self-reliant,” he says. “So it is now more
IN UTERO: 25 YEARS ON... Steve Albini reveals his favourite mix of Nirvana’s 1993 masterpiece “I had a chance to do a deep dive on that record in 2013 when they did the deluxe reissue, and Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear and Dave Grohl came here and we opened up all the multi-tracks and did alternate mixes for all the songs on the album. We also did a comprehensive remaster of the original edition of the album from the original half-inch tapes. Everybody was really pleased with how the original session sounded. I felt like the band were playing well and everything sounded good. This is a rare thing for me to say, but I have to give their record label credit in that when they decided to do the deluxe reissue they pulled out all the stops for quality. There is a super deluxe edition of the record and from a technical standpoint I don’t know how to make a better record than that. You really cannot get a better, more sympathetic master than going from
the original master tapes - direct to metal, very high quality pressings. If anybody is interested hearing what I think is the best representation of that session it’s the original version of the album from that double 12” 45 super deluxe vinyl edition. “In a lot of cases, even when that record was new, Nirvana were one of hundreds of bands that had to put out a record that year, so they weren’t granted that degree of quality control. The mastering was done using a reputable mastering engineer but it wasn’t done with the kind of attention to detail that was possible 20 years later. “The first song we recorded was Serve The Servants. We did a sound check before getting started and just before that first take Kurt added a booster pedal into his amp set up – he was using a Fender Quad Reverb
that was missing a tube so it had an asymmetrical distortion. It’s a very characteristic sound of that record, this gnarly overdrive. At the beginning of that take, I noticed the first couple of chords were pinning the meters, so during the take I adjusted the levels so the rest of it was at nominal levels, but the beginning was slightly overdriven. I remembered that moment when he kicked on the booster and the guitar jumped up, and I pointed that out to them and said, We may want to redo that bar to make it consistent, but they all said, No, it’s fine. That was emblematic of the way they proceeded on the session. If there were some accidental sounds or things that were unexpected, as long as they didn’t interfere with the flow or the end result, they were fine with it. That attitude allowed us to proceed at a very productive pace.”
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Heroes, tips and the possibility of another Nirvana... In keeping with Albini’s renowned need for speed in the studio, we threw some quick-fire questions in his direction… What’s the best thing about being an engineer? Getting to see other people realising their life’s ambition. It is an immensely satisfying and rewarding thing to see someone sitting on the sofa listening back to an album they have dreamed about making their whole life. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
Who were your studio heroes? There were a couple of people who were direct mentors of mine. John Loder who ran Southern Studios in London did a bunch of early punk rock records at the beginning of the indie label movement. The records he made were done very quickly but with impeccable sound quality. Blistering records for Crass, early Bauhaus, all of those made an indelible impression on me as a listener. Then I got to know him and he gave me a lot of technical advice I carry with me to this day. Another would be Ian Burgess. He worked with all the bands that got me into music – The Effigies, Naked Ray Gun, Savage Beliefs. He became a close friend and a mentor, and I emulated him in a lot of ways.
who have come to the studio again and again. I did a record in 2016 with Robbie Fulks. Off and on I’ve been working with him since around 1984. The record he made last (Upland Stories) was nominated for a Grammy, which I know was quite satisfying for him. Similarly, I’ve made a bunch of records with Kim Deal, the first being the Pixies’ Surfer Rosa, but I’ve also done a bunch of Breeders songs. I don’t work on everything she does, but when I do it’s immensely rewarding.
Which artist would you most like to work with? I used to have a wish list of people I’d love to have worked with, but I feel at this point I should be content with the people I’ve worked with who were personal heroes of mine. I got to make an album with the fucking Stooges, who were one of the bands that got me into music in the very beginning. An experience like that ought to be enough for anybody. I’ve long fantasised about what it would be like to make a Crazy Horse record. It would be an amazing experience for me because I’m such an enormous fan, but I’m not sure how much Neil Young and Crazy Horse would enjoy it!
common for bands to work under conditions that Nirvana worked under at the beginning of their career. The record I did with Nirvana was done in 12 days. That’s the sort of schedule an independent band would have allowed themselves. And it was a fraction of the amount of time and money that the record label wanted them to spend. There are political reasons for them wanting the band to spend more, because it allows the label to throw more money around and it increases the power and status of the people making those decisions. But I don’t think that move was being done politically on the part of Nirvana. They were just comfortable working that way. I know some people make that presumption about them, but I don’t believe that was the case. They just wanted to spend as much time and money as necessary and not more.” Though there is plenty of weight to Albini’s claims that rock bands of today are more likely to be accepting, and indeed, adept at working in shorter, more cost-effective time frames, there are still those whose aspirations drift towards the so called ‘super producers’ of the age in a bid to reach the widest possible audience. Over the past year, Grohl’s Foo Fighters took to the studio with Adele producer Greg Kurstin to make their
What advice do you have for up and coming studio engineers?
You never know, but I think it’s extremely unlikely because people’s listening tastes are being catered to with such specificity and minute detail that you
From a technical standpoint there is a cultural view that expertise is unnecessary and that you can fuck around and eventually come up with something good. While that can occasionally happen, expertise at a technical level is underrated. It’s definitely worth knowing how to get the best out of your equipment, whether your equipment is a guitar, an amplifier, a mixing console, a recording interface or software. It is worth it to become expert at it - it is absolutely not a waste of time to know what you’re doing.
latest album Concrete And Gold, while desert rock icons Queens Of The Stone Age called upon the services of Mark Ronson to produce their latest outing Villains. So what does Albini make of this trend? Are today’s rock heroes more concerned with commercial viability than exercising their rock ‘n’ roll credentials to create something a little more edgy? “Those two [bands] are in the second or third decade of their career,” he counters. “That’s not an established practice, it’s an event in the long arc of the career of somebody who’s been in music their whole life. They want to try everything, and one of those things is working under flashy pop circumstances.” As for facilities of Electrical Audio’s ilk, Albini believes that they continue to offer the artists of tomorrow a top class studio experience that is both affordable and highlights the benefits of working in a ‘proper studio’. “It’s important for studios like ours to maintain accessibility to people who don’t have indulgent champagne budgets, but who can make a record for the cost of a weekend vacation. I also think it’s important that studios like ours and other studios in our position offer artists a satisfying experience, so they don’t feel like the bit of extra money that they have to spend to go
to a proper studio is being wasted. But I can’t speak to the cultural psychology of why bands do what they do. Anyone who has ever made a pronouncement like that has been wrong. The reason I say that is because I am in a band and whenever anybody says we’ve done something for a specific reason they have been wrong.” With the studio clock quite literally ticking down on our time - an undisclosed client has just arrived in the room next door – talk turns to the subject of those aforementioned superstar producers and whether or not he himself has earned himself such an accolade, albeit as an emblem for the alternative as opposed to the mainstream. “I don’t really know anything about that world,” he says. “I have never had ambitions of being a record producer, I’ve only ever seen a few record producers in action. I don’t understand the mentality of being directorial towards somebody else’s music - I don’t get that as an ambition. I am happy to let those people conduct themselves the way they want, and I also recognise that I’m not one of them.” For now, it’s back to business as usual for Albini. He wouldn’t have it any other way. n
What’s the best album you’ve worked on? I don’t have a favourite. I’m asked that question a lot and I should come up with an answer. What I most remember is not a particular album or session but the relationships I’ve been able to maintain with people
don’t have this wave of popularity where something overtakes everything else. The Internet’s dissemination of music has decentralised the gatekeeper aspect of the music business. Culturally that is unarguably a very good thing. A lot of people in my business moan that they don’t make as much money as they used to because they can’t force people to pay for things anymore. I see it from the opposite perspective of someone who likes music as opposed to someone trying to make money off of it. I don’t subscribe to the notion that a songwriter deserves money just because someone has heard their music. It’s a childish perspective. I hope and believe that sense of entitlement from the music business will modify itself.
Will there ever be another Nirvana?
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P29 APRIL 2018
X marks the spot: The Italian X Factor tour
The Nex Factor An array of Nexo loudspeaker products were recently deployed for the Italian X Factor’s latest nationwide live tour. PSNEurope hears from those at the heart of the production for a look behind the scenes at 11th edition of the pop extravaganza…
orn in Britain and evolved as a television music competition franchise, the X Factor has successfully adapted the format in many countries and languages around the globe, and is now one of the world’s most watched TV music competitions. In Italy, where it has just completed its 11th edition, the show is produced by Fremantle Media, and broadcast on Sky Uno, the main channel of Sky Italy, attracting nearly three million viewers for its final show, which represented a 20% increase on 2016 figures. As the show went on the road to meet its public, eight live shows were staged, leading up to the finals showcase in December, hosted by the Forum di Assago near Milan. AMG International was the full-service provider for each of the live events and broadcasts, deploying an arsenal of high-spec technology including a huge inventory of Nexo audio systems, much of which was purchased specifically for the X Factor.
