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P3 SEPTEMBER 2018 www.psneurope.com
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s you’ll have hopefully heard by now, the annual Pro Sound Awards are back for 2018, marking one of the busiest and most exciting times on the calendar here at PSNEurope HQ. Last year saw a number of changes implemented across the event as it celebrated its fifth anniversary - we moved away from Ministry Of Sound to London’s Steel Yard and gave the category list a major overhaul to make sure each and every award presented on the night was in keeping with the latest developments and innovations taking place in the market. And in that regard, this year will be no different, as we have once again started from the ground up in producing a category list that not only reflects the ever-changing nature of the industry, but also celebrates the next generation of pro audio innovators shaping the sector. All of which means we have an assortment of brand new awards up for grabs this year, as well as a clutch of Pro Sound Awards staples, so be sure to check out the full list over on P11, where you can also find out everything you need to know about entries (which are open now!) and purchasing tickets. But back to the issue in hand, which, as you’ll perhaps have gleaned from our front cover, is something of a studio special. Last month, I made the trip over to St John’s Wood for a chat with Abbey Road’s marketing and brand director Mark Robertson, and it made for one of the most interesting visits to the hallowed studios I’ve made in recent years. As any music fanatic who has had the privilege will tell you, the thrill of crossing that iconic threshold and basking in the history soaked walls of Studios 2 and 3 never ceases to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. This time, however, I was there not for another gawp at its most famous spaces but to take a tour of its newest rooms and state of the art facilities, which are, it goes without saying, extremely impressive. Indeed, as you’ll discover in our interview with Robertson on P13, Abbey Road is on a mission to spread the word that it has much to offer beyond its heritage and that famous zebra crossing. And it seems to be working, with a wealth of emerging musicians now flocking to make use of its new studios. In keeping with the theme of classic meets contemporary, elsewhere in this issue we hear from some of the pioneering producers who set the blueprint for today’s UK grime explosion, while Phil Ward reflects on a sparkling 50 years of Eddie Veale Associates, plus a whole lot more to boot. Enjoy. n
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P4 SEPTEMBER 2018
In this issue... People
P8 Mamma Mia! Acclaimed mix engineer Michael Minkler takes us inside the immersive mixes of the movie soundtrack to Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
P13 Abbey Road Mark Robertson, head of brand and marketing at Abbey Road Studios discusses the iconic facility’s new direction
P6 CAPITAL GOLD THE INSIDE TRACK ON SSE’S ACQUISITION OF CAPITAL SOUND
P25 The big 50 Phil Ward examines the past, present and future of iconic studio main stay Eddie Veale Associates, as it celebrates its 50th anniversary P28 Definitely Maebe Award-winning FOH mixer, studio engineer and producer Wes Maebe reflects on an illustrious career and offers his take on the key factors shaping the sector
Report P32 UK grime We hear from some of the pioneering producers who spearheaded the sound of the UK’s most vibrant genre in decades
P17 ISE RELOCATION PRO AUDIO HEAVYWEIGHTS RESPOND TO ISE’S MOVE TO BARCELONA
P36 PLASA 2018 PLASA managing director Peter Heath gives us the lowdown on this month’s event and reflects on the show’s ongoing renaissance
P39 Snap! Studios Marco Pasquariello, studio manager at London-based independent operation Snap! Studios on how the facility is fighting it out with the sector’s big guns while maintaining its indie credentials P48 The Hunger Games Swiss solo artist Sophie Hunger and producer Dan Carey tell PSNEurope about the studio techniques they employed to create the artist’s most sonically ambitious record to date
P22 SINGING THE BLUES MEYER SOUND UPDATE US ON ITS BLUEHORN MONITORING SYSTEM
P6 SEPTEMBER 2018 The fab four: (L-R) Paul Timmins, Robin Conway, Martin Connolly and John Penn
Phil Ward investigates the rationale behind SSE Audio Group’s recent acquisition of touring company Capital Sound…
n the 17th July, and after 28 years and 10 months, Keith Davis resigned as a director of Capital Sound Hire, the Wimbledon-based pro audio rental company that had come to feast at the top table of an industry dominated by competitors at least 10-15 years older. It was the natural conclusion of a dedicated career and delicate negotiations between Davis and John Penn, the founder of the SSE Audio Group that now owns Davis’ legacy. As a result Capital Sound is spearheaded now by Paul Timmins, formerly operations and development director,
the culmination of his own 18-year journey with the company and his emergence as Davis’ successor in the forefront of activities during the last few years. It creates a powerful clique. On the hire side Capital Sound joins Wigwam Hire, Tarsin and Canegreen within the SSE Audio Group, as well as SSE Hire, and completes a geographical spine of rental physique from the North of England to London. Each has joined under different circumstances, but gradually SSE is building a cradle of business security during a period of generational shift and protective consolidation right
across the industry.
One night stands There are several influences at work behind this strategic move. Firstly, John Penn identifies the contemporary phenomenon of the ‘one-off’ – a single night of full-scale, full-production rental that requires all the effort and infrastructure of a high-profile tour for one very special occasion. “The one-offs are usually for a corporate client, but not always” he tells PSNEurope. “We did one in Dublin last
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week, with Anastasia. There’s a lot of prep, especially with the channel counts of today. When they were fewer, you just bashed a channel list into an analogue desk. Nowadays, it’s 96-plus channels with loops and laptops and a whole load of frequency-sensitive radio kit. It’s a lot of work.” Add to this the growing requirement for ‘A’ rigs together with backup or exchangeable ‘B’ rigs, and the squeeze is on. “You work on the basis that you’re doing as much as you can do, so you can’t do much more,” admits Penn. “That’s it. You can’t be too picky. You’ve got to take what comes at you. But every new job is a new regular client in the making, some new business you can win, so it’s about delivering on those difficult one-offs so that you get the opportunity to shine. We did a one-off control package recently, because the artist on tour couldn’t get the kit to this one-off event, sent off this massive spec and afterwards we get a call from the tour manager saying: ‘how come the kit for this one-off is better prep’d than stuff we’ve had out on the tour?’ After that tour, the next time they did a festival run we had an A rig and a B rig out with them.” Then there are the new, more complex live performance patterns – especially during the summer, when artists display a growing habit of festival hopping between opportunities for selfies in Ibiza. They’re not on tour as such, but they appear on stage at these festivals with a good-to-go control package and set list. This makes the life of the rental company even more complicated. “That is exactly what both Rita Ora and Lily Allen – among many others – have been doing with us all summer,” Penn continues. “Artists now do ‘summer festival runs’ that happen at weekends, two or three gigs here and there, often geographically miles apart. So a lot of them have two sets of desks, two sets of backline, two sets of radios and so on. It’s a lot of planning and logistics.”
Stock in trade All of which means a greater demand for stock, available more flexibly and with more personnel on standby. “Right now,” says Penn, “we’ve got A and B rigs in prep for Imagine Dragons, N.E.R.D. – the A rig’s come back and they’re adding to it – and Shawn Mendes, on top of prepping four stages of flip-flop desks for the Rize! Festival. And, of course, that’s as well as all the A and B packages we have out already. “What happens is one of the rigs comes back, you store that for a fortnight and strip it down to use parts of it, but then you’ve got to rebuild it again when they need it. It takes a day to do that; they don’t pay for it because as far as they’re concerned it’s been done and it’s us that’s undoing it, and you need your payroll crew to do it again properly. You’ve got to be on your toes. We’d always rather use our own stock than sub-hire it.” But of course ‘our own’ stock has now dramatically
Riders on the storm
THIS DEAL PROVIDED THE GREATEST STABILITY FOR CAPITAL. IT ENABLES US TO KEEP WORKING AT THE TOP LEVEL WITH THE ARTISTS WE KNOW. EVERYBODY CAME OUT OF IT IN A GOOD POSITION PAUL TIMMINS
increased. In January, Paul Timmins enquired about the availability of some d&b audiotechnik J-Series kit for a Sam Smith run, although he didn’t want the amplification. “Normally I’d shy away from that,” says Penn, “because what are we supposed to do with what’s left? But we were expecting d&b’s new GSL system, with no amps because they’re the same as the J-Series, so it was a good fit. This continued with other bits and pieces, until the point where a fresh conversation with Keith was almost inevitable.” ‘Fresh’ because one particular topic had cropped up before, with the irrevocable insistence of fate. “Keith and I had spoken about his pending retirement a few times,” admits Penn, “and time moves on. To put it into perspective: last Saturday I sent Yan [Stiles] a card to mark the 10th anniversary of Canegreen joining the fold. Ten years! Anyway, in Keith’s position the main concern is a secure legacy, and we’d already demonstrated we could work together in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect. “I think we also have a track record of taking care of businesses within the Group, and letting them be themselves and play to their own strengths. It’s not about the gear anyway; it’s about the people. That’s where the real value lies in a business. And, this time, things fell into place and we were able to strike a deal.” “It was important for us to see what had happened with Wigwam,” says Paul Timmins. “That was a model we could recognise and use to gauge the likely outcome of a deal like this: five years on, Wigwam still has a powerful identity in the same location. That was key to building our confidence in taking this step. “In the long term, we can see that Wigwam is the ‘face’ of SSE in the North and, although we are still Capital Sound, in rental terms we can be the face of that group in London and the South. It does mean that there are two SSE locations in London and that may change over time, but for the foreseeable future things will continue as they are. As and when we need to respond to enquiries more fixed installation in nature, we now have the resources to turn to.”
Another drain on resources is the increasing specificity of the riders. Acts are now very choosy, which is one of the main drivers behind Capital Sound’s policy of the past few years to offer more choice in terms of kit – especially loudspeakers, which have traditionally fallen into either one camp or another in order to provide a competitive edge. “Choice is key,” says Timmins. “I think we’ve possibly embraced this more than others in recent years, especially as it is driven now by the loudspeaker options. With consoles, generally everybody has most options in-house, but hitherto rental companies have grown up with one brand. Three years ago we went to four brands, and we’ve had incredible success with that. It’s actually brought in new business, and definitely got us out of a brief period of flatlining. John recognised that, and I believe he saw an extension of the benefits made possible by the aggregation of SSE’s and Wigwam’s loudspeaker stock when that happened. “It’s great having all these brands, but you’ve got to be able to support them in terms of technical expertise. I think we all share that view now: you’ve got to be able to provide people their first choice. I suppose SSE led the way with V-DOSC, while Wigwam championed d&b and we had Martin Audio and later Meyer, but by adding d&b and Outline we’ve made ourselves just that little bit more tasty.” “Clients don’t just want 10 radio mics,” adds Penn. “They want this mic with that capsule, that mic with another capsule, some in this frequency band, some in another… same with ears, beltpacks, so many details. They have their preferences, and you need to match the specification. If you have a bigger pool of equipment within the Group you’re more likely to achieve that. ‘I’ll swap my 10 channels of Sennheiser for your 10 channels of Shure’, and so on. We’ve made it an absolute policy of providing the spec, no compromise. We’re now in a position across the Group where we have a very good spread of all the key brands, with all the economies of scale that we can exploit at the same time.” Let’s just take a look: by phoning one number, you should have access to major loudspeaker rigs by – in no particular order – Martin Audio, Meyer Sound, d&b audiotechnik, L-Acoustics, JBL and Outline; and consoles by Digico, Midas, Yamaha, Avid, Soundcraft, SSL and Allen & Heath. That should keep most European customers satisfied. “This deal was the option that provided the greatest stability for the Capital brand,” concludes Timmins. “It enables us to keep working at the top level with the artists we know, and to give Keith the rewards he deserves for devoting 40 years of his life to this industry. Everybody came out of it in a good position.” n www.sseaudiogroup.com https://capitalsound.co.uk
P8 SEPTEMBER 2018
Here we go again
It’s been 10 years since the cinematic release of ABBA musical Mamma Mia! took the world by storm, and last month saw the release of its sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, which has been wowing audiences across the board. Here, Steve Harvey takes PSNEurope inside the film’s immersive mixes...
ore than 60 million people have seen Mamma Mia! in the theater since it premiered in London’s West End in 1999, with seven stage productions reportedly running worldwide at any given time. In 2008, the jukebox musical - based on some of Swedish pop band ABBA’s many hits - made the transition to the screen, smashing box office and sales records as it rolled out worldwide. It remains the UK’s all-time best-selling DVD. Ten years on, here we go again. ABBA songsmiths Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus have been involved in the show’s development since inception and were executive producers on the 2008 film version. Now the pair are back for the sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. This time around, Andersson took the lead with the music, overseeing the re-recording of ABBA songs with the actors at London’s Abbey Road Studios and working alongside dialogue and music re-recording mixer Michael Minkler from start to finish. The plan was to mix the film on Universal Pictures’ Stage 6, Minkler relates, but due to scheduling changes, he premixed the dialogue on the Avid S6 console at Pace Pictures. The recently opened facility, which features a Dolby Atmos stage that Minkler had a hand in designing, is in a former Soundelux building in Hollywood. Supervising sound editor Warren Shaw assumed effects re-recording mix duties on Stage 6, which features both a Harrison, a brand Universal has favored for at least 20 years, and an Avid console. “The S6 is permanently installed in two sections in the centre, but they still use the Harrison for routing and summing,” Minkler says. The show’s sound effects editor, Dan Kenyon, ensured continuity by joining the mixers as stage editor. After years of experience with the immersive platform, Minkler is a fan of mixing in Dolby Atmos from the get-go. “You might as well start native Atmos, then it’s a very easy conversion down to 7.1 and 5.1,” he says. “Every time I do an Atmos mix the technology is different. Avid improves what they are making, Dolby is improving what they make. It’s almost like starting over every time.” Despite the massive cast and the production challenges, the dialogue mix was nothing out of the ordinary, he reports. “There’s a lot of ADR in the movie. I was very happy with the way it fit in.” As with the original movie, which Minkler also mixed, the new sequel/prequel is all about the music.
