Review of 2017

Busy busy!

Lots of recording, mixing and mastering this year, as ever.

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Released a few albums with my music for media company, went to Abbey Road studios , started moderating for RSL Awards , recorded and mixed another album at the Simon Says festival again  , and, it turns out, was my last as manager at Leicester College music and sound department as I move onto a new job running the Music, Music Tech and Live Events department at Confetti in Nottingham: really excited about this: lots going on there: new degrees locally and nationally, new building with 6 studios, loads of practice rooms and new staff and students to meet. It’s worth saying over and over, that my time at Leicester College has been an immense learning experience, but, overall, the best part has been the people: peerless as a team in FE: I’ll miss every one of them.

I got a release on a cassette for a song I wrote for the Dark Outside..it’s now sold out

I decided to start a Masters degree in songwriting: am one term in and I’m loving it. My course leader, Davey Ray Moor is in torch bearing band Cousteaux from the late 90’s. He’s great..I really look forwards to our weekly tutorials. Term one’s module has resulted in 5 songs I’m currently mixing: they’ll turn up in some form on future music for media albums I’m sure either as they are or as instrumentals: it’s been a great excuse to write and record: I’ve loved singing loads. It’s been great knowing I can work to exercises and ‘turn on’ my writing chops when I need to.

This year’s gig of the year was New Order at the Manchester International Festival : it was just perfect

Playing ‘Vanishing Point’ live….it hit me where it hurt and plumbed directly into 16 year old me. Was just amazing. Then you look at the place it was, the stage show as well as the set list..then add in the exhibition at Manchester Gallery and it made for one of the best musical days and nights I’ve ever had.

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Albums of the year: I will forget some , I’m sure, but

Taylor Swift: no irony here, it’s such a great pop album!

Baxter Dury: Loved his last album more, but, the new one’s great

St Vincent: effortlessly cool pop

Morrissey: Hmm….I’m a die hard fan, but need to seperate the art from the artist (he really has said some stupid stuff again this year), El Moz turned in a solid album, and as with the last one, the true star is the production by Joe Chiccarelli

Anna Of The North. Patchy but some good stuff..not as good as Shura’s album last year but treading similar water

Charlotte Gainsbourg : I LOVE the ‘Deadly Valentine’ single.. really great!

Paul at Seamus Wong told me about Protomartyr : some good stuff on their last album: love the fact they’re unlikely rock stars.

LCD’s return was great: a journey through James Murhpy’s record collection (again) and not a disappointment

Father John Misty’s album was great: my favourite album of 2015 : very rare I can listen to an album start to finish , but that album was great. 2017’s Father John Misty’s follow up was not cut from the same lyrical cloth: this time he avoids love…so for me, was harder to get into, but it’s worth the work: he’s a proper headliner now: so obvious when I saw him live in a couple of years ago. One of my favourite gigs ever.

Really love the Nadine Shah album, too if only for this song

Beck’s album was pop-tastic:

Arcade Fire’s album was patchy but had its moments

Bits of Lorde’s album was also great…..I still don’t think she’s the artist that critics see, and God knows how she got Bowie’s patronage , but she’s certainly got ‘something’

Went to Sensoria Pro again: was so good : Chris Packham, Geoff Barrow..and one of our composers won the scoring contest!

Podcasts: And The Writer Is is my new favourite podcast…really amazing conversations between writers at the top of their game.

But, others to recommend:

20kHz 

Song Exploder

Sodajerker

Adam Buxton

Richard Herring

Switched on Pop

Tape Op

Setlist

Sonic Talks

Bobby Owinski

Gear Club 

Edith Bowman

And, for no other reason than rescue dogs are ace, here’s a picture of Arthur, our Lurcher

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I go into 2018 with a real energy and I can’t wait to get stuck in!

All the best!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Abbey Road

Attended a recording session at Abbey Road studios today

I got in with the Rethink Your Mind organisation over the last year and one of our students where the day job is won the chance to record with a choir on a charity single…so away we went.

All round good egg Adam Ellis from Deadline Studios was there signing off takes, Mark Morriss (Bluetones) and folk singer Lucy Ward were doing lead lines, and there was a healthy volume of people tape-opping, note taking and engineering in a very organised ‘out of the way’ way.

Studio One is absolutely massive…used for orchestral recordings on film scores, and impressively, 160 pairs of working headphones.