The audio renaissance of AMG With more than 60 years at the forefront of the broadcast industry, AMG International is gearing up in the youthful hands of Alex and Mirko Vinciguerra, nephews of the founder Gino, combining “innovation with tradition”. Based in Rome, not far from the famous Cinecittà, with a rich past including three Oscars won for its productions, AMG is now expanding on a daily basis, providing 52,000m of trusses, 6,800 moving spotlights, 9,000m of LED strip, 30 generator sets, 4,000m2 of LED screens and one of the biggest Nexo loudspeaker inventories in Europe with a total of 334 cabinets. “We have three main buildings of 9,000 m2 in Rome, a storage area for the 80 vehicles and the scaffolding systems, and a dry-rental company in Milan with two warehouses”, states Alex Vinciguerra. “We number nearly 100 professionals under the same roof, starting with the key figures, such as Roberto Scioni in the audio
department, event manager Angelo Granati and video manager Claudio Renzetti.” AMG is relatively young in the audio market, but boasts in-depth experience in cinema, broadcast, staging and lighting technologies, with a growing client list that includes Italy’s four main broadcast contractors: Sky, Rai, Mediaset, and La7. When asked about the recipe for success, Vinciguerra points out “the extreme agility of the company, and the modularity of all the materials in stock to improve the speed of set-up and load-out”. The company’s experience on the X Factor 2017 required an all-inclusive inventory list: sound reinforcement, monitoring, broadcast technologies, lighting, trusses, video and LED walls, cameras, railcams and dollies, graphics (playout), production rooms, and generator sets. Vinciguerra continues: “With the exception of the Sky
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Going live: A vast range of Nexo systems were used on the tour
OB vans, we provided all the production, running to a total of 3,000 working days for the AMG team. Between the last elimination show at the Linear Ciak Theatre and the final event in Assago, we had to double the production, because there was no time to dismantle and rebuild the set. Only the floor equipment, such as mixers and broadcast cameras, was shipped to the big venue for the final.” Roberto Scioni was responsible for the sound system design for the fourth year in a row. Scioni describes the AMG production on the field of the Forum di Assago: “The set-up is short - 48 hours - and that comprises complex machines: whole bands playing on flying platforms, moving catwalks… I remember once when the scenographers had built a double-storey revolving stage, eight metres wide. Having those things coexisting with the huge amount of technology installed - video, lighting and especially broadcast cameras - has never been easy, the scenography is only ever limited by the director’s imagination, putting the artistic cast at ease in their performances.”
PEOPLE NEED TO BE SURROUNDED BY SOUND, MOVED AND SHAKEN. THE MORE THE PUBLIC IS INVOLVED, THE MORE THE SHOW HAS POWER.
The audio factor Given the success of its previous show with AMG, the X Factor production team granted the company total freedom for the design of the entire stage in 2017, including the audio systems.
“This is not just a concert,” Scioni explains. “It’s more than that. Think of it as a TV show with the power of a live concert. It’s not enough to have clear images and clear audio. People need to be surrounded by sound, moved and shaken. The more the public is involved, the more the show has power.” Intelligibility of spoken words is an essential ingredient of the show, as is the ability of the subs to provide plenty of audio power. The extended stage (270°, 800m2) of the 2017 final show was three meters tall, presenting the dual responsibility of having to deal with that height and also ensuring a clear view from the broadcast cameras. Hidden Nexo cabinets - PS series and GEO M - were used to cover the first rows, with the rest of the 288 cabinets flown to reach the whole 10,000-capacity arena, leaving free sightlines to the stage from any seat. The system runs on a Dante audio network managed from the NEMO software and connected to the 56x NXAMP4X4 amplifiers packed in the Nexo Universal Amp Racks (NUAR). “A peculiarity of the system design is in the low-frequency configuration: to obtain a uniform
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low-end coverage without comb filters for the whole audience area, we deployed a single hang of 24 modules and 8+8 L-R clusters of STM S118 subs. “While the artists’ monitoring was conducted via IEM, the on-stage diffusion for Stage A came from the unobtrusive iD24 super-compact modules, plus two suspended clusters of GEO M1012 line array modules. For the Stage B, we had a bunch of Nexo’s 45°N-12 floor monitors.” The audio team, guided by Scioni as the system designer and Valery Kot as the FOH engineer, required six full-time audio system technicians. “AMG International develops audio projects from the smallest to the largest, trusting our qualified audio team, certified by Nexo with their high-level ETC 3 specialist training,“ explained Roberto Scioni. “Nexo systems have that flexibility and a light weight that is mandatory, given the traditional constraints in space and load capacity, especially in Italy. “Here the problem is pre-electroacoustic-age theatres and tight medieval city centres, but we also have big arenas and wonderful outdoor venues, which provide the exact opposite working environment. “Having a modular system like the STM helps the
WITH THE ENTRY OF AMG INTERNATIONAL TO OUR NETWORK OF PARTNERS, WE HAVE FOUND IN ITALY AN EXCELLENT COMPANY, ABLE TO DELIVER GREAT ACCURACY AND PRECISION IN ANY INSTALLATION.
system designer more than any equaliser.” Scioni insists that he was immediately impressed by the French loudspeaker manufacturer from their very first meeting. “We were invited to the Nexo headquarters in Paris, where Denis Baudier, the company’s sales director, guided us on a factory tour and gave us a demonstration of the STM. “Wonderful sound apart, I was particularly impressed
by the young and dynamic staff whose future-proof minds really reflect AMG International today.” Vinciguerra adds: “Despite our experienced audio crew, our relationship with Nexo is relatively recent; we already had some speakers, but we only started developing a full catalogue two years ago. The products are reliable and the company supports us, the outlook is more than positive.” Sergio Caprara, manager of Nexo Italy, confirms that, “with the entry of AMG International to our network of partners, we have found in Italy an excellent company, able to deliver great accuracy and precision in any installation. Of course, some merit goes to the audio systems too, which can deliver the goods in any work requirement.” AMG has also had its Nexo systems on other big events, such as the New Years Eve ’18 at Circo Massimo in Rome, the David di Donatello Cinema Award and on TV studios for Italia’s Got Talent, Guess My Age and Non è L’Arena among others. Alex Vinciguerra concludes: “We are fond of our people. They are the brain of the company. Even the best equipment and technology demands human expertise, and I feel lucky to have this amazing team.” n
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Highly Rated Producer, songwriter and gender diversity campaigner Carla Marie Williams is among the most in-demand studio professionals in the business. Here, she speaks with Daniel Gumble about releasing her first self-produced EP, working with the stars and how her organisation Girls I Rate is providing new opportunities for women right across the industry…
arla Marie Williams is not, and has never been, one for doing things by halves. Her reputation as one of the most in-demand studio talents in the business stems from a heady mix of boundless ambition, a ferocious work ethic and an irrepressible drive to succeed at whatever creative endeavour she sets her mind to. A producer, songwriter, A&R executive, relentless campaigner and a great deal more, Williams has come a long way from her humble beginnings growing up in a single parent home in west London. As a songwriter and producer she has accumulated six Top 10 hits, an Ivor Novello nomination and attained BRIT Awards success on account of her work with the likes of Beyonce, Britney Spears and Girls Aloud. She also launched her own girl band, RD, plying her trade in each and every aspect of their creation – seeking out the members, A&Ring them, writing their songs, managing them and producing them. If this multi-faceted career path wasn’t expansive enough, in 2016 she launched Girls I Rate, a community aimed at providing networking and educational opportunities for up and coming female producers, songwriters and performers. “I’ve got a fighting spirit, I came from a single parent home and I didn’t have anything, so I just took every opportunity thrown at me,” Williams explains as she discusses her formative years. “My mum was pretty strong and she made me resilient in any environment. “When I first started I was just writing poetry at school and as I got into my late teens I met a guy who played guitar and wrote songs. I remember reading him my poetry down the phone and him singing a melody back to me using my lyrics, which I thought was amazing. We ended writing songs together; then we started going to studios and building our songs up with producers. That was how I went from being a songwriter to learning how to bring my records to life.” She continues: “From that I got into working with [songwriting and production company] Xenomania as a top line writer with Girls Aloud. During that time I decided that I wanted to make some more organic music, so I set up a band and we would record ourselves live at a studio, and I’d be working with the producer to bring those songs to life.”
‘Fighting spirit’: Carla Marie Williams
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Given the significant acclaim she has achieved penning multi-platinum hits for numerous pop heavyweights, Williams is now looking to emulate her songwriting success as a producer. “I’m still in the early stages of being acknowledged in the production world,” she states. “For me, production is not about the people touching the buttons, it’s not about the beat maker, it’s about being the person with the vision. And one of the most exciting things about being a producer is working with engineers who get your vision and can bring your ideas to life. “I remember making What You Need for Britney Spears and, after meeting her, going away and writing writing the chorus. I sent the voice notes and described the direction I wanted the song to go in to the engineer and the next day he had it ready for me. Then I played it to her and we wrote the rest of the song together. That was one of my career highlights so far.” Despite having sampled life in just about every capacity the music business has to offer, last year saw Williams take the decision to emerge from behind the scenes and take centre stage with the release of her first release as an artist in her own right. Due for release later this month, Williams’s debut solo record (its title and release date are still to be confirmed at time of going to press) is a genre spanning collection of songs reflecting not only her diverse musical tastes, but also her equally diverse skillset. “I decided about six months ago I wanted to make an EP - I knew I wanted to do something but I wasn’t sure in what capacity,” she tells PSNEurope. “I never really wanted to be an artist, I just like making music. But that meant I didn’t have an outlet unless it was with another artist. So I thought, I’ve got some great songs I could make with my team and they were all really positive, female empowerment-lead songs. I called in some female producers; a young girl called Karma and another girl called Tallia and it worked out great. Now I just want to keep putting out singles and EPs and keep featuring all my favourite artists around the world.” The theme of female empowerment feeds very much into Williams’ Girls I Rate organisation, which has snowballed at a rate of knots since its 2016 launch. Over the course of the past two years, it has received nationwide media attention and support from stars including Lily Allen, who has been a vocal advocate of the campaign and has appeared at Girls I Rate events aimed at unearthing the most exciting new female talent in the business. Williams says she decided to launch Girls I Rate following her own personal experiences in the industry and the frustrations of establishing herself in such a male-dominated environment. “After coming out of that situation with my girl group I found myself quite isolated,” she reflects. “At times I felt frozen out from the industry because people thought I was difficult, just because I was trying make something that had gone wrong right.