Take a chance on me: Michael Minkler (left) with Benny Andersson
As Minkler notes, Andersson and his longtime studio collaborator, engineer, mixer and producer Bernard Löhr, as well as Andersson’s son Ludvig, a recording engineer and associate producer on this new film, are steeped in stereo. “It was a learning process for Bernard and for Benny,” he says, noting that Andersson was present at the mix. “We mixed the songs as if we were in a 7.1 environment and made everyone happy. Then we took it into an Atmos room and played with it.” Andersson and Löhr soon realised the possibilities afforded by Dolby Atmos, Minkler says. “Benny was very excited about it. His initial reaction was, ‘Oh my gosh, this is what I always wanted my music to be like.’” Ultimately, the music mix didn’t stray far from the original stereo versions, Minkler says. “We played with it and went to extremes and brought it back down. Bernard had his own mix room adjacent to our big mix room; when he got some ideas about pulling things apart, he would test those out in his room. “The music is basically a band, not an orchestra, so to pull the band apart so that different instruments are in different speakers, or different spaces within the room, wasn’t pleasing. We wanted to maintain a nice, tight mix, so the final result wasn’t wild and crazy,” Minkler adds. That said, there were some opportunities to spread
the vocals out in the immersive environment: “When the material was brought to the stage, Bernard had already put the vocals in a space that was correct for him. The music is mostly in the left-right of the room and the vocal is in the centre. The background vocals are spread left and right. They could be more towards the front, some towards the middle, some towards the back - it was a case-by-case process.” As for the score, by composer Anne Dudley, he says, “that was always wider than the songs.” He adds, “Benny was a big part of that score, too; he worked with Anne on the tone.” With the songs having a specific sound and the live action scenes in their own acoustic environment, transitions could potentially be jarring. “But because this is Mamma Mia!, we didn’t hold as tight to those two worlds,” Minkler explains. “We could break out from the cinematic world into the musical world, and on occasion, we could distinctly breakaway. The film is so much fun, and the way it was directed, they can break into song and it’s OK.” The mix team was busy with premixes and temp mixes for a seven-week period while the producers tested various cuts of the film, Minkler reports. The final mix took about three weeks. n
P11 SEPTEMBER 2018
(L-R): Last year’s Lifetime Achievement winner, Funktion-One’s Tony Andrews, with PSNEurope editor Daniel Gumble and host Jimmy McGhie
Pro Sound Awards return for 2018!
Entries are now open for this year’s bash, which takes place on Thursday, November 22 at London’s Steel Yard...
SNEurope is delighted to announce that the Pro Sound Awards are back for 2018, with the annual ceremony returning to London’s Steel Yard on Thursday, November 22. Now in its sixth year, the 2018 Pro Sound Awards will once again provide the perfect platform for a night of industry celebration and networking opportunities, as the great and good from the pro audio market come together to honour the year’s finest achievements, companies and individuals. 2017 saw a number of changes implemented across the awards programme, with a refreshed list of categories and a move away from its previous home at Ministry Of Sound. And, after extensive research and collaboration with the industry, this year’s Pro Sound Awards also sees a number of changes to reflect the ever-evolving nature of the industry. Our category list has been given a comprehensive overhaul to ensure our finger remains firmly on the pulse, with a key focus on the future of pro audio. So, while Pro Sound Awards staples, such as the Lifetime Achievement Award have remained, new awards have been added to recognise the most exciting new talent emerging across the market.
PSNEurope editor Daniel Gumble commented: “Following the huge success of last year’s event, we are delighted to bring the Pro Sound Awards back to the Steel Yard. Last year marked a year of transformation for the Pro Sound Awards, and it is vital that we continue to develop its content year after year. The industry is changing more rapidly than ever and it’s our job to reflect those changes and to honour not only long-established market leaders, but also the pioneers of tomorrow.” Entries are now open at www.prosoundawards.com, with the deadline for all submissions closing at midnight on Wednesday, September 28. Please note, this is a fixed deadline and cannot be altered, so allow plenty of time to work on your entries.. Tickets are available now for £55 from the Pro Sound Awards website and include access to the drinks reception, ceremony, after party and a light buffet. Last year saw Funktion-One co-founder Tony Andrews honoured with the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award, while Meyer Sound was recognised for its contribution to the industry with the Grand Prix Award. We look forward to toasting another great year for pro audio on November 22. n
PRO SOUND AWARDS 2018 CATEGORIES LIVE 1. Best loudspeaker 2. Best microphone 3. Best live mixing console 4. Best live sound production 5. Best FOH engineer 6. Breakthrough FOH engineer STUDIO brought to you by AMI 7. Best studio 8. Best studio monitor 9. Best studio mic 10. Best mixing console 11. Best producer 12. Best studio engineer 13. Breakthrough studio engineer 14. Best installation project 15. Best immersive sound project 16. Campaign award 17. Outstanding contribution 18. Company of the Year
P13 SEPTEMBER 2018
The Road ahead
Abbey Road, the world’s most famous recording studio, has recently undergone some of the biggest changes in its 87-year history. Over the past year or so, the iconic space has seen a number of major transformations, both technological and philosophical. PSNEurope editor Daniel Gumble paid Mark Robertson, head of brand and marketing at Abbey Road, a visit to find out how the studio is preparing to enter “a new era”...
s PSNEurope enters Abbey Road’s bustling cafeteria, Mark Robertson, the studio’s head of brand and marketing, offers us a mug of coffee and takes from the fridge a can of water for himself. “We’ve just gone plastic-free,” he tells us as we take our seats. And while this ecofriendly gesture may not rank particularly high on the list of changes Abbey Road has recently undergone, it is certainly indicative of the fresh approach it is taking to each and every facet of its offering. Last year, the facility opened two brand new studios in the form of The Front Room and The Gatehouse, aimed at offering emerging stars a more affordable alternative to the hallowed - and significantly more expensive spaces of Studios 2 and 3, along with a purpose-built, state-of-the-art Dolby Atmos Premier-accredited and
IMAX audio-compatible post production space dubbed The Mix Stage, designed to complement its film scoring offering. According to Robertson, the new rooms reflect a new approach to business that has been implemented across the board. Once a closed off, almost inaccessible entity to those lacking the blockbusting budgets required to pass through its iconic entrance, its ethos today is one of openness; a place to welcome all comers, not just those scaling rock and pop’s upper echelons. Not that it is trying to dispense with its legacy - the ever-present army of Beatles fanatics and tourists found scribbling on its exterior walls and posing for photos on that famous zebra crossing during the August downpour blighting the capital during our visit a constant reminder of its global appeal - but rather to engage with a new generation
of artists and show that Abbey Road is far more than a monument to a bygone era. “We’re getting people to recognise this place as being much more approachable,” says Robertson, who has played a key role in reconstructing Abbey Road’s identity. “We’re doing really well, but it’s going to take time.” One of the ways in which it is doing this is by equipping its new studios with the highest spec gear possible within their price range. The Gatehouse has been kitted out with an AMS Neve 16 fader BCM10/2 Mk2 desk, recording and software packages including ProTools HDX2, Logic X and Ableton, as well as Focal SM9 monitoring and a vast microphone selection comprising modern and vintage models from AEA, AKG, Beyerdynamic, Brauner, Neumann, Sennheiser, Shure, Sontronics and many more. Meanwhile, the more
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compact Front Room, features the technical staff who have an SSL 24 fader Duality delta been here forever to all the desk, Pro Tools HDX2, Logic new school guys as I have X and Ableton recording done. We have a blast. It’s and software options, ATC amazing.” SCM25A monitoring and Evidently it’s a move that shares The Gatehouse’s has not just reinvigorated comprehensive mic collection. Abbey Road, but also resulted Mark Robertson and Nile Rodgers Another way in which in plenty of new business passing Robertson has been expanding Abbey through its doors, as Robertson Road’s client base is via the appointment discusses with PSNEurope... of Chic legend Nile Rodgers as its chief creative advisor. Since taking on the role, Rodgers has helped Just how much of a transformation has there been at Abbey Road over the past year? attract a vast number of contemporary artists, the majority of which had never before set foot inside Abbey It’s a new era. Following the purchase of the studio Road. Among them, Laughta, James Bay, Jess Glynne, by Universal there has been a major investment Mura Masa, JP Cooper, Novelist, Jammer, Tinashe and a programme, and it’s got to be the biggest great many more. transformation since we opened in 1931. We’ve been “It’s an amazing opportunity and responsibility and enhancing services and facilities across the core studios, damn it’s fun,” said Rodgers. “I’d never believed that at we’ve added new isolation booths, upgraded existing this point in my life, this type of opportunity, this type of gear, and we’re very mindful of this being a premium situation and these types of results could be possible complex, so we’re constantly thinking about how we in such a short time that I’ve been here. I don’t know can make it more accessible and build relationships how many songs I’ve done here, how many artists I’ve with artists at the start of their career. Perhaps as brought here, it’s just crazy. From shooting episodic they develop we can take them through to the bigger videos to transforming the studios into a magical spaces, but the idea was to create some smaller rooms universe that doesn’t exist and using it as a laboratory to to make the place more accessible, while keeping not only indulge myself but also watch other artists get the same magic and offering access to our vintage caught up in this magic that we are starting to create, gear and instruments. We made a conscious effort to it’s really amazing. And dealing with everybody, from repurpose existing rooms - we didn’t want new builds.
So we converted a garage into what is now called The Gatehouse, which is the bigger of the two new rooms. And the other, smaller room is called The Front Room. The roll call ranges from established acts, such as Europe and Nile Rodgers, through to a number of emerging artists. We’ve had quite a few grime artists, people like Novelist, Jammer and Laughta. We’ve also had some well known contemporary artists, like James Bay, George Ezra and Jess Glynne. We’ve found that the purpose shifts depending on what the artist wants. Last week Ella Eyre was saying how much she loves the Front Room because the natural light that comes in means she and her producer stayed longer than they normally would for a writing session. We’re also learning from the artists’ feedback on what Abbey Road means to them. Sometimes you can forget the appeal and the magic of coming to work at Abbey Road. We’ve started to film a lot of artist-related content, again to make Abbey Road feel more accessible. There is a perception of Abbey Road being a bit austere and unattainable for many, so it’s been a surprise for some people to come in and not only have the standards and expectations of our staff and our engineers reinforced, but also to find out how lovely everybody is.
So how have you been able to combine such a high technical spec in the new rooms with a more affordable cost? Effectively, Universal have said yes to everything the team here asked for. They want to fully support the place
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as an ongoing concern. We have a technical services department that spec’d out what we thought we would need. So when you look at something like the Mix Stage, it was about building a room from the ground up that could offer flexibility for all the different kinds of projects we hope to attract.
Has the perception of Abbey Road been a problem when it comes to attracting new business without major budgets? Absolutely. For the past 18 months we’ve been really mindful of that. For example, we’d never really done PR before, so we started to get our people talking to the press about their craft and humanising the place, making the most of the personalities we have here and getting them talking on panels and events across Europe and in the US. What’s probably done even more for us is creating content with artists, sharing studio insights from their projects on social media. We’ve had people as a result saying, Well if this person can go there, I can go there. Before, we kept everything quiet and private, we didn’t talk about the people who came here. That’s definitely creating a bit of a shift in perception and hopefully we can continue to do more of that. We’re also aware that there is a big community of home music makers who don’t necessarily need a studio but still respect Abbey Road as a high-end facility, and there is an appeal to working here - our engineers are winning Grammys, Emmys, they are at the top of their game, so there is an appeal in having the Abbey Road stamp of quality. So we now offer online mixing and online mastering, and we’re getting closer to that community and understanding their needs. We launched a free app called Top Line last autumn, which is really designed for songwriters and producers to capture ideas on the go, so you can import a track, add two layers on top of that and then send it back to the producer you’re working with as an idea. That was designed to demonstrate that we have an understanding and a commitment to that audience and it’s part of the package of online services that come with the new studios.
What has the feedback been like from artists using the new studios? It’s been consistently positive from everybody. People want to come back. Nile has a permanent role with us now as our chief creative advisor, so this is his base in the UK. That happened because he was coming here regularly and he’s also a real symbol of everything Abbey Road is about. He’s got this great heritage but he’s absolutely contemporary. Just look at all the contemporary artists he’s working with - Mura Masa, Anderson Paak, the people he’s been bringing in here have been really impressive. Mura Masa is a good example. When recording his track Love$ick he chose to bring A$AP Rocky here to do the vocals, to wow and impress him. Yes, they are new rooms, but the quality
Front and centre: The Front Room
is right up there. And it’s also about the efficiency and expertise of the engineers. Everything is always set up, there are so many new things and such a variety of projects coming through here that they can probably teach most artists coming through a few tips or introduce them to some new gear that they perhaps haven’t tried before.
How is the Universal buyout affecting Abbey Road’s day-to-day business? Their approach has been very respectful, they don’t want to do anything to damage reputation of the brand. They asked the team here what they would like to do in terms of enhancing the facilities and they did [what was asked of them]. For many years, Abbey Road had been underinvested in and there was a long list of things, such as opening a school to help develop the next generation of production and engineering talent and - given that we’ve got this highly successful scoring business - looking at how we take that side of the business on to the next stage. Opening up The Mix Stage allows people to take a score and blend it with the film’s dialogue and sound effects, which hugely enhances our range of services to those clients. It’s been all about protecting the future and enhancing what is already here.
How much work goes into ensuring Abbey Road provides the highest calibre of engineers? Unlike a lot of studios, our engineers are full-time. We tend to take most of them from a course called the Tonmeister at the universities of Surrey and Guildford. And people don’t tend to leave. It’s a long, hard training process, many long hours and days. People say it takes longer to become an Abbey Road engineer than it does to become a brain surgeon! It takes years to make your way up. Stereo was invented here, countless recording techniques, particularly in the ‘60s in the Beatles years,
were developed by the EMI in-house engineers. They built their own desks like the REDD desks and the TG desks. Techniques like artificial double-tracking came from people that worked here. Techniques and innovation have been handed down from generation to generation, and we are still very focused on that. We created something called De-mix technology, which is like source separation - you can break down something that’s mono or could be a bootleg and then our engineers are able to mix up again. We’ve also got something called Abbey Road Red, which is a start-up incubator. We’re thinking about what Abbey Road needs to look like in 10 years time. What are the technologies that are being developed out in the market that we can bring back to our clients? We’re very much tapping into that, using our network to help grow those start-ups. And we’re doing more experimentation in-house. A lot of work is going on with spatial audio, for instance.
