Focus group Focusrite executive chairman Phil Dudderidge takes us inside the firm’s new Pro Division
An evolution in digital mixing Drawing on 30 years of digital mixing know-how, Yamaha’s ﬂagship RIVAGE PM10 system continues to evolve with a new compact control surface, support for 400-channel single-mode optical ﬁber and V1.5 ﬁrmware updates including Eventide H3000 Live UltraHarmonizer and Dan Dugan Automatic Mixing plug-ins.
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P3 DECEMBER 2017
DANIEL GUMBLE Editor Contributors: Kevin Hilton, Marc Maes, Phil Ward, David Davies, Marc Miller, Mike Clark, Mel Lambert
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When you have finished reading this magazine please, why not give it to someone else to read, too? Or recycle it properly. Don’t just sling it in the bin. I mean, come on!
s one year draws to a close and a new one beckons, there is often a tendency to reﬂect on the past 12 months and recap the highlights. Which is all well and good, but here at PSNEurope we’re ﬁxing our gaze ﬁrmly forward, as we prepare to enter a year that promises to be a pivotal one on a great many levels. First up, there’s the Budget and the ﬁrst revaluation of business rates in some seven years. At time of going to press, the latest Budget was days away from being announced, and a conversation I had with UK Music CEO Michael Dugher ahead of its unveiling highlighted some alarming ﬁgures. As a result of the revaluation, the rateable value of the O2 Arena and Abbey Road Studios soared by a whopping 141% and 32% respectively. Such increases are having a devastating impact upon studios and music venues across the country, leaving those lacking substantial ﬁnancial clout in dire straits – particularly at grassroots level. However, with UK Music lobbying Government to redouble its efforts to protect the future of studios and venues facing closure, and with current culture minister Matt Hancock also ﬁghting for greater protection of the arts, there is hope that 2018 could see the industry turn a corner. Next year is also set to be a make or break year for certain events on the trade show front. After a few years of upheaval in Frankfurt, some are suggesting that the organisers at Messe really need to get proceedings back on track if Prolight+Sound and Musikmesse are to have any hope in restoring the faith of their global audiences, especially with ISE’s inexorable rise showing no signs of slowing. Elsewhere, it seems the pro audio world is ﬁnally starting to address the subject of diversity in a more meaningful way. AES has made steps toward greater inclusivity with the assembly of a dedicated diversity board, while MOBO has partnered with Help Musicians UK to launch a new fund to help budding producers make the next step in their careers. Each of these worthy causes certainly bode well for the year ahead. All in all, there is much to be hopeful about as we leave 2017 behind. So from all at PSNEurope, we wish you a happy festive break and look forward to seeing you in 2018.
P4 DECEMBER 2017
In this issue... People P6
Strategic Position Pioneer Pro’s Alex Barrand tells us his vision for the loudspeaker brand
Report P20 Backstage Academy We take a look behind the scenes at the live industry training academy
P17 IN FOCUS FOCUSRITE BOSS PHIL DUDDERIDGE ON THE FIRM’S NEW PRO DIVISION
Interview P22 Lauren Deakin Davies One of the studio sector’s brightest talents tells us how she’s tearing up the rule book and blazing a trail through the industry
Technology P30 L-ISA A close up look at the technology shaping the future of live and installed sound
Studio P40 Marta Salogni The London-based studio engineer on how she mixed Bjork’s aurally ambitious new album
P24 IN THE EYE OF THE STORM FRASER T SMITH ON PRODUCING STORMZY’S GANG SIGNS AND PRAYER
Diversity P44 AES We hear from the founding ﬁgures at AES’ new diversity board about its aims for making the pro audio industry a more inclusive place
P36 GRASSROOTS How MOBO’s new fund will beneﬁt the next generation of producers
ROSKILDE FESTIVAL AND MEYER SOUND AN UNPRECEDENTED COMMITMENT TO GREAT SOUND, FOR 2018 AND BEYOND
P6 DECEMBER 2017
Making Pro-gress Phil Ward speaks to Pioneer Professional Audio technical manager Alex Barrand about building the brand’s pro proﬁle...
hen Pioneer Professional Audio emerged as a loudspeaker brand during PLASA’s ﬁnal years at Earl’s Court, it was both a revival and a debut. It was enough of a departure to regard the new passive speaker series launched then as effectively products of a new company: GS-WAVE and XY, a 3m-high groundstacked assembly for the dance ﬂoor and a compact version for elsewhere. From the beginning, even though the dance system was coproduced with club sound guru Gary Stewart, ambitions lay beyond the nightclub. But it was also something of a revival because the founder of the original Pioneer Corporation, Nozomu Matsumoto, began in the late ‘30s by building loudspeakers: speciﬁcally, the highly successful A-8. It was this product that laid the foundations for the consumer audio behemoth we know today, which ﬁrst tasted modern professional success with speakers in the fondly recalled and brieﬂy state-of-the-art guise of Technical Audio Devices (TAD): studio monitors from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s that won many admirers and ﬂirted with the Proper Big Time by getting installed at George Lucas’ Skywalker Sound facility in California. In recent years, Pioneer has found fresh pro audio feet as the DJ industry has matured. As a distinct entity, Pioneer DJ Corporation drew venture capital to embark upon a different path to the Pioneer Electronics mother lode, and eventually established Pioneer Professional Audio separately as a vehicle for loudspeaker products that divided the cake even more ﬁnely: as we’ll see, interpretations of ‘professional’ are now becoming tricky and subtle, requiring different strategies according to context. Since the setting out of that stall, Alex Barrand has been Pioneer Professional Audio’s technical manager, having cut his sound engineering teeth at London’s Ministry Of Sound. He it was who installed the custom Martin Audio system at the club in 2008, working closely with Martin Audio’s Jason Baird, and it’s his deep working knowledge of that market that now informs his challenge to build Pioneer Pro’s reputation beyond it. “If you go to a bar or club anywhere in the world the chances are it will have a piece of Pioneer equipment somewhere,” he begins, “which does open a door because there will have been some interaction with one of our sales or rental partners. It helps us get involved with tenders, which is quite hard with a brand new proposition.
Pro-ﬁle: Alex Barrand
P7 DECEMBER 2017
“But it can be a hindrance if you’re working with installers or rental companies who put the Pioneer name in a DJ pigeon hole that they consider somehow less professional than the pro audio brands. On the other hand – and this has happened in Dubai recently – the customer has not known the famous pro audio names because he’s the food and beverage manager! He’d rather sign a cheque to Pioneer because, having seen the name on DJ products, he knows there will be support and he believes it will be a stronger investment. That’s nice to know, but it doesn’t help us ﬁnd new distribution among the rental and install community.”
All that jazz: The Milan Jazz Cafe
XPRS Yourself The budget-conscious XPRS Series contains Powersoft ampliﬁer modules, Barrand’s relationship with the Italian manufacturer stretching back to Ministry of Sound days during which, at one point, he speciﬁed from them an ambitious 10,000W module for one of the subs. It was a shared vision of scale, and led directly to an OEM deal rubber-stamped by Japan at Barrand’s insistence. At the same time, his passive loudspeakers are designed with the ability to accommodate other brands too, from Crown to XTA, making them attractive to as wide a base of installers as possible. This is key. Barrand’s challenging brief has been to establish routes to market all over the world that can make the most of the Pioneer name, while at the same time avoiding any risk of being typecast. It’s the same business model in the US, Asia and Europe: one that targets reputable installers and resellers for GS-WAVE and XY, while exploiting the well established MI and DJ channels to handle the XPRS Series. It means Barrand himself has had to make a lot of direct connections in the early phases, with the Holy Grail of effective delegation always in mind, and the hope is that his Olympic accrual of air miles will soon reach a plateau supported by reliable partners. To ensure a level of quality control that will convince picky installers, Pioneer Pro’s loudspeakers are all built in the UK. Attention to persuasive detail includes BNC drivers, modiﬁed constant directivity horns and handpicked Mundorf components in the crossover board assembly, which is regularly shown off in cross section at trade shows. It’s all part of a concerted campaign to establish build quality as a hallmark of the brand. “To win over the pro audio speciﬁers,” Barrand reveals, “our product has to be beyond their expectations of quality – both sonically and in terms of construction quality. That’s why we build everything in the UK, so we can really assure them that it’s a serious product that’s acoustically at the top level. It’s been quite a journey to get to that point, but we now have some key references around the world to build upon. “Thankfully we’ve moved beyond the food and beverage managers – although we’ll always welcome their approval! – and we’re talking with serious integrators as well as building up a proper distribution
chain. Word gets out among these people, and the enquiries start coming back to you about how they can get involved. We’re at a pivotal point right now between that happening and having to get out there and drive these projects forward: meeting the venues and being there as the manufacturer, in person, talking directly to the technical crews. “It’s expensive to do that, but what we’ve gathered from the beginning is that a level of commitment like that really pays dividends in the long run. You build up trust and a rapport with professional engineers who will carry your reputation into the industry. We have had to do that to overcome some stigma, where necessary, attached to the association with the DJ market. People are naturally loyal to the brands they know, but I certainly feel that we’ve now passed that milestone.”
Depeche Mode Barrand has spent much time steering the conversation with his colleagues in Japan towards these new markets, making suggestions not only for product design but also for the handling of sales channels and the navigation of more sophisticated routes to market for such high-end products. One good example occurred in Italy. “We worked directly with the Jazz Café in Milan, a project that has led to other applications too,” he says. “They had a noise issue, so we made an EASE model of the bar area and the restaurant downstairs and had to work closely with the local authorities to satisfy their regulations. We got it right, and so the local installer on the project began to look at Pioneer as a serious alternative to the other brands he’d bought and arranged for his supplier to come and see the venue. As a result, he’s now buying from us.” One specialist area down this route is retail, including iconic outlets like Emporio Armani. “These huge designer stores in Italy are great showcases. The XY-81 is the smallest enclosure we do at the moment, so it meets the requirements of crowded shops. It’s also shown us a lot about the next chapter of our product
development for commercial audio applications – this huge market that’s bigger than nightclubs and touring put together! It already indicates our road map towards smaller, soft-domed solutions and ceiling speakers as well as a long-term commitment to open-architecture networking, DSP and IP conﬁgurability.” This means ticking the box called ‘discreet’ in retail and other spaces, while electro-acoustically pumping into that space the kind of volume you might expect from the brand endorsed by Cameron Leslie, co-founder of reborn London super-club Fabric. For many styleconscious stores and restaurants, this is precisely the kind of association that adds value and kudos to the AV offer, backed up by genuine technical chops. “You can see,” adds Barrand, “as you look around the stores in all the major cities, they’re looking really raw and funky and yet it’s still a retail space. It’s not about high SPLs, though: we’ve been working with the Nike store in London’s Oxford Street, trying out some of the smaller XPRS Series boxes – even so, it’s a bit of a party every weekend! – and because the weekend DJ sessions have gone well they are now planning to ﬁt all four ﬂoors of the store with a background system. “This system has to evoke the DJ sound recognised and enjoyed at the weekends, while staying within reasonable boundaries, so it’s about ‘exporting’ the Pioneer reputation to other areas without losing its identity.” There can be few other sectors than this so likely to keep up with the high street Joneses, making the domino effect of store competition such a crucial element of Pioneer Pro’s ultimate strategy. Elsewhere, though, there will be those for whom Carl Cox cool means very little, and here the priorities focus on networking. “It’s essential to be IP-ready, whatever format that takes,” indicates Barrand, “to patch out to wall panels, displays, audio over the internet and other connectivity. We have some prototypes – OEM because we need to be fast to market with this and we can’t start from scratch. DJ legacy or no DJ legacy… this is our future.” www.pioneerproaudio.com
P8 DECEMBER 2017
Pro audio movers and shakers Stay in the loop with the latest job appointments and movements in the professional audio biz over the past month…
Allen & Heath names Rob Clark managing director as Glenn Rogers stands down
ixing console manufacturer Allen & Heath has appointed Rob Clark as its new managing director, following the decision of longstanding company ﬁgurehead Glenn Rogers to pass the reins on to the next generation. Clark, who previously served as R&D director, joined the company in 1993 as a digital engineer and has played a key role in the development of its digital mixers. Rogers will remain a director of the Audiotonix parent group (comprising Allen & Heath, Digico and Calrec Audio), focusing on identifying market opportunities and helping to specify new products.
Clark said: “It’s an honour to take on this new challenge. Glenn has been a trusted friend and mentor for more than 20 years, and I know we can rely on his wise counsel in the future. It’s a fantastic time to move into this role - the product range has never been stronger, and we have the collective expertise of the Audiotonix group to draw upon. Rogers added: “Rob has a wealth of experience and the best team in the business behind him. I am excited to take up new challenges for the Audiotonix group and explore new ideas and technologies that will shape the next generation of mixers.”
PLASA appoints Christopher Toulmin to newly-created commercial director role
Coda Audio UK’s Scott Fraser ‘to open new markets’ as technical sales manager
Focusrite appoints Alex Jann as area sales manager for UK South region
PLASA has promoted Christopher Toulmin to the role of commercial director – a newly created position at the organisation. In his new role, Toulmin will be tasked with overseeing all sales and marketing activities in the organisation, driving the success of its commercial divisions, including its event portfolio. “Chris’s impressive professional background and knowledge of the industry will be a great asset to PLASA as we move forward as an organisation,” said PLASA managing director, Peter Heath. “With his creative vision, together with a talented sales and marketing team and market-leading products, we expect him to achieve great things in his new role.”