Visionary: Carla Marie Williams
FOR ME, PRODUCTION IS NOT ABOUT THE PEOPLE TOUCHING THE BUTTONS, IT’S NOT ABOUT THE BEAT MAKER, IT’S ABOUT BEING THE PERSON WITH THE VISION. AND ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING THINGS ABOUT BEING A PRODUCER IS WORKING WITH ENGINEERS WHO GET YOUR VISION AND CAN BRING YOUR IDEAS TO LIFE CARLA MARIE WILLIAMS
“I was really young and a little inexperienced and possibly wasn’t fully aware of how the industry worked. So I started Girls I Rate to meet more female creatives, because I didn’t really know any. All the people I knew were men and I found that a bit frustrating. So I put a dinner together with 100 women and decided that it would happen on International Women’s Day. 100 women turned up, Channel 4 turned up and it was a great start to a movement.” She continues: “After that I had to reflect on whether or not it was just a celebration of women or whether I wanted to pioneer change and opportunity for females in the industry. So I started the GIR Arts Academy, which is aimed at girls aged 16-30 wanting to get into the industry through weekenders, workshops and masterclasses. We now work with the PRS Foundation doing weekenders on writing and recording. I also work with PRS on an event called Get Heard, which puts young women in front of A&Rs, publishers, managers and top people from the industry. Hopefully different things will come about from that. “We are – funding permitting – trying to launch weekly weekend courses that would provide training in
all creative capacities. We’re hoping we can get some donations from tech companies who can help offer programmes that will develop [producers] in our space, because that’s what we’re lacking at the minute.” According to Williams, Girls I Rate looks set to continue growing and growing throughout 2018 and beyond, such is the demand for its services. “I get demos and beats sent to me daily,” she says. “Over the past two years we’ve had over 2,000 advocates that have signed up and come to our different events, so I’ve definitely seen the progress. And I definitely feel Girls I Rate is going to become the go-to place for A&Rs to find talent. We call them the GIR army – we’ve definitely got an army of girls out there who really push hard for us.” Having achieved so much in her career to date, and with her Girls I Rate work opening so many doors for the next generation of female creatives, is there advice Williams would like to have been able to impart to her younger self? “I actually love my journey,” she concludes. “I’m just a girl from round the way and I feel like the world is my oyster. So I’d just tell that little girl to keep going.” n
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Gracing the charts Isabel Gracefield is credited on some of the biggest pop hits of recent years. Tara Lepore spoke to the engineer, who works mostly out of London’s RAK Studios, about starting out as a studio assistant after completing a commercial music degree, working with huge music stars under acclaimed producer Fraser T Smith and the industry’s shift in welcoming new talent…
n between “getting last-minute calls from Emeli Sande to record vocals in her house”, engineer Isabel Gracefield found time for a chat with PSNEurope recently, expressing a specific desire to “geek out” about all things audio. Gracefield’s love of sound can be traced back to her musical upbringing, playing in orchestras since she was a child. “When I was maybe 13 or 14 and started to read record sleeves, I could see that there was a role that was ‘being a producer’, and started to understand that relationship to the music. I would make fanzines for bands that I loved – I was very engaged with music at that age.” After leaving school, Gracefield enrolled on the Commercial Music degree at the University of Westminster, keen to get involved in the music industry “at any level”. It was here where she fell in love with spending time in its basement recording studios, “figuring out the university booking system so I could always get a slot. I was always the weirdest person
in the room in terms of what I was doing because we didn’t really have a lot of formal teaching, so we would just have to come up with very strange solutions to engineering problems, making my stuff sound very left-field and out there. I would experiment in there for hours and hours”. Gracefield admits her route was very traditional: do a degree, be an assistant, work in a studio. “Now, that pathway is sort of a relic,” she says. “Music being made by people in small project studios – by young people who might not have any formal education but are brilliantly talented musicians – is some of the most alive music that’s out there right now. I think pop is a really fantastic, interesting space at the moment and that wouldn’t have necessarily happened through the system that I’ve come through.” While at university, Gracefield’s work caught the attention of various guest lecturers, some of whom gave her keys to work from their studios at night. From that, she got an assistant job at Camden’s Goldtop Studio,
whose main country musician clientele would often cut a record in an afternoon. She says: “It was very much about not getting in the way of what they did, miking it up, really creating an atmosphere and then just letting them do their thing.”
Heading south Connections at Goldtop led Gracefield to an opportunity that would help steer her career towards working with more mainstream artists. “I was helping out at a studio in Parsons Green, assisting a fantastic mixer called James Reynolds and making cups of tea. In the same building, there was an accountant who told me that she had a client who was looking to bring in a junior engineer. He’d been through around 30 junior engineers before that, so I went down, did a week with him and landed myself a job.” That client was Fraser T Smith, an acclaimed producer who is “incredibly generous with credit”, according to Gracefield. She therefore describes this
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time as “CV gold”, assisting on Adele’s Grammy awardwinning single Set Fire To The Rain, among other Top 10 hits. “I was really lucky because I was there at this particular time when he was doing so much exciting stuff. He really wanted to give me a lot of opportunities to work on bigger things and it was a really different environment to one that I’d been in before – it was very much about being fast on Pro Tools.”
RAKing up credits The majority of Gracefield’s engineering now takes place at London’s RAK Studios, having served as an assistant there for several years, working on sessions with huge acts including Kanye West, Radiohead and The XX. “A huge amount of what I’ve learned has come from being in that environment and working in that studio,” she says, going on to praise the “sonic quality” of the API mixing desk in RAK’s Studio 1. “The SSL desk in Studio 4 also has this very shiny, glacial sound, so when you put it together with what the API preamps are doing, it adds a very emotional quality to the sound.” With more than a decade’s experience under her belt, Gracefield has seen her fair share of change in the
WHEN I’VE GOT AN OPPORTUNITY TO EMPLOY SOMEONE AS AN ASSISTANT WHO DOESN’T REALLY FIT THE [TRADITIONAL] BOX, I’LL GENERALLY REQUEST THEM. IT’S IMPORTANT TO OPEN DOORS FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT FROM YOURSELF
industry. “There’s more access now than there’s ever been before. You put Logic on your laptop at home with just one microphone, and you’ve got what would have been a million-pound studio back in the ’60s or ’70s.” In terms of the studio’s evolution in recent years, Gracefield believes Ableton has made the biggest impact to modern production methods. “We’re all still running Pro Tools but the majority of what I hear on BBC Radio 1 feels to me like it’s being made on Ableton. I’ve
not seen a shift in technology in that way before.” She continues: “I think the [more traditional] system I’m part of still exists and I would never deter someone from wanting to learn old-fashioned engineering. However, I do think the opportunities are increasingly small. There’s a lot of emphasis placed on formal training but ultimately there are things that I know how to do that in 20 years no one is going to want anymore. “That said, the majority of assistants are still middleclass white male, so clearly there is an access issue there. I can’t comment on why that is, but I know that when I’ve got an opportunity to employ someone as an assistant who doesn’t really fit that box, I’ll generally request them. I think it’s important to leave doors open behind you as you go through for people who are different from yourself.” However you break into the industry, Gracefield is proof that hard graft will get you far in the business. That, and a love for the job. “Regardless of what I think of a project when it first arrives in the room, I tend to fall in love quite fast with any music. I like when I get to do things that are really different, and I’m really lucky in that I end up loving everything that I work on.” n
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Over the Moon: The Big Moon with UK Producer Of The Year Catherine Marks (second left)
Producing the goods On March 1, London’s Grosvenor House Hotel welcomed the great and good from the audio industry for the 10th annual MPG Awards. Here, PSNEurope takes a look back at who won what on a spectacular night of celebration for the studio sector…
atherine Marks, Imogen Heap, Marta Salogni and Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley were among the big winners at the 2018 MPG Awards, which took place at London’s Grosvenor House on March 1. Hosted by BBC 6 Music broadcaster Shaun Keavney, the ceremony saw a raft of exceptional talent from across the industry turn out to celebrate the finest studio professionals from the past 12 months, despite the subzero conditions blighting the capital. Marks, who won the Breakthrough Producer award back in 2016 and has since produced and worked on acclaimed albums for the likes of The Big Moon, The Amazons, Manchester Orchestra and St. Vincent, scooped the coveted UK Producer Of The Year Award, while Salogni, who mixed Bjork’s 2017 LP Utopia took home the Breakthrough Engineer Of The Year gong. “This award is especially meaningful to me because it comes from people I have great respect for,” Salogni told PSNEurope. “To be in the company of so many brilliant minds is elevating. And to see so many women finally being recognised for their talents is a big breath of fresh air and a big step towards professional equality and diversity in the industry.”