What are the key challenges and opportunities for Abbey Road today? We can speak very confidently about our film scoring business. We’re very lucky that a lot of film composers choose to come here. A lot of American composers come here and they can listen to a piece of music and recognise it was recorded in Studio 1 or Studio 2. They love the rooms and the efficiency of the engineers and the orchestras in the UK. Probably around seven out of 10 of big blockbuster films are recorded here. The Mix Stage was designed to enhance our services to film clients. Again, it’s about raising awareness of that, particularly with the film community in the US. It’s a challenge, growing that. Everyone has been really impressed, but it’s a case of bringing more work in here, particularly when a lot of those people may have established relationships elsewhere. All in all, what we’re doing is really working. It’s making a difference. n
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Barcelona: The new home of ISE
Viva España! Following the announcement that the annual ISE show will be relocating from its current home at the Amsterdam RAI to Barcelona in 2021, PSNEurope caught up with some of the biggest names in the professional audio market to get their take on what the move could mean for the biz…
long spell of speculation was put to bed back in July, when it was finally revealed that ISE would be relocating from its home of the past 12 years at the Amsterdam RAI to Barcelona’s Gran Via, part of the Fira de Barcelona complex, in 2021 (February 2-5). Over the past couple of years, rumours had started to circulate as to whether or not the rapidly expanding show had indeed outgrown its base in the Netherlands, although exactly where a show of such vast scale would be able to relocate was the subject of much conjecture. When the news broke that a new home had finally been settled on, the reaction was generally positive, with ISE managing director Mike Blackman highlighting the
benefits a more expansive setting would offer visitors and exhibitors alike. “The RAI and Amsterdam have provided a fantastic location, been great partners and contributed to the success of the show,” he said. “But, demand from exhibitors, and the continued increase in the numbers of attendees, showed us that limited floor space was in danger of putting a brake on the show’s development. In spite of all our best efforts this was not an issue we felt could be solved by staying at the RAI Amsterdam. “We conducted extensive research and visited many exhibition centres before making this decision. By announcing our move to one of Europe’s largest and most prestigious convention complexes, we can now
continue to focus on creating a unique experience for everyone and confidently plan for long-term development. We will ensure that the remaining two editions of ISE at the RAI Amsterdam are the best in its illustrious history and a fitting way to bring our 14-year relationship with the venue and city to a close.” The new venue certainly offers plenty of space for ISE to grow into. The Fira de Barcelona complex has two exhibition venues and hosts 140 international trade shows each year, featuring over 30,000 exhibitors and attracting over two million attendees. In total it has over 400,000 sqm of floor space and 14 halls. But what do the exhibitors and visitors make of the move? PSNEurope caught up with some of them to find out…
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Stephan Greiner, chief sales officer, d&b audiotechnik ISE has been an increasingly important show for d&b in Europe, with many installers and rental companies seeing it as a key show for investigating new products and technologies. For several years it’s been a particularly busy event for us, on the exhibition floor and in the d&b demo lounge with product listening and learning sessions open to everyone. We see ISE as a core element to drive our installation integration strategy forward. It’s been a great way for visitors to get to know d&b a little better in a relaxed and easy atmosphere and we’ll be looking to keep that buzz alive in Spain. Ultimately, the move to Barcelona will mean a fresh face for visitors as well as new opportunities for d&b and our European subsidiaries. Like Amsterdam it’s a major city so we’re confident the transition will be straightforward, and at the very least a good deal warmer.
Peter Claussen, COO, Sennheiser Sennheiser is very happy to see ISE, one of our key tradeshows, grow further. Year after year, we have welcomed more and more visitors to our stand, and have been happy to see new customer groups making their way to Amsterdam. The attraction of the show will grow further with the move to Fira de Barcelona, which roughly offers four times as much space as RAI and has a proven track record as host to the GSMA Mobile World Congress. We are very much looking forward to introducing our business communication portfolio to the
additional market segments that will be attracted to ISE once it can grow freely, and of course to continuing the fruitful exchange and good talks we have always had with our integration customers. Some may argue that Amsterdam is more central as a location, and perhaps we will see increased logistics efforts overall. However, this will be outweighed by the opportunities for growth offered by Barcelona. Another issue might be the political situation regarding the Catalan independent movement, but seeing the support of Barcelona for its tradeshows, I am positive that ISE in Barcelona will be a resounding success. The success of ISE has certainly had an impact on tradeshows that address the same industries, with many manufacturers shifting budgets to ISE. But there are also pro audio shows that address different user groups, such as IBC and NAMM, and their success is not impaired at all by ISE becoming so successful. The opportunity for close interaction with customers, spanning industries from entertainment and music to broadcast and content creation to system integration and business communications is key to Sennheiser.
Anne Berggrein, VP marketing, DPA Microphones We have seen ISE grow from a pure AV exhibition addressing mainly the installation and event business to one that now covers many other pro audio segments and is therefore attracting all the big audio players in the industry. We have had ISE on the radar for many years and have exhibited there for some years now – and with good results. Next year we will more than double the area we exhibit on as we see a growing audience interested in our product offerings and our professional audio expertise. ISE has become one of the most important exhibitions in Europe, and the growth in the number of exhibitors and visitors is fantastic, especially at a time when people find so much of their information on the internet. Being able to see and hear the various brands in real life in one place gives you a much better basis for evaluating gear and deciding on which products are best for the job. And it also proves that personal relationships and contact is still a key factor when doing business.
Moving ISE to Barcelona is an interesting step. It will definitely attract more people from Southern Europe, which is a growing market for us and where we believe we have even more potential with our microphone solutions. But it is a shame it won’t happen until 2021 – and it’s also worth remembering that Barcelona can also be pretty cold in February! Having said that, I look forward to getting more people to try the DPA experience in Barcelona in the future. With IBC in Amsterdam and ISE in Barcelona we should have Europe nicely covered.
Chris Merrick, director, marketing global systems, Shure Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) has consistently served as an important exhibition for Shure. For us, it has been a really great place to introduce new products and services in the market and give our clients and partners the opportunity to experience our latest solutions in person. The show’s rapid growth is a testament to the overall health of the industry – something Shure is also experiencing. It was only a matter of time until the event outgrew the current venue in Amsterdam, which in the grand scheme of things is actually quite a wonderful problem to have. More recently, ISE has expanded from a channel event to a large-scale production with a significant platform in reaching end-customers and decision makers from corporations, government and education. Although Amsterdam is a great place to visit, we are looking forward to moving to a venue that can not only accommodate our growing product portfolio needs but the needs of exhibitors and attendees alike. We appreciate and support the decision to make the move to Barcelona, one we see as a natural evolution for ISE to accommodate the show’s future development. Other prominent shows, like Mobile World Congress, moved to Barcelona at a time when its respective industry also experienced exceptional growth. There is no doubt it’s an exciting time to be part of the systems and AV Industry. While we will miss Amsterdam, we look forward to exhibiting at the new venue in Barcelona in 2021.
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ISE HAS MADE THE RIGHT DECISION, AND THIS MOVE WILL HAVE A POSITIVE IMPACT ON MAINTAINING, IF NOT BOOSTING, THE GROWTH OF THE AV INDUSTRY FRANCESCO FANICCHI, POWERSOFT John McMahon, vice president of solutions and strategy, Meyer Sound Meyer Sound has participated at ISE since the outset and has seen first-hand the steady growth it has experienced over the past 10 years. Barcelona offers a larger venue to accommodate the growth of ISE, which has become the ‘go-to’ show for AV in Europe and other key markets across the globe. Like Amsterdam, Barcelona is a major international hub making it easy logistically – although perhaps better weather! Amsterdam served the industry well but the expansion over the years simply required more space. For instance, Meyer Sound found booking demo space in Amsterdam to be challenging, so we look forward to greater flexibility in what we can showcase at ISE. This show has become instrumental to our business and it’s where our customers go to network and discover what’s new across many sectors of the industry. As one of the first shows in the calendar year, we kick off ISE with a dealer and distributor meeting and the central location of Barcelona should allow us to draw attendance from many of our major markets.
appeal of la Rambla, and the weather in Spain around February could be a plus. I can understand international visitors preferring the special ‘intimate’ atmosphere of Amsterdam (being a Dutch company, we may be biased here!), but I guess each place will have its pros and cons. The bottom line is that the RAI simply wasn’t an option any more.
Francesco Fanicchi, brand and communication director, Powersoft Rumours on this change of location have been circulating amongst industry players for the last couple of years, so it is good to know where ISE will be hosted from 2021. The Amsterdam RAI has been an amazing venue for ISE and it undoubtedly contributed to the continuous success and growth of the show. However, the limited floor space and expansion challenges meant that the RAI couldn’t meet the demand from the show organiser as well as exhibitors, which eventually led the ISE organisation to adopt a rather debatable stand booking system. With the aim to best cater for the exhibitors while delivering a high level of service and real value to the show visitors, I believe ISE has made the right decision, and this will have a positive impact on maintaining, if not boosting, the growth of the AV industry. Gran Via Barcelona is undoubtedly one of Europe’s largest convention centres, and from a manufacturer point of view, being able to exhibit in a venue that can evolve and grow at the same rate as the AV industry, means that companies can better plan their strategy in the long term.
Tobias Weich, sales and marketing manager, Yamaha Music Europe We are pleased about the decision to hold the fair in Barcelona from 2021. Like Amsterdam, Barcelona is an international business location with an excellent infrastructure. Moreover, it is a charming city with its own flair and thus the perfect place to meet with existing and future business contacts. We are therefore looking forward to the relocation in 2021, but are no less excited about the last two editions in Amsterdam in 2019 and 2020. Tom Back, co-founder, Alcons Audio It was obvious that the RAI couldn’t keep up with the show’s rapid growth, the set-up and strike logistics were becoming very difficult. However, as our ‘home turf’, Amsterdam was the best option for us, both for our own booth as well as for being a technical partner of the show. Barcelona will be a big change for us, although we already have an international convention and show there in June (CineEurope). The city is nice, even besides the
Ann Andrews, co-founder, Funktion-One If ISE is still in a similar position in 2021, you would presume that the move to Barcelona will be a successful one. Three years is a long time in business, so it will be interesting to see how things pan out. For FunktionOne, Prolight + Sound is currently our main European tradeshow of the year. We also exhibited at NAMM for the first time in January and found that to be very worthwhile. The current situation at ISE, with it being at capacity in Amsterdam, means that if we did decide to exhibit there we wouldn’t be able to. The move to Barcelona should, at least, give us the option of exhibiting at ISE 2021, but we’ll need to weigh things up. With the current scheduling, exhibiting at both NAMM and ISE means doing two shows in different continents less than two weeks apart, which is something we’d need to look at.
Joe Pham, CEO and president, QSC Amsterdam was a great location and helped QSC reach out to our most important clients in the EMEA region, which in turn aided in our growth in that region. As QSC continues to focus on the EMEA region and the industry
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BEING IN SPAIN WILL OPEN THE SHOW UP TO NEW VISITORS WHO HAVE NOT PREVIOUSLY TRAVELLED TO AMSTERDAM. WITH CHANGE, NEW DOORS WILL OPEN, OF THAT I AM SURE LARS-OLOF JANFLOD, GENELEC
diversifies with more and more IT and end users visiting ISE, the move to Barcelona provides the additional space we need to showcase even more holistic offerings to these new customers as well as our channel partners. We are very excited about ISE’s decisions to relocate and look forward to the opportunities to connect with new customers. Lars-Olof Janflod, senior advisory officer, Genelec Genelec has exhibited at ISE since 2004. We have, so to speak seen it all, from the tiny little show in Geneva with 4,000 visitors to todays 80,000+ beast. As part of ISE´s Advisory group I have been involved in the discussions leading to the decision to move. It’s not been an easy one as Amsterdam is a great city to be in for trade shows - a good location in Europe with a international airport that most airlines fly in and out of etc. The list of benefits with Amsterdam is long. The drawbacks, unfortunatley, are hard to overcome. The RAI is what it is and has limited capacity, and everyone who has been there during an ISE or IBC show can clearly see that it has its limitations. Add to that the lacking hotel capacity, leading to silly increasing room costs, and it becomes a nightmare for a growing exhibition that already (a) needs to say no to new exhibitors and (b) has to say no to current exhibitors’ need for more space. It’s a delicate balance that finally has taken its toll. For us as exhibitors the RAI has been an easy place to come to, mainly because we have been there so many times that we know the place inside out. In this respect the move is a disruption that, to a certain extent, throws us out of our comfort zone and will require some extra work in the beginning. Fira Barcelona is a huge modern exhibition and conference centre that’s been built to accommodate a large number of visitors and is as far from the patchwork RAI as one can get. I also think that being in Spain will open the show up to new visitors that have not travelled to Amsterdam. With change, new doors will open, and this move will see a lot of new doors opening, of that I am sure.
WE’RE HAPPY WITH THE MOVE. THE RESTRICTIONS OF THE RAI HAVE IMPACTED NEGATIVELY ON THE FLOW AND ORGANISATION OF THE SHOW. LET’S JUST HOPE ORGANISERS DON’T START CHARGING MORE TO BE PRESENT AS A RESULT DOM HARTER, MARTIN AUDIO Joan Amate, vice president and chief technical officer, Amate Audio At Amate Audio we are delighted to welcome a major pro audio show back to Barcelona, after the good old days of Sonimag. That was a Barcelona-based trade show that served the pro audio market back in the ‘80s and I remember the first time Amate Audio ever participated in a trade show was at Sonimag back in 1987. The idea of returning to the Barcelona Fira after all that time is a huge mix of emotions for us. It’s been a pleasure to be in Amsterdam during the past few years but it has been evident for a while that the continued massive growth of the show demands bigger grounds. I can only congratulate the organisers for choosing Barcelona. We hope that the new location will meet everyone’s expectations.
Adrian Hogg, European sales manager, Focusrite Pro For the last few years it has quite been evident to many exhibiting manufacturers that the popularity and rapid expansion of the ISE show has led to issues at the current location. We’ve seen additional temporary halls springing up at the RAI to try to accommodate the growth and, of course, the availability of any additional floor space within the regular halls has been at a premium. Although Barcelona is not as centrally located within Europe, I have greeted the news positively as
I feel that the larger floor space of Gran Via and the vibrant atmosphere of the city will allow the show to continue to grow and allow more variety for attendees of ISE, whilst allowing manufacturers to show themselves at their very best.