Coda Audio UK has appointed Scott Fraser as its new technical sales manager. Fraser has worked across the industry in a range of roles at RG Jones, Yamaha and Autograph. Fraser said: “I’ve known [Coda Audio UK MD] Rich [Rowley] for a long time. When he contacted me about getting involved with Coda, I was all ears.” As technical sales manager, Fraser’s role will be to open up new routes to the UK market, and engage with a wide range of stakeholders, including consultants, speciﬁers, designers and engineers. Rowley commented: “Scott is someone whose reputation as a top practitioner in the industry is well deserved. Put simply, he knows his way round every business and technical aspect of professional audio.”
Focusrite has appointed Alex Jann as its new area sales manager for the UK South region. Jann, who has previously held sales positions at Audio Technica and InMusic, will be responsible for sales growth of Focusrite’s authorised re-seller network across the south of England. Jann said: “I hope to bring my previous experience in retail and sales management into the mix to get up and running quickly so I can begin work with the excellent reseller network in the UK”. Richard Johnstone, UK sales and marketing manager, added: “Alex brings with him a wealth of relevant industry sales and marketing experience which will further strengthen the partnerships with our authorised re-seller network.”
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P10 DECEMBER 2017
Take your seats… Panel night PSNPresents once again saw some of the industry’s foremost ﬁgures come together for an evening of onstage interviews to discuss the key issues shaping the professional audio industry. Here are the highlights...
he sixth PSN Presents took place in London on November 8, with industry experts sharing their thoughts on the future of immersive audio and the state of the studio sector during a night of networking and discussion. The pro audio community gathered at the Sway Bar in Holborn for the second edition of the panel night this year, looking ahead to where the industry is headed, from innovative developments in 360 sound to the issue of future funding for studios. Former PSNEurope editor Phil Ward chaired the ﬁrst discussion, ‘Immersive audio – the future of live sound’, with founder and director of Astro Spatial Audio Bjorn
Van Munster, Sherif El Barbari, head of application at L-Acoustics brand L-ISA, Out Board co-founder Robin Whittaker, d&b audiotechnik’s Steve Jones and sound engineer Andrew Horsburgh on the panel. All agreed that exciting things are on the horizon for this format, with panel chair Phil Ward claiming that “we’re approaching better sound reproduction”. Those from manufacturers discussed the innovative 360 tech that they’ve got in the pipeline, with some discussing how their immersive kit has already been received by touring bands at festivals. After a short break for a drinks top-up, PSNEurope editor Dan Gumble fronted the second talk of the night ‘Assessing the state of the studio sector’, featuring rising star Lauren
Deakin Davies, award-winning engineer Wes Maebe and Miloco Studios COO Nick Young. While it could be argued that the state of the studio sector has improved compared to where it was 10 years ago, there was still lots of discussion about where funding is going to come from in the future to allow studios to keep their doors open, and to keep opportunities to train the next generation of studio apprentices available to all. Thanks to everyone who came along, we’ll see you all next time! www.psnpresents.com To see all the photos from the night, head to our Facebook page www.facebook.com/prosoundnewseurope
360 audio panelist Robin Whittaker (centre) enjoys a drink in the Sway Bar
Phil Ward addresses the crowd for the ‘Immersive audio: the future of live sound’ panel
P11 DECEMBER 2017
PSNEurope editor Dan Gumble heads up the future of studio panel
Astro Spatial Audio director Bjorn van Munster before speaking on the immersive audio panel
Former PSNEurope editor Phil Ward headed up talks on the potential of immersive audio
Smiles all round: future of studio panelists (l-r) Lauren Deakin Davis, Wes Maebe and Nick Young
d&b Audiotechnik’s Steve Jones shared what the company is doing to bring immersive audio to touring bands
L-ISA’s Sherif El Barbari talks about the company’s latest innovations in immersive sound during the ﬁrst panel
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P13 DECEMBER 2017
Home advantage As the home studio market continues to prosper in the age of the bedroom producer, PSNEurope caught up with some of the sector’s key players to check its pulse and ﬁnd out where it’s headed as we close in on the end of 2017…
Tim Page, marketing manager EMEA professional audio, Audio-Technica What are the key trends you’ve seen in the home studio market this year? We’re seeing a continuation and strengthening of an approach that sees home-based studios used for serious music production. Writing, programming and even mixing for commercial release takes place in nontraditional studios all the time these days and that trend shows no signs of slowing.
Are there any product lines that have proved particularly popular this year? Audio-Technica recently collaborated with Audient on the AT2035-Studio ‘Essential Studio Kit’, which includes an AT2035 large diaphragm cardioid condenser mic, ATH-M40x studio monitor headphones and an Audient iD4 Black USB audio interface. The response to that has been great – uptake from retailers has been very strong, particularly in the run up to the Christmas buying period. And we’re also seeing growth in sales of Artnovion acoustic treatment (for which Audio-Technica is the UK distributor) for home studios. Is your core home studio market entry-level producers working from their bedroom, or are more people upgrading their home set-ups? It’s really possible to invest in a home studio and get great results these days, so more people are prepared to upgrade – it’s very different to when the market was limited to eighttrack tape or hard disk recorders for home use. The core
of Audio-Technica’s base in this area is serious amateurs – they can buy a 20 Series microphone for incredibly reasonable money and add a 40 Series (or even 50 Series) model as their ambition develops. In terms of the Artnovion range, we have seen an increase in people wanting to improve their recording spaces at home. Many engineers and artists prefer the comfort of their own spaces rather than commercially run studios – and they’re becoming more aware of the beneﬁts of investing in treatment in order to produce consistent, high quality results. What are the biggest opportunities in the home studio market? Location recording/production is a big one. Records are being worked on and mixed (to at least an ‘almost release ready’ level) on planes, trains and in coffee shops these days. And young bands can hire a decent rehearsal space, take a laptop, interface and selection of mics and record amazing quality live performances these days – it really frees up the creative process.
Stuart Down, director, Quested Monitoring Systems What trends have you seen in the home studio market this year? I am not too sure we can see a dominant trend this year, but looking at the history we are seeing more and more pro users choosing to work from a homebased studio. Which product lines have been successful in 2017? Due to its size, our S7R is one of the most popular lines in this area. The V2108 is also a product that has been a great success in this environment for us, typically with the more advanced user, who is working in both commercial and residential based studios. Is the core of your home studio market entry-level producers, or are more users upscaling their home studio set-ups? Our core user base tends to be more the pro user, but we have seen a trend from some of the smaller ‘bedroom’ users upgrading what they work with. I
think this is driven by a wider knowledge of what is out there and a proper understanding of what a studio monitor is meant to do. Where are the key opportunities for Quested in the home studio market? We see this as a growing area, but maybe not in the typical home or bedroom studio scenario. More and more pro users are choosing to build an environment at home to work from day-to-day. In some areas we have seen this translate into large format soffit-based systems going into what are domestic-based studios. And what are the biggest challenges? We still need these larger facilities and city-based studios, even with residential-based production rooms or studios! A large or reasonable size live space to record and inspire will always be a key part of the process, along with the incredible knowledge that has been learned by the people working in these
spaces day-to-day. On the home or residential side, the biggest challenge is making sure that more users don’t just know your reputation, but they have experience or knowledge of your products in that environment too.
P14 DECEMBER 2017
Rob Jenkins, technical director, Focusrite What are the key trends you’ve seen in the home studio market in 2017? For many years the transition from studio hardware to DAW software and plugins has been the general trend. However, we have recently seen the idea of
mixing outside of the box being championed by music producers. We suspect it is driven by both the idea of achieving an authentic sound and the realisation that a real physical user interface offers a different experience to driving a mouse. Are there any product lines that have proved particularly popular? The resurgence of external rack equipment, especially the 500series/lunchbox type products, has taken everybody by surprise. This format has allowed manufacturers to reissue classic modules and also has enabled cottage industries to both resurrect affordable versions of vintage equipment and new esoteric devices. Where do the biggest opportunities in the home studio market lie? Two elements create opportunity, technology and innovation. The computer transport and the interconnection of devices are being constantly
improved by new technology like Thunderbolt and Ethernet. Now it is possible to have very high channel counts at high sample rates at very low latency running between multiple pieces of equipment that can turn any environment into an improvised recording area. Converting a home into a temporary multi-room recording studio is now possible for a reasonable budget. Additionally, innovations in algorithms allow users to control their listening space as never before. Things like the Sonarworks speaker calibration system allow the user to improve their listening area without having to resort to architectural interventions. And the challenges? The age-old problem of getting the balance between quality and cost for new innovations. Half a solution is no solution, so making a judgement between where to add new value and trade off against old values can be a tough judgement call - you could argue that Apple either do a good or bad job at this, for example.
Howard Jones, marketing director, Genelec What are the most notable trends you’ve seen in the home studio sector in 2017? The increasing realisation that the customer’s room acoustics have a profound effect on the quality of the audio being monitored – and therefore how well those mixes are going to translate to other rooms and systems. The use of DSP and room correction software is a testament to that, a technology that we’ve been evangelising about for over a decade, and which is rapidly gaining wider acceptance. Are there any product lines that have proved especially popular? This year it’s been The Ones, our new compact three-way coaxial monitors. These are the smallest three-way studio monitors you can buy, so have a footprint that ideally suits the home studio. Due to their point source design you can also monitor with them at listening distances as little as 40cm, with no loss of precision, so again they are perfect for small rooms. Like all of our SAM family of monitors they integrate tightly with our GLM calibration software, so the customer can optimise The Ones for use in their particular acoustic space. Is your core home studio market entry-level bedroom producers looking to make recordings at home, or are you observing a shift towards people upgrading their home studio set-ups? I wouldn’t say that the entry-level user is our core
market – as a fundamentally pro brand many people come to us when they realise that their entry-level purchase is not really going to be a speaker-for-life, and they need a more trustworthy reference monitor system. But yes, some home studios are becoming way more sophisticated, and due to our DSP-and-roomcorrection software approach, modest rooms that might once have been tracking-only studios can now deliver really decent mixes that translate brilliantly.
For us it’s all about educating the customer – we will never be the cheapest loudspeaker because we are totally committed to designing and manufacturing everything in our native Finland, so our goal is simply to educate the user as to how their studio monitors will inﬂuence every single tracking and mix decision that they’ll ever make. The better the monitor, the better their chances of making good decisions. The prize is being successful in communicating that message.
What are the biggest opportunities in the home studio market?
And what are the biggest challenges? Communicating the message above!
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2x2 Dante™ interface with Red Evolution mic pres, stereo line out and a stereo headphone amplifier.