Heap, meanwhile, was honoured with the MPG Inspiration award, and Langer and Winstanley were jointly recognised with the Outstanding Contribution To UK Music award. Speaking to PSNEurope, she said: “Inspiration is at the core of every project. It often changes lives. It’s what can pull you through a rough patch and give you that extra energy you need to get on with a seemingly insurmountable challenge! Thank you kindly to the MPG for this award. To have a nod from those who represent and stand up for those in the music production world, means a lot to me.” Elsewhere, Manon Grandjean received the Recording Engineer Of The Year award and was presented with her gong by grime icon Stormzy, having worked with him on his 2017 breakthrough album Gang Signs & Prayer; Mark ‘Spike’ Stent won in the Mix Engineer Of The Year category; and Jolyon Thomas emerged victorious as Breakthrough Producer Of The Year. Garret ‘Jacknife’ Lee was named International Producer Of The Year and Matt Colton picked up the Mastering Engineer Of The Year award. Studio Of The Year went to Abbey Road, while the MPG Special Recognition award went to Colin Sanders.
2018 MPG Awards: The winners UK Producer Of The Year, sponsored by Kii Audio Catherine Marks PPL Presents The MPG Award For Outstanding Contribution To UK Music Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley Recording Engineer Of The Year, sponsored by AMS Neve Manon Grandjean Mix Engineer Of The Year, sponsored by Solid State Logic Mark ‘Spike’ Stent Mastering Engineer Of The Year, sponsored by Miloco Studios Matt Colton UK Album Of The Year, sponsored by Universal Audio Glass Animals – How To Be A Human UK Single Song Release Of The Year, sponsored by Shure Royal Blood – Lights Out Re-mixer Of The Year, sponsored by Novation UNKLE
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P37 APRIL 2018
Cooking up a Storm: Manon Grandjean (right) was presented with her award by grime icon Stormzy, whose hit album Gang Signs & Prayer she worked on last year
The host: Shaun Keaveny
L-R: Alan Winstanley, comedian Alexi Sayle and Clive Langer
Breakthrough Producer Of The Year, sponsored by Focusrite Jolyon Thomas Breakthrough Engineer Of The Year, sponsored by Genelec Marta Salogni International Producer Of The Year, sponsored by British Grove Studios Garret ‘Jacknife’ Lee Self Producing Artist Of The Year, sponsored by Spitfire Audio Dave Bayley (Glass Animals) Studio Of The Year, sponsored by RME Abbey Road The A&R Award, sponsored by The Association of Independent Music (AIM) Jane Third The MPG Special Recognition Award sponsored by Solid State Logic Colin Sanders The MPG Award For Inspiration, sponsored by Audio Note Imogen Heap
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P38 APRIL 2018
Special K Producer, musician and songwriter Karis Taylor, aka K-Minor, is among the most exciting studio talents in the UK at the moment. A regular presenter at Red Bull Studios’ monthly Normal Not Novelty nights, she also hosted a Women In The Studio panel at AIM’s (Association Of Independent Musicians) Women In Music event earlier this year and is soon to unveil her first self-produced record. Daniel Gumble sat down with her to find out more about one of the industry’s brightest stars…
Minor key: K-Minor
Tell us about your background in music? My love of music probably goes all the way back to when I was in my mum’s womb. She literally used to put me up against a speaker and play music through her belly to me. My parents were both musical. My mum had always been singing and had the opportunity to tour in Asia but she had to turn it down because she had kids at quite a young age. My dad was in a reggae band for a number of years; he knew Mighty Diamonds, Bob Marley, some real icons, so I was always around reggae artists coming to the house and jamming in the front room. It was really inspiring and pretty insane when I think about it now. Not a lot of people I knew at the time had that strong musical influence in their house. That’s where it really started for me. What attracted you to the world of production? I played piano and violin when I was little and from
around age 12-13 I started getting into recording. My dad used to fix old computers; he’d take bits of old broken models and build new ones, and he built me a computer for my birthday and gave me a really old version of Cubase and said it would be a really good way of learning how to record. That was my introduction to recording and production. From there I’ve not looked back. I continued to try to learn as much as I could with whatever resources I had. I went to a lot of after school activities for people interested in production. In those days, nine times out of 10 I was the only female, which was weird. That’s so uncommon now, which is beautiful. It’s changed a lot since then. That progressed to me getting involved in an event called Jump Off, which was a hip-hop night with lots of different battles, like rap battles, crew dance battles, and they also had a production battle, which I did at 16 when I wasn’t even supposed to be in the club! I managed to
get in and win five times in a row, which was amazing for little 16-year-old me. I lost the sixth one to Mr Hudson before he became famous! Have you always been keen to incorporate your musicianship in your production process? Yes. Even after Jump Off I got into a lot of session work as a pianist, guitarist and backing vocalist with the likes of Jodie Abacus – before he was Jodie Abacus – and Ray BLK. We were actually in a rock band together at one point! From there, while I was dabbling with that, I was still producing but would also incorporate a lot of my guitar and piano skills. You have to have some level of understanding when it comes to things like chord progressions. It’s certainly a benefit to know how all that stuff works. Did you have any formal training in production?
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P39 APRIL 2018 I studied music technology in college. It gave me insights on how to build a studio, what kind equipment to use. That technical knowledge was what I needed. I took what I learned from that course and ran with it. I was one of very few females in my class, there were 20 students and only three were female. Did that present any difficulties? By that stage I was so used to it that it wasn’t really a thing. I was never conscious of the fact that I was one of very few girls; I just knew that I loved making music. Because I’d been involved in so many musical things before, like mini music tech courses etc, that were so male dominated it wasn’t out of the norm for me. I didn’t face any hardships at all. I liked surprising people who presumed I was a singer or knew nothing about production; they’d hear something I’d done and be like, Where did that come from?! I like challenging people in that sense. How did you progress from college to a professional career in the studio? I feel like I’m still on my journey. Incrementally, my goal is to win a Grammy, so I feel I’m a big step away from that right now. The things that have solidified my place as a professional producer stem from remixing. Three years ago I started remixing as a way of breaking my name into the industry. That helped because I started getting some traction off of the music I was making. I was doing a lot of house and garage, and a lot of the remixes were authorised by the artists themselves. I did remixes for Mila Falls, Leonn and Hannah V for a track she did with Louise Labelle. Seeing how they gained traction with radio play on Rinse FM and Kiss Fresh and a number of underground stations really solidified my name as a producer. Later this year I’m going to release a track that I’ve written, produced and sung on, which is a big deal for me as I’ve always seen myself just as a producer. That will be my first full release as a solo artist. Also, Red Bull Studios’ Normal Not Novelty events have helped me make a huge progression in my career. It’s an amazing platform for so many people. Talk us through your studio setup and the making of your upcoming record? I work off my MacBook Pro and I have Maschine MK III. I also have a Universal Audio Apollo Twin, as well as a Novation keyboard and a Neumann U87 Ai mic. It’s in a very small room in my flat, but it’s perfect for recording vocals. When it came to recording the single, it started by thinking about the concept of what I wanted to express, then I wrote the lyrics and produced the track around that. That’s not how I normally work, but I’m quite experimental in the studio. When it comes to working processes in the studio it’s just about having fun but also having discipline. That’s what I did with Let Go. I had a lot of fun making it and I find when I’m having fun making something it comes together far more
Code Red: K-Minor at one of Red Bull Studios’ Normal Not Novelty nights
THE FIRST NORMAL NOT NOVELTY NIGHT WAS ONE OF THE BEST EXPERIENCES I’VE HAD IN MY LIFE. I’D NEVER BEEN IN AN ENVIRONMENT WHERE THERE WERE SO MANY DIFFERENT WOMEN WITH NO AGEISM, RACISM OR CLASSISM. THE LEVEL OF SUPPORT WAS AMAZING K-MINOR effectively. If I overthink things too much or don’t have a clear concept from the start, that doesn’t help. Tell us about Normal Not Novelty and how it’s benefitting you and others. A friend of mine brought the first Normal Not Novelty night to my attention and I thought it sounded like a great thing to go along to. I went to the first one and left feeling overwhelmed. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life. I know that’s a lot to say, but I’d never been in an environment before where there were so many different women, no ageism, no racism, no classism. The level of support felt in that environment was amazing. Having gone along as a spectator, I approached Brendon Harding (head engineer, Red Bull Studios) and let him know how much I felt what he was doing and that I would love to get involved in any way
possible, because I was so taken aback by it all. I’ve been to a lot of female events but nothing had felt like this. It has something special. So, I got a call from him before the next session saying, Do you fancy hosting one of the production workshops? And I haven’t looked back since. I now host the electronic workshops for Normal Not Novelty every month. How would you have felt if you had something like Normal Not Novelty to support you when you were a budding teenage producer? Oh my God. It would have been massive. At 16 I felt there wasn’t any recognition of the lack of females in the industry. I’d have been over the moon to have something like that. It would have been a game changer because I’d have felt there was a safe space I could go to and other women I could talk to. It’s just the knowing that you’re not on your own. Do you think such initiatives are making a tangible difference to attitudes in the industry? These conversations need to be had. And I do feel like long-term it is making a difference, without you even being conscious of it. Of course, more needs to happen across the industry but we’re in the early stages. It’s only over the last 12 months, two years at most, that the subject has really blown up, particularly with things like the gender pay gap. There are a lot of things happening at the moment and music is one aspect of a bigger picture for women in the world. So yes, I feel events like the AIM Women In Music event needed to happen. Whether people agree or not, it starts a dialogue. If we continue to capitalise on what we’re doing now, then it will continue to make a difference. n
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P41 APRIL 2018
AoIP among hot topics discussed at BVE 2018
Those that braved the weather to visit the BVE broadcast technology show found a broad array of products and technologies at the Excel in London. Among those pulling on the gloves, hat and boots was Kevin Hilton, who sends back this report...