Loads of lovely mics and stands floating around

Anyway, a very efficient choir fixer, Pippa Gearing was a highlight for me….super ‘on it’ making use of only 2 hours to do all the choir bits.

The engineer, assistant and note taking assistant all read music from the score provided.. I thought that was pretty interesting, as was the unspoken efficiency between all three.

A day to remember, for sure.

 

 

Summer’s nearly gone….

As ever, an extraordinary amount of time has passed since the last log post.

Have been recording for Kafka Diva’s second album…well, I’m recording the drums, they’re recording the rest at their house, then files over to me to mix and master…..we’re about half way through.

Started recording a new Shortwave Fade single last week, and there’ll be an acompanying remix EP that I’ve done for them, too.

Speaking of remixes, I’ve just finished one for a band I really really loved from the late 80’s, early 90’s : they’ve signed it off and ‘love it’….just looking how to release it..I will no doubt shout about it when they do.

I was back at Simon Says festival doing the pop up studio again: was great again…I say it pretty much every year, but it makes up for my lack of recording through the rest of the year. Highlights included The Millmen..10 piece Ska band….10 piece! 4 Mics! 4 DIs! ..really love the limitations and it sorts the men from the boys… also loved catching up with Uncle Frank

 

Books? Finished ALL the Mixerman books now…that’s all the ‘Zen and the Art of...’ series, and the newest Billionaire Apparent one…..they’re all brilliant. The Zen ones make you approach everything with some balls and attitude. He’s streaming the audio version of the ‘Daily Adventures Of Mixerman’ at the moment…so funny ,and so much to learn! Essential listening

Have released a few more music for media albums….more to come..upping the release rate with that now I have more composers on the books and a good co-publsher to do the leg work.

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Gigs….slow year but made up for it with a gig in Manchester seeing New Order and the Royal College of Music’s synth orchestra.

It was amazing….playing some of my favourite songs from my teens and early 20s..the years you’re most influenced by the music you take in, I think. Vanishing Point was just perfect…but Shellshock stole the show (surprisingly, as its not a strong single)

Albums thus far: Father John Misty’s is great, Goldfrapp’s is great, Mac De Marco’s is good….ummm….can’t think of any other this year so far…

 

2016 in review

Can’t believe how quickly the year’s gone..only 12 months since my last annual review.

As ever, a fruitful year: never  a shortage of things to do.

Have released a couple of albums on my music for media imprint  : an Ambient one and my favourite one…a Moterik album. Lots of music of mine on there. Signed a co publishing deal to try to kick the company into the stratosphere in 2017

Just finished mixing album 3 for One Cure for Man and lots of mastering for a few artists.

Did a load of production for Hannah Brine for some publishing avenues.

I slipped in a remix for We Three and The Death Rattle

I mixed most of the stuff on this over the last 2 years, but glad it’s all out as an album: Lux by The Daydream Club

 

I recorded and mixed/mastered another album at Simon Says festival

Favourite plug ins for me this year have been the Soundtoys mini versions : the Little Radiator and the Primal Tap have both been on pretty much every mix I’ve done in 2016: super simple and sound great.

Books? : Read the Mixerman books: all of them highly recommended but ‘The Daily Adventures Of’ is a great place to start.

The Johnny Marr autobiography is a good read: still leaves lots of mystery to the bits you want to know more of (for me, anything behind the Smiths and Electronic) but it’s written is such an open and conversational way you can’t help but love him…and you can’t say that about Moz’s biog a couple of years back

Three gigs in a year is unusual for me these days, but I made them count this year! Massive Attack, John Grant and PJ Harvey:  a trio of ace-ness.

Song Of The Year is ‘I Feel The Weight’ by Miike Snow: it’s perfect meld of production and a rock solid ‘song’. Beautiful.

Albums I’ve loved:

Bowie, Beyonce, Iggy Pop, Bon Ivor, Mystery Jets, Shura, Miike Snow, Radiohead, Leonard Cohen, Meilyr Jones

 

2017 holds more of the same: got a few music for media albums to finish and get out.Am doing some recording and mixing for Kafka Diva in January for their new album, too and things always just crop up out of the blue.

You just keep working, don’t you?’Get yer tackle out and see what bites’ as Paul Calf said

For those of you who work on your own, do bear with it: it’s hard to keep going sometimes when you can’t see the wood for the trees…but there’s always light at the end of the tunnel

All the best for 2017

 

 

 

Leonard Cohen

I was first introduced to Cohen in my teens…There was an album of covers around in ’91 called I’m Your Fan with some versions by bands I liked,and , like so many other things I got into, I got ‘Im Your Man’ out from the local library to listen to. I was puzzled…musically it sounded like a bunch of MIDI files, but with this amazing voice. ‘First We Take Manhattan’ : what an opener…still sounds great when I hear it now….I’d always imagined New Order covering it for some reason.

