What is your role at Studios 301 and how long have you been in the position for?
I’ve been a full time in-house Assistant Engineer with 301 for 6 months, and prior to that I was a casual/freelance assistant at the studio for 2 years. I’d also been floating in and out of the place for around 3 years before that, working on various projects with external engineers and producers.
Tell us a bit about Studios 301, what artists have you worked with/are currently working with?
301 is Australia’s largest recording, mixing and mastering studio complex. Originally EMI studios at 301 Castlereagh St, it relocated to Alexandria in 1999. It houses 2 large control rooms, 2 live rooms, 3 mastering suites, 2 workshops and 11 production studios which are home to marvellous producers, musicians and songwriters – A real creative hub.
The studios facilities have been used by the likes of Lady Gaga, Kanye West, Bruce Springsteen, Matt Corby, Coldplay, Silverchair, Art Vs Science, and U2 to name just a few. It’s a sick place to work at.
Artists I’ve personally had the pleasure to work with over the years include:
Will.i.Am, Alison Wonderland, Wolf & Cub, Olympic Ayres, Sticky Fingers, Last Dinosaurs, Bluejuice, Lanie Lane and DMA’s.
Describe a normal day in the life of an Assistant Engineer at Studios 301.
I don’t really have a “normal” structured day. Each one is different depending on what’s booked in – recording, mixing, technical repairs… but a recording day is generally close to this:
If the session starts at 9am, we get in a few hours before to set up. We’ll place out microphones, run mic lines, run headphones, patch everything in via the control room patch bay and then test it works, all before the client arrives. We then help them load in, re-arrange a few things, settle in and get ready to go.
Set up could be for a vocal session, your regular sized band, or a large-scale orchestra. There are also days when you don’t know what’s coming in and you’ve got to fly by the seat of your pants 🙂
Throughout, you may have to troubleshoot problems that arise, swap out gear, run pro tools for the engineer/producer, or set up for spontaneous ideas, like last week when we moved our dusty pump organ from reception to the orchestral room so we could get “that Parisian sound” on a track.
Then there’s the fun stuff; putting the takes down, watching it all form into something special, hanging out and playing ping pong, which I’m not very good at.
At around 10pm (or it could be 2 in the morning…) things start to wrap up. You’ll back up the days work to several drives, start pack down, say goodbye and clear the studio so there’s a fresh slate for the morning.
How did you get your start in the music industry? Did you choose to work in music or did it choose you?
I think it kind of met me half way.
Growing up I was always in dance or piano lessons, and as a teenager, searching the Internet for interesting sounds became my thing. It was in my last year of high school that I discovered a multi track recorder, became fascinated, and helped people in my class record songs. I later came across an ad in Drum for an audio course and decided I was just gonna give it a go. That was it, and I haven’t looked back.
My first real foot in the door was interning at the late BigJesusBurger Studios, which eventually turned into some assisting work, and things fell into place from there.
Have you got any advice for people wanting to start a career in the industry?
It takes guts, determination, patience and a genuine love of music.
Be willing to work for free, sacrifice sleep and sunlight (studios are caves of darkness – no windows). If it’s something you love, give it all you’ve got and that hard work will open doors when least expected.
Oh, and always, always be nice! You never know when you’re making that first impression.
Have you had to overcome any challenges/adversity throughout your career? If so, can you tell us about them and how you approached them?
Coming fresh out of a degree with no clue as to the next step forward was tough. There was a lot of unpaid work while trying to find my feet but I made sure I was reliable, and after sticking it out for 3 or 4 years the jobs got better. I made the point of telling people where I wanted to be and that helped introduce me to a wider network.
Once freelancing, there was always the worry of where the next job would come from and if I should throw in the towel for something stable. I spent a lot of time hanging out in studios and still working for free just so I could watch, learn and become a familiar face for when people needed small boring tasks done.
Keeping positive was hard and still is, especially when you get the heart-wrenching no’s. The hours are gruelling, last minute work always pops up. I’ve sacrificed things in my personal life to move forward. It’s just a harsh reality and everyone does it.
My advice is to surround yourself with incredible, understanding people.
That definitely helps.
What does 2015 hold for you? Any exciting things that you can tell us about?
2015 has already been a wild ride which I’m still slowly processing. There are plenty of things in the works, but I can’t reveal them just yet, so watch this space!
Who are your role models in the industry whether they be international/Australian?
Internationally, I’d say Caroline Polachek (Chairlift/Ramona Lisa), Annie Clark (St. Vincent) and Tahliah Barnett (FKA Twigs). I love their views, production styles, and they’ve got that kick ass work ethic which I very much align with.
Ryan Lott (Son Lux) is just a genius.
Here at home, it’d have to be Alison Wonderland. I’ve seen her move mountains when people said she couldn’t do it, and her relentless drive has proved them wrong. That’s stuck with me and I’ve tried to adopt a similar frame of mind. She also feeds me muesli bars, we chat about production, and push each other to do our best. I look up to her a lot.
I’m also very lucky to be surrounded by various industry types who are insanely supportive, so they’ve kinda become inspiration. The team and tenants at 301, and engineers I’ve worked with at other studios are totally ace and are priceless to learn from.
What’s your go-to Karaoke song?
Err… I’ve been listening to an unhealthy amount of Taylor Swift recently, for production reasons of course… So I’m leaning towards ‘Blank Space’, ‘Shake It Off’ or something off that early Singstar 80’s game.