PHOTO CREDIT: Joanna Dudderidge
CODE RED Last month, Focusrite announced the launch of its new Pro division, a new dedicated segment of the company tasked speciﬁcally with bringing its professional focused products – predominantly its RedNet audio over IP solutions – to new markets and ensuring they receive maximum exposure. To ﬁnd out more about the ﬁrm’s redoubled pro audio efforts, Daniel Gumble paid executive chairman Phil Dudderidge a visit to talk, business, trade shows and the effects of Brexit…
P18 DECEMBER 2017
dorning the rear wall of Focsurite executive chairman Phil Dudderidge’s office at the ﬁrm’s High Wycombe HQ hangs a vast and impressively framed Jimi Hendrix print, ﬂanked by three colourfully decorated Gibson SG guitars. Each has been painted and signed by a multitude of rock and pop luminaries, including the likes of Jeff Beck, Mark Ronson and Corinne Bailey Rae. It’s the ﬁrst thing one notices upon entering what is an otherwise fairly standard office space. While each piece could sit snugly within a museum display or recording studio foyer, their purpose here it seems is to provide a reminder of Dudderidge’s rock’n’roll past, and in many ways highlights the contrasting sides to one of the industry’s most revered and inﬂuential ﬁgures. A public schoolboy born into a family of Quakers, his backstory doesn’t quite ﬁt the mould of the archetypal rock’n’roller, which is precisely what Dudderidge was prior to his time helming world famous console brand Soundcraft, which he co-founded way back in 1973, and later Focusrite. For much of the early part of his career he toured as a roadie and live sound engineer for the likes of Fairport Convention and Led Zeppelin – roles that set the foundations for a career at the cutting edge of sound technology. What’s more, his reputation as one of the most shrewd and successful businessmen in the global audio business may seem somewhat at odds with his socialist upbringing – he describes himself during our morning together as a “socialist capitalist”, something he claims he would never have imagined calling himself during those formative years. Yet in spite of these outwardly oppositional qualities, his extensive business acumen and adopted Quaker sensibilities have enabled him to attain a unique position in the market. Under his guidance, Focusrite has become both a prosperous business proposition and one of the UK’s Top 100 employers – it was ranked 68th on the Sunday Times 100 Best Small Companies to Work For 2012 list. On top of that, its move to become a public company in 2014 has allowed Dudderidge to offer his staff a direct stake in the ﬁrm. As he puts it, people join Focusrite “not just because they are looking for a job but because they are looking for a career”, such is the high percentage of staff that remain with the company on a long-term basis. His astute business nous has also lead to Focusrite planting its ﬂag ﬁrmly in both the pro audio and MI markets, with products that appeal to customers at either end of the user spectrum. And while its presence has been adequately felt on both sides of the biz for many years now, the company decided to redouble its efforts on the professional front in October with the launch of the new Focusrite Pro division - a dedicated corner of the business aimed at overseeing three product ranges - Red multi-format audio interfaces; RedNet modular audio-over-IP solutions, and ISA
microphone preampliﬁers and analogue signal processors – to ensure they are hitting the right audiences across the globe. The division’s launch has also coincided this year with the appointment of a new CEO in the form of former Avid man Tim Carroll, who has been tasked with bolstering the brand’s position in existing markets and developing new strategies to break emerging segments of industry. Here, Dudderidge tells PSNEurope editor Daniel Gumble about his ambitions for the new Pro division and recaps on some of Focusrite’s 2017 highlights, while also offering his take on the greatest opportunities and challenges facing the business as we prepare to enter the new year… What made you launch the new Pro division? It was established within the greater business to bring focus to all aspects of the professional products and the markets they are intended for. Up to now, pro-product marketing has been speciﬁc to RedNet. That’s been expanded now to include the Red Series and the ISAs. It’s like creating a separate business unit under the Focusrite umbrella. The beneﬁts will ﬂow from having much better engagement with the markets for which these products are intended. With only the one sales department and one marketing department there was a lot of ground to be covered. In the last 20 years or so we’ve gone from being a very pro-orientated company to being a much more musician-orientated company, as the democratisation of recording has occurred. We’ve played an increasingly leading part in that revolution. For several years we’ve been developing RedNet and products like the Red Series for professional users, but they weren’t getting the attention they needed and deserved in terms of marketing and sales, so we’re expanding that side of the business. And we’re going to be further supporting distributors in other territories, particularly in the US and Europe. In some cases we’ll be making changes to distribution, so if we’re with a distributor that’s strong in MI but not in pro then we’ll split the arrangements and set up new ones with companies that better address those pro markets. How long has the division been in the pipeline? It was a decision arrived at by our new CEO Tim Carroll. We developed RedNet with the top end of the recording market as our focus, but the initial interest and demand came from a slightly different quarter, which was education, performing arts centres, theatres etc. But the potential is much wider than that and exists in all kinds of live and recording applications as part of the Dante ecosystem. We were an early exponent and supporter of Dante and the audio over IP network. Dante has something like 200 licensees now - companies designing products that will run on the Dante network. We are very much at the vanguard of that, and our objective is to make sure that when people think of
Phil Dudderidge and rock legend Robert Plant at London’s RAK Studios
Dante they are also thinking of RedNet. How has the company beneﬁtted since going public in 2014? Joining the AIM market has helped us grow up in our approach to the business, which was one of the objectives for me as founding shareholder. It’s allowed us to achieve various goals for myself and our management team and also for the employees. We have a share option scheme that embraces all employees, so those who were with the company prior to the IPO in 2014 have beneﬁtted from being option holders and converting those options into shares, which they’ve either held or sold. As I approach what might be regarded as a normal retirement age, it’s enabled me to release some capital without selling the business. Focusrite was voted of the UK’s Top 100 employers by the Sunday Times in 2012. What makes the company such an attractive proposition for its employees? The credit goes to the staff themselves. The employees are very much the essence of the business. From a ﬁnancial point of view, the business is more successful because the employees are fully engaged and feel
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PHOTO CREDIT: Joanna Dudderidge
2009 onwards. We still do but the orientation of our spend is different. Our marketing budget is higher than it ever has been, in line with the growth of the business. And we have to continue to invest to achieve the growth of tomorrow, but how we spend our budget, digital marketing, traditional print advertising and exhibitions has changed hugely. As we move into new markets like post, broadcast and installed sound, ISE, IBC, NAB and InfoComm are becoming more important. With Messe, if they hadn’t messed with the layout it would have been easier to carry on doing what we were doing, but by changing the hall arrangements, various distributors chose not to exhibit and that eventually included us. We still exhibit in Prolight+Sound, but we’ve found not exhibiting at Musikmesse over the past two years hasn’t made a difference, because we actively service our distributors internationally and our dealers at a local level in the UK, Germany and the US.
a sense of ownership of the business. Some people sense that more than others. Sometimes share options can feel a little bit remote – which before the IPO was a legitimate concern – but with the IPO we’ve brought value to the options that people in some cases had held for 15 years. That was one of the most important things, that it wasn’t just me taking money off the table but that everybody else was seeing the beneﬁt of their endeavours over and above their salaries. Is that focus on staff something you’ve always had a strong focus on? I come from a socialist family, so I think of myself as a socialist capitalist. I didn’t in my younger days expect to be described as a capitalist but I can’t deny it now! I believe that being employee focused is good business. My parents were Quakers and when I was growing up I learned about Quaker businesses in the 19th century, and they all had a benign capitalism in that they wanted good working conditions. It’s that engagement with the employees and feeling that they are as much a part of the company as the shareholders, and that they should be shareholders. But we had this great vibe before that, when people didn’t know if their options were going
to be worth any money, because for them to have any value there needed to be either an IPO or a trade sale. I didn’t like the idea of a trade sale because I’ve seen too many situations where companies have been bought and a couple of years later…where are they? Where’s TC Electronic today? Tannoy? Soundcraft? It’s a brand now, not a company. The people we used to employ at Soundcraft before we sold it to Harman in 1988, we had about 350 people in the UK and the numbers grew after that. When I left the company continued to grow, but where is it now? I’m very proud of the fact that [Soundcraft] has survived and appears to be doing well. But I do think there is a growing and changing community under our roof here – we have people come to us not just for jobs but for careers. How valuable are trade shows to the business these days? It seems many companies are scrutinising their commitment to them more closely than ever. They are very expensive. Frankfurt seems to have lost its way. I think they’ve had to make adjustments following the ﬁnancial crisis in 2008. I don’t know when other companies started cutting their expenditure, but we continued to invest increasingly in trade shows from
What are the big growth areas for Focusrite? We are still growing the Scarlett range with double digit growth every year, because the market is growing still and it’s been supported very well by music education. Lots of schools are incorporating music production as part of music education. It’s really helping drive the market, and is a market in and of itself. We’ve also been looking at the market above $500 and we’ve taken market share with the Clarett range. And RedNet is growing very fast. What are the challenges facing the business in 2018? Brexit has to be the greatest concern. I’m not overly worried because we are not manufacturing in the UK, so we’ll have the same trading arrangement between Europe and China as we do now, but maybe cutting out the UK stage. Being a British company, ultimately proﬁts ﬂow back to the UK and since the referendum the fall in the value of the pound has been beneﬁcial in terms of proﬁtability, but it’s increased our costs as well. All of our manufacturing costs are denominated in dollars, so our costs have gone up but our dollar revenues have also gone up. But I’m fearful of the overall impact on the UK economy and what that will mean to UK customers, musicians and others to be in work, to be able to afford to buy our products. However, I think musicians are relatively immune from macro economics, certainly at the entry level. They are very driven and if they need to buy something to record their music they will and they’d rather do that than go down the pub or buy a new shirt. And so it proved during the recession in 2008 – our business grew from 2008 onwards and we didn’t get deﬂected by taking defensive postures. I said, OK, when we’re forced to do something we will, but we won’t take any pre-emptive action. We’re fortunate in having a global business; I don’t think the world will be affected by Brexit, but I think the UK will be affected by Brexit.
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‘Where the live industry learns’ Wakefield-based college Backstage Academy promises to train the next generation of live industry professionals. Offering three event production degrees, it now welcomes almost 170 students, growing from just 17 trainees when it launched in 2011. Tara Lepore paid them a visit to see how it’s equipping students for one of the fastest-growing sectors of the audio industry…
he live music industry is booming, and large-scale events across Europe generate millions for the economy each year. But with the closure of many small music venues across the UK, where are the next cohort of live professionals being trained? Sound isn’t something that can be taught in the classroom in six weeks, as Backstage Academy’s managing director Glen Rowe tells PSNEurope during a visit to the Wakeﬁeld college on a sunny October day. Rowe claims the Academy is different to traditional redbrick universities, offering a ﬁrst-class degree with practical experience, and a core focus on live production. We’re in Production Park, a conglomerate of live event businesses near Wakeﬁeld, and the home of Backstage Academy. The West Yorkshire site has good links to London – it takes less than three hours for PSNEurope to travel from London. Backstage Academy students throng in and out of the popular Rockpool Cafe
in the heart of this bustling business park as I arrive, a charming addition to the site headed up by chief caterer Pete Bailey, who has previously served as personal chef for bands such as Kasabian and Metallica. The Academy is the brainchild of Adrian Brooks, who, in 2009, often found that many trainees or apprentices working at Production Park businesses were leaving the teams to join tours overseas. Brooks has a background in event production – coming up with the original blueprint for aluminium truss staging but ‘forgetting to patent it’ – and now heads up truss manufacturer Litestructures, staging specialist company LS-Live and serves as chairman for Backstage Academy. Brooks followed through with his vision of offering an educational arm at the business park in 2011, as he wanted to train people on the job and offer them opportunities that would keep them working at Production Park businesses. Partnering with the University of Bolton in 2011 to
offer three accredited BA degrees meant that this was a viable option. The link with the university also means that students can access normal student loans and funding, and are not having to overcome the ﬁnancial obstacles that a private training course might bring up. The Academy offers three BA degrees: Live Event Production, Live Visual Design and Production, and Stage Management. Rowe says students are in ﬁve days a week, but his biggest problem is “stopping students from leaving to go and do a job.” However, he also stresses the importance of high attendance for students: “There’s nothing you can revise here, so you’ve got to be committed. This is factory-ﬂoor learning. We’re building huge tours, and the students’ environment is wrapped around that.”
Learning on the job During PSNEurope’s visit, it’s clear that huge tours are being built onsite, and students are encouraged to
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get involved. There is a huge focus on employability: around 90% of students at Backstage Academy secure employment before graduating, and this is testament to the work experience placements on offer throughout the three-year degrees. Business development manager Sara Gleadhall says “this is a place where some of the biggest stage productions are made onsite – and these young people are able to train among it all”. At 300,000 sq ft, the creative space ‘all under one roof’ has made touring and stage sets for Jessie J, The Killers and Muse (of whom MD Rowe has served as tour director for the past 16 years). Walking through the buildings onsite, you ﬁnd huge sets in the making, and an impressive rehearsal arena where artists and crew rehearse entire sets before embarking on world tours. The 35x42m studio has a 128 tonne roof capacity from its 18.2m high rigging beams and four loading bays, meaning it can accommodate almost any large-scale production – and it does regularly. “Production Park is a destination,” continues Rowe. “It’s Pinewood Studios for the live events industry that’s what we’re building here. We have lots of trucking companies, lighting companies and sound companies all wanting to move onto the site – so in 10 years’ time, this will become the place where everything in rock ‘n’ roll and live events happens, because we’ve got the space to grow. And there are no noise restrictions!”
Expansion into sound Plans to extend the Academy on 10 acres of land should be completed for September 2019, to accommodate more students and allow the college to facilitate extra courses – including a dedicated sound degree. At present, a specialist sound module on the Live Event Production BA introduces students eager to pursue audio to a range of manufacturers’ products and equipment, as well as bringing in pro audio experts to talk about the industry. One of these manufacturers is d&b audiotechnik, which has supported the Academy from its early days, giving talks on its products and showing students the software it uses to design line arrays. Shure officially joined as a partner in April this year, and has held two masterclasses for the Live Event Production students since. Shure applications engineer Tom Coleman delivered a masterclass on audio networking in April, and a second masterclass focusing on the set up of wireless transmitters took place a month later. Rowe says: “Sound is something very close to my heart. You can’t learn sound in six weeks. It takes a long time and it’s really good that our partners say that they can see what we’re doing. What seems to have happened recently is that the live events industry has seen that we’re relevant. Our partners have leant us kit, and, more importantly, their support with this. d&b and Shure putting their name next to us gives us the seal of approval that the industry get what we’re doing, and that they believe in it.”
Seeing the light: Production Park’s Backstage Academy students
Rowe has spent 16 years as tour director for Muse, a band who “take everything seriously when it comes to tours”. He says: “My reason for pushing [Backstage Academy] to another level is because these young bands need young people. I constantly get asked to go out on the road with younger bands and I think, What are they going to talk to me about? They need young crew for young bands, but they also need mentors to help them along their way.” Backstage Academy students have already gone on to do big things in the live events industry, including projects for bands such as Rammstein and Coldplay.
[OUR PARTNERS] D&B AND SHURE PUTTING THEIR NAME NEXT TO US GIVES US THE SEAL OF APPROVAL THAT THE INDUSTRY GETS WHAT WE’RE DOING, AND THAT THEY BELIEVE IN IT
GLEN ROWE Recent graduate James Haywood worked on the Milan leg of Muse’s tour last summer, and Harry Heathﬁeld, who graduated from the Live Event Production BA in 2014, now leads the automation department for Brilliant Stages (a Production Park business). For current students, one of the biggest placements on offer is at Ibiza Rocks: 15 students from the Academy take part in an internship each summer to work on one of the stages at the festival. Other festivals where students regularly get work experience include Glastonbury, Radio 1’s Big Weekend and BPM SFX.