roadcast Video Expo (BVE) returned to its now established home at the Excel exhibition centre in London’s Docklands at the end of February. This point in the calendar has not been much of a problem before at this venue, but this year, visitors, exhibitors and press had to brave cold and snowy conditions in a bid to see and discuss the latest TV, audio and radio technology. Those who did make it through would have noticed that challenging the visual preoccupations with ultra high definition and higher dynamic range (HDR) were the current hot sound topics of audio over IP (AoIP) and frequency spectrum for wireless microphones. AoIP intercom was a noticeable trend, particularly for smaller scale installations. The Big Three comms companies – Clear-Com, Riedel Communications and RTS – have established technologies in this field but it was manufacturers less well known for intercoms that attracted much of the attention. The Telos Alliance launched Infinity at IBC 2017 and was due to start delivering to its first customers for the new intercom during March. Martin Dyster, vice president of business development with the Alliance’s TV Solutions Group, could not give names but said they were “a mixture of European and US clients”. Infinity is based on the Telos Livewire+ AoIP protocol with AES67 compliance to work with other formats in a larger network. It is a plug-and-play device and, unlike larger intercom systems, does not feature a matrix. Dyster confirmed that Infinity, the first in a new range of AoIP products, is being aimed at television as well as radio broadcast. Sonifex expanded its AoIP intercom range with the AVN-TB6AR and AVN-TB20AR, which are six button and 20 button units respectively. The company also had a prototype pattress box mounting for the desktop versions, which managing director Marcus Brooke said was aimed more at the installation market. Sonifex is now working on Dante versions of its AoIP products after signing up as a licensee of the protocol earlier in the year. Brooke commented that new Dante-equipped products would be due early next year. Glensound’s Beatrice intercom is designed to work on Dante networks and is also compatible with AES67. The range, now in full production, includes an eight-channel rack mount (R8), four-channel belt pack (B4) and fourchannel desktop (D4) versions. Since IBC Glensound
Frequency spectrum of wireless microphones was a talking point at the show
released the Paradiso Lite, a lower cost version of the Paradiso Dante/AES67 commentary box, which was on display alongside the Beatrices. Beyond intercom, IP is well established for interfacing and is increasing its hold in the consoles sector. Distributor Aspen Media covered both of these, showing the full range of products by interface specialist DirectOut and the latest mixing desk from Stage Tec. DirectOut recently signed up to Dante and now offers EXBOX.MD, a bi-directional Dante to MADI box. Another connectivity option comes in the form of the SoundGrid from Waves equipped EXBOX.MD. Stage Tec’s Avatus is a modular “distributed remote console”, that can be configured from 12 up to 96 channels with compatibility to AES67, RAVENNA and Dante. Swiss console manufacturer Mandozzi demonstrated the Bea3X multi-purpose digital I/O and DSP expander, which also features routing capability. It enables a mixer to be built up from four faders and can handle inputs and outputs in both MADI and AoIP (Dante/AES67). Digital recorder developer JoeCo has been working with Dante for approximately seven years on its multitrack machines but at BVE was focusing more on what managing director Joe Bull described as a “new adventure for us”. The Cello desktop interface features Adaptive Conversion technology, 22 inputs and four outputs with an USB 2.0 connection to both Mac and PC.
In wireless audio, all manufacturers are investigating how to provide as much capacity as possible with fewer frequencies. Wisycom, distributed in the UK by Raycom, has produced new firmware for its MTP40 wideband body pack transmitter - and other products - which enables two transmitters to be positioned closer together in the spectrum without causing intermodulation problems. By putting one radio mic amplifier 90-degrees out of phase to the next, Wisycom/Raycom says it is possible to accommodate 40 radio mics in a single TV channel at the cost of “a little bit of battery life”. On the new product front, HHB gave the RødeLink Performer kit its UK debut. This includes the TX-M2 condenser handheld mic and RX-DESK receiver, which operate in the licence free 2.4GHz band with a range of up to 100 metres. New wired mics continue to appear: Polar Audio showed beyerdynamics’ first USB model, the Fox. This opens new markets for the manufacturer including internet radio and home production - and will retail for around £159. BVE 2018 was certainly hit by the bad weather. Many potential visitors either couldn’t make it to Excel or were put off trying. But it still appeared busy, with a lot on display and to discuss. Let’s just hope the so-called Beast from the East doesn’t put in another appearance next year. n www.bvexpo.com
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In with the New: Fernando Rey Mendez
Universal principles Phil Ward meets Outline’s innovative Newton audio processor ahead of its appearance at Prolight+Sound later this month …
he habit continues of naming huge digital brains after pioneering Universe-botherers, and it’s a shame that an Italian company missed out on one in particular. But everyone in the UK is bursting with pride that Outline – the Brescia-based loudspeaker systems specialist – has chosen Sir Isaac Newton as the inspiration for its gamechanging multi-source audio processor, management and control hub and networking platform. The cornucopia of features in Newton can be discovered on the Outline stand at Prolight+Sound in Frankfurt this month, after months of beta-testing, such as Justin Bieber’s European tour with Capital Sound last year. Now the 1U rackmount box of tricks is on the open market and Outline has joined the elite band of global speaker manufacturers with an option in the kind of processing that would make Sir Isaac drop his quill. Such is the importance of DSP in today’s digitally transported lorry-loads that Outline secured the services, about 18 months ago, of an experienced freelance consultant in these matters: Argentinian-born Fernando Rey Mendez, who came to Italy aged 16 and established himself as an audio engineer in recording and live sound before specialising in DSP programming, design and operation for pro audio. One thing Newton had to overcome was the issue of format conversion and protocol navigation, as Mendez explains. “Newton supports five different protocols,” he says, “including analogue, Dante, MADI coaxial,
MADI optical and AES3. Each input has a dedicated asynchronous sample rate converter, so regardless of domain they can all be used to feed the processing channels and Newton’s complex clock management and distribution. The user sets up the strategy via our Dashboard software for and then has complete control over every input signal, clock source or power supply change – with the benefit of a unique Failsafe feature.” Patent-pending filter technology claims to be the first use in pro audio of warped finite impulse response (WFIR) filters – “a huge step forward from FIR,” Mendez says. “They bring filtering to a resolution and quality not possible before, and make it possible to use an unlimited number of filters. Moreover, Newton uses them to synthesize the most powerful raised cosine filters available. When you add this to our FPGA topology, you can see what a breakthrough it is.” The FPGA paradigm, already established across many sectors of pro audio, invites a future of upgradeability with almost limitless potential. Newton, already crammed with processing features, has room for even more. “The benefits of FPGA are enormous,” confirms Mendez, “and one of the biggest is the opportunity to re-configure Newton with a simple software update. We can add or alter the feature set according to market needs as they change over time.” This would be the envelope for such fancies as 360 audio algorithms, should that type of demand build such a head of steam that Outline would respond, but there
are many others. In fact, Newton has the potential to supply almost everything that a system might need. “If you consider the point about FPGA,” Mendez reflects, “and the capacity for five different protocols, 14 different clock sources, the matrix mixer, the number of routing capabilities, the advantages of the WFIR technology and the high number of available inputs and outputs… to me, it’s hard to think of an application that could not be set up with the Newton. It makes Newton a very profitable investment for any company..” The largest version of Newton – the 16+8 – offers 216 hardware inputs in both directions, and more units can be daisy-chained to double this capacity. Making the most of its transport flexibility, it’s only natural that Newton is agnostic when it comes to any existing or future inventory – as Mendez acknowledges. “Newton can be used with any loudspeaker or console brand,” he says. “It makes Newton an essential tool in festivals, multi-console applications and all complex digital signal distribution landscapes where different signals and clocks have to be used and where tough strategies are mandatory.” If that sounds like a definition of universal, so it should. The name was suggested by an American consultant well versed in Outline’s technical agility, with the aim of identifying a product that could solve complex problems with the same unyielding sagacity as the great man himself. No doubt, with Outline’s help, the very Music of the Spheres will ring true. n
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P45 APRIL 2018
Musik for the masses Running alongside Prolight+Sound each year is the Musikmesse trade fair. MI Focus editor Laura Barnes talks to Messe Frankfurt’s Michael Biwer about how the two shows are becoming more interwoven as the MI and audio markets evolve…
usikmesse, the biggest trade fair for musical instruments in Europe, first launched in Frankfurt in 1980. Fifteen years later, Prolight+Sound was introduced to Messe Frankfurt. Running alongside the MI show each year, Prolight offered up a space for the pro audio and lighting industries to take advantage of the tried and tested formula of Musikmesse. Traditionally, the shows have been seen as two very different beasts. While there have always been some companies, manufacturers and businesses that have dealings with the MI, pro audio and lighting sectors, for the majority of visitors, if they’re there to check out the latest guitars, the chances are, they probably won’t be interested in the latest state-of-the-art fibre optic cabling technology. However, as technology evolves, more ‘compact’ and ‘entry-level’ pro audio equipment pops up, and MI manufacturers continue to create gear with additional professional uses, the two worlds get closer and closer each year. Manufacturers are producing products that are increasingly appealing to both sides of the market, and Messe Frankfurt has seized the opportunity to make Musikmesse and Prolight + Sound something of an all-inclusive affair. With the dates of the two fairs overlapping (Prolight+Sound from April 10-13 and Musikmesse from April 11-14), exhibitors can reach bigger target groups, and visitors can easily dip a toe into the other pool to seek out inspiration, ideas and make connections. “Nowhere else in Europe will retailers find such a large number of manufacturers and industry professionals from the musical instrument, equipment and event technology sectors,” says Michael Biwer, group show director of the ‘Entertainment, Media & Creative Industries’ Business Unit of Messe Frankfurt. So, what can traditional Prolight+Sound visitors expect from this crossover? Biwer reveals that this year there are several components that are part of both Musikmesse and Prolight+Sound that are marketed to both target groups. “For instance, the ‘Audio, DJ + Recording’ product group, which was previously spread over several halls at the two fairs, is now being given a central presentation platform in Hall 4.1,” Biwer elaborates. “This provides companies with the opportunity to target visitors from both trade fairs with just one stand – visitors will have less walking with this format.”