Dom Harter, managing director, Martin Audio We’re happy to see the move to Barcelona. It’s become increasingly clear that the restrictions of the Amsterdam RAI and the efforts to overcome space with temporary constructions have actually impacted negatively on the flow and organisation of the show. The available space and facilities of the Fira de Barcelona exhibition complex, as well as Barcelona as a destination, is sure to have a positive impact on attracting visitors and ensuring better opportunity for manufacturers. Let’s just hope the organisers don’t get greedy and start charging even more to be present as a result, since the show is already on the verge of being too expensive for a reasonable return. Still, a bit of sunshine in February will be nice. n
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Monitoring the situation: John and Helen Meyer
‘The ultimate reference monitor’
At the end of July, live sound giant Meyer Sound announced that it had landed an ‘unprecedented’ studio monitoring technology patent for its Bluehorn system. Daniel Gumble caught up with CEO John Meyer, EVP Helen Meyer and director of digital product experience Tim Boot to find out more about the firm’s ongoing drive into the studio sector…
or the past 40 years, Meyer Sound has been synonymous with the live sound sector. A true pro audio icon, its line array systems and sound reinforcement innovations have been a regular fixture on the touring rider for some of the biggest artists and festivals on the planet. Yet outside of the live arena, the company has long been honing and developing its studio monitoring offering - it’s worth noting that the company’s first ever product was the ACD studio monitor - with its Bluehorn system being a major focus. And at the end of July it made a significant breakthrough when it was granted an ‘unprecedented’ US patent on proprietary digital technologies ‘designed to enable the Bluehorn system to
reproduce complex musical signals with flat frequency and phase response across the full audio bandwidth’. According to the company, the document ‘outlines the digital signal processing techniques involved in cancelling out the phase anomalies inherent in all loudspeaker systems due to the physical mass of the loudspeaker drivers and resonance of the loudspeaker enclosures’. So what does this mean for Meyer’s place in the highly lucrative and competitive studio market? PSNEurope spoke to CEO John Meyer, EVP Helen Meyer and director of digital product experience Tim Boot to find out…
Meyer recently announced news of its new
patent for the Bluehorn system. What does this patent mean for the company? Tim Boot: Bluehorn is the result of many years of research in creating linear systems; systems that faithfully reproduce the signal presented to them. We have developed advanced filtering algorithms to correct for the non-linearity of phase response inherent in even the most accurate physical loudspeaker drivers. With the availability of today’s high-power digital processors, we can apply these sophisticated filter algorithms with exceptional fidelity, accuracy and efficiency. This patent represents the methods for correcting phase response and producing unprecedented results. These technologies will not only be applied to the Bluehorn
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System but, as with our pervious innovations, will be part of all future systems across all market sectors.
How long have you been working on this technology, and what can you tell us about the work that went into developing it? TB: Philosophically, the company has been working on this technology since its founding nearly 40 years ago. One of our core values is creating linear systems. This essentially means that the loudspeaker system faithfully and accurately reproduces the signals that are fed into it, regardless of signal content and level. To achieve this, Meyer Sound has pursued linear phase response for decades. Milestones were achieved in our previous studio monitor loudspeakers, which included the iconic HD-1 and the X-10. John Meyer: The Bluehorn project began over six years ago as an exploration to model phase response and extend linear phase response to the lower frequencies. We had achieved excellent phase response across our product range for the mid-range and high frequencies, but extending this into the lower frequencies was the challenge. The recent patent is the result of the process we developed to extend linear phase response down to 27 Hz in the Bluehorn, creating the most accurate loudspeaker on the market. Bluehorn has linear amplitude and phase response for its entire operating range, 27Hz to 20kHz. The Bluehorn system also incorporates the latest driver, processing, and amplifier technologies from Meyer Sound’s Cinema Series and LEO family.
What will this technology offer the professional studio sector that others can’t? TB: Accuracy and the ultimate reference loudspeaker! By creating a monitor loudspeaker that is linear, it is inherently accurate. All other loudspeakers distort the amplitude and phase response to some degree, though some more than others. For content creators, having a linear reference ensures that the content they create will translate better to other systems. With a non-linear system, the content may sound as intended on that system, but it will not translate well to systems with different responses. A linear system Tim Boot achieves more predictable results. It is not intended to flatter the material, but rather help the creators to identify areas that need more work. Engineers, producers and artists who have listened to their music on the Bluehorn system are hearing things they hadn’t heard before. As film composer John Powell said, “It keeps me honest.”
How much of a focus is the studio sector for
Meyer’s Bluehorn system
Meyer Sound in 2018? Helen Meyer: Meyer Sound has always had a focus on the content creation and studio sector. We create products for many of the sub-sectors in the studio market, including: recording studios, film scoring, mastering studios, film and TV postproduction, as well as new media production. The demands of this sector are in-line with our core values of creating the most accurate systems for all markets. The studio sector is an important sector for us in 2018, so we are bringing this technology to tradeshows and providing demonstrations for the most discerning industry professionals.
of the customers. And since our full name is Meyer Sound Laboratories, Inc., it shows we are equally driven by research. We take great pride in connecting research with the needs of our customers to create great products. Historically, our studio products have been the result of research to develop solutions for internal needs. That was the genesis of the HD-1 and that monitor has been in continuous production for nearly 30 years. HM: It wouldn’t be accurate to put a number on the size of the team focusing on the studio market. We do have a team focused and engaged exclusively on the studio market but the entire company to some degree contributes to development of products for the sector.
The company has always been most closely associated with the live industry. How much of an effort is there to highlight Meyer’s studio offering?
What trends are you currently seeing in the studio market?
TB: The live market has certainly been a large sector for us, but because we focus on linear systems we are able to create products for the studio and other markets as well. We do recognise that the needs of each sector require significant ‘tribal knowledge’, so we have internal teams that are as diverse as our products. For the studio sector, our core team is highly experienced in this market and we maintain direct relationships with leaders to respond to their specific needs.
Talk us through the company’s approach to building and developing its studio products? How big is the team working on product development how much is the company investing in its studio output? JM: Meyer Sound has always responded to the needs
TB: Since the mid-1990s the industry has responded to the changing content creation sector by creating a wide range of studio monitor loudspeakers. The 1990s saw the decline of the old record company and studio models. Content was increasingly created in the smaller project studio and personal studios of the creators themselves, and many smaller format monitor loudspeakers offer good results in that scenario. However, we are seeing an increasing demand for highly accurate, full-range monitoring. Content creators must make material that may be played on smartphones, in the car, on their smart-home loudspeakers, televisions, traditional stereo hi-fi, cinema, in a dance club – it may end up anywhere. Consequently there is a demand for monitoring systems that translate to all playback systems and linear systems are the only way to do this.
What are the biggest opportunities in the studio market? HM: We always see opportunities to bring the most accurate product to market. There will always be content creators who are searching for the next level in quality. We will be there for them. n
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The Veale thing PSNEurope’s Phil Ward marks five decades of iconic studio design mainstay Eddie Veale Associates…
n 1968, a tumultuous year by any standards, acoustics and electronics wizard Eddie Veale struck a very satisfactory deal with the London studio that had employed him for four years: he could go freelance, yet continue to work with the studio as it led the upgrade path that was transforming British recording techniques at a breathtaking pace. The best of both worlds, thought Veale, and Eddie Veale Associates was born. The timing was perfect.
It was the beginning of a cultural revolution; the beginning of creative multi-tracking; and the beginning of self-start professionalism in pro audio and recording as various pioneers followed George Martin out of institutionalised entertainment and into the fresh air. Fifty years on, and Veale can look back with pride on a career that has spanned an extraordinary range of studio applications from arguably the first home studio – for an unknown chancer from Liverpool – to the
cream of music recording and broadcast and, latterly, a particularly revealing diversion into educational facilities.
Vision Not that Advision Studios, whose MD Kevin Hibbert had agreed to Veale’s new lease of life, was institutionalised in any way. In fact, it was one of the most progressive studios in London, if not Europe, as Veale recalls. “At that point,” he begins, “I was in the latter stages of
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Veale recently worked on a studio for Middlesex University
transferring the business from New Bond Street to Gosfield Street and the work they were doing was attracting a lot of interest. Kevin wanted to keep me ‘on side’, as it were, and allowed me to take two days a week to pursue personal interests while retaining my services for the remainder.” Ideal: a base to work from, in the thick of the London music scene; and the opportunity to take his skills to a wider base of studios and locations. Yes, this did include the studio at John Lennon’s Georgian home near Ascot that was used to record the album Imagine, but in due course there was much more besides: consider, for starters, Sarm West, Lansdowne, Hook End Manor and Britannia Row among many others. Prior to Advision, Veale had worked in the aircraft industry on noise control. “I’d studied acoustics with the aim of working in one of the major architectural practices,” he reveals. “There weren’t that many around
at the time, and I didn’t get any replies to my enquiries. So my first job was at De Havilland Aircraft in Hatfield, where I was eventually promoted on to an acoustic project to improve passenger comfort on the Trident Airliner. Then De Havilland was bought by Hawker Siddeley, and wanted to move our department to Leavesden. I didn’t want to make that move so I took a big leap into something new.” What a leap. Veale describes the characters at Advision as “very relaxed” by comparison with De Havilland Aircraft personnel, although they probably shared a common if different understanding of being high. The counter-culture was not something that Veale admired unequivocally, in fact, but this is a quality that only increased his demand: as with so many others, the sober ministrations of his professional skills were precisely what the industry needed at a time when unleashed imaginations ran riot.
“At De Havilland we were working to within 0.1dB of accuracy,” Veale explains. “In my second week at Advision I was told with some confidence that ±2dB was good enough – while calibrating an Ampex 4-track recorder.” He arrived at Advision via a suggestion by an acquaintance on the inside: Terry Brown, an engineer at Olympic while the studio was still near Marble Arch. Brown knew that Advision was looking for a project engineer, and the connection was made. One of the first projects turned out to be the small matter of converting Advision from 4-track into one of the first 8-tracks studios in Europe. “One of our engineers, Dag Fjellner, had visited Scully Recording Instruments in the States, which built the first 8-track machines,” says Veale. “I think Kevin wanted me to drive that change forward, so I worked closely with the studio manager at that time, Roger Cameron,
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to achieve this upgrade to the music studio. There was a film dubbing studio, too, mostly for TV ads, which also needed improving: in fact, we created the first ‘rockand-roll’ dubbing theatre in which you could reverse the projector to cue up drop-ins.” Many techniques soon to be taken for granted were developed by Veale and the team during this time, without off-the-shelf components and without any previous design models. The sense of innovation was almost daily, and provided the grounding for the freelance work that Veale aspired to. This he combined with further work at Advision, including the upgrades to 16- and 24-track, improvements to the monitoring especially at higher levels and a mix suite with an early iteration of automated faders on the console. “In retrospect,” says Veale, “Kevin was very clever at cornering the market and making Advision indispensable: soon after going 8-track, for example, Ray Dolby came in with his noise reduction system, which we installed. This meant that once the tapes had been encoded with Dolby at Advision, he had a captive audience. Of course others followed suit, but these were the ways he made sure that the studio was always in demand.”
him closer and really into the homes of the audience. I also created space for guests and removed any distractions that might affect on-mic axis. That’s pretty much the format we have everywhere today.” Naturally other stations followed suit – apart from the BBC. “I had an opportunity to do some work at Maida Vale,” Veale reflects, “but there was a clause in the contract that said they could make changes and that I would be responsible for those changes. I declined.”
Veale was soon approached by other facilities in the community to share the technology, his association with Advision acting as a compelling calling card. Advision itself benefitted from the general expansion of the recording industry, even setting up Felden Audio to sell Scully recorders into the UK, and Veale became a fountain of knowledge for all those anxious to keep up. But the core expertise in acoustics brought clients from further afield, not least Independent Television (ITV) near Advision, which had sound quality issues in the gallery control room. By 1975 Veale had added commercial radio to his portfolio courtesy of Beacon Radio in the West Midlands, the final ILR station to be licensed at the time. “The MD was an American called Jay Oliver who wanted to change the face of broadcasting in the UK,” remembers Veale. “The first ILR stations had been designed in accordance with BBC practices, very formal and structured, and Jay wanted radio to become more personal and relaxed. For the flexibility to be able to respond to events, listeners, anything going on, and to produce genre-free programmes, the presenter had to be at the forefront. To do that, we had to change the workflow of the studio and the environment between the presenter and listener. “I came to the conclusion that we had to generate a synergy between them, so that the presenter gained intimacy with the listeners, and to do that I felt there had to be a closer link. The old squawk box was inadequate because the quality of the voice didn’t engage the listener, so I redesigned the radio studio for the benefit of the presenter’s mic technique, and the acoustics, to bring
The one obvious change in the nature of recorded sound since 1968 is the evolution from analogue to digital media – although it’s happened so quickly that the word ‘evolution’ is scarcely adequate. Veale is understandably sceptical. “The development of digital audio has gone at a tremendous pace, and it’s drawn attention away from something fundamental: the way our ears work,” he says. “During the period just before digital started to become popular there was a huge appetite for high-quality audio, which waned with the advent of the CD. The quality didn’t support what was expected. I remember [Cadac co-founder] Clive Green being on a mission to get 40kHz phase coherence, and you can’t do that in the digital world. It’s a benchmark that it can’t meet. Some recognition of this is returning, because the analogue disc is coming back into vogue. “Digital is such an ambiguous technology; it’s very hard to tie anything down. With analogue, if there are issues it’s very easy to progress, stage by stage, measuring the frequency response of a system. I don’t know anybody who can do that in the digital domain: it either works or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, you have plenty of people scratching their heads until someone finds there’s a digit wrong somewhere. While latency has improved with the speed of machines, it won’t go away, simply because you are processing digits and that is a sequential operation – unlike analogue which is multi, simultaneous band.” As the push-button techniques of digital audio have created a kind of binary traffic jam, the quality of studio construction has come under frequent scrutiny. This
DIGITAL IS SUCH AN AMBIGUOUS TECHNOLOGY. IT’S VERY HARD TO TIE ANYTHING DOWN. WITH ANALOGUE, IF THERE ARE ISSUES IT’S VERY EASY TO PROGRESS, STAGE-BY-STAGE EDDIE VEALE
may or may not be a coincidence. Latterly several leading studio insiders have publicly expressed their dissatisfaction with the very studios used in audio education, and Veale shares their concerns – or did, before he himself began to get opportunities to do something about it. “It’s only quite recently that we as Veale Associates made any inroads into the education sector,” he points out, “and I think that came about because of students paying the fees and demanding better facilities. From our point of view, it began to change with Falmouth University’s new music block – for which we were recommended. “In the process we had to challenge the acoustic consultants, because we felt they had made mistakes. It worked, some very nice studios were created, and the hierarchy of the University sector began to take notice: 18 months later we were approached by Middlesex University, which was doing something similar. I think it proved that good studios provide the wow factor to prospective students, which raises intake and, therefore, funding. I’m sure that will make the difference – it’s not as though University bosses appreciate good acoustics!” It seems to be working: the University of West London and the University of Winchester are both subsequent clients, and Veale senses that in this regard the education sector may have turned a corner. “I may have made myself a bit of a nuisance here and there,” he smiles, “but I do believe that the experience of these students – their experience of the right environment – is essential for their future fulfilment. We now insist on validating the courses to ensure that we’re designing a facility that’s fit-for-purpose, and I think we’re beginning to get through.”