Doing things differently Where this institution differs from other sound colleges – and what could be said is its unique selling point – is its dedicated focus on all things live, compared to other colleges which are often centred on studio skills. “For our sound engineer students, it’s really important that they get as much hands-on experience with everything as they can. Whether it’s working at one of our businesses [at Production Park], or working front of house at a live music night at a local pub, they’ve got to do everything,” adds Rowe. Staff at Backstage Academy encourage students to diversify their skills and learn about all aspects of the live event industry, rather than specialising in something quite niche early on in their career. “Everyone wants to be a sound engineer,” Rowe adds, “but people forget there are other things you need to know about too. What about system techs? You speak to PA companies and they say, Oh, we’ve got more sound engineers than I could shake a stick at, but, I need crew.” As the future of the recording side of the music industry faces problems, the live industry is now bigger than ever. UK Music’s Measuring Music report revealed that live music’s contribution to the UK economy grew 36% from 2012 to 2015, so a specialist school promising to ‘train the next live industry professionals’ is surely good news for companies within the sector looking for fresh talent. “The connections are amazing,” adds Rowe. “Our students are connected to everybody in the Park and they can learn different skills from different companies. Then, in six months, they can phone these people up any time and ask them questions. This industry is very, very, very competitive, and we’re teaching the students the importance of resilience.” www.backstage-academy.co.uk
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Breaking the sound barrier Producer, engineer, solo artist and session musician Lauren Deakin Davies is currently one of the UK’s brightest young talents, tearing up record books left, right and centre. PSNEurope editor Daniel Gumble caught up with her in a Hertfordshire pub to talk music production, gear and the challenges facing the studio sector… Lauren Deakin Davies: ‘I ﬁrst got into producing when my band started going to lots of amazing studios’
t just 22 years old, Lauren Deakin Davies’ CV is, frankly, ridiculous. Over the past ﬁve years she has achieved more as a producer and engineer than most could hope to achieve in twice that time. Aside from having worked with an acclaimed roster of artists that includes Laura Marling, Kate Dimbleby, Kaity Rae and Peggy Seeger, she has already had several EPs and a raft of singles played on BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music since 2013. If that wasn’t enough, she is also the youngest female producer ever to have tracks played on Radio 2, is the youngest ever MPG member and was named Producer Of The Year at this year’s NMG (New Music Generator) Awards. Unsurprisingly, all of this has made her one of the most sought after ﬁgures in the UK pro audio industry, already becoming something of a regular on the market’s conference and panel circuit. Indeed, she
played a starring role at last month’s PSN Presents session, which she appeared on a panel alongside award-winning producer and engineer Wes Maebe and Miloco Studios COO Nick Young to discuss the state of the studio sector. Her unique ability to learn and develop her studio skills at such lightning speed can be traced back to her precocious musical talent. In her teenage years she dropped out of school to pursue a career as part of an acoustic folk group in her native Hertfordshire – Walkern, to be precise - with Davies’ advanced abilities as a guitarist and vocalist catching the eye of local talent scouts. And while the band would soon fall by the wayside – her fellow bandmates opting not to drop out of school to pursue a life of folk – she quickly became obsessed with the engineering and production process, prompting her to start assembling a home studio set
up dubbed The Den in the back garden of her parents’ house, where she continues to record and produce records for a diverse array of acts. “There was a clear couple of points where I decided I was going to do this seriously,” she states as we take our seats at a table of a sleepy Hertfordshire pub, the setting of today’s interview. “I ﬁrst really got into it when my band started going to lots of amazing studios, like Metropolis, and I was constantly over the shoulder of the engineer asking, What does this do, what does that do? That sparked my interest – seeing all the mics and the gear…I knew this was what I wanted to do. We had this unique situation where we were busking here in Hertford and this guy came over, hands us a business card and says, I have a studio, would you like to come and record? That was Martin Lumsden at the Cream Room Studios. We recorded two of our EPs there and
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got really involved in the production side of things.” Over the course of our conversation, Davies gives us the inside track on her audio infatuation, gear and how she has managed to progress through the ranks at breakneck pace… How did you go about setting up The Den? I had this space at the bottom of the garden that was originally like a pool house, and I started moving more and more gear down there. Then, all of my band members went back to school – we were planning on dropping out because the band looked like it was doing so well – but the rest of the band’s parents made them go back. My mum said I didn’t have to go back because I was doing quite a lot with recording my own music and other bands in The Den. I came up with so many interesting techniques as to how to do things differently because I had such bad equipment! I still use some of those methods now when I want
Tell us about becoming the youngest member of the MPG. I didn’t apply to be a member until I was 19 because I didn’t think I would qualify! I then realised in retrospect that I’d have qualiﬁed when I was 17 because of the output I’d already had at that point. Martin Lumsden was probably the person that encouraged me most to join. I ended up working on Laura Marling’s Reversal Of The Muse project because of the MPG. I’ve worked on loads of cool projects, been to some great events and as a result got to know loads more people because I’ve gone on behalf of the MPG. It’s what you make of it, as anything is in life. Have you encountered any discrimination on account of your age, and the fact the percentage of female producers is still so negligible? The primary issue people did have was my age. I was not aware that I was a female doing record production
What have been some of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on? The most inspiring person I’ve worked with is Kate Dimbleby. She’d already done four albums and the album she did with me [Songbirds] was an entirely acapella, vocal looped experimental thing. I was so excited, although doing a full album with someone who is already established was a bit daunting. The thing that was so amazing was that it was expanding the reality of what you could do with vocals. Another artist I‘ve loved working with is Minnie Birch. I’ve been friends with her for years and I wanted to do her last album so badly – I did two tracks on it – but I was so happy to work on the full new album. We’ve been working on it all year and it’s so amazing. Talk us through your studio set up? For most of last year I was running a UAD Apollo Quad and I really like that because I mostly multi-track, so I
HAVE SPOTIFY? LISTEN TO LAUREN’S PRODUCTION WORK ON SINGER-SONGWRITER KATE DIMBLEBY’S SONGBIRDS ALBUM BY SCANNING THE QR-STYLE CODE IN THE APP
to get some weird sounds. By the time I was 18 I’d recorded two EPs, and when I started earning some money from it I would use it to reinvest and buy better gear. The third EP I made, which was for Kelly Oliver, got played on BBC Radio 2. I was 18 at the time and that made me the youngest female producer to have a track on Radio 2, so I was like, OK, maybe I’m not making completely rubbish music here! Few producers of such a young age could have made so much critically acclaimed work so early on in their career. Is there anything you have done differently to reach the level you are at today? I’m quite an experimental person. There’s also the blind naivety and enthusiasm I have that something is going to work. Having parents that supported me was really helpful. Plus, I had no social life. There were no other 17-year-olds that weren’t in school, so during the day I was making friends with lots of adults and hanging around with professional musicians who do music fulltime. That put me in quite a unique position. Even now at 22, I’m still the youngest in so many things that I do, having worked a lot with people older than me.
until I reached a certain point of people knowing who I was. Then everyone was like, What’s it like to be a female record producer? Then I realised and looked into it and found out only 3% of record producers are female. Sometimes people just assume I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve had times when people have come into my studio and they’ve brought a session musician along and the session musician – and it’s always men that do this, women never do – will start saying, I think you should do it like this, or you should do it like that, and I’m like, I’ll do it the way I’m going to do it. I’ve had years of experience and I know what I’m doing. Also, if I’m at any kind of producers’ event, people assume I’m either someone’s girlfriend or a singer. Do you see any steps being taken to change these archaic attitudes? The MPG is linking up with existing female–orientated events, and Red Bull have set up this thing called Normal Not Novelty – I’ve done an engineering workshop there. And there are other organisations like Girls I Rate, which is incredible - the MPG are getting involved with things like that.
don’t need to record loads of things at once. I use Logic; everyone is like, You should use Pro Tools, and I can use Pro Tools but personally I prefer Logic. I’m currently running an entirely DigiGrid system, and I use Ethernet cables for everything, plus it’s all modular so you can extend to any amount of inputs you want. I have Lexicon outboard units but I have the Lexicon plugins, so I end up using that instead. And having Waves plugins makes a lot of the others obsolete. What’s your approach to production? If I’m recording someone on acoustic guitar, I’ll ask if they know where the sweet spots are on the guitar. It saves time, say, if someone tells me they tried something at a different studio and it sounds great. Then I’ll try it and if I’m not sure of it I’ll ask them to try something else. Who are some of your main inﬂuences as a producer at the moment? Catherine Marks and Charlie Andrew. Both of those are pretty inspiring. www.laurendeakindavies.com/home
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Signs of the times Fraser T Smith, the man who produced one of the year’s most talked about and inﬂuential albums in the form of Stormzy’s Gang Signs & Prayer, is currently helping shape the sound of urban music in the UK. Daniel Gumble paid a visit to his south London studio to discuss how he produced one of 2017’s deﬁning records, production techniques and what’s in-store for 2018 and beyond…
Cooking up a Storm: Fraser T Smith
hen UK grime poster boy Stormzy dropped his debut album Gang Signs & Prayer (GSAP) back in February it was seen as a landmark moment for UK urban music. Having simmered beneath the mainstream’s surface for well over a decade, grime had been threatening to tip the scales from underground movement to bona ﬁde pop culture phenomenon for some time, with things seemingly coming to a head when Skepta scooped the 2016 Mercury Prize with the critically acclaimed Konnichiwa. Here was a genre that had seemingly done the impossible – balancing widespread critical and commercial reverence without losing a drop of its bristling anti-establishment, independent aesthetic. However, Skepta’s Mercury Prize victory proved to be more a sign of things to come than a peak for the scene, as exempliﬁed by the success of the ground-breaking, sonically complex GSAP just a few months later. Topping the UK album charts, the record also spawned a Top 10 hit with lead single Big For Your Boots, paving the way for a number of burgeoning grime acts to come to the fore, including the likes of Stefflon Don, Dave and Ray BLK to name but a few, while Spotify’s UK senior editor
of content programming described the genre as “the most potent genre since Britpop” in a conversation with PSNEurope sister publication Music Week. As its title suggest, GSAP is an album of artistic and sonic contrast, balancing electronic beats and bass lines with everything from live strings, harp and choir. Much of this can be attributed to the production techniques weaved throughout the fabric of each and every track by its producer, Fraser T Smith. Having started out his professional life as a session musician - both in the studio and in a touring capacity with prog rock icon Rick Wakeman in the 1990s, he went on to play guitar and produce work with Craig David on his breakthrough album Born To Do It. After deciding to hang up his guitar and take up residence on the other side of the glass, he has since amassed an impressive roster of clients, working with the likes of Adele, Sam Smith, Britney Spears, Ellie Goulding and more. Here he tells PSNEurope how he brought one of 2017’s most important records to life, what he considers to be the biggest challenges facing the studio sector right now and how technology is changing the role of studio professionals…
Talk us through the making of GSAP? The important thing was the concept, which from the beginning was gang signs and prayer. It was one of the ﬁrst things he mentioned – that his life is like gang signs on one side, in terms of where he was from in south London and all the things that are associated with the pressure to be part of a gang and knife culture, and also his devotion to his religious side…the darkness and light. I thought the whole juxtaposition was really interesting. It’s human consciousness, walking the line between good and bad, God and the darker sides. I thought musically it would be interesting to contrast some of the sounds Stormzy was talking about – he’s really into strings, harps and piano – with dark beats and bass lines. That concept and album title pushed us to be more beautiful on the prayer side, working with live strings and choirs and harpists, through to working with other producers sending us
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beats and ideas and wanting to make that as hard and edgy as possible. What gear did you use to make the record? It was a hybrid of Pro Tools, Ableton and the MPC. I’ve got a great relationship with Eric Valentine from Under Tone Audio and we used his preamps. We designed a desk together, which is the UTA console we used that has his EQ, and we tracked most of the instruments through that and bounced a lot of the stuff out at the mixing stage. That hybrid approach was what we took to mixing – half in the box, half out. Which mics did you use to record the vocals? We were inﬂuenced by albums like Kanye [West’s] The Life Of Pablo, Frank Ocean’s Blonde and all of Drake’s stuff from a sonic point of view. We were really working on getting a high-end vocal sound, which would be great against the darkness of the drums and the bass and it would allow Stormzy’s vocal to really cut through. The main mic we used was a Brauner VM1 into an Avedis preamp, into an API 550 EQ and a Tube Tech CL1B compressor, so it was a pretty high-end chain. We also used the UTA preamp as well, which has its own EQ on different tracks. Then we would take Stormzy’s vocal and bounce it out through the desk and through another compression stage – we’ve got the UTA Fairchild compressor, which is incredible. How do you approach music production? My way is really to assimilate what it is the artist wants. That’s the job of the producer. I put myself in the camp of being very empathetic and I want to understand the vision and take that on and work with the artist to make sure that vision is fulﬁlled, and then take it even further. In terms of a way of working, the most important thing is not to have a set way of doing things. But that means you have to study hard to constantly keep up with new ways of working and be open to collaboration. What are your three most essential piece of kit? My engineer! Manon Grandjean, who I’ve worked with for three years, allows me to be close to the artist and I don’t have to get too involved in the technical side. She’s fantastic, she understands my way of working, she can work very quickly, she has great attention to detail. She’s able to work in the way that I was working for so many years when I didn’t have an engineer. I’m a perfectionist and I’m very quick on Pro Tools, and she can match that type of speed, which is great. Then I would say my Ableton set up. And also my MPCX drum machine. How valuable was your experience as a session musician when starting your career as a producer? So crucial. Because as a touring musician you can see the pressures an artist is put under in terms of time interviews, early morning shows etc. And by the time they come to the studio they might have had to do four
Inside Fraser T Smith’s London studio
different interviews, a photo shoot… You have to be aware of these things. After all that, they generally don’t want to be going into a vocal booth and road testing ﬁve different mics, where you have to listen to the intricate details between the Brauner and the Neumann. Because I’ve been the other side of the glass I understand that you have to do all of that before the artist comes in. Once they come in you need to make sure that when the red light goes on you’re ready. Has technology and the rise of the home studio made it harder for budding engineers and producers to embark on a professional studio career? Initially it can make things quicker. If you have a great beat, that’ll ﬁnd its home, whether it’s a publisher, manager or artist. You have a quicker rise, but you can stall if you don’t keep learning and understanding that production is a craft that takes years to accomplish. I’m not snobbish at all, there are people out there who are 15, 16 that are making incredible music on their laptop. It’s amazing that you don’t have to sit in a big studio and go through the whole process of learning that craft until you can ﬁnally get a night in a studio where you can use all the equipment. But what is maybe lacking is that there is no substitute for time in terms of understanding how to record a vocal and get the best out of an artist. You have to learn to be able to step back from the track and think about the emotional content and how it is linked to the sounds and all of those different things. Does the streaming boom take away focus from production values, given that more and more people are now listening to highly compressed MP3s? I think the records have to sound better because of
that. Nowadays there is no excuse with the quality of converters available and how we can be so creative within modern DAWs. I remember starting out with a DigiDesign 888 and the difference between that and a 192 and then the 192 with an external clock. I’m of the opinion that records have to sound better now. Plus, phones and laptops sound really good now, and with the advent of Beats by Dre speakers everyone has their own signature headphones and their own favourite headphones. Of course, that’s a status symbol, but with that a lot of people are listening to music in a high ﬁdelity manner. What would your advice be to someone pursuing a professional studio career? Study different genres and great records. If you want a career in music, that equals a career of learning and looking at all the disciplines associated with being a great engineer or producer. There’s a joy in never stopping learning and that means you’ll be able to turn your hand to different genres and be around for a whole career, rather than a year to two years. What’s next for you? I’ve just ﬁnished the Dave EP, which is amazing. We released Question Time, which is a very subversive track about politics and Dave’s view of the current political landscape in England. It’s completely uncensored. Working with him has been incredible. I’m working with Stormzy on new material, so it’s exciting to see where that takes us. I’ve worked on the new Callum Scott record and Raye on her new single, and Ray BLK as well. There are so many incredible artists coming out of the UK at the moment.