So, I started to delve into his other work: I got ‘The Songs of Leonard Cohen’ on vinyl from a charity shop I worked at, and this is the album that plumbed straight into my blood. I took it to Manchester when I moved and it became a staple for my time up there. I loved the classical guitar and the female backing vocals.. I’ve just been listening to it tonight and it’s pretty beautiful but ramshackle! Listen to ‘So Long,Marianne’ and things just get thrown in then chucked out! It’s great!

Later albums left me a little cold for a while: it was the music…just sounding so cheap and Portasound-y…but then again, I loved Momus, and all his albums sounded that way too, so I always dipped in and out of his albums over the years to see what he was up to.

His last one, released just a few weeks ago really is lovely: razor sharp words, and, maybe my age, but the music sits well with me now.

May he rest in peace.

Zen and The Art Of Mixing

Regular readers will know I l-o-v-e-d the Daily Adventures Of Mixerman.. I really can’t recommend that enough. Well, Eric Sarafin’s written another three (soon to be four) books, on mixing, recording and mastering… so was super keen to read each of those. I’ve started with the Mixing one, just because I love mixing.

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What was apparent about The Daily Adventures of…. was Eric’s writing style was so forthright: I was wondering how it would translate to a book about a relatively narrow subject (but with wide scope within it), and one with already a load of technical books out there (‘use a DBX 160 on a snare, use a 1073 on a vocal’, ‘let’s examine standing waves’.. this sorts of things) The great thing is, this book isn’t really about these technical aspects.. they are unavoidable when covering this subject, but this is a book with attitude, and, that word is key to why this book works. It’s made me look hard at how I have and do approach mixing, and raised lots of things for me to try in future mixes. It offers pragmatic advice about everything from pricing your skills to phase coherency.

Even opinions you might question are presented with such weight and with such eloquence you just think ‘well, if Eric says this is how it is, then this is how it is’.. or, at the very least, you feel better about sticking to your original thoughts because you’ve weighed up an argument

“Mixing is a game of confidence. If you’re confident, you’ll mix great. If you’re not, you won’t. Confidence in mixing is critical” I love this quote, and this is a theme that crops up a few times in the book: makes perfect sense, really.. we’re all tortured artists with senses of self doubt, but mixing is where the whole process should come together.. we should be absolutely certain we can make a kick ass mix.. its the producer’s job to have presented us with the elements…let the producer fret, not the mixer!

Anyway, whether you’re new to mixing or have been doing it for years, this book’s great: you will get technical geek stuff from it, but you’ll get a host of the thoughtful stuff we all go through : absolute gold.

As an aside, here’s Eric on Pensado’s Place : is it me, or doesn’t Herb like him?

 

Best book ever?

Paul from Seamus Wong recommended The Daily Adventures of Mixerman a couple of years ago… and finally got round to reading it

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It’s a satire based on the recording of a big budget album in 2002: back in the days when major labels threw money at bands, rich with the money from reselling catalogue on CD. Mixerman (engineer/producer Eric Sarafin) details his sessions with Bitch Slap, a ‘bidding war band’ : not particularly much to do with the technicalities…mic choice, pre amp settings and the like, but a massive amount to do with the idiocy of major labels, and the characters surrounding a band signed for silly amounts of money with the pressure on to sell hits. Well, to sell hits, they need to record hits, and that’s where the diaries reveal such a wealth of characters anyone who’s ever worked in the music industry will recognise. The recording of these hits is painful at best: ghost bassists, session drummers, girlfriends, preening singers, astounding wastes of money…all told in such a warm way by Eric with a story that unfolds in such a great way.Very much a time capsule in some respects of how never ending budget albums were made.

Mixer man clearly knows his onions: his people skills, the way he reads a room and the band, the way he recognises the dynamics of the team and tries so hard to progress the sessions is so interesting, and, so often made me laugh out loud.

This book should be essential reading for budding producers, engineers and bands: read it, absorb it and the mistakes that were made and learn from it!

More books to read, am some way into Zen and The Art of Mixing, and that’s making me look at mixing in a different way: great perspective changer.