The listener A common thread emerges through the whole of Eddie Veale’s career since that fateful step beyond Advision. Whether a quixotic rock star, a commercial radio station or a University, Veale’s clients are listened to with the same attention to detail that might get you accurate to within plus or minus 0.1dB. In fact, passengers in a Veale Associates sonic fuselage are in for a very comfortable ride, not least because if necessary a completely new concept will be built around you as the true nature of your destination is meticulously defined. “I’ve always tried to be the sounding board,” he confirms without a hint of irony, “and tease out of the clients what their real aspirations are. There’s always so much more than just the business case.” And who needs John Lennon? The order book is full, from 3D games developers to anechoic chambers, and all of that ‘imagining’ was a very long time ago. “While it’s fun socially to tell those stories,” rues Veale, “for business development it doesn’t really offer any help at all. With the speed of change in a digital world, we need to be thinking about tomorrow – not yesteryear.” n
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Since arriving in the UK from his native Belgium to study audio technology some 20 years ago, Wes Maebe has carved out an award-winning career that has seen him work with numerous international acts as an FOH mixer in the live arena and as an engineer and producer in the studio. Daniel Gumble caught up with him to reflect on his illustrious career to date and find out why he thinks Brexit could mark a “deeply depressing” period for the pro audio industry…
hen perusing the CV of Wes Maebe, one could well be mistaken for thinking they were looking at a body of work belonging to someone nearing the end of a rich and impressive career, such is the sheer weight and diversity of projects attached to his name. In his capacity as a live FOH engineer, studio engineer and producer, he has worked with a sparkling array of acts from the rock and pop world, including the likes of The Buzzcocks, Cat Stevens, Celine Dion, Ellie Goulding, UB40, Plan B, Mel C, Thurston Moore, Sting, Robert Plant, Chaka Khan and a great many more. Yet while his client list may suggest otherwise, it was only in 2006 that Maebe became a full-time engineer.
When he arrived in the UK at the age of 20 in 1998 to study audio technology, few could have predicted the kind of success Maebe would go on to achieve both in the field and in the studio. PSNEurope spoke to Maebe to find out how he made the transition from student to award-winning audio professional, where the studio sector is headed and the threat Brexit poses to the industry…
When did you know that you wanted to pursue a career in audio? My dad suggested it. I’d had a little contretemps with the university I was attending and got very disillusioned. So my dad took me to see Herman Wilms at the AES in
Belgium. He told me that if I wanted to learn, I had to go to London. What happened when you arrived in London? Heather at the AES UK section got me a list of all the audio engineering colleges in town and me and my folks set off on a trip to visit them all. I didn’t know anything about the business so I had to rely on my dad, who worked at Studer as an engineer, to pick the right place. At one point we walked into a room, which was filled with Revox 1/4” machines and dad asked to see the course leader immediately. The guy in charge was up the road building a studio for the college. We headed there and the man who emerged from behind a patchbay
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with a soldering iron was Steve Culnane. We had a great chat and the next thing I know I’m enrolled on the audio engineering and music technology course.
What was your first job as an engineer? I was still in college when one of my teachers, Jon Klein, asked me to go along to a show he was doing on the Scilly Isles. His band was headlining the Camel Rock festival and he wanted me to do FOH for them. When we got there I was told they didn’t have anyone to rig the PA or to engineer any other bands. So, Jon and I were put on a boat to the site and we built the PA, rang it out and sound checked. I then spent the entire day on the FOH tower mixing the out front sound and monitors for every band. Baptism of fire or what?! You’re known primarily for your work as a studio engineer and producer, but you’ve also done plenty of gigs at FOH. How did you end up doing both? A lot of my original work was location recording-based. Initially it was mainly classical performances in churches and large halls under the mentorship of Mike Skeet. This led to recording bands live and several then asked me to stay on as their FOH engineer. Knowing the bands’ onstage sound led to recording sessions and the mixture of studio and live sound has remained. It makes for a great balance and keeps the job interesting and challenging.
What are the biggest similarities/differences between mixing live and in the studio? I don’t feel there’s much difference between the two. I approach them with the same work ethic: Do the best job and make the artist sound amazing. Obviously you have more time in a studio environment to move things around and experiment with different mic setups, but the end goal is the same. The artist has to sound great and we have to support and facilitate the artist’s sonic vision.
The studio sector has undergone enormous changes since you first started out. What have been the biggest you’ve seen, and how much has your job changed as a result of these changes? The biggest change is the switch from fully analogue, recording to tape, to the digital realm. But my job hasn’t changed that much. We still need to capture the essence of the music and paint an amazing sonic picture of what’s in the artists’ minds and hearts. The main things that have changed are that budgets have got a lot smaller, so we spend a lot less time perfecting things at source. It has turned our business into a ‘fix it in the mix, or even the master’ situation. Because of the digital transformation, people have lost the ability to make creative decisions. You can record a hundred takes of something and then you can sort through it later. There’s a general vibe of ‘that’s good enough, we’ll tune it later’. To me the recording process has lost the passion and excitement of actually performing. When a band
Mix master: Maebe at work in the studio
performs together there’s an energy and a unity that gives you that Gestalt principle of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A lot of bands freak out when you ask them to play together. Everything gets played to a click and no one is actually in the room together, which makes for quite a sterile sound. In the analogue days you had to be able to play your instrument and play together. A further fallout of that is that everyone who owns a laptop and a sample bank of loops is now suddenly a producer. They don’t teach the kids people skills and bedside manner anymore. If you have some loops, you put a Lego track together and bam, you’re a producer. Don’t ask them to run a session with human beings though.
of stuff that has led to labels and artists not wanting to pay for an amazing recording environment. I don’t think studio prices have gone up in over 30 years, but utilities like electricity, gas, water, business rates and staff wages have gone up every year. Add to that that record labels and independent artists are haggling with studios for even lower studio prices and it’s obvious why so many legendary sound temples have had to close. If you work in your bedroom and you have no real incentive (other than wanting to be famous overnight), no time pressure, no budgets to deal with, to me that translates in the music. If you book into a studio, you get excited, you have to make sure you get everything done within the time frame and it forces you to focus on the job in hand. These buildings were built to make music. They
Are the digital technologies changing the sector a good or bad thing?
were tuned to sound amazing so that everything you do in there is of the highest quality right from the start. I am not saying you can’t get amazing results in your bedroom, but it has thrown the playing field wide open to a lot of crap. And now we expect the audience to be the A&R department of the world and we just don’t have that much patience. So people get bored with middle of the road stuff, start skipping songs and suddenly the
Digital has given us tools to make the workflow easier, but with it comes responsibility. Because digital is so freely available, suddenly everyone ‘can’ make music and that has taxed the studio sector. ‘Oh, we don’t need a studio, I’ll record everything in my bedroom and slap a reverb plugin on it, so it’ll sound big’. This is the kind
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pro audio market?
Wes Maebe taking time out in the studio
album isn’t important anymore; people stop buying music because a lot of material out there doesn’t cut the mustard. Budgets get cut, studios go out of business and producers, engineers and musicians are asked to do stuff for free.
What would be your ideal studio set up? I’d love to have an API console, PSI and Genelec monitors. Outboard: Distressors, Manley Massive Passive, Vari Mu and Vox Box, Massenburg’s 8200, Simon Saywood’s Analogue Tube AT101, pretty much everything designed by David Hill from Cranesong, a couple of Pultecs, LA2A, some Blue Stripe 1176s, Rupert Neve’s Master Buss Processor RJR’s EQS and Compressors, three M50s for a Decca tree, a few RCA 44 and 77s, and we can’t live without some Royers. I love the sE Rupert Neve mics, a nice selection of Advanced Audio’s mics and their preamp, some DPAs, original 414s, a couple of 441s and 421s, a nice Studer 24-track with a 16-track headblock, a big ass Buchla synth, a pool table, a pin ball machine, a Wurli, Fender Rhodes, Hammond with the Leslie. I can go on for ever!
You’ve worked with some huge artists over the years. What have been some of your most enjoyable (and least enjoyable) experiences in the studio? Two of the main highlights have been being on the road with Sting doing FOH for The Songs From The Labyrinth tour and mixing the latest UB40 (feat. Ali, Astro & Mickey) record. The least enjoyable experiences are working with bands you fully believe in, pour all your heart and soul into the project and then get screwed over by them. Maybe we should make an industry black list!
As mentioned, the studio sector has changed significantly since you first started out. Has the live industry faced similar changes and
challenges? Definitely. I was brought up on large format analogue live consoles. Even smaller venues had pretty decent analogue desks out front, which meant you had everything under your fingertips. Then everything went digital. Under the guise of a smaller footprint, venues started purchasing these little digital consoles because you can save the soundcheck of each band. To me this has lead to a decrease in live sound quality. Venues are now putting on a huge amount of acts on one night, so you get a lot of stuff rather than a solid well planned night of entertainment. Nine out of 10 times you need to mix monitors from FOH, which in my opinion is a crime. As the engineer you have no idea what’s happening on stage because, you guessed it, you’re at the other end of the room. You have no interaction with the band because they can’t see you. The main problem for me is that digital consoles, for all their amazing features, just do not give you the ability to work the sound artistically. I want to be able to EQ something, whilst changing the compression on something else, sending something to the delay at the same time and if I want to ride the vocals during that process with my foot, that should be possible. It is, on an analogue console, not on a digital one. Whatever you want to change has to be called to the centre section or you have to flip to a separate fader bank. To me it has taken the creativity out of FOH mixing and the quality of sound is suffering. This makes audiences appreciate live music less and that filters through to lower show income and the ridiculous situation where venue owners ask performers to pay to play. This should be made illegal. We provide a service and an art that increases the value of your venue. These artists and their crew keep you in business, so treat them with the respect they deserve.
What do you think Brexit will mean for the
Christ Smith, organiser of Womad Festival, founded by Peter Gabriel, has said that entering the UK has become “so difficult and humiliating” since the Brexit referendum that performers are giving up. Smith said it’s been tougher to recruit performers due to the impact the UK Visa process is having on foreign musicians. He said “we’ve had situations where, say, an African artist has been due to come who plays a particularly rare instrument, and we’ll be asked: ‘Can’t you find someone in the UK who plays that instrument?’, which is absurd”. This year artists have said they’re not going to attempt to tackle the immigration system, because it’s too difficult, too expensive and it’s humiliating. If this is the way overseas artists are going to be treated, the impact on our live music industry alone, and the engineers and technicians who work in it, will be deeply depressing. As a Belgian national, I chose the UK because it was a global centre of excellence in professional training, equipment development and manufacture and in recording practice, as well as a thriving, multi-cultural musical hub. Over the years I’ve had the privilege of recording musicians from as far afield as India, Africa and Brunei, musicians who’ve chosen the UK because of its vibrancy and its reputation as a centre of recording excellence. What happens to that valuable business when the UK makes it “difficult, expensive and humiliating” for their clients to enter the country? Or difficult for its homegrown manufacturers to export their goods because no trade deals are in place? And I’m not just talking about clients from more distant countries. Europeans, long a mainstay of the UK recording sector, feel unwelcome, disappointed, even angry in the face of Britain’s vote to reject the EU. I know of at least one UK manufacturer who had a valuable order cancelled by an EU client immediately after the referendum. The UK as an open, welcoming, desirable place to do business is in danger of being replaced by the UK as a diminished country, a small island that chose isolation over participation, a country that’s suddenly a lot less attractive as a place to come to work or to do business with. As the prospect of a ‘no deal Brexit’ gets closer and closer, it’s time for the pro audio industry to join the swelling chorus of voices from all sectors of the economy warning of the negative impact and demanding that the people have the final say.
Lastly, what are you working on at the moment? I’m working on the next 10 Gauge single, which we recorded at the gorgeous Monnow Valley. That should be out in October and I’m in the middle of mixing the next Rock Goddess record. We recorded that at Tobin Jones’s The Park Studios and I’m mixing it at The Sonic Cuisine. It’s their first record in 30 years, so there are a lot of excited metal fans out there. n
Plastician Photos by Mark Surridge
Behind the beats: How UK producers created grime Though UK grime may currently be enjoying something of a commercial peak, the sonic blueprint of the nation’s most vibrant genre in decades can in fact be traced all the way back to the late ‘90s and beyond. Emma Finamore speaks to some of the producers who helped shape the scene and fire grime into the mainstream...