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Walls of sound Delivering the perfect studio design for small-scale mixing and recording facilities can be a complex and challenging task. PSNEurope spoke to Chris Walls, founder of studio design specialist Level Acoustic Design, who provides some unique insights into how to strike the perfect balance when designing one’s own space…
early everyone will have watched a TV programme and ﬁlm or heard a top 10 single made in a Level Acoustic-designed facility. Company founder Chris Walls started his acoustic design consultancy specialising in high-end studio design out of his passion for good sound. The company has acquired a reputation for designing great sounding studios, even in challenging locations and more recently has been faced with the added complication of designing professional-grade studios in small spaces. “Music, ﬁlm and television production have traditionally been carried out in large purpose-built studios, which makes sense from an acoustic point of view; large rooms generally sound better than small rooms,” said Walls. “We have been lucky to design quite a few large studios, however they are becoming increasingly rare because of high property values and the capital cost of constructing, equipping and maintaining studios. It is not surprising that there is an increasing trend towards the use of smaller spaces in which the majority of audio work can be completed, occasionally moving to larger facilities for speciﬁc recording tasks or ﬁnal mixing.” The ﬁrst and most important task in every project is to understand the client’s operational requirements and understand how the studio needs to perform acoustically. “There are a few inherent acoustic limitations in small rooms which require particular attention during design to achieve good acoustic performance, including low frequency anomalies caused by room modes, colouration due to reﬂections from room boundaries and equipment,” adds Walls. “It’s all about being able to achieve a balanced energy response within the room.” Having been involved with the design of more than 70 recording studios at Tileyard Studios, Level Acoustic Design is familiar with the challenges a small space creates. “The most recent Tileyard project was to emulate the sound of one of its larger studios but in a much smaller volume. That led to a few new design ideas which proved to be very successful and have since been implemented elsewhere. We designed the live room walls and ceiling to achieve a particular early reﬂection pattern which makes the studio sound bigger than it actually is. It means you can add a fairly luxuriant reverb to anything recorded in there and it melds very well because of the rooms’ early reﬂection signature.”
“Large studios are becoming more rare because of high property values”: Chris Walls
Some of the challenges faced when designing a small studio include low frequency monitoring accuracy which is largely dictated by the modal behaviour of the room. Room modes are frequencies whose wavelengths have a simple correlation with the room geometry and at these frequencies the amplitude response is signiﬁcantly affected. Modes are generally quite spread out at low frequencies, which gives rise to an uneven amplitude response, with some frequencies being supported by modes and others not. “It is quite common for small studios to have pronounced modal behaviour in to the low mid frequency region,” continues Walls. “When designing small studios, it is particularly important to deal with the prominent modal frequencies to ensure they do not adversely affect the monitoring response. Where space is limited, this can only be achieved using resonant absorbers such as membrane,
Helmholtz or panel absorbers; foam and Rockwool will do very little to help at these frequencies! It is possible to mitigate the worst of the room mode effects, but careful design is key to achieving good translation between small studios, large studios and ultimately the consumer’s playback format”. Level Acoustic Design recently completed a project for Molinare Post Production, completely refurbishing an existing 5.1 mix studio and upgrading the monitoring to 7.1 with Atmos HE and premix capabilities. “The commercial requirement for immersive audio has deﬁnitely increased over the last couple of years with US productions in particular starting to explore Atmos HE for home entertainment releases,” adds Walls. “We have designed quite a few small Atmos rooms to serve this market in the past six months and our focus has been on maintaining the acoustic quality in these
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smaller spaces. This is part of an ongoing trend of trying to squeeze more and more out of smaller and smaller spaces – it’s not unusual to walk in to a 10m2 studio with monitors that go down to 25Hz. That is generally not a recipe for success!” In music, many artists and producers are building their own small, private studios. Level Acoustic Design continues to reﬁne designs to eke out every last bit of performance while educating clients as to what can realistically be achieved in a small room. “The brief is typically for a modestly-sized, relaxing space which doesn’t necessarily feel like a studio, however there is still the expectation that they can accurately monitor and mix, which throws up some challenges in balancing layout and aesthetics with acoustic performance”. “Reﬂections pose a challenge in small mixing rooms as they arrive at the mix position sooner and stronger in a small room than a large room due to the closer proximity of the partitions”. Strong, early reﬂections will combine with the sound arriving directly from the loudspeakers and cause errors in the frequency response and stereo imaging. “Acoustic treatment in small rooms must be designed to attenuate early reﬂections such that they do not
adversely affect the direct sound, which in practice means attenuating them by at least 10dB relative to the direct sound”. Another reﬂection-based problem is the boundary interference effect, whereby sound emanating from a loudspeaker is reﬂected by nearby surfaces and
THE BRIEF IS TYPICALLY FOR A RELAXING SPACE WHICH DOESN’T NECESSARILY FEEL LIKE A STUDIO, WHICH MEANS BALANCING LAYOUT AND AESTHETICS WITH ACOUSTIC PERFORMANCE
CHRIS WALLS arrives back at the loudspeaker with a 180° phase shift causing cancellation and a resulting notch in the frequency response. “In a large room it is often possible to position the loudspeakers far enough from room boundaries that the notch is below the speaker’s cut-off frequency, however in small rooms the notch frequency
will generally be in the 80Hz – 150Hz region and there will often be several notches relating to several nearby boundaries,” says Walls. “Dealing with boundary interference effects in small rooms can be tricky but considered positioning of loudspeakers can usually give a satisfactory low frequency response.” The solutions to designing a small room generally involve using acoustic treatment to absorb sound in the room. “It is important when designing the absorption in any room that a suitable balance of low, mid and high frequency energy is maintained. If a room, particularly a small room, is treated solely with foam or mineral wool panels (which absorb primarily high frequencies) it will tend to have a lot of low frequency energy and very little mid and high frequency energy. This is generally what has happened when people complain of rooms sounding ‘boomy’. “When it comes to studio room acoustics, bigger is generally better. Designing small studios largely involve mitigating potential problems thrown up by the reduced size, however with careful design it is possible to achieve a small studio which enables accurate monitoring and translates well to larger studios and the ﬁnal delivery format – as well as a really great space.” www.levelacousticdesign.com
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PHOTO CREDIT: Ugo Ponte©onl
The Orchestre National de Lille perform Verdi’s Requiem with a L-ISA system
The L-ISA revolution L-Acoustics’ ambition continues apace with L-ISA, a new immersive processing, recording, mixing, label and playback system, aimed at live music and special events, as well as high end private markets. Simon Duff reports….
ince 1984 Dr. Christian Heil and his company L-Acoustics have been at the forefront of live sound with their pioneering Line Source Systems. From the MTD Coaxial Series and V-DOSC to K1, Kara, K2 line source arrays, up to 2017’s Syva colinear source and the upcoming P1 networked digital audio processor, its touring and installation solutions have gained the company an enviable position. Heil’s desire to innovate and progress has been relentless. In 2014 that drive and ambition took a new turn when he announced a new venture called L-ISA, a radical immersive sound format designed to target not only live sound but also studio recording, re-mixing, re-mastering and private installations. Relocating from Paris to London to realise the project, Heil has set up the L-ISA headquarters in a former Post Office sorting depot in north London. Alongside him is a team headed up by Sherif El Barbari, director of L-ISA Labs and Guillaume Le Nost, director of R&D, L-ISA. Make no mistake, the scale, courage and ambition of L-ISA is enormous and far reaching. L-ISA stands for Immersive Sound Art and the new company forms part of the L-Group that includes L-Acoustics, as well as the Camco and Simea brands. L-ISA is an immersive audio technology, combining L-Acoustics’ sound design and loudspeaker systems with sophisticated processing tools to create what Heil terms is a “hyperrealistic experience for audiences at live shows, creative events and private residences. L-ISA aims to provide high performance, practical solutions for artists, composers and live entertainment
professionals who wish to integrate ultimate localisation accuracy and immersive sound experiences into their live performances.”
L-ISA Live At the heart of the L-ISA system is the L-ISA Live application for large scale events and touring. Based on a frontal PA system, it offers object-based mix processing, utilising a minimum of ﬁve L-Acoustics line source arrays across what it identiﬁes as the Performance Zone. The process can go up to, and handle as many as 32 arrays.
WE BELIEVE L-ISA WILL SATISFY THE GROWING DEMANDS OF ARTISTS AND SHOW DESIGNERS WISHING TO DELIVER THE ULTIMATE MULTI-DIMENSIONAL EXPERIENCE
GUILLAUME LE NOST Supplementing the Performance Zone is the Immersive system, which surrounds and envelopes the audience with additional sound sources and effects (a Extension Zone can also be used). At the heart of the installation, a L-ISA Processor provides object-oriented mixing of up to 96 audio sources routed into 32 speaker outputs. The L-ISA Controller software offers ﬁve control
parameters: Pan, Width, Distance, Elevation and an Aux Send. In a live application audio signal path the L-ISA Processor is utilised between the output of the FOH console and the loudspeaker amps, supporting MADI, up to 96kHz. The overall aim of L-ISA Live is to bring audio back into the heart of an event. Critically, it is a move away from the traditional L/R line array hang tradition, in essence bringing back sound to a centre focus with immersion. Guillaume Le Nost comments: “What you see is what you hear is one of our slogans. We believe that L-ISA technologies will satisfy the growing demands of artists and show designers wishing to deliver the ultimate multi-dimensional experience. Due to the high spatial resolution of our multichannel speaker installations, a L-ISA sound system provides the audience with spectacular dynamics, low distortion, and a thrilling and unforgettably natural feel. It really is time that audio caught up with developments in video and lighting and that a new audio focus be found and accepted.”
Recent L-ISA shows The proof is already evident that L-ISA is making a serious impact on the touring sector. Across a range of diverse acts the system is being deployed on large shows. L-ISA Live has been used in a recent 50+ date tour in France by the French singer songwriter Renaud, and American electronic duo Odesza used it on a recent large scale EDM production in California. However, Le Nost believes that classical music is an area where L-ISA will be in high demand. In July this year one of the
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most high proﬁle and largest deployments of L-ISA to date was for a performance of Verdi’s Requiem given by the Orchestre National de Lille and the Choeur Régional Hauts-de-France. The concert took place at Lille’s Stade Pierre-Mauroy, a 30,000-capacity stadium and home for the Lille football team. In order to realise the event, Sherif El Barbari studied the acoustics of the Stade Pierre-Mauroy stadium, modelling it in L-Acoustics’ Soundvision software before proposing a L-ISA system comprising seven hangs of nine Kara stretched across the stage, to deliver hyper-localised sound. A mirror system of seven ground stacks of two Kiva II each across the stage lip provided front ﬁll. Two hangs of eight K2 served as outﬁll and two central hangs of four KS28 subwoofers provided low end. The entire system was driven by LA8 and LA12X ampliﬁed controllers. A L-ISA controller provided an advanced object-based multichannel environment for the event. François Gabert, FOH engineer of the Orchestre National de Lille, commented after the concert. “We found the L-ISA controller very simple to use. The interface is intuitive and very functional. Once the sources are placed in their space, the mixing is fairly conventional and any adjustments within the software during the concert were quick and easy.” Central to the system’s design was the desire to deliver the what you see is what you hear ethic, to each of the 13,000 spectators at the concert, effectively putting the audience into the sweet spot occupied traditionally by the conductor, Jean-Claude Casadesus. It was, however, the clarity and natural feel of the sound which most impressed Gabert. He adds: “The greatest compliment that I could receive would be for someone to ask me after a concert if there was any sound reinforcement. Given the results we obtained at the Stade, I’m convinced that in a more traditional environment, the audience wouldn’t know that there was any sound reinforcement at all.” Gabert says that, having experienced L-ISA, going back to using any other system would be “heartbreaking”. “It is an indispensable tool for classical music, opera and large ensembles. I look forward to working with L-ISA again and deepening this experience. L-ISA has a bright future ahead.”