Musik hall: The Musikmesse exhibition floor
Also appealing to both fairs is the new Merchdays industry forum, and the DJCon platform for disc jockeys, both of which Biwer describes as “hybrid components”. At MerchDays, which take place on April 12-13 during Musikmesse and Prolight+Sound for the first time, visitors have the opportunity to find out about the latest trends in the merchandising sector – from textiles, electronics and lifestyle products to finishing, logistics and eCommerce. “The focus here is on trade visitors from the music and event industries,” explains Biwer. “This adds a further link in the value creation chain to the content of our two fairs.” Alongside the exhibition spaces, both shows have new elements added to their conference line-ups, including A3E’s Future of Audio + Music Technology. This angle suggests an increased focus on the future technologies of both industries. “Successful trade fair platforms not only reflect the status quo in their particular industry, they also give visitors a decisive knowledge edge,” Biwer states. “It is of major importance not only for visitors, but also for manufacturers, to be able to anticipate the direction in which the industry is travelling and where growth potentials lie so that they can use this information to adjust their business decisions at an early stage.”
There will be well over 100 lectures and seminars at Musikmesse and Prolight+Sound – some of which will give important basic insights, while others will look at the future of the industry - as the events look to up their educational output. “The new Future of Audio + Music Technology seminar programme in particular highlights developments that are impacting decisively on the global music industry,” details Biwer. “These include virtual and augmented reality for studio production and live performance, wearable technologies for musicians, cloud-based DAWs, app integration for musical instruments and much more.” Those attending this year’s Prolight+Sound will not only benefit from the crossover areas and events, but may also find inspiration and ideas from some of the musical instrument-targeted topics of discussion. “Musikmesse is also extremely important as a platform for inspiration,” Biwer concludes. “The Business Academy, for instance, is being held again this year. It offers this year’s attendees a professional development and training programme that is specially tailored to the MI sector with high-calibre lectures on the most pressing topics such as CITES, the new EU data protection directives and digitisation in the retail trade.” n
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P46 APRIL 2018
The allure of AMBEO February saw Sennheiser unleash the world of binaural audio onto an unsuspecting group of content creators and tech journalists. Taking place in central London, the demo day and recording workshop illustrated just how clever Sennheiser’s new AMBEO Smart Headset really is. Erica Basnicki made for the capital and sent PSNEurope back this report…
isually, Sennheiser’s newest headphone offering looks much like any other pair of earbuds, but the technology within offers so much more. The AMBEO Smart Headset allows users to make high-quality binaural recordings while taking video on their iPhone (an Android version is due later this year), while also offering active noise cancellation and a unique ‘transparent hearing’ feature. The demo day began onboard a Routemaster bus near the London Eye with a listening session using the MobileConnect app, Sennheiser’s WiFi-based system for accessible hearing. MobileConnect is not limited to use with the AMBEO Smart Headset and is currently available for any iOS or Android phone. This was simply an opportunity to try the AMBEO Smart Headset on and play with its “situational awareness” features. There are two modes to choose from: noise cancellation and transparent hearing. Transparent hearing allows users to adjust how much sound from the outside world blends into whatever they are listening to. It is both a comforting safety feature walking along a busy road, and a useful monitoring application when recording. Through the SmartHeadset app, users can choose between natural or amplified levels of environmental sound. The real fun was in hopping out of the bus and heading to Piccadilly Circus: a crowded, noisy
environment with traffic whizzing by from every direction, for a first taste of capturing binaural sound recordings. The final stop of the tour saw the all-around cacophony of Piccadilly Circus replaced by a much quieter courtyard with two musicians on acoustic guitars at either end. Walking between the two made it much easier to experience, and appreciate, the spatial information provided by the 3D audio. The only real giveaway that these headphones can do more than deliver sound to your ears is the largerthan-usual remote. Here users have their traditional music playback controls with the addition of a recording status light, a situational awareness rocker switch and a user-programmable smart slider that can either quickly launch a favourite app, set recording levels (reduced or natural) or mute the telephone microphone. The microphone capsules on the Smart Headset are housed quite discreetly inside each earpiece. The grille covering each omnidirectional capsule could easily be dismissed as a visual design feature, but offer a surprising degree of protection against wind noise. The ear hook design keeps the headphones quite stable during recording, eliminating body movement noise. The microphones can capture audio from 15-22,000 Hz and record at a maximum SPL of 112dB. As with its other mobile phone microphones, Sennheiser’s SmartHeadset app has been developed
using Apogee’s digital audio expertise. The headphones can also record binaural audio to Apple’s native Camera, Clips and iMovie as well as Apogee’s Meta Recorder, Filmic Pro (48k and 96k) and Twitter. Although you can use the AMBEO Smart Headset to record sound with most popular social media apps, they are limited to a mono input using the built-in mic. Up until recently, most immersive audio recording systems (binaural included) have been beyond the financial reach of consumers, and for the most part, bulky. The AMBEO Smart Headset isn’t the first portable binaural recording product on the market, but it is the first truly mobile system that integrates seamlessly with a smartphone. In fact, the AMBEO Smart Headset is so feature-rich it just about defies categorisation. The sound quality, noise cancellation and situational awareness features on their own make them ideal for just about anybody. The binaural sound recording feature would appeal to anyone with an interest in field recording, and its compact size, discreet profile and professional quality microphones could well see audio professionals adding a pair to their gear bags. Where these headphones will most likely take off is with VR and AR content creators, and anyone with an interest in pushing the boundaries of traditional media with mobile-specific productions – or at least headphone-specific ones. n
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P48 APRIL 2018
PRS campaign pledges to ReBalance music industry Last month, the PRS Foundation’s Keychange campaign was officially launched, aiming to achieve a 50:50 gender balance on festival line-ups by 2022. Here, CEO Vanessa Reed discusses how the Proms, Liverpool’s Sound City, Kendal Calling and many more events pledging to transform the industry’s visible gender imbalance gives her hope for future generations... Photo: Mike Massaro
he gender gap in music is evident across every aspect of the industry – from the boardroom to the recording studio, from CEOs of major companies to collecting societies’ songwriter memberships. Where that gap is most obvious to the general public is on the festival stage. Blanked out posters on social media are stark reminders of the almost complete absence of female artists at some major music events. Every year there’s a big debate and yet programming at many events seems to remain very unbalanced. These factors are leading to an interesting situation. Because the live music industry is most frequently in the spotlight, that’s where some of the most inspiring gender equality initiatives are coming from. Against the backdrop of #MeToo and the thousands of voices on Twitter who want more women on stages, a growing number of festivals are showing that they want to bring about change. At PRS Foundation we’ve been proud to help with a number of these initiatives, which are taking different approaches to the same goal. ReBalance, which was created by Melvin Benn at Festival Republic, invests in the grassroots of the industry by supporting 12 core female acts per year to spend time in the recording studio with a female producer mentor. We’ve been helping to recruit and select emerging artists and to support the producer mentors. Festival Republic takes care of the studio residency and provides opportunities for participating acts to perform at one of the Festival Republic events (watch out for Æ MAK performing at this year’s Latitude Festival). The other gender equality programme we’ve been busy with is Keychange, a fast-growing network of festivals from across Europe and North America. This began as a talent development scheme but quickly evolved into a broader campaign through which our festival partners are proposing to reach a gender balance within five years. Their 50:50 pledge across stages and panels by 2022 has now been adopted by over 45 festivals from Brighton, Hamburg and Gothenburg to Rejkavik, New York and Toronto with more to sign up over the next year.