rime is one of UK music’s big success stories. Thanks to the genre, British rappers are now being taken seriously across the pond by the likes of Kanye West and Drake. Ticket sales for grime events quadrupled between 2010 – 2017, while Spotify grime streams went from 89 million in 2016 to 206 million in 2017. Between 2016 and 2017, physical and digital album sales for grime grew by 93%, according to Dr Joy White’s 2017 paper for the Univeristy of Leicester The Business of Grime. But despite the high accolades and equally high sales of today, it was the low-fi, DIY techniques of young producers that first generated the unique sound that would become one of the UK‘s biggest homegrown genres. These early pioneers used the accessible
tools – programmes found on games consoles of the late 1990s and cheap kit plugged into their parents’ PCs – they had to hand in order to reflect the sounds and atmosphere of their environment, at grime’s now infamous 140 bpm. A true DIY genre, many of the biggest MCs of today also came up as producers: present day household names Wiley and Skepta, for example, both produced tracks for themselves and others before becoming better known for their skills on the mic. DJ Target – who helped shape grime in its earliest form – was childhood friends with Wiley, and the two discovered music production together before going on to found garage crew Pay As U Go Cartel (who had a Top 20 hit with Champagne Dance in 2002) and the grime-establishing group Roll Deep,
who enjoyed a string of number one singles and who count grime stars Dizzee Rascal and Tinchy Stryder as former members. “I’d analyse the beat, right down to the small sounds in the background,” remembers Target in his recently published autobiography, Grime Kids, in which he describes how – even as young teens – he and Wiley were constantly analysing the beat of a track while listening to their Walkmans or watching MTV’s first ever hip-hop show, Yo! MTV Raps. “New software enabled us to work entirely from laptops, or from much simpler studio set ups, which meant it was now possible for many more [people] to start making music. Even without a laptop or a recording studio, teenagers were using PlayStation programmes
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to create beats,” explains Target, of how he and his peers started creating the sound of grime around the turn of the Millenium. “95% of the beats we made were on our laptops. Logic Pro with a bunch of MIDI plug-ins was all we needed to get the sound we wanted.” FruityLoops – available on PlayStation – was a freeware digital audio workstation released in the late 1990s adopted by many budding grime producers. Created by a company called Image-Line, which specialised in games, FruityLoops 1.0 was developed as a MIDI-only step sequencer inspired by the Hammerhead Rhythm Station, an emulation of the TR909 drum machine, and Rebirth 338. An early software synthesiser, FruityLoops was an attempt at merging the two into something new, and – at a time when Pro Tools was still seen as an industry standard for Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs), along with Cubase and Logic – it turned out to be an uncomplicated DAW for the masses. FruityLoops was perfect for young people with little or no production experience, and was an ideal tool for musical experimentation. Interestingly, it might be FuityLoops’ origins in gaming that made it so accessible – young people, accustomed to using video game programmes, took to it intuitively. Grime producer Darq E Freaker, for example, has said in interviews that at his school “everyone had FruityLoops on their computers at home and making tunes was more like a game”, and many producers came to the programme via video games, having spent hours on games like Music Creation For The Playstation in the early 2000s. Image-Line had unwittingly created the perfect tool for this generation of beat makers. Grime’s instantly recognisable ‘magic number’ of 140 bpm finds its origins here too, as the preset tempo in FruityLoops. ‘Godfather of Grime’ Wiley has said this standard tempo in the programme meant he created most of his earliest tracks at 140 bpm, and as one of the genre’s first success stories – other producers followed his lead. DJ Plastician is one such producer who started out making ‘dark garage’ beats while DJing on south London pirate radio, “before grime was known as grime,” he tells PSNEurope. “Then I would say around late 2001 I started trying to make stuff which was based
Rude Kid Photo by Tim Borrow
I LITERALLY JUST USED TO PLACE WAV SAMPLES ON TO THE DRUM PAD - WHICH WAS PRETTY MUCH ALL FRUITYLOOPS WAS BACK THEN, BARRING A FEW BASIC PLUGINS - AND THEN I USED TO PLAY THEM IN ON THE PIANO ROLL PLASTICIAN
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BEFORE I EVEN KNEW HOW TO SAMPLE OR WHAT PROGRAMMES TO USE TO SAMPLE, I HAD A £1 MIC WHICH WAS CONNECTED TO MY PC AND I HAD A SOUND RECORDER WHICH CAME WITH THE COMPUTER RUDE KID
around what we now recognise as the very first grime records – stuff like Pulse X and Eskimo by Wiley.” His first album, 2007’s Beg To Differ, featured many UK rappers, including grime legend Skepta, and more recently he’s worked with east London’s new generation pirate radio MC, Jammz. “I was using FruityLoops 2.0 at the time – we now know that as FL Studio of course,” Plastician says of his early experiments, developing his ‘dark garage’ sound into grime, and using the same tools that DJ Target and Wiley were jamming with in east London – which he’d read about online, on internet forums. “I began writing on that solely out of samples I’d found on the Internet or cut off of tracks in my CD collection, as I was such an amateur at recording I had no knowledge of synthesis at all. I used to trawl the Internet for sample packs, we were on such a slow connection back then so everything was pretty lo-fi as well.” “I never touched a MIDI controller until around 2004 when I went to college to do music tech,” Plastician continues. “I literally just used to place WAV samples on to the drum pad (which was pretty much all Fruityloops was back then, barring a few basic plugins) and then used to play them in on the piano roll. The cleverest I would get outside of Fruity was bouncing loops out and opening them in Cool Edit to add some phase or flange effects and then import those back into Fruity. If you listen to all my old stuff (most of it is on the ‘Plasticman Remastered’ album) you can hear it – there’s hardly any chords, nothing too musical, just stabs and stuff layered on top of each other. I guess that was a vibe in itself, but it really was just trial and error all the way.” Part of that trial and error was swapping methods and ideas with other local DJs and producers across genres in the south London and Croydon area, where the dubstep scene had been born and was thriving. “Through hanging with Skream and Benga [a dubstep DJ duo lauded by the likes of Radio 1’s Annie Mac] in particular, they put me onto using the TS404 in
FruityLoops to create these weird, warping wobbly bass lines,” Plastician remembers. “When they showed me how to use that I began bringing it into some of my tracks – not often though as I was still trying to keep my foot in the grime sound as well. That TS404 bass sound became the most iconic dubstep bass sound from around 2002-2005.” Plastician’s experience and development as a producer demonstrates how grime’s sound – as well as associated genres – was directly shaped by the technology readily available to those making music. “When FruityLoops 2.0 upgraded to 3.56, the sound of the TS404 was completely different and phased out of dubstep production pretty quickly because many of us started using 3.56 instead, and discovered other plugins. Plastician I remember Junglist being a favourite, also Albino was a massive one for me from around 2005 onwards. It worked perfectly for me as I was straddling the gap between grime and dubstep in my productions and I felt that plugin offered some great sounds with plenty of bass weight.” The Junglist plugin is known for its waveforms with a complex, organic quality, and its low bass type Bass FX section that creates ultra-low basses. The Albino plugin (now discontinued) was voted No.12 in a 2011 poll to find the best VST plugin synths. The popular synth from Rob Papen features a whopping 128 waveforms. Despite Plastiscian discovering and using new tools, and developing his sound, he still returns to the programme that anchors grime, and in the particular version with which he started working as a school kid learning about production. “I still have a working copy of Fruityloops 2.0 just in case I ever feel like revisiting that
old sound of the TS404,” he says. DJ and producer Rude Kid began producing grime tracks later than Plastician. Just a teenager when the likes of Wiley and DJ Target were releasing their first records, he started out in 2007 but quickly made waves and went on to work with much-loved independent grime label, No Hats No Hoods, as well as with some of the genre’s biggest MCs – Wiley, Skepta, Frisco and Ghetts. His track One Take – sampling Dizzee Rascal, Section Boyz and Wiley – has itself been reworked with freestyles by grime MC legends Chip and Stormzy. “When I was still in school I got shown a music programme that changed my life. A friend of mine played a beat he made, so I asked how he made it,” says Rude. “A few days later he gave me FruityLoops 3 (that’s what it was called at the time) but he never taught me how to actually make beats so I had to figure that out by myself. I used to spend hours and hours making beats from morning till night, sometimes even forgetting to eat. Since then I’ve never looked back.” Rude Kid’s early memories of production demonstrate how FruityLoops had just as much of an impact on second wave grime producers as it did on the initial pioneers, its simplicity lending itself well to young, creative minds. He used “just FruityLoops and a mouse”, as well as the PC keyboard to play notes. Necessity is, of course, the mother of invention, and Rude Kid wasn’t going to let a lack of high-end tech get in the way of creating music: “Before I even knew how to sample or what programmes to use to sample, I had a £1 mic which was connected to my PC and I had a sound recorder which came with the computer. I had a little CD player and some sample CDs – I played them on the CD player, put the mic on the CD player speaker and recorded all my stuff. It sounded rough but at the time it was the only way to get other sounds on my computer. ‘Are You Ready’ my trademark sound – on every one of my tunes till this day – was sampled like this, and I still use that very same rough sample.” To this day Rude still uses FruityLoops to create beats alongside newly developed skills in Logic, as well as embracing EQs like Waves and Ozone – “using these few things made my tunes sound much cleaner and louder” – and he still insists that low-tech doesn’t have to mean low quality: “I always tell producers it’s not about what you have, it’s about how you use what you have.” And the biggest names in grime agree. As Skepta said in 2014: “As long as there are 12-year-old kids turning on their mum’s PC with a cracked version of FruityLoops making their own DIY sound, there’s grime.” n
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Since Peter Heath took over as managing director of PLASA, the annual London show has gone from strength to strength, with this month’s outing set to see the number of audio exhibitors increase by an impressive 18% on 2017. Daniel Gumble asks the former Roland man what the pro audio community can expect from this year’s event...
rom September 16-18, the annual PLASA show returns to London’s Olympia for three days of exhibits, seminars, networking opportunities and a whole lot more to boot. Building on last year’s outing, which saw a 23% increase in the number of audio exhibitors, PLASA 2018 is set to up its audio game further still with another 18% rise. However, one doesn’t have to cast their mind too far back to recall a time when things weren’t looking quite so rosy for the London show. Facing strong competition from a raft of trade show competitors and a perceived lack of focus in its audio offering, it seemed as though the industry was beginning to lose faith in the event, with
visitor numbers dwindling and audio exhibitors falling by the wayside. In many ways the show had reached a crossroads completely overhaul its content and reposition itself on the trade show calendar, or rediscover its audio roots and win over the doubters. Evidently, its organisers opted for the latter, and with the appointment of former Roland executive Peter Heath as its new managing director, delivered a masterstroke that has triggered something of an ongoing renaissance for the show. When Heath arrived in 2016, he brought with him a keen understanding of the pro audio market and a strong commitment to restore the key elements that
made PLASA such an outstanding show in the first place, as its impressive year-on-year growth and the return of some high-profile exhibitors demonstrates. Here, Heath tells PSNEurope what’s in store for 2018 and why the pro audio industry is returning to PLASA en masse…
What’s new for PLASA 2018? Well, this year we think our visitors will enjoy the most exciting show since we returned to Olympia; we have over 200 brands and 48 seminars with 58 worldrenowned expert speakers. It will be the most balanced programme with more audio exhibitors, including
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the likes of L-Acoustics, joining the already strong lighting and video businesses. We will even have audio demos running throughout the show from a number of loudspeaker manufacturers. The seminar programme, ranked as the best in the industry last year, has expanded further, with new topics ranging from IEM Monitoring/Care for our Ears, Mental Health in the industry, Immersive Audio, Load Monitoring and Aerial Forces to Personal Development and Business Coaching. We have so many amazing speakers and panellists, highly respected in their fields, that I recommend all our visitors try to spend some time with them. Crowds gather at PLASA 2017
What can pro audio exhibitors and visitors expect from this year’s outing? Pro audio is going from strength to strength at PLASA: even more relevance; and even more valuable content. On the show floor; following the 23% increase last year, we will see another increase of 18% in audio exhibitors, making this a truly rounded show for the entire industry. The seminar and product training programmes, which will run all three days, also boost the value for any audio-centric visitors, with 16 dedicated sessions including: Wireless as a Production Tool, Training and Apprenticeships, and System Design using SMAART, all presented by Britannia Row; Business Convergence by Bryan Raven of White Light, and John Penn from SSE; to Immersive Sound, which involves Digico, Clair, L-Acoustics, and Britannia Row. There’s even one entitled: How Not to Run Out of Clean Pants from Soul Sound, which you’ll have to come along to if you want to find out what it’s all about..
Why do you think there has been such growth in the number of audio exhibitors? We have spent a lot more quality time talking to our audio community and, more importantly, listening – considerably more so than we have in the past six to eight years. Through meetings with manufacturers, production and theatre operators in our Audio Steering Group, we have taken a lot of feedback, some of which we have been able to implement immediately, and some will take a little more time; however, the feedback from last year’s show was extremely positive from this group, which provides us encouragement, and a much more stable platform to grow. This has contributed to the increase in audio at this year’s show, and that’s a trend we are determined to continue. Furthermore, we have taken more account of the convergence of business in our markets: something Bryan of White Light, and John of SSE will cover in a panel session at the show.
How much of an effort has there been to renew the pro audio community’s enthusiasm for PLASA since you took over the reins? Presumably the return of an exhibitor such as L-Acoustics sends a positive signal to the
rest of the market? Yes, it’s great to see our friends from L-Acoustics returning to the show; this is a big statement of support for the show and our audio visitors. My background is largely audio, having worked for Roland for almost 20 years; still playing keys and guitar in a gigging band as well as running the PA keeps me closely in touch with grassroots audio, as well as the top end, hence I feel I’ve been able to bring something to help us adjust the balance of the show. As I mentioned earlier, we have made great efforts to listen to the market, something our previous operation didn’t do so well, hence some of the feedback was hard to hear, but it gave us the knowledge and determination to rebuild the PLASA show, and based on last year’s results and this year’s bookings, we’ve turned in the right direction. This engagement with the industry also underlined the market’s desire for a UK-based show and seminar programme.
Tell us more about this year’s seminar programme. What are the key subjects under the microscope? Immersive Audio is a big topic as are Rigging topics including Aerial events, Lighting and Audio Modelling and Analysis and Audio Mixing Techniques. As there are so many topics covered over the three days, it’s unfair to raise the importance of some above the rest. I’d like to think there is something for everyone in the programme, so I really urge those considering visiting the show to visit the What’s On section of the PLASA show website, and sign up quickly while it’s all free.
How vital is this kind of content to the future success of PLASA? As an association dedicated to the wellbeing of the entertainment industry, it’s vital we remain relevant, add value and provide leadership on industry issues. This often translates into training and coaching, but sometimes means lobbying Government or the EU, or combining with other associations to influence standards and practices. Inevitably, the content for our seminars at
the show will have an influence on future thinking, and will raise issues that need our attention, or great ideas that the industry can benefit from; it’s a very positive evolutionary cycle, and we’re pedalling it as fast as we can.
What are the biggest opportunities for PLASA in 2018 and beyond? I’d like to answer this as a response to ‘What are the biggest opportunities for exhibitors and visitors to PLASA 2018?’, as we should be measured by the success of our customers. First of all, we are providing the biggest UK trade show for the industry – that’s manufacturers, distributors, and retailers alike - to show off new products and technologies; between our London and Leeds shows we attract over 10,000 visitors and more than 250 exhibitors. Secondly, via the most comprehensive seminar and training agenda we’ve ever delivered, we are able to help educate the industry by providing a unique platform for the amazing number of international experts and service providers the UK can boast, to pass on their knowledge.
And what are the biggest challenges? Haha! Ask any events organisation, and they will give you a long list ranging from things outside of our control like weather, the economy, and transport, to ensuring the content, promotions and messaging are on track to attract the right audience. But our unique position is that we are an industry association; this is ‘written on our tin’, and with that comes a great responsibility to deliver the best programmes and content to help, lead, inform, educate, and improve our industry as a whole. This doesn’t start and finish at our shows: we run an annual programme of events and coaching sessions including the National Rigging Certificate, Technical Skills, Sales, Marketing and Branding Coaching, right through to better awareness of the threats and care of mental health in our industry, for which we run a number of fund raising activities. n
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Photos by Josh Taylor-Moon
Snap! chat Since opening back in 2010, North London-based independent studio Snap! has gone from strength to strength, amassing a glittering client list that includes the likes of Liam Gallagher, Kate Bush, Coldplay, Stormzy and Clean Bandit to name but a few. Daniel Gumble spoke to Snap! studio manager Marco Pasquariello to find out how the facility has been able to duke it out with the sector’s big guns while holding on to its independent ethos…
ew could have predicted the prosperous state North London’s Snap! Studios finds itself in today when it launched back in 2010. The global economy was on its knees in the aftermath of the recession and the bedroom producer boom was leaving traditional recording studios in its wake. Long-established facilities were making cutbacks across the board just to make ends meet, with many forced to either scale down or close for business. In short, 2010 was not the time to open a new, independent recording studio.