Theme Park Another high proﬁle use of L-ISA is its deployment in theme parks. Where the sound system is used for show playback purposes it is called L-ISA Creative. In July this year L-Acoustics and the theme park Puy du Fou, in Western France, one of Europe’s most successful theme parks, announced that they had signed a privileged partnership agreement. By joining the Puy du Fou Club of Partners, L-Acoustics, and the famous theme park, which has used L-Acoustics sound systems for more than a decade and now with the use of L-ISA, strengthened their collaboration. Puy du Fou is a unique concept created by Philippe de Villiers 40 years ago. Nestled in the countryside,
A L-ISA Private Island installation
L-ISA’s Private Island installs aim to bring the power of L-Acoustics sound into the home
the theme park offers visitors the chance to travel through time via incredible spectacles staged across the park. The ﬁrst L-Acoustics system at the Puy du Fou was installed in 2000 for the Gallo-roman Stadium. Today, the manufacturer’s sound systems are in use throughout the park, most notably in Le Dernier Panache, which took the industry-recognised Thea Award this year and which features the ﬁrst permanent installation of L-ISA.
The L-ISA lab The L-ISA project was developed from the start with a clear vision. The company’s aim is to support musical creation and sound art with an exceptionally high
resolution audio format, speciﬁcally developed to render the full dynamic range and every nuance of music. To make that vision come true, the L-ISA Lab in London was transformed to ﬁll in the missing links between audio technology, sound artists, music creators and patrons of ﬁne art, and thus to give life to unique pieces of 21st century music art. The 24-channel playback format and corresponding mixing algorithms have been developed to reﬁne the musical reproduction and provide the highest quality spatial resolution. Le Nost adds: “Musical creations mixed in the L-ISA Lab provoke a sense of musical hyperrealism. The listener becomes the conductor of a symphony orchestra, the concert pianist in mid-recital,
P34 DECEMBER 2017
the close friend of a rock star watching from within the stage area, or profoundly immersed in a tropical rainforest. Every nuance, every instrument, every movement is reproduced with extreme precision in a multi-dimensional sound universe. The L-ISA Lab offers facilities for artist residencies, recording and music production. Technical training and support can be provided, depending on the complexity of the projects.”
L-ISA AND DIGICO The scale and ambition of L-ISA raises new challenges for many sectors in pro audio manufacturing. Already, leading brands are on board with Heil’s vision. In June of this year, Digico announced an L-LISA feature in that an L-ISA Source Control functionality would be integrated into Digico’s SD range of mixing consoles, adding L-ISA’s object-based mixing technology to the console’s control surface. For L-ISA Live and Creative applications, the seamless integration of L-ISA Source Control into the Digico SD-Series means that sound engineers will be able to use a familiar workﬂow on an industry-leading console to manage immersive environments easily and intuitively. With the L-ISA/Digico integration, up to 96 Input Channels can be designated ‘L-ISA channels’, each one allowing the engineer to control pan, width, distance and elevation, as well as a designated aux send, for any given L-ISA source object directly from the mixing console. All L-ISA parameters can be stored in the powerful Snapshots engine and recalled in the same
P35 DECEMBER 2017
Western France’s Puy du Fou boasts a L-ISA installation
way as other console parameters. The L-ISA Source Control functionality expands the range of creative choices the mixing engineer can employ simultaneously, ranging from classic stereo or 5.1 controls, for uses such as down mixes or auxes, to the advanced object-based multichannel environment offered by L-ISA. El Barbari comments: “As well as offering a streamlined user experience, integrating the L-ISA Source Control into Digico’s SD consoles provides productions with a sophisticated yet intuitive solution to the growing demand for immersive sound designs. Working with the outstanding team at Digico has helped us move closer to our shared vision of bringing immersive, hyperreal sound to live, professional and private events.” “Digico is always keen to innovate, and it was fun and interesting to see what the possibilities were,” affirms James Gordon, managing director at Digico. “It’s been a pleasure to work with L-Acoustics to integrate L-ISA with the SD-Range. We share a lot of customers around the world and adding this new level of integration and control into the new world possibilities of L-ISA further strengthens our commitment to them and to the immersive future of sound.”
L-ISA Private The L-ISA Private system transforms the 23.1 objectbased record/mix/playback/system format into a high-end residential offer called L-ISA Private, using
23 L-Acoustics loudspeaker channels plus sub, set up in a geometric conﬁguration. Loudspeaker numbers can go up to as many as 48 depending on room size. Essentially, L-ISA Private offers private users the chance to experience L-Acoustics’ sound live in the comfort of their own home. Content is currently being made available through the Blububbles music label and sound art gallery. Private installations offer 18 main channels, a bass channel and up to ﬁve overhead channels. Three L-ISA Private systems are available, catering for different room sizes: Island, Ocean and Arena. At the heart of these systems is an L-ISA Player, a 24-channel playback device that stores and reproduces audio content. New sound immersion and content is at the heart of Heil’s thinking. The L-ISA Player, working off a format called Blu 23.1, has been specially designed to provide audiences with the best available sonic quality. It can be controlled via either a dedicated hardware remote, the Blububbles control tray, speciﬁcally for Blububbles content, or via the intuitive L-ISA Player control app on a tablet or smartphone. The control app also allows basic selection of more traditional sources, such as Blu-Ray players, or digital media players, which can be easily integrated into the installation irrespective of their physical location within a home. The control tray itself is quite literally a veritable jewel box. It controls essential functions while playing back an individuals’ choice of music, which is stored in ‘Bubbles’.
When a Bubble is placed on the control tray, it automatically starts playing the corresponding content. The listener can then relax and adjust the level using the wireless volume control that can be removed from the tray to keep close to hand. The Blububbles control tray is connected to an installation via a single network connector.
Sound Art The Blububbles music label and sound art gallery represents artists, bands and orchestras from different musical genres. The idea is that these artists will produce limited editions of, for example, their live performances, that are remixed for the Blububbles label. Other artists may choose to produce dedicated pieces as one unique artistic piece. Artist commissioning is an element of the Blububbles’ mission that consists of elevating the quality of listening to its highest level, as well as bringing the experience of musical art to the home. Artists working with the label so far include French classical music ensemble, Les Siècles as well as Yapa, a jazz group from Paris, and composers Jeremy Brown and Robert Thomas. Exciting times indeed for Heil and his team and indeed all those working in the immersive audio ﬁeld. Many challenges remain but given Heil’s track record, ambition and determination he is well on his way with his new adventure in modern sound. www.l-isa-immersive.com www.l-acoustics.com
Funding the Back in October, the MOBO Trust partnered with Help Musicians UK to launch the MOBO Help Musicians Fund – a new scheme aimed at supporting the best in grassroots producers and artists. Here, Daniel Gumble speaks to MOBO founder and CEO Kanya King to discuss her ambitions for the fund and how the organisation is renewing its commitment to studio professionals…
ast month, MOBO’s recently launched charity arm, MOBO Trust, teamed up with Help Musicians UK to launch a brand new fund aimed at supporting grassroots talent, from budding songwriters and artists to the most exciting up and coming music producers. The initiative invites those at the start of their career to apply for funding to help them hone their skills at the most pivotal stage of their development. Over the course of a year, the fund will offer grants of up to £2,000 each to help support the best new talent from across the UK. According to the MOBO Trust and Help Musicians UK, those who attain grants will be better equipped to ‘fund a broad spectrum of activities that are vital to an artist’s career and creative development - from vocal coaching, support for live performance and touring, video production, recording studio access, PR, marketing and promotion’.
IN THE PAST 20 YEARS WE HAVE SEEN THE RISE OF ‘SUPER PRODUCERS’ THAT COMMAND A BIG PROFILE AND RELEASE SUCCESSFUL RECORDS IN THEIR OWN NAME. I THINK IT IS SAFE TO SAY THIS HAS INFLUENCED A NEW GENERATION OF CREATIVES TO PURSUE THIS PATH
KANYA KING Adding to MOBO’s commitment to recognising the best in studio talent, next year will see the 2018 MOBO Awards incorporate a Best Producer category for the ﬁrst time in its history (this year’s awards take place at the First Direct Arena in Leeds on November 29). Announcing the launch, Kanya King, founder and CEO of MOBO Organisation, outlined her ambitions for the initiative: “MOBO has a long history of championing and supporting the next generation of musical talent in British black music. But with each new generation of artists, come new challenges to develop one’s art and get to the next level, so ﬁnancial backing early on is critical to the long-term growth of a ﬂedgling artist. We are delighted to partner with Help Musicians UK, a charitable organisation we have much affinity with, to offer extraordinarily talented artists the chance to progress at a crucial stage in their careers. In the past year alone, the British black music scene has grown from strength to strength, contributing hugely both commercially and artistically to our industry - MOBO continues to be pivotal in supporting the scene, from the start of a career, through to the pinnacle of success.” Claire Gevaux, creative director of Help Musicians UK said of the new initiative: “This is such an important partnership with MOBO Trust and we’re delighted to be offering this new opportunity to support emerging artists realise
future Breaking down barriers: Kanya King
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their career aspirations. We know that the journey to achieve a successful, long-term career in the music industry can be incredibly tough. We are dedicated to investing in artists who are performing or creating great music and who, with a bit of support and guidance from this new fund, can grow their talent even further.” To ﬁnd out more, PSNEurope editor Daniel Gumble asked King how the new fund will help future generations of producers and what she believes are the biggest barriers facing grassroots talent… Why is now the right time to launch this fund? MOBO has a long history of championing and supporting the next generation of musical talent in British black music. But with each new generation of artists come new challenges to develop one’s art and get to the next level, so ﬁnancial backing early on is critical to the long-term growth of a ﬂedgling artist or producer. We are delighted to partner with Help Musicians UK, a charitable organisation we have much affinity with, to offer extraordinarily talented young people the chance to progress at a crucial stage in their careers. In the past year alone, the British black music scene has grown from strength to strength, contributing hugely both commercially and artistically to our industry - MOBO continues to be pivotal in supporting the scene, from the start of a career, through to the pinnacle of success.
production. Traditional understandings of genres are breaking down and there is more collaboration. What are the biggest barriers/challenges facing grassroots musicians and producers? Opportunity and the right exposure. It is important more than ever to protect live music spaces and continue to foster environments where emerging and grassroots talents can develop and showcase their material.
they have come from. The MOBO Help Musicians Fund is the ﬁrst scheme to be announced by the MOBO Trust and has been developed as part of the organisation’s existing talent development programme. Through the work of the fund we are trying to break down barriers and help young people realise their potential in a wide range of disciplines and help them break into creative sectors, in particular the music industry.
How challenging is it for working class kids to break into the music industry? Of course it is a competitive industry and it can be challenging to break into the industry, but the likes of MOBO Awards winners such as Krept & Konan, Stormzy and Skepta are inspiring a new generation to think it is possible to succeed in the music industry despite where
What was the thinking behind adding a Best Producer category for next year’s awards? As a music awards platform showcasing a diverse range of music genres, it makes perfect sense that we recognise the achievement of great producers who are shaping the sonic landscape and creating a soundtrack for a generation.
Kanya King: ‘With new generations come new challenges’
How do you envision the fund assisting budding producers starting out in their career? The MOBO Help Musicians fund will offer grants of up to £2,000 to support exceptionally talented producers with their musical career ambitions. Those eligible for the grants would be able to fund a wide range of activities that are vital to a producer’s career and creative development - from production to recording studio access. The fund will be open to producers who have been making music but do not already have signiﬁcant ﬁnancial backing. Has there been a notable rise in the number of young people looking to pursue a career in production as opposed to/or in addition to pursuing a career as a performer or artist? In the past 20 years we have seen the rise of ‘super’ producers that command a big proﬁle and release successful records in their name, such as Timbaland, Pharrell, Mark Ronson and Naughty Boy to name a few. I think it’s safe to say this has inﬂuenced a new generation of creatives to pursue this path. How are you seeing talent on the production side of things progressing at the moment? With advances in technology making it more accessible for virtually anyone to experiment with Logic or ProTools etc., it has opened the ﬁeld up to more emerging talent and with that comes emergences of different styles and inﬂuences. It is a very exciting time for music
P40 DECEMBER 2017
Mixing it with the best: Marta Salogni
All in the mind
Earlier this year, studio engineer and producer Marta Salogni mixed Bjork’s hotly-anticipated and sonically ambitious new record Utopia. And while the album is indeed a technical triumph, for Salogni the process is equally dependent on the psychological interplay between her and her subject. Daniel Gumble paid her a visit at London’s RAK Studios to ﬁnd out how she arrived where she is today and what it was like to work with one of the world’s most aurally ambitious artists…
ixer and producer Marta Salogni has established herself as one of the industry’s most sought after studio talents in recent years. Her client roster is liberally peppered with acts both new and established, spanning styles and genres across the board. The very briefest of glances at her list of mixing credits tells you everything you need to know about her versatility behind the desk and her ferocious work ethic, having mixed new music for the likes of HMLTD, Liars, Sampha, White Lies, M.I.A, Bombino, Shura’s Space Tapes, Alex Cameron and Django Django. Furthermore, she has engineered for acts including M.I.A, Philip Selway (Radiohead), Toy, Tracey Thorn, The Moonlandingz, These New Puritans and Beth Ditto, while also working with David Wrench on projects such as Frank Ocean’s album Blonde, FKA Twigs and Sampha, Factory Floor, Blossoms, Glass Animals, Pixx, Bloc Party, LA Priest, and Let’s Eat Grandma. Oh, and she was handpicked by Bjork to mix her brand new album Utopia (released November 24).