Coordinating Keychange and supporting its rapid evolution from EU-funded project to international movement has been a hugely informative and motivating experience. One that suggests that this is going to be a real game changer for live music over the next decade. We’ve discovered that across all music genres – from jazz and contemporary experimental to electronic, pop and indie – many festivals are beginning to examine their own structures and they recognise the benefits of promoting more women. They also appreciate connecting with a movement that’s bringing people together in pursuit of the same goal. We’ve learned that several of the festivals – like Way Out West in Sweden, Borealis in Norway and Manchester Jazz – have already reached a 50:50 balance across their live music stages. They are using Keychange as a way of demonstrating that equality is possible whilst showing that working in this way has to be a constant, conscious commitment, even when you’ve reached your goal. We also know that other festivals have further to go before gender balance is a reality but have joined in with the spirit of Keychange – an aspirational pledge against which they’ve put their name as a statement of intent. Keychange is not about naming
and shaming and it’s not a quota. It’s a step forwards that the festivals themselves have created. It’s a tool for measuring progress, being ambitious and defining a 50:50 commitment that each festival shapes to suit their event. Keychange and ReBalance are just two of the many important programmes which are promoting gender equality in music. Brighter Sound’s Both Sides Now programme in the north of England, Girls I Rate’s Songwriting Academy and Saffron Records’ Women in Music events in Bristol are just a few examples of other projects we’re helping to support. This range of different starting points backed by a shared passion for fundamental change makes me optimistic that 2018 will be a watershed moment for women in music; the year that men and women will remember not just as the centenary of women getting the vote in the UK, but as the beginning of a new era; the year that the music industry stepped forward - alongside our colleagues in film - leading transformative, positive action towards a better future. If you’d like to hear more about Keychange or join in with the pledge, please get in touch. n www.prsfoundation.com www.keychange.eu
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POWER OF SOUND The AES Pro Audio Convention comes to Milan this May 2018 Experience the latest in technology, techniques and application advice in the pro audio heart of Italy
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The business lounge has a maximum capacity of 1,400 people for B2b events, presentations and dinners
A question of sport Hosting more than 300 events per year, the Ghelamco Arena is looking at growing its visitors beyond those who turn out every week to watch Belgian football giants KAA Gent (aka The Buffalos). Marc Maes takes a look at its potential for expansion…
he Ghelamco Arena was inaugurated in July 2013, the 20,000 capacity stadium becoming the country’s first new outdoor arena in more than 30 years. For the audio-visual integration of the prestigious stadium, the real estate promotor of the arena and the KAA Gent team management put pen to paper on a partnership agreement with AV company Play AV. In its first phase, Play AV took on design duties (with Bose Modeler software), installation and technical management of the stadium’s extensive audio system: 64 flown Bose weatherproof speaker cabinets (32 LT 9702 WR tops and 32 MB24 WR subs with a total output power of 64 K) serving the arena’s stands. This system is used as a main emergency public address system but also as an ‘atmosphere builder’ during the football. In addition, Play AV provided and installed 64 Bose 802 speaker cabinets in the corridors and entrance halls. In February of this year, event services company The Arena invited press and business clients for a presentation of the Ghelamco Arena’s additional corporate event facilities, such as its conference and meeting rooms. “From day one, the plan was to make extensive use of the huge infrastructure potential of the stadium,” explained Ewout Boesman, logistics manager at The Arena. “As from 2014, the huge business lounge, the promenade and 11 individual conference and
meeting rooms were opened for all kinds of business and corporate events. Most rooms can be configured in meeting room, theatre setting or any layout wanted by the client.” In addition, Meetdistrict, a subsidiary of stadium owner Ghelamco, took on the development of another
10,000 m² worth of events space within the venue, including a 380-seater auditorium, 10 meeting rooms and some 100 offices. The Business Lounge, meanwhile, is the arena’s biggest venue: during football matches, the lounge offers room for 1,400 corporate visitors before and after Airview of Ghelamco Arena’s opening event night
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P53 APRIL 2018
“The arena’s auditorium is equipped with Bose Roommatch array cabinets for optimal speech intelligibility”
WE ARE VERY PROUD TO WELCOME NEW CLIENTS AFTER EVERY EVENT THAT TAKES PLACE IN ONE OF OUR LOCATIONS. WE AT THE ARENA KEEP UPDATING AND INNOVATING THE ROOMS, OFFERING NEW POSSIBILITIES TO OUR CLIENTS
the game. “In addition, the Business Lounge is used up to four times per week for corporate events, dinners, networking events and various kinds of presentations, with a DJ or live music,” explains Tom Van de Veire, who, as a project manager at Play AV, is responsible for all the technical aspects during events in the Ghelamco Arena. “The capacity varies between 1,400 and 500 people. The basic configuration consists of 30 flown Bose Freespace DS100Se full-range cabinets, used for background music and announcements. Like the other speakers in the stadium, the DS100Ses are also part of the overall security and emergency audio system. For presentations or live music, we bring in extra gear, like L-Acoustics 12XT or Kara speakers and Danteconnected Yamaha QL-series or Digico SD8 or SD9 mixing consoles. Every configuration is tailor-made to fit the event and organiser’s rider.” The Ghelamco Arena also includes a prestigious auditorium, used for conferences, presentations and meetings. The auditorium is utilised by Meetdistrict, which also takes on the management of offices and meeting rooms where a mobile Bose L1 series II system
caters for speech reinforcement. “The auditorium is served by two Bose Roommatch 12020 enclosures plus a MB24 sub speaker flown on either side of the stage and two flown RMU206s fill speakers for the back rows, powered by a Bose PM8500 amplifier” continues Van de Veire. “The Roommatch speakers are configured with a dispersion pattern of 120°/20°, offering pristine audio clearness throughout the auditorium.” The audio system is controlled by an Allen & Heath GLD-80 console with Dante. At the client’s demand, Play AV also provides additional lighting, video projection or led-wall solutions.The arena’s 800m long open circle promenade is also used for events and can be divided into nine areas, varying from 160 to 500m². “For large scale events, we have crews up to 20 people working in the promenade,” adds Van de Veire, who spends ‘about half of his time’ at the stadium maintaining contact with customers, designing its various AV solutions in accordance with the client’s demands, preparing the equipment list, monitoring the workflow and dispatching engineers for set-up and technical operation.
“Each room has a basic set up consisting of four Bose Freespace BS40 ceiling speakers for background music and security announcements” continues Van de Veire. “The 412m² B1 lounge area has a standard configuration of two Bose Roommatch RMU 208 speakers. For conferences, we provide either Bose 802 or L-Acoustics speakers.” In addition to the audio system, The Arena also equipped the B1 lounge with a high quality beamer and screen display system. “The plan is to have the same technical installation in the other lounges as well,” comments Boesman. Nine meeting-boxes, with a capacity between 14 and 24 people, have Bose DS16 SE ceiling speakers as standard background system. “The arena and stands (with the outdoor speakers), and every single room or venue, including toilets, are all provided with a combination of DS16 and DS40 ceiling speakers,” explains Van de Veire. “During sports events, it’s crucial that emergency messages are heard all over the stadium. The complete sound system is controlled by a central PC, dividing the stadium in 18 areas and steering four amp-racks (located in the four corners of the stadium) each containing seven PM 8500 amplifiers.” “What makes the Ghelamco Arena so special is the possibility to organise speeches or presentations for up to 8,000 people in the arena on the ‘Buffalo pitch’ itself”, concludes Van de Veire. “We bring in extra L-Acoustics or D&B touring speakers – the arena then becomes a combination of a unique location with top speech intelligibility. We at Play AV provide the full audio-visual support to deliver the best quality and service.” “This prestigious project is the result of a transparent partnership with mutual respect”, summarises Dirk Verhellen, CEO Play AV. “We at The Arena are very proud to welcome new clients after every event that takes place in one of our locations,” adds Boesman. “Because we always keep upgrading and innovating the rooms, we offer new possibilities to our clients - and this is why so many people are eager to have their event in an arena where events become victories.” n
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P54 APRIL 2018
AES joins forces with UN’s gender equality campaign The Audio Engineering Society (AES) UK held a panel night at the University of York in February to discuss the gender imbalance in the audio industry. Women make up just 5% of the Society’s members, which inspired organisers to link up with the UN’s global HeForShe campaign for the event. AES UK’s first female chair Dr Mariana Lopez sent back this report...