Or at least that should have been the case. For Snap! Studios manager Marco Pasquariello the time seemed perfect to launch a high-end facility, which could fill a deeply felt gap in the market. In his eyes, the combination of vintage gear and an “old school” attitude would be enough to ensure Snap! would not only be able to survive the harsh post-recession conditions, but would also find room to grow into a thriving viable business for the future. Eight years on, he appears to have been proved right. Here, PSNEurope editor Daniel Gumble speaks with
Pasquariello to find out how Snap! has grown into one of the capital’s most sought after studio spaces…
Snap opened at a time when most studios were either consolidating or closing. Why did you decide that 2010 was the right time to open a new studio? When we decided to set up Snap! we felt that there was a lack of studios around that offered what we had in mind; a place with the best classic gear, a good creative vibe and old school values at a price that was accessible
Photos by Sara Bahadori
and affordable. Mark (Thompson, CEO of audio stockist Funky Junk) already had a great collection of some of the best vintage gear and we wanted to give it a home in a space that was accessible and within people’s (rapidly shrinking) budgets. A client that Funky Junk had worked with for years was coming to the end of his lease on the studio that he had in Manor House, so we went to see the space and it ticked all the boxes. It was on a quiet road with off-street parking and ground level access and was in an (at the time) largely undeveloped and affordable part of town, which felt like it had a bit of a creative community - something of a rarity these days in London. We ambitiously set out to build a studio with a relatively small budget - which admittedly kept being stretched - but we wanted to demonstrate that it’s possible to build a facility like ours without spending a fortune if you have the right planning and team in place. We were lucky to have access to some of the best contacts in the business, alongside the expertise and facilities from the team at Funky Junk. As the build of the studio evolved, it went from the idea of being the ultimate budget-built studio, to being a serious facility which could compete with the best studios of its size in the UK. Snap! proves that a small, independent venture can succeed by virtue of the skills of those involved and their belief and passion, rather than money and marketing muscle, and that’s something we’re really proud of.
What were the biggest challenges you faced during those establishing years, and how did you overcome them? During our first few years we were just finding our feet. Working out how people liked using the place, working out how it worked for us as engineers and as musicians, and adapting in accordance. When we first opened up, lots of people were interested in using the place but were maybe scared to take a risk on using a studio they weren’t familiar with, and we understood that. Reputation is everything in this industry, and we had to earn that to gain people’s trust. The only way we that could do that was to work as hard as possible to make sure that people had great experiences when they worked with us - we knew that the gear and the room would speak for itself. What have been the biggest changes you’ve had to contend with over the past eight years? I’m not sure that the studio sector has changed that much, other than more of them being around now, which is definitely a great thing. We haven’t needed to change much other than keeping up with the digital side of things. When Pro Tools switched from TDM to HDX that was an expensive upgrade for us. The digital side has changed quite a bit, with most software manufacturers operating subscription-only products. Clients expect studios to have all of these products as
standard since it’s what they use on their own rigs. For smaller studios, these extra costs can all add up. Some of our biggest challenges have been simply keeping up with the rising prices of running a facility like ours while budgets from our clients remain the same. Running a studio involves a lot more than just the recording. There’s maintenance, upgrades, and general upkeep to consider too. Snap! was never intended to be a money-making venture at all, but money always has to be considered. We’ve always wanted to keep the studio affordable, but with the increased competition out there, this can be a challenge.
What sets Snap! apart from other studios? I feel like we’re different from a lot of other studios as we’re completely independent, and have a small team who have been part of the studio for a long time. I have been here since day one - starting as project manager, and now as head engineer and studio manager, along with Tom (Leach) who has been engineering and assisting with us for four years. We’ve always wanted to provide the best service we can. The gear speaks for itself, but the care and attention that we’ve tried to keep in the place reflects on the vibe we have here. It’s definitely a labour of love, and hopefully it shows.
How do you continue to fend off competition from the ‘bedroom producer’ market?
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collecting by Mark Thompson. Mark has owned various studios over the past 30 or so years, and has amassed a beautiful collection of some of the best esoteric gear around - much of which was sourced on the cheap at a time when such gear was deemed to be worth a fraction of what it is now. I’m pretty sure our Roland TR-808 was picked up for £70 in a junk shop years ago, and I know we have a Coles 4038 in a beautiful wooden box which was bought for £20 on Camden Market many moons ago. We’re also incredibly lucky to have the support of the team at Funky Junk to maintain and restore lots of the gear that we own. Our collection is the result of years of knowledge and expertise in the audio market, and knowing how to spot a rare bargain.
Talk us through some of the biggest records that have been made at Snap! this year. We’ve had some amazing clients, and some incredible records made with us in the past few years. Most recently we’ve had Liam Gallagher, Years & Years, The Kooks, Razorlight and Clean Bandit. Liam’s album was his debut record, and it went straight in at No.1. We were really proud of that one. The great thing for us is that we have artists and producers that keep returning to work here. We’ve made friends and built great relationships with our clients, and it’s really pleasing to see them wanting to return to work at the studio with us.
The Snap! control room
I’ve never felt like we’ve had to “fend off” competition from that market. We’re always keen to help our clients make the best record they can - that often means being realistic about what they can afford to do in a space like ours. If the budget is tight, then it makes sense to block a few weeks in a studio like Snap! to do all of the things that need a big space and loads of nice gear, and then using smaller and more affordable places for editing and little overdubs. That’s the norm for a lot of records these days. We also get artists and producers that love doing everything in once place, and who like camping out for a month and getting an album done. There’s also been a big revival for more vintage sounding recordings over the past 10 or so years.
Talk us through the gear at the studio? The studio is centred around an ultra-rare vintage Neve 5316 analogue console from the early ‘70s, which we modified to have moving fader automation. Our 53 series is a really special recording version of the better-known broadcast desks and has 28 inputs, eight aux, 16 groups and 16 monitor returns - all in a compact format. The console is definitely one of the biggest drawing points of the studio. The mic pre/EQ modules are based on the legendary 1081. It has a really smooth and musical EQ, which just sounds fantastic. We use ATC SCM25 monitors, alongside NS10s and Eastlake JM3Ts, which are all fed by a Grace Designs monitor controller, which is incredibly transparent and also has excellent headphone amps. We have a gorgeous Bosendorfer 225 grand piano, plus a Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Hammond C3 and some nice vintage synths. Also a few great drum kits like our 80’s Sonorlite and 1971 Ludwig Super Classic.
REPUTATION IS EVERYTHING IN THIS INDUSTRY, AND WE HAD TO EARN THAT TO GAIN PEOPLE’S TRUST. WE HAD TO MAKE SURE PEOPLE HAD AMAZING EXPERIENCES WITH US MARCO PASQUARIELLO Our mic collection has all the usual suspects and more, but some of the more desirable ones worth mentioning would be our vintage Neumann/Telefunken U47/U67/U87s, KM56s, AKG C12, Sony C800G, Coles 4038s, RCA 44BXs, and lesser known mics like our pair of BBC Marconi AXBTs, which sound phenomenal. We’ve also got loads of top outboard, including Urei 1176s, LA2A, EAR 660, Pultec, Lang and Decca EQs, Decca limiters, Roland and Binson Tape Echoes, as well as EMT plates and a unique tile room echo chamber. We run Pro Tools HDX with Prism ADA8 conversion, but also offer analogue recording with our Studer 24/16 track two-inch tape machine. The whole studio is powered by a sophisticated balanced mains supply, which provides an ultra-low noise floor for all the gear. But gear aside, the main thing about Snap! for us and many of our clients is the environment and vibe.
As an independent studio how have you been able to amass such a high-end set up? Most of the gear has come from years of careful
What are the biggest trends you are seeing in the studio market at the moment? The biggest trends right now in our world are people wanting very traditional/old school/characterful sounding recordings - which is often why they come to work with us. Lots of people are comfortable mixing in the box these days, and the heavy use of plugins is a norm - there are some amazing ones out there now, but they still rely on good quality recordings in the first place. Conversely, we’ve also seen a big rise in the amount of people wanting to mix entirely analogue. Many of our clients book the studio to mix on the Neve with automation and use all the outboard. It’s almost seen as something that’s quite out of the ordinary these days. They’re always fun sessions when they come in.
What’s next for Snap!? I’ve always wanted Snap to evolve in response to the needs and feedback of the artists, producers and engineers that we work with. We have always tried to improve wherever we’ve needed to - from adding gear, or reshuffling the outboard or layout of things - but we’ve always strived to stick to our core values. There has already been so many great records that have come out of the studio, and we want that to continue for as long as possible. We will remain committed to offering those who care about their craft the opportunity to enjoy one of the best recording facilities in the UK at a price that hopefully helps them expand their talents to the limit. n
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Turn it up! Or down
With aging populations and new styles of TV audio and acting, audibility is now a crucial issue in broadcasting. Kevin Hilton takes a look at the history of the intelligibility debate - Mumblegate, anyone? - and highlights a project to give hearing impaired people greater accessibility to clear sound...
nyone who grew up in the 1970s and ‘80s will be familiar with the phenomenon of the elderly or aging relative watching television with the volume up so loud everyone else is pinned to their chairs and the neighbours banging on the wall. Back then this was often laughed off as just an inevitable by-product of people getting older. Now, 30-40 years on, what was once merely annoying is becoming increasingly serious, prompting broadcasters and academic institutions with special interest in acoustics and audiology to assess the scale of the problem and look at how new technologies might help solve it. Difficulties in being able to hear what is being said in TV dramas, documentaries and even current affairs programmes have increased significantly over the last four decades. The soundtracks of contemporary TV are
more akin to what is heard in the cinema, with multiple layers of effects and atmos, mixed with music and dialogue to produce a much richer and multi-faceted audio backdrop. This approach has been adopted for some documentaries and factual programmes, which has not always gone down well. The 2011 BBC series Wonders Of The Universe received 118 complaints about the music being too loud in relation to presenter/ narrator Professor Brian Cox, who in turn complained when later episodes were remixed. This coincided with BBC Vision publishing a report, compiled with pressure group Voice of the Listener and Viewer (VLV), on audibility. Among the findings were that viewers/listeners can have difficulty hearing and understanding speech if there is music behind it. From this research came guidelines for best practice, with recommendations including selecting good locations,
setting up properly and briefing presenters and contributors to make their dialogue clear. The Wonders of the Universe row was the subject of many column inches in newspapers and discussions in other media but this was nothing to “the perfect storm” of what is now known, in the UK at least, as ‘Mumblegate’. In 2014 the BBC received over 1,000 complaints about its big Easter holiday drama, Jamaica Inn. Difficulties over hearing what was being said were initially blamed on “issues with sound levels”. When rebalancing the remaining two episodes failed to address the problem, and the audio community came out in staunch defence of the location recordist and dubbing mixers, attention switched to the vocal delivery of the actors, notably Sean Harris who performed with an intense Cornish accent. There have been similar instances since then, both
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WE ARE WORKING WITH PEOPLE TO DEVELOP METADATA THAT CAN BE INTEGRATED INTO THE CONTENT. THE IDEA IS FOR PEOPLE TO GET MORE OUT OF WHAT THEY’RE LISTENING TO LAUREN WARD on Hearing Loss group, which shows that 11 million people in the UK today have “some degree of hearing loss”. Due to the aging population, something mirrored in other parts of Europe, this figure is predicted to rise to 15.6 million by 2035. The Trend in TV Viewing 2017 survey (published in February this year) shows that people over the age of 65 consistently watch the most television (96.9 per cent), followed closely by the 55-64 age range (96.8 per cent). All of which poses considerable challenges for broadcasters in delivering audio that is intelligible to those with some degree of hearing loss, while not having an impact on those who do not have such difficulties. Ward says her research is closely related to OBA techniques but that her focus is “accessible sound”, which covers people with poor or impaired hearing but also involves providing intelligibility for those listening in noisy environments. “Accessible sound solves the problems someone might be having in accessing media content while having either a temporary or permanent impairment,” she explains. “This includes situations where it is made difficult to hear due to high background noise, as on trains or the tube.” Ward says the difference from established OBA techniques is that the concept is to change the level balance of different sounds more specifically, rather than having the binary approach of adjusting speech versus everything else. “We are working on a complexity control,” she comments. “The idea is to personalise between the main broadcast mix and a simplified mix containing the elements critical to understanding the narrative.” As an example, Ward says that in a sports broadcast the referee’s whistle is a necessary part of the play but the roar of the crowd is more “problematic”. At present Ward envisions the practical implementation of the concept as a video or audio player with a volume control that can be adjusted to suit personal preference. “If the content has the complexity control enabled you can slide the fader up and down according to your needs. We are working with people - mostly at the broadcast end - to develop metadata that can be integrated into the content. The idea is to enable people to get more out of what they are listening to.”