To cap 2017 off in style, she has also earned herself a nomination for Breakthrough Engineer Of The Year at the 2018 MPG Awards, held in London on March 1. Based predominantly out of London’s RAK Studios, Salogni’s diverse musical taste was cultivated in her native Italy – the small town of Capriolo in Brescia, to be precise - which hosts a population of just 7,000 people. It was here that she spent her formative years, with musical acts of all shapes, sizes and styles passing through one of its only local grassroots music venues. It was also here that her obsession with the art of sound was ignited, cutting her teeth at FOH for a variety of gigs and theatre productions. “There is so much behind the scenes that inﬂuences the performance, and it’s seamless - no one watching is aware of it, which seemed so magical to me,” Salogni beams as we take our seats for the next hour in RAK Studios’ Studio 4. “That’s the ultimate achievement, when people don’t even know how these amazing things are happening.” After years developing and diversifying her talents
in the live arena, Salogni made the decision to relocate to London to broaden her horizons on the advice of a fellow local engineer. She immediately took up a course at audio school Alchemea, before serving in several assistant engineer roles at various post production facilities and recording studios across the capital. Working around the clock with all manner of artists helped not only in expanding her skillset, but also in assembling a CV that would pave the way for a full-time career as a freelance mixer and producer. And as any freelancer will tell you, the path to establishing oneself in a highly competitive market, based largely on zero hours contracts and little to no payment can be a thorny one. In Salogni’s case, it was all about embracing the challenges and immersing herself in the industry. “The long hours help you in a way because you don’t go out, so you don’t spend money,” she explains. “I took buses to work rather than the tube. You don’t go to the pub, you just buy yourself a can of beer. I didn’t have a social life for a long time. But the good thing about working with bands and artists is that they will have
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P42 DECEMBER 2017
gigs and they’ll put you on the guest list so you can get in for free, and you start creating this circuit. And most of the people you are working with don’t have money either, so we are all in the same boat. But it is very tough - you just have a really cheap room, there is no security of income… you just have to go to gigs and be present in the music scene. “I wish it was more affordable for people to work in studio,” she continues. “RAK is amazing because they know it is expensive to live in London, so they make sure everyone gets paid and that everyone is treated fairly and that they aren’t working a crazy amount of hours for not much money. A lot of studios are very much aware of this.” One thing Salogni does believe is proving beneﬁcial in helping budding producers and engineers get a foot on the ladder is access to increasingly advanced recording and mixing software. Where some are critical of ‘bedroom producers’ and the potentially detrimental impact they may have on the overall art of audio engineering/production, others view accessibility to such technology as a crucial stepping stone in enabling those ill-equipped to afford years of negligible remuneration for their work to learn their craft and get to grips with the basics. Salogni falls very much on this side of the fence. “The fact that technology is more affordable means you can buy yourself a sound card for not too much money,” she says. “It’s amazing because the old school way to get into studios was understanding that you would not get paid for the ﬁrst however many years. You start by making coffee or getting lunch, which is what I did. There’s absolutely no touching any of the fun bits. That hits you quite hard when you start working. You have to stay focused and try to get through it. That also requires you to have the possibility of ﬁnancial backing, either by working on the side or from your parents. “Working on the side is not normally possible, because you are expected to do sessions any time of the day. To me, this system has many failures, because it means only people with middle class backgrounds or support from their parents can get into studios. And not everyone who gets into music will be able to make a living out of it, so it’s a bit of a gamble.” She continues: “Technology has enabled kids to teach themselves, and that’s amazing. Some old guys say what these kids are making is not really music or is not real production. I say that’s bullshit. It’s amazing because you are giving someone with the drive and imagination the ability to make something that can sound as amazing as something that’s been made in a studio. I say kids because the image is always of someone in their bedroom, but they can be any age.”
Bjork In July of this year, a phone call from out of the blue presented Salogni with a career opportunity of a lifetime, requesting her to mix two tracks from Bjork’s new record Utopia. A lifelong fan, Salogni jumped
‘You become an extension of someone else’s mind’: Marta Salogni
at the chance to work with the pioneering art pop experimentalist, with her mixes sufficiently impressive to solicit an invite to the star’s native Iceland to mix the record in its entirety. “Bjork for me is an inspiration, not just musically but as a person,” Salogni says as our conversation turns to her role in what has been one of 2017’s most hotly anticipated releases. “For a person my age she has been a constant presence. It was a big honour to even be considered. The two mixes were liked then suddenly everything came into place and very quickly I went to Reykjavik for about a month to mix the record with her, which was wonderful. We went there and set up a studio in Bjork’s engineering room. We started mixing every day and throughout the month we shaped the record.” Notorious for her experimental approach to work in the studio, the compositions that make up Bjork’s latest offering blend classical live instrumentation and vocals with a heavy dose of electronic embellishment. For Salogni, the key to achieving the right mix was working closely with the artist to understand the record’s aural complexion and unravel its sonic complexities. “The stems had a lot of information in them; some would have a lot of electronics, some would have vocals,” Salogni elaborates. “With some of the instrumentation like ﬂutes or a choir, we have an idea in our heads of how they might sound, but some of the sounds were completely created out of her imagination. She created these sounds and I would listen and have to think about how I would treat them. “Trying to understand these sounds is almost a metaphysical process in itself; you’re sitting in front of the speakers thinking not just about what it sounds like, but what it triggers in my head. You try to paint a picture when you mix. You want it to have depth, you want it to be deﬁned, but you don’t want it to be too realistic because then it doesn’t have any magic behind it. “Bjork and I were A/Bing on a lot of different systems. The worst thing is to make something sound beautiful just for the elite that have £1,000 speakers. It was a very conceptual approach to the sound, respectful to the arrangement; every song has a concept behind it,
like a series of paintings. They needed to co-exist as an album but also be different. The vocal treatments were very different for each track. Some were very close and intimate, on others the music would be very loud and the vocals quite suppressed, because the ﬂutes or the electronics would tell the story and the vocals would be like your conscience, on your left ear just telling you what the song is about.” According to Salogni, Bjork was heavily involved in the mixing process, with the pair working closely to coax each and every conceptual nuance and detail to the fore of each track. “She would be there every day and was very involved,” Salogni notes. “But she is very trusting. I would make a start on a track and she would give me so much freedom to do as much or as little as I wanted to make it sound how I imagined it. When I had a draft of what my vision was I would let her know and she would drop by and listen and tell me what she thought. She’s very good at describing what she wants in a way that is so direct. She would paint a picture in my head and through that I could transform the mix. She’d be listening at home or in the studio, and we’d compare different rooms. Then we would go and have dinner somewhere or go for a walk… it made you feel very familiar and at home.” With our time together almost up, Salogni reﬂects warmly on what proved to be a transformative experience and one upon which she looks back with a great deal of pride and affection, both for the work and the artist. For her, the magic of mixing comes not only in the technical wizardry required on such projects, but also in the intangible human connection that accompanies it. “It was really special,” she concludes. “You’re working on art so there is a lot of traffic between minds. Inevitably you start creating a bond. The artist trusts you to execute their vision, and the responsibility is huge. It’s beautiful, getting to know someone, getting to know their mind. “You really become an extension of some else’s mind, and that’s so important when making or mixing an album.”
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P44 DECEMBER 2017 The panel moderated by Leslie GastonBird (far left): (l-r) WAM’s Terri Winston, Piper Payne, Karrie Keyes, Leslie Ann Jones, Bob Moses and Alex Case
An industry for all The Audio Engineering Society (AES) introduced a Diversity and Inclusion Committee at its New York convention in October, to promote and encourage diversity in the industry. Tara Lepore spoke the society’s western region vice president Leslie Gaston-Bird about the problems facing underrepresented groups in pro audio and the committee’s aims for the future... Tell us why AES decided to set up an Inclusion and Diversity committee. I was encouraged to run for vice president of the Western Region (USA and Canada) for the AES last year. When I found out I had been elected, I felt an enormous sense of responsibility as the ﬁrst African American to sit on AES’ Board of Governors. I am active on social media and follow and participate in groups like SoundGirls.org and Women’s Audio Mission (WAM), and the conversations happening in those venues are ones that our industry needs to hear. I think by having a Diversity and Inclusion Committee, the AES is not just saying they welcome everyone, which they always have, but that we are ready to make changes within our own organisation and support the great work that is already being done effectively by other groups.
technology, engineering, mathematics) occupations. By providing this data, we can help organisations advocate for funding to help boost those numbers with programming geared towards women and underrepresented ﬁelds.
other than race or gender. In that sense, we need to acknowledge what diversity really means. Diversity and inclusion are more than buzzwords; the fact is that communities that are more diverse can accomplish more, and individuals in those communities feel empowered, whether it’s music recording, software coding, or any number of vocations.
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION ARE MORE THAN BUZZWORDS. COMMUNITIES THAT ARE MORE DIVERSE CAN ACCOMPLISH MORE, AND INDIVIDUALS IN THOSE COMMUNITIES FEEL EMPOWERED
What will be the committee’s main goals? One of the ﬁrst ways to help support changes in the industry is to do some research and provide useful demographic data. A common talking point is that less than 5% of audio professionals are women. However, that number was drawn from empirical data, meaning that women in the profession looked around themselves and usually found they were the only woman on a team, or one of very few. Some people think the number is much less, others are more optimistic. The AES is in a position to try to get some real numbers, and by doing so, can paint a more accurate picture. Even if we ﬁnd we have a 10 or 15% rate of involvement, that’s still short of the 20% number quoted for women in STEM (science,
How important are initiatives like this to increase diversity in the audio profession? It’s important that we, as a society, are not left out of the conversation about diversity. This sends a message that we are not passive in our efforts and that we are listening and willing to act where we can. It is also necessary to note that we should pay attention to regional differences: for example, the United States is different to Poland; different universities have more diverse student populations in their recording programmes; and diversity can also mean things
How will you reach out to and listen to members about diversity issues? We will have a dedicated contact page on our website in the ‘community’ section. We have a committee of over 30 individuals who will advise the AES with input from members in many areas of the world, with hopefully more regions joining soon. Though our committee is very new, I have already been getting referrals from colleagues regarding issues affecting diversity in our industry. As those issues are heard, I invite people with pertinent experience and information to participate on the committee. In fact, there is an open invitation for anyone who is interested in these issues to join us. As we address pressing issues, we forward those along with recommendations for action to AES leadership.
What are the biggest hurdles for underrepresented groups looking to start a career in the industry? I need to say this very clearly: it’s possible that some members of underrepresented groups do not face any obstacles at all. I know of many people who work hard and who are awesome audio engineers who do not feel the need to identify themselves as a ‘woman engineer’
P45 DECEMBER 2017
Gaston-Bird addresses the audience during the committee’s ﬁrst panel
Hip hop producer Hank Shocklee speaks at AES panel ‘Producing Across Generations: New Challenges, New Solutions’
A team from the Women’s Audio Mission (WAM) booth at AES 2017
or a ‘black engineer’. I ﬁrmly believe that the audio engineering community is an embracing, welcoming, collegial and helpful place. I probably wouldn’t be working in it otherwise! There are many mentors who welcome the opportunity to work with motivated students in the profession. I was lucky to have such mentors. However, for some there are a wide variety of obstacles, which range from denial of opportunity and disenfranchisement to bullying and harassment, and it’s important that these individuals understand that these problems are not imagined and are not their fault. For example, I had a student who was denied an internship because the studio was not ADA compliant (The
Americans with Disabilities Act – ADA – was published in 2010 to set standards for accessible design in the workplace). Businesses with fewer than 15 people do not have to adhere to certain regulations. How have things changed since you started out in the industry. Have they improved? As an educator, I don’t think much has changed. I still see the same, low numbers of women and underrepresented groups enrolling in audio programmes. It does vary from one programme to the next, and from one country to the next. I do, however, think organisations like WAM and SoundGirls are making a difference and things are starting to improve.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the pro audio industry? Joining the Audio Engineering Society is the best career move you can make. The wealth of information, the access to our scholarly journal, conventions and conferences, is very much worth the price of membership. Whether you are a student or a professional there are great resources in our society, including regional sections that you can be a part of to connect with your local audio community. As I said, I generally ﬁnd our industry to be full of people willing to help, and I honestly can’t think of a better place to start than the AES. www.aes.org
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P47 DECEMBER 2017
Producing the goods PSNEurope spoke to MPG Awards winners about what the prize did for their career ahead of 2018’s anniversary ceremony… Since launching 10 years ago, the Music Producers’ Guild (MPG) has been synonymous with some of the biggest names in the business, with the likes of Mark Ronson, Flood, Youth, Paul Epworth and a whole host of other major international talents recognised at its annual awards extravaganza.
However, the organisation has also been laying the foundations over the past decades for the brightest up and coming audio engineers and producers to build their careers on. Ahead of the upcoming 2018 MPG Awards, which take place at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel on
March 1, 2018, we caught up with some of the previous winners of its annual Best Newcomer and Breakthrough Producer awards to ﬁnd out where they started out, what they’re up to now and how the MPG award has helped them on their path. www.mpg.org.uk
PAUL SAVAGE: BREAKTHROUGH PRODUCER OF THE YEAR 2010 How did you get into audio production? I started as an engineer in MCM Recording after getting a degree at the SAE Institute. I got the job when the previous engineer left to sell Tupperware. In the ﬁrst few years’ engineering, I was also playing drums in a band (The Delgados) and things were beginning to take off for us. We started our own label, Chemikal Underground, and soon I was working with most of the bands on the label. I did the debut albums of Mogwai, Arab Strap and The Delgados. In 1997 we took over MCM and renamed it Chem 19. Both the band and label opened up a load of opportunities for me to watch and learn from great engineers and producers. Our ﬁrst Radio Scotland session was recorded in Glasgow by Tony Doogan who became a big part of our team, recording the rest of our albums. Going to Maida Vale to do Peel sessions was an amazing experience as I got to see some incredible engineers and producers at work in a session. What is your favourite record that you have produced to date and why? The most important record for me is Mogwai’s Young Team. I didn’t realise it would have such an impact and to this day I still get a lot of attention for doing that one. This may seem like favouritism, but I am very proud of the work I did on Emma Pollock’s In Search Of Harperﬁeld. Full disclosure, we are married, but I do love how it turned out. On the previous records we had a band involved but this time we did a lot of the basics between the two of us. The space between sessions helped us see how the songs were working - a lot were scrapped, changed and chopped up. The critical response was fantastic and a couple of singles from the album were playlisted on 6 Music. It was also nominated for Scottish Album of the Year. What did winning the MPG Producer of the Year Award do for your career? I knew it would have a positive effect but it was
much more than I expected. It was like a big stamp of approval. I deﬁnitely got a lot more jobs because of it – not so much just because it had happened but I get the impression it tipped the balance in my favour when people were considering their options. What was your most recent project? I’m mixing a soundtrack to Anna and the Apocalypse – a zombie Christmas musical out in cinemas soon. I’m also recording an Aidan Moffat and R.M. Hubbert
collaboration, plus I’m making ﬁnal tweaks to mixing Delta Mainline’s new record. How important is the MPG in supporting young talent? It’s crucial to show young people trying to make it in the industry that there are people who have followed similar paths. It’s a tough industry. I’ve found the Speakeasy nights that I’ve been to in Glasgow have been packed with young engineers/producers talking to more experienced professionals in a relaxed atmosphere.