n February 22, 2018, the AES UK hosted an event at the University of York on ‘gender equality and the audio industries’, in conjunction with the United Nations’ HeForShe campaign. I approached the organisation of the event with a sense of huge responsibility and spent several days wondering what I should say in my introductory speech. After days of thinking I decided to tell the truth: that I wished there was no need for this sort of event. I was standing there with five fabulous audio experts and instead of asking them about their wonderful work in the field, we were discussing a basic human right. But, we still have so much work to do in terms of equality, so, of course, there is a need for this and similar events to tackle issues on gender equality. The HeForShe campaign was launched by the UN in 2014, with an incredibly moving speech by actor Emma Watson. HeForShe invites everyone to get involved with gender equality: it isn’t a woman’s issue, it’s everyone’s issue – it’s about human rights. Only 5% of AES members are female, so it seemed appropriate to align ourselves with a campaign that invited everyone to get involved. Charlie Slee (former chair of AES UK and head of Big Bear Audio) and I have been working on the campaign since April 2017 when we started approaching the audio community asking them to make a public commitment to gender equality by signing the HeForShe pledge. The pledges allow us to show the world that we are committed to change and encourage others to do the same. Our event included a panel session with Jude Brereton (senior lecturer in Audio and Music Technology – University of York); Liz Dobson (senior lecturer in Music Technology – University of Huddersfield); Barkley McKay (touring and session musician and tutor – Leeds Beckett University); Emmanuel Vaas (senior lecturer in Professional Studies and Music Business – Leeds College of Music) and Kat Young (PhD student in binaural audio applications – University of York). The panel discussed reasons behind the pronounced gender imbalance in the audio industries. Issues raised included the lack of visibility of women in audio advertising – why is it always a male hand reaching for
Dr Mariana Lopez (far right) with the HeForShe panel
a fader on a console when advertising mixing desks? Small changes in advertising from manufacturers could make a huge difference. All our panellists agreed on their responsibility as educators, including making it clear that sexist comments are unacceptable, and speaking up. We need to have responsible conversations on equality with our students. University is about opening up people’s minds to new ways of seeing the world; making them aware of gender issues is part of our role. Our central question was how we can work on tangible actions towards equality. Event organisers were invited to reflect on their choices when inviting speakers; speakers were encouraged to rethink their participation in male-only panels (manels); everyone was encouraged to speak up. We also invited all our participants to tell us how they were going to change the world of audio by writing their thoughts on Post-It notes. Some comments included: “Believe in your abilities and don’t be scared to fail. If you have an idea for a project, don’t be scared to start doing it, because there’s nothing holding you back,” and “Challenge prejudices and everyday sexism.” I was moved by the large number of students that
approached me to tell me how inspired they were by the panellists. I was also thrilled to receive emails from audio companies asking what positive actions they could take towards equality. These discussions are key. Many people get defensive when gender equality issues are raised, taking the subject personally. We all need to learn to listen. It’s about all of us taking responsibility for our actions. If you are unsure how to promote equality, just ask. A few weeks ago I had the honour of becoming the first female chair of the AES UK. With power, they say, comes great responsibility, and that responsibility is about improving the world of audio engineering, and this needs to include work on equality. Our recent event at Leeds Beckett university, Up Your Output, was a testimony of our commitment to equality. It had a wonderful line-up of speakers, including Leslie GastonBird, Katie Tavini, Marta Salogni, Kate Hopkins, Ann Charles and Eloise Whitmore. In addition to this, we awarded three HeForShe bursaries for the event thanks to Big Bear Audio, which will also cover the student membership to the AES. n www.aes.org www.heforshe.org
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P56 APRIL 2018
Sound and vision
In each issue, we publish the best pro audio pics shared on social media in the past month. From gig pics to get-out selfies, studio shots to product close-ups, the industryâ€™s online community is thriving and we want to share the great work going on. Want to be featured next month? Tag @psneurope on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Genelec @Genelec Marko assembles some of the largest Genelec monitors and recently he made this special pair of #Genelec1237 SAM Studio Monitors. Which colour do you prefer, white or the traditional black?
Womens Audio Mission @womensaudio Thank you so much @PSPaudioware for donating plugins to our studio! They help make our mixes sound amazing! #psp #plugins #changingthefaceofsound
Pioneer @PioneerProAudio Last week saw the launch of the new BMW X2 at the BMW Patrick Smets, powered by the XPRS series with DJ JOERI and X-ian #proaudio #XPRS
@RadTechCon First planning session of 2018 today. Any topics youâ€™d like to see covered at TechCon? Get in touch if so! :) #radtechcon (Radio TechCon, broadcast event)
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P57 APRIL 2018
Follow us on Twitter Instagram Facebook @psneurope
Marta Salogni @Marta_Salogni Never been happier to hold a microphone. Thanks again @ ukMPG for rewarding me with the â€˜Breakthrough Engineer Of The Yearâ€™ Award
@longwaveromesh Gutted Maplin is going bust. Where else am I gonna go to get some batteries and walk out with a remote control helicopter and a set of disco lights? (Romesh Dodangoda, producer)
Steve Pomerantz @SteveEdits Take that, @jimmykimmel! My room full of Avids has a window!!! (and what a breathtaking view!) #Oscars @milocostudios One of the largest studios in south east USA, @soundkitchenstudiosllc, has joined Miloco! Explore the full studio & enquire about sessions on our website
@LaurenD_D So awesome to be invited to @PRSFoundation @PRSforMusic @KeychangeEU at the Canadian Embassy! (Lauren Deakin Davies, producer)
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P58 APRIL 2018
FROM THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR Steve Albini: 3 of the best
Our cover star talks us through the recording and engineering process of three of his finest albums to date...
Pixies, Surfer Rosa
Manic Street Preachers, Journal For Plague Lovers
Ty Segall, Freedom’s Goblin
“That was one of the first records I worked on where I didn’t know anybody involved before we got started. I was fairly green and I feel I was slightly overly ambitious in insinuating my own personality into that record. There were things I suggested that the band adopted that weren’t in their nature. The obvious example being the little snippets of conversation between songs. That was kind of a gimmick I was hung up on at the time. That was one of the learning steps of me developing my recording philosophy, which is that I try not to make myself a presence on the record. “My favourite song on that record is Gigantic. The way Kim [Deal] delivers her vocal…her personality is so strong and her voice is so pretty and distinctive. She has one of the best voices I’ve ever heard. By that I don’t just mean she sings in tune – there is a charisma and her enthusiasm for music comes through in her singing. The best description I could give of it is that it sounds simultaneously like she’s smiling and raising an eyebrow at you when she’s singing. You clearly get a very emotional tone from her. She’s not adopting a persona, she’s just singing as herself. I find the phoniness of pop music is one of its principle insults – the fact you are being kept at arms length from the true nature of the people making the music. That’s partly done by imagery, production and the fact that the people singing are generally not responsible for the music. The music that affects me the most is the music where I feel I’m genuinely hearing someone sing something that means something, as opposed to a sea of stylised sound and digital drama.”
“The band said they wanted to make a record of some found lyrics from their old lyricist who disappeared (Richie Edwards). They were total pros, well rehearsed and the record was done in relatively short order. I had a lot on my mind at the time. We’d gone to Wales to make it at Rockfield and while I was away my wife had a health scare, so I was slightly distracted the whole time. I tried not to let it affect my work on the record but I was probably emotionally more distant than I would have been normally. “They were kind of a cult band here among Anglophiles, so I wasn’t at all familiar with their music. But I did do some homework. They were terrific people to hang around with. Very straightforward, very open. Hanging out with them was as regular and normal as hanging out with your average band in the pub. I have a lot of respect for them and their work ethic. We share a lot of political and social viewpoints, so I feel akin to them as people. “There’s one slightly nostalgic moment on the record, I forget which song, where James wanted a particularly fried guitar sound. The studio had a cassette recorder that was the same as one I had in college - I didn’t have an amp, so I’d plug my guitar into the cassette player, wear headphones and overdrive the cassette player. It had a particular raspy distortion that I became quite fond of. On a lark, I told him I used that exact cassette player as a fuzz pedal, so we did that with his guitar. It was nice to see this make-do solution applied in a fancy recording studio (Rockfield, Wales). It was a great opportunity to take something I’d learned by being broke and making it a feature of a major record.”
“Ty has his own home studio, which is pretty well outfitted. I have worked with him in a number of different environments; he’s been to Electrical Audio to work on sessions and I’ve been to his place, which is where he does the bulk of his recording. On a songby-song basis, [Freedom’s Goblin] was made over multiple sessions across both [studios]. “Each of the sessions were conducted fairly quickly – in terms of calendar days, three or four tops to get between six and 10 songs recorded and mixed. With the sessions at his studio, there was a day or so of just me reorganising the gear, because every home studio is set up in an idiosyncratic way. In a studio that’s meant to be used by a bunch of different engineers, things like the patch bay are organised in a way that is immediately comprehensible, but in a home studio it depends on how the person has set it up. “It took me a day or so to get familiar with it, having Ty walk me through everything so I could get up to speed before we got started. Then the recording sessions proceeded very quickly. He’s a very decisive guy. If he does a take that he likes, that’s it – he makes those decisions on the spot; he’s not somebody that wrings his hands over his decisions a lot. “Speaking as an engineer, that kind of decisionmaking is great to work with. Having somebody who can make a decision and stick to it is the single most important factor in increasing the efficiency of the recording process. The fact that Ty makes records at a brisk pace has to do much more with his temperament and his talent than it does with me cracking the whip.” n
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In this month’s issue of PSNEurope, we have an exclusive interview with the legendary Steve Albini, who spoke to us about shunning his ‘prod...
Published on Apr 2, 2018
In this month’s issue of PSNEurope, we have an exclusive interview with the legendary Steve Albini, who spoke to us about shunning his ‘prod...