As the BBC is a partner in S3A, there is the possibility of integrating complexity control on the BBC Taster innovations site, followed by, potentially, other watch/ listen again devices. “With the roll-out of OBA, there is to some extent a limited appeal with immersive audio and some of the other features,” Ward says. “But accessibility is potentially likely to reach a lot more people as long as receivers can interpret the OBA information. It wouldn’t be an add-on and you wouldn’t need a specific OBA unit.” In a survey for her doctoral thesis conducted last year, Ward has identified and confirmed a number of aspects that contribute towards people having problems with TV audio. These include: voices, accents, dialect and clarity of speech; the balance between audio elements; music levels; the viewing/listening location and control of background noise; and the quality of TV set audio. In July this year, practical trials of the complexity control were carried out at the University of Salford in an event funded by the Institute of Acoustics (IoA). Calls were put out for people 65+ with hearing loss to take part in a research study that would “help shape the next generation of TV audio”. As it turned out, many of those taking part were younger, with the lower threshold being 50. “Everybody identified as having some degree of hearing loss,” Ward adds. “The idea was to take a whole range of instances of hearing problems and collate qualitative data on individuals’ experiences of TV audio.” The tests took place in the University’s listening room, which is set up to resemble an average lounge used for watching TV, and hemi-anechoic chamber. Ward quotes one person who took part in the study as saying: “The thing that’s nice about it [the complexity control] is that being hard of hearing isn’t a lot of fun but [the device] puts us back in control. “It means we are in control of what we hear whereas most of the time you’re not and you kind of have to do so much adjusting to get people on the right side or changing places with them. We are in charge of what we hear and I think that’s quite empowering.” n
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Thriving on adversity When Steve Sears established Titan studios in Watford six years ago, he had little idea that the disused basementcum-warehouse space in which he had set up shop would become a hub for the area’s burgeoning punk and metal scene. Now, after being forced out of Hertfordshire by major hikes in rental costs, Sears is about to embark on an exciting new project based in Tottenham in the form of Monolith Studios. Here, he tells PSNEurope how he overcame one of the biggest financial threats facing studios today and lets us in on what we can expect from his new venture…
set up Titan nearly six years ago in a basement complex - a 10-room warehouse that had been previously occupied by squatters. They had been hosting pirate radio stations and raves for a couple of years or so before they were evicted. Before a string of unsuccessful start-ups, it had been run quite successfully as a rough and ready rehearsal studio that my friends and I all started our bands in. It was a real golden era for Watford and the surrounding areas, spawning a new wave of forward thinking punk and metal bands, such as Gallows, Sikth, Lower Than Atlantis, Enter Shikari and more. Titan was as much a creative hub as it was a studio. And I’m excited by the future but also feel that Hertfordshire has lost a really important community of home grown talent. It is thanks to these studios that I was able to turn my passion for recording into a career. I was over the moon, despite the daunting renovation, to take on a small (though physically huge) slice of history and maybe even rejuvenate the once fertile scene. It transpired that its reputation reached way beyond Hertfordshire and London and I was soon working with clients from all over the UK, Europe and beyond. I tend to attract bands with an extremely bold sound that sets them apart from their peers. Hang The Bastard’s stoner rock/doom/black metal hybrid Sex In The Seventh Circle exposed the band to a huge new audience, while Gallows’ critically acclaimed Desolation Sounds shocked fans with an experimental goth punk masterpiece. As well as established acts, Titan was integral to the formulation of acts that would go on to achieve huge success, such as The Hunna and Moose Blood. It was also a stop off point for big festival pre-production with bands like Pierce The Veil, Neck Deep and Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes paying a visit. To begin with, the cost of running the space was relatively cheap because of its nature. After all, there aren’t many uses for a sprawling set of windowless basement level rooms with a small staircase as the only form of access. The company that owned the buildings in the area, Flexspace, couldn’t get anybody in. To begin with, despite the challenge of getting such a huge site up to scratch, I was getting it at a fairly decent price point. This gave
me a degree of flexibility to develop the rooms and buy some great outboard gear, amps and all sorts to really make it a studio with no creative limitations. However, as with anything exciting, all it takes is a bit of greed to bring everything crashing down. Earlier this year my landlord drafted in a new assets manager. In the final months, despite several previous rent hikes, I was faced with forking out almost three times the rate I’d been paying when I first started. To add insult to injury, I’d had an agreement to negotiate until the end of September yanked from under me and was instead forced without notice to vacate the premises within a fortnight. It wasn’t only me that was affected, of course, but a team of close-knit creative friends that had worked hard together to make the space work. I felt - and indeed still feel - awful for everyone involved in Titan. In any case, I learned a long time ago that the only way to succeed as a musician or a producer without going crazy is to thrive on adversity. I am now currently putting together an incredible space in Tottenham under the name Monolith Studios, which will be open for business as of September 3, with a fantastic new
producer, Charlie Wilson. It is so amazing to have that excitement again – being able to design a studio from scratch and really getting hands on with the renovation. We have collectively expanded our microphone locker with Royers, Neumanns and some quirky toys, as well as drafting in some great new Antelope gear at the hub of our evergrowing rack collection. It’s great to be moving further into the city and it was something I’d always pictured myself doing. I can’t wait to refocus on what made me first fall in love with production. I will always have countless warm memories of Titan, but as the pressure to keep busy mounted alongside spiralling costs, I feel I may have inadvertently lost sight of my initial vision in an effort to keep the studios firing on all cylinders, so to speak. At the time of writing, we are just finishing up the huge control room and cannot wait to get Monolith off the ground. It’s the beginning of a new era for both Charlie and I and I feel that we are on to something truly special. Onwards and upwards.n
Photos by Marikel Lahana
Hunger strike: Sophie Hunger
The Hunger games On August 31, Switzerland’s Sophie Hunger released her fourth and most sonically diverse album to date in the form of Molecules. PSNEurope editor Daniel Gumble spoke to Hunger and the album’s producer Dan Carey to discuss equipment, studio techniques and to discover how they produced the most ambitious record of her career so far…
ince the release of her debut album 1983 in 2010, Sophie Hunger has been most closely associated with contemporary folk and minimalist jazz, drawing often inaccurate comparisons to numerous acoustic guitar-wielding 21st century singer songwriters. Yet beneath the surface has always lingered a more distinct edge over so many of her contemporaries, as her list of collaborators demonstrates - she has previously worked with Red Hot Chilli Peppers guitarist Josh Kinghoffer and her 2015 album Supermoon featured a guest vocal appearance from none other than French football icon Eric Cantona. This time out, Hunger, along with producer Dan Carey, have opted for synths and electronica to form the basis of her new album Molecules. Recorded with
Carey in South London, the album represents the biggest departure from what might be described as Hunger’s signature sound to date, embracing a darker sonic identity and an altogether starker tonal palette. PSNEurope editor Daniel Gumble caught up with the pair to find out how the exploration of new studio techniques produced Hunger’s most creative leap yet…
Talk us through the recording and production process of Molecules. Sophie Hunger: It started with me doing a Pro Tools course in LA. I was bored about my rather traditional song writing techniques and wanted to learn to use the computer instead. When I got back home I set myself a goal to write an album from within the computer.
Dan Carey: For me the process started when Sophie came to London to play me the demos. She had a couple recorded with a full band and a fairly traditional arrangement, which I liked but didn’t strike me as being anything new. Then she played me one (Let It Come Down), which she apologised about because she didn’t have time to get the band together to record it, so she made it with just a drum machine, acoustic guitar and vocals. I loved it, and found that the sparse nature allowed the lyrics to come through more. I suggested that she went away and wrote more like that, and kept the demos as simple as possible. I came to visit her in Berlin about four months later. I’ll never forget that visit. The demos blew my mind. They were so subtle and beautiful. I was so moved by
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demos we established a set of rules - the songs Sliver Lane and Let It Come Down were the most striking ones, basically made up of a programmed drum beat (from the plugin BOOM on Pro Tools), some synths (plugins), my vocals and an acoustic guitar. So we said, Let’s commit to these four elements; let this be the sonic frame. So I went back home and wrote another six songs just like that. When I came to the studio for the session we pretty much re-recorded all the elements but with the awesomeness of Dan Carey! Once we had a good beat we started adding synths for harmonic information. Recording vocals was not something Dan could indulge in the same way he indulged in recording synths. He didn’t want to spend too much time on that. I realised early that I was going to have to take care of that. I only recorded scratch vocals at his studio and I did the final takes back home. DC: It was a very pure collaboration. Sophie and I hardly left each other for the whole recording time. We made almost all decisions together. the lyrics, and straight away I could hear how I wanted the record to sound. Soon after that she came to stay in London and we started recording. We started by generating lots of sounds from various synths and drum boxes, acoustic drums, and we made some patches on the Jupiter 8 and the Prophet. Most songs followed a similar process; I built a rhythm track using the MPCX, CR-78, Elektron Machinedrum and we would play the most basic version of the chord changes in MIDI into logic, so they could be sent to various synths. We started with the Jupiter and the Prophet, then we recorded a guide vocal, then any acoustic parts - piano, guitar, electric bass etc. Then there was a period of experimenting with the stranger synths, like the Buchla Music Easel, the Make Noise modular synth, and the OTO BAM reverbs. At that point, we had very good versions of the songs and brought in some more musicians. And then something really amazing happened - Sophie’s manager hooked us up with the largest collection of analogue synths in Fribourg, Switzerland, at the Swiss Museum And Centre for Electronic Music Instruments. We went into this truly amazing bunker full of keyboards, and were invited to choose any of them, which we took to a nearby studio. There, we ran some of the MIDI parts from our Logic sessions through the synths. We recorded lots of vocal tracks there too and took everything back to London to do a bit of editing and work and mix it.
How collaborative was the recording and production process between the two of you? SH: When I went to see Dan with my first couple of
Tell us about the studio and the key pieces of kit you used? SH: It was recorded at Dan’s Speedy Wonderground Studio in Streatham, South London. It’s one room filled to the brim with instruments and gear. So the control room and the recording room are the same. Maximal confrontation! For around five weeks it was mostly him, sound engineer Alexis Smith and I trying not to step on each other’s toes. Dan has an amazing collection of analogue synths including the particularly rare Swarmatron. But he also has a sophisticated modular synth system with oscillators from Doepffer, Studio Electronics and modules from Make Noise, Qbit Electronics, lots of 4MS Modules like the Spectral module etc. Then there’s the BAM Reverb from OTTO that we used on a lot of the acoustic drum sounds. So we had this amazing drummer, Julian Sartorius, come in for a day and he played on all kinds of materials, some of which he found on the street, like small metal plates or wood and then we’d send that through various effects and then sample it - we used the newer MPC for sampling. DC: Mics we used included the Brauner VM1, Royer
ribbon mics, AEA ribbons, a Coles 4038, a Wunder CM7 S, a Shure SM7B and models from Oktava and Lomo. The album was mixed on a La Font Chroma and a Calrec Q Series 60-channel desk with Dynaudio C3 monitors.
What were your sonic ambitions for the album? DC: I wanted to make something that felt completely new and fresh. Something that had a lot of space for the lyrics to come through. I felt it shouldn’t have too much going on, but what there was, I wanted to be intriguing and beautiful but not dominating. I wanted the instrumental side of it to feel as though it was made of lots of isolated parts that worked together well, but were still identifiable as separate things. I felt that the more traditional approach of the old records wouldn’t have served the lyrics on this one. And I really enjoyed the process of showing Sophie some of the things that could be done. She is always ready to try something new.
Why was Dan the perfect producer for this record? SH: I loved Nick Mulvey’s debut album First Mind. I remember listening to it day and night when it came out. I thought, Wow, here’s a traditional singer songwriter who has an original sound with lots of electronic elements... That’s exactly what I needed. When my A&R Jim Chancellor mentioned that he wanted me to meet this Londoner producer called Dan Carey I had a big grin on my face - pure sugar.
Is this a way that you would like to work again on future records? SH: I definitely want to work with Dan again but I would
like to use the opposite method next time. Instead of spending six weeks tweaking sounds I’d like to put together an extraordinary band and record an album live in one go. That would be extremely interesting. n
P50 SEPTEMBER 2018
Back to the A-Ts Phil Ward catches up with Robert Morgan-Males, newly promoted to CEO of Audio-Technica Europe...
obert Morgan-Males joined Audio-Technica Europe in September 2013, as then president Richard Garrido approached the conclusion of a period of consolidating disparate distribution channels into a cohesive whole. A-T and its B2B partners now offered consultancy and integration services on top of after-sales support, and MorganMales’ brief as marketing director for EMEA continued the spirit of mutual support while benefiting from the stability of a family-run business of 50 years enjoying huge consumer success on home territory in Japan. He was appointed CEO in April. His first job was at Don Larking Audio Sales in Luton, the pioneering professional audio reseller, followed by a period at Bob Wilson’s Sound Technology before launching the manufacturer LA Audio. This he sold on to SCV London, which he established and ran for eight years before taking up a number of Boardroom and consultancy roles that eventually led to the opening at Audio-Technica…
Businessman, geek or secret violinist? I did learn piano, but it wasn’t really the music that propelled me forward. I was born a geek, and it was the equipment that fascinated me. I would record the school plays, or do the stage management or lighting, and would rather have been given a second-hand reel-toreel tape recorder than a new bicycle. My studies at college were in electronics and electrical engineering, and working in sales followed naturally: I found I had a way of communicating my passion, and giving my technical research a commercial expression in a business context.
1980s: good timing to get into ‘project’
recording technology… I started at Larking just before the home recording revolution. We had some distribution – Soundtracs, which became Digico – but I went full time into distribution at Sound Technology, which was right at the beginning when Bob launched the company.
What inspired your first manufacturing venture, LA Audio? Opportunity… late-night conversations with Don Larking and an approach from a very talented product designer. It’s still going – last purchased by Simon Blackwood at Audient. It belongs with a dedicated manufacturer, but in the early days it was fused with SCV Electronics alongside the distribution effort and it took us a while to figure out what we were best at. It was a great time to be in the audio distribution industry.
What’s changed the most in distribution since the days of Don Larking and Tony Williams? B2B customers can educate themselves so much easier than before, and if you have accounts with a wide base in audio and video, say, with a long reach into the corporate and education sectors, it leads to more customers because the specifications fall into place and you’re part of it. Many installers like a one-stop shop, too, so we can also work with channel partners that package together our products with complete solutions that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to provide. Many of the pioneers are now of an age that most expect to move on, particularly within the realm of independent distribution. They started the reselling and distribution industry – geeks, musicians or businessmen – but eventually you have to give way. If there’s a consolidation of this business going on it’s through
mergers and acquisitions rather than the handing down from one generation to another. That tends to happen more in manufacturing, just as it has at Audio-Technica.
Why is it microphone-makers seem to have spearheaded the new distribution models? Because of the signal chain: Audio-Technica, Sennheiser, Shure and Beyerdynamic have all done this successfully because they are at the start of the chain. What’s great for Audio-Technica in Europe is that it’s a very carefully chosen brand-mix profile for pro audio, while some of our client-partners place Audio-Technica in a different mix for different industries. Inevitably we find ourselves talking to IT people more and more, even when it comes to our Dante microphone, so it helps to have people like Midwich on our radar. Those customers are used to buying from IT reselling channels, and the margins are much thinner. We have to learn how to address them, because I think these business models are converging.
Are B2B and B2C models converging? Should they? The communications channels are – the way people share knowledge and experience, and make recommendations. That’s all converging on social media. So you don’t know if someone is an expert or not. What I would like to do is get Audio-Technica into those conversations, whether people know the difference between a kick-drum mic and a vocal mic or not. What people do always recognise is quality, so if something is a hit and it’s got Audio-Technica product associated with it somewhere in the production, then that connection needs to be out there for people to recognise. n
In the September issue of PSNEurope, we hear from Abbey Road's director of brand and Marketing, Mark Robertson, about the biggest transforma...
Published on Sep 5, 2018
In the September issue of PSNEurope, we hear from Abbey Road's director of brand and Marketing, Mark Robertson, about the biggest transforma...