P48 DECEMBER 2017
ELIOT JAMES: BREAKTHROUGH PRODUCER OF THE YEAR 2011
How did you get into audio production? I started playing guitar and messing about with fourtrack recorders when I was very young, then I started using an Atari ST to make dance music in my teens. I ended up getting a single deal with a small dance label, which bought me my ﬁrst decent sampler, then I was off. After all that I packed myself off to do a college course in music tech and by the end I was producing and engineering sessions in local studios. What is your favourite record that you have produced to date and why? One album that stands out for me is Noah & the Whale’s ﬁrst album. I had just spent a few years working on nothing but indie bands with spikey guitars (Bloc Party, Futureheads etc) and these guys appeared doing something completely different. Musically it was very rewarding with lots of strings and brass, and perhaps a bit closer to my heart than other stuff I had been working on until that point. It really felt like a moment in time, in that it was the very beginning of this UK nu-folk scene, which then spawned the likes of Mumford & Sons and Laura Marling.
What did winning the MPG Producer of the Year Award do for your career? There’s no doubt the industry exposure from winning an MPG award is a massive bonus to one’s proﬁle, and of course it’s a great look having that little golden microphone sitting in the studio, but for me the most important thing was the morale and conﬁdence boost. It’s a tough business, producing music. It is of course a very subjective craft, and sometimes you have to keep your spirits up through some very challenging moments. For me the reassurance I’ve got from receiving an award from my respected peers has been invaluable. It’s been like a much needed industry pat on the back – available for use in case of emergencies! What was your most recent project? Lately I have actually been spending a lot of time writing and recording music with a slightly classical twist under the artist name Pêtr Aleksänder – there are actually two of us, the other being Tom Hobden from Noah & the Whale and Mumford & Sons. The project started out as a bit of fun but seems to have grown into something
a bit more serious in that we now have management and are about to sign our ﬁrst album deal. Having said that, I’ve been pretty busy on productions too. Earlier on this year I had a great time producing the new Coronas album, which landed the number one spot in Ireland over the summer. More recently I’ve just been recording new material with a great band called Banﬁ and am just beginning work on some recordings with a very talented young singer songwriter called Tadhg Daly. How important is the MPG in supporting young talent? The MPG plays a very important role in supporting young talent, particularly with its breakthrough award categories. But aside from that, the MPG has created a community and network for the UK recording industry, which is hugely important, especially for up and coming talent, and even more so now that there are fewer and fewer large recording studios, which perhaps used to offer a kind of social hub for engineers and producers. There’s nothing more reassuring and encouraging than going out and ﬁnding kindred souls in the same boat and the MPG is all about that, so hats off to them.
TOM DALGETY: BREAKTHROUGH PRODUCER OF THE YEAR 2015 How did you get into audio production? I was in a band, and when we ﬁrst went into a proper studio I just loved it and didn’t want to leave! So, I started making tea there and assisting the producer we worked with. What is your favourite record that you have produced to date and why? Either Head Carrier by the Pixies or Sorceress by Opeth. Very different records by very different bands, but they
both have a very live feel to them, which I love. What did winning the MPG Producer of the Year Award do for your career? I suppose it’s hard to tell exactly, but it was a huge honour and it deﬁnitely felt like a turning point. What was your most recent project? I’ve just ﬁnished mixing the new Turbowolf album and am also mixing a theme for a TV show with Royal Blood.
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P50 DECEMBER 2017
ANDREW HUNT: BREAKTHROUGH PRODUCER OF THE YEAR 2017 How did you get into audio production? I started playing in covers bands from around nine or 10 years old and just carried on. I had publishing and production deals but it was still just my hobby. I tinkered around with four-tracks and digital recorders doing my own demos, then about 10 years ago, while playing session guitar on an album, I got asked to produce it. I loved it and so in 2012 decided to leave my job as a maths teacher and concentrate on music as my job. What is your favourite record that you have produced to date and why? I’m really happy with Mountain Top by Hazel Iris, which contributed to winning the MPG Award. She came to me with a speciﬁc brief: ‘You know when you’ve woken from a dream but you’re not sure if it was a comfortable dream or not? Well, I dreamt I was in a clockwork forest. I want this record to sound like that!’ It made perfect sense to me! She tells me I hit the brief perfectly. What did winning the MPG Producer of the Year Award do for your career? The projects that are coming in now are all of a certain calibre and I think that’s a direct result of the award, plus I’ve been asked to do some TV work - they approached me after seeing my award’s speech online.
How important is the MPG in supporting young talent? The great thing about the MPG Breakthrough Awards is that they’re not deﬁned by age. It’s to do with
recognising a signiﬁcant step up in work, regardless of age, or how long you’ve been in the industry – I think the MPG does amazing work.
CHARLIE ANDREW: BREAKTHROUGH PRODUCER OF THE YEAR 2013 How did you get into audio production? At school I was taught the drums and saxophone. I was really lucky that the school had a small studio with Cubase, an Akai S3000 and a few other toys and I really got the bug for it. After school I sent letters to a load of studios and managed to get a job as a runner at Abbey Road. I then did a Tonmeister degree at Surrey University. Once I ﬁnished that I invested in a Pro Tools LE rig and began recording bands as much as I could and eventually moved back to London. By this point my university band, The Laurel Collective, was going strong as well.
What is your favourite record that you have produced to date and why? I couldn’t possibly pick a favourite – they are all like my children – but I suppose there have been a few records that have had more of an inﬂuence on my career. An Awesome Wave by Alt-J is the obvious one; it was the ﬁrst album I produced myself from start to ﬁnish and put me on the map as a producer. Suicide Songs by Money was another important one; it’s so different to anything else I’d produced up to that point in my career. It really taught me a lot and helped me pick up skills I’ve been able to apply in other sessions. I’m constantly striving to learn and develop new ways of approaching projects because each one has their own identity that has to be captured. What did winning the MPG Producer of the Year Award do for your career? I think it gave everything I’ve been doing a big credible endorsement. To have that sort of recognition from my peers is such a great honour and it’s certainly helped to open up some doors, particularly with press and tech companies. It’s difficult to quantify exactly what effect it’s had, but I’m certain it’s only had a positive inﬂuence!
What was your most recent project? I recently set up a record label, so the last two albums with my name on have been on the label. Francobollo and Sivu, which we put out. I’m enormously proud of both albums and it’s great to have them signed to my label. Prior to that, the Marika Hackman and Alt-J albums came out earlier this year, which were both fantastic to make. I’m currently working with the band James and have recorded some singles with a couple of new bands, that I don’t think have been announced yet, that sound great and I think you’ll hear next year. How important is the MPG in supporting young talent? I think the MPG is a fantastic resource for producers at any stage of their career. In terms of the awards, it’s a great leg up, but beyond that they not only run loads of great networking nights, but they do panels and workshops all over the country to help new producers learn and grow. The lobbying they do on our behalf is also essential. It’s something I’ve had a little involvement with and would love to be further involved; as our industry evolves it’s important for producers to be able to speak with one voice and have someone representing what we do.
P52 DECEMBER 2017
Sound and vision Calling all snap-happy smartphone addicts! In each issue, we publish the best pro audio pics shared on social media in the past month. From gig shots to get-out selﬁes, the industry’s online community is thriving and we want to share the great work that’s going on. Want to be featured in the next issue? Tag your photos with @psneurope
@lathebestsound 100 years after opening as a vaudeville house, @palacestpaul is no music hall. To attract the best performers, they recently asked @all to install a rider-friendly #K2 sound system.
@ez_audio Day one of the ABC tour with @kidcreoleband! Let the fun begin.
@digico.official On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the death of Luciano #Pavarotti, Friends & Partners Group and the Luciano Pavarotti Foundation produced Un Emozione senza ﬁne with the help of #DiGiCo #SD7 and #Agorà of L’Aquila
@unrealsystems Glorious day in #Miami to ﬂy some #K2 @lathebestsound #lacoustics #KS28 #cardioid #KARA front-ﬁll all powered with #LA12x. #workinprogress on a #Apex4240 #mobilestage for @hocfest this weekend!
P53 DECEMBER 2017
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@meyersoundlabs @Metallica have concluded the ďŹ rst of two European legs on the #WorldWiredTour. Our #LEOFamily system propelled the bandâ€™s music in some of the largest arenas across Europe.
P54 DECEMBER 2017
Oliver Thomas PMC’s manager of R&D and service tells us about his background in audio and why 2017 has been a crucial year for the company…
ell us how you started your career in audio? I grew up around speakers, HiFi and all sorts of audio equipment that was regularly scattered around the family home. My father is an avid collector of audio equipment and it wasn’t just speakers that he accumulated. During the early days of PMC when I was quite young, a lot of speaker development was performed at home, so I regularly had BB5s shaking my bedroom ﬂoor from the listening room below. You’ve spent most of your career with PMC. How has the company changed and evolved during that time? It has changed a lot – more than doubled in size and its processes and approach to product development have become far more sophisticated. The audio industry is changing rapidly and our response to this is to produce products that incorporate the latest technological developments and address market demands. You spent a couple of years away from PMC (2010-12) with Redbull Technology. What did you learn during that time, and what prompted the return to PMC? Working there allowed me to see and learn the best standards for design from the pinnacle of engineering and manufacture. These are tricky things to learn unless you are gaining knowledge through experience; Redbull designs parts that are used in a very harsh environment, so durability is important. I learned a lot about specifying the right materials with the right properties so that you get the best performance from a product. I also worked with the very best test and measurement equipment and learned how to test products properly. This is knowledge I have brought to PMC to improve our test procedures and achieve more accurate results, even though our test budget is much smaller. What have been your highlights of 2017?
Winning awards for our new BB6 and MB3 speakers at NAMM was a great way to start the year. Those systems really show the evolution of PMC’s technology. The BB6 has essentially replaced the ﬁrst speaker we ever made, but it incorporates new technology and everything we have learned in development and manufacturing. Another highlight was the launch of the COR amp – our ﬁrst true HiFi analogue ampliﬁer. We approached the design with no constraints and created a product with unique features and performance to rival the best. The year has also ended on a high with the launch of result6 at AES New York. We set out to produce a small professional active speaker that was more affordable than our twotwo range but still sounded as fantastic as any other PMC speakers.
topics. Perhaps because there are fewer commercial studios these days – and therefore fewer engineers to set things up – the industry seems focused on making products that are straightforward, easy to integrate and simple to set up. Take DSP room correction: Designing the room acoustics properly is always the best option, but some people can’t or won’t do that, so a lot of companies are building DSP room correction into their products to help them. This trend could go one way or the other next year – either we’ll see a lot more companies putting DSP room correction into products or we’ll see people recognising that room correction technology isn’t there yet and they are better off spending money on decent acoustic treatment.
How signiﬁcant an addition are these products to the PMC product portfolio? Result6 is important because it allows new people to become familiar with the PMC brand and what we can deliver. We have kept PMC’s renowned audio quality but made the product simpler and more affordable, which is great news for a lot of people who wanted PMC speakers but were previously unable to afford them. In contrast, our BB6 and MB3 monitors may seem expensive but they deliver incredible performance, particularly when you compare them to the models they supersede. We have applied all our technical know-how to bring them bang up to date and we have signiﬁcantly improved their power output, damping and drive units, as well as improving their DSP. It was important for us to bring these products up to date because they are a key part of our pro audio portfolio.
What are the biggest challenges for a company like PMC in today’s market? To make sure we design products that give our customers what they need and want. There are a lot of companies bombarding the market with products that are not great in terms of quality and that means some people are not getting the best kit for their studios. Our aim is to spend money on developing the right products at the right price. We don’t want to dumb down on quality because that’s not what we stand for, but we must make sure we don’t lose market share to companies whose products are just cheap.
We’re almost at the end of 2017, so what are your predictions for 2018? Are there any market trends you’ve seen that you expect to continue into the new year? Audio over IP and DSP room correction are certainly hot
And what are the biggest opportunities? People who hear our monitors usually love them, and that’s our biggest opportunity. When I talk to people who have bought PMC they can’t stop praising our speakers and saying how much more they can hear, how much better they can do their jobs and how much longer they can spend in the studio because their ears don’t get tired. That’s a nice validation because people will always want quality, which is what we offer.
Reaching beyond, obtaining new heights, achieving a higher level of listening. This is what drives Audio-Technica in the creation of our transducers and audio solutions. It is a perpetual quest to produce a sound experience that
expectations and gives listeners the deeper connection to their music.