Audeze special release-day interview with Jim Shaw of Hot Milk

August 25, 2023

Jim Shaw is guitarist and one of two lead singers of British rock band Hot Milk, performing all over the world with the likes of Foo Fighters, McFly, Blackbear and You Me At Six.
Also a songwriter and producer, Jim has recorded and produced on all of Hot Milk’s back catalog, composed for film and TV and MDs live performances.

 Jim Shaw of Hot Milk with his Audeze LCD-2 Closed-back headphones

"The level of detail that these headphones can produce is outstanding... I’m also impressed with the level of isolation they offer which is a must when producing on the go."  - Jim Shaw
Here's our chat with Jim:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?

One of my favourite tracks I’ve ever worked on is Split Personality. I love the energy of the track, we were listening to a lot of Prodigy and Pendulum and just wanted something super maximalist, loud and in your face. The whole song goes on a bit of a journey with the production, with aggressive sawtooth synths, Latin inspired percussion/beats and the back and forth vocal arrangement with intertwining harmonies in the chorus to bring it together. I also arranged a string section which my friend Harry Fausing Smith recorded, that was really fun!

How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on these days?

Currently, I’m straddling the role of both artist and producer. Song writing, recording and producing is taking up most of my time. With a hectic touring season and a debut album looming over my head I’ve only had the time to focus on Hot Milk. I’ve been exploring different soundscapes and tried to give each song it’s own identity through production.

How did you get started in music? What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed?

I guess it started with a hand-me-down family acoustic guitar which was soon upgraded to an electric when my parents saw how much I loved playing. I became more and more obsessed with music, no matter the genre. I just loved finding new artists and songs and trying to learn to play them. I started busking to try earn a little money, it was pretty brutal playing guitar in the rain over the winter but it made me realise how much I loved performing. Music technology at school was when I really came into my element. I remember a project where we had to dissect and recreate Pet Shop Boys - Shopping and Madonna - The Power of Goodbye as close to the original as possible. I found it so interesting and gave me the skills and drive to try produce my own tracks.
I started listening to a lot of metal as a kid, bands like Trivium, Machine Head and Architects as I’d love to learn the riffs. Then into my emo phase with Taking Back Sunday, Fall Out Boy and Panic At The Disco (is it even a phase? I think it’s just me haha). Over time I’ve become fluid with what I listen to, it really just depends on the day and what mood I’m in.

Can you name any factors that influenced the course of your musical life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?

When I left school I started to train as a lighting technician and designer and worked on a lot of gigs, festivals and at Warehouse Project. It really solidified my passion for music. I started really getting into electronic music at this point, being involved with some crazy productions like Sub Focus, Bonobo, The XX, Flying Lotus, The Prodigy. It made me start producing different genre tracks for fun and exploring new sonics and arrangements. I’ve also had the opportunity to tour with some incredible acts such as Massive Attack, Placebo, Madness and Jordan Rakei which is probably why Hot Milk bleeds into so many different genres. I literally love anything and everything.

Can you briefly describe a moment of frustration from your past work, and what you may have done to overcome the obstacles? Would you approach it differently now?

One of the main frustrations I have encountered is the limitations of gear and working in untreated spaces. I’ve managed to accumulate some decent equipment over time but starting out it used to difficult using shit speakers/headphones and second hand gear that was always breaking. It did however, teach me to problem solve and think outside of the box to try achieve my goal with the means I have at my disposal. I’ve haven’t had much formal mixing training, only what I learnt from A level music tech and YouTube or Google, so sometimes it takes me a little longer than I’d like to get a decent sounding reference mix but patience is the key.

Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently?

I’m an avid Ableton user and recently purchased a Push. It’s really sped up my workflow and given me a much more hands on approach to using synths and VSTs. You can’t beat UAD either, I’ve just bought an Apollo Twin X for recording on the go, their plug ins are absolutely ridiculous. Neural DSP have been kind enough to loan me a Quad Cortex too, it really has some of the best tones I’ve heard from a profiler, a lot of that is all over our new record and a bunch of their amp plugins. Some other plugins of note are from Soundtoys, Serum, Output, Spectrasonics - Omnisphere and Keyscape, East West, Spitfire Audio, Fab Filter and Arturia.

Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?

Don’t listen to the people that say, ‘that’s unachievable’ or ’that’s a dream or a hobby, you have to get a real job’. Believe in yourself and grind as hard as you can because somebody has to be a footballer or musician or actor, why can’t it be you! Learn your craft inside out, push yourself to be the best and don’t let small hiccups or naysayers send you off course. Surround yourself with hardworking, like-minded individuals and listen to others. Peer reviews, forums and YouTube are your friends!

How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?

Every single session. With writing and producing in a multitude of different studios, on tour - in less than ideal environments and in my own studio it’s paramount to have a reference that give me the same response no matter where I am.

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work?

The level of detail that these headphones can produce is outstanding. I’ve been looking for some headphones that I can use on the go that I trust to give an honest representation of what I’m listening to and I think I’ve found them in Audeze. I’m also impressed with the level of isolation they offer which is a must when producing on the go.

Can you tell us what you’ve been working on recently?

I’ve just finished producing Hot Milk’s debut album "A Call to the Void" which has been a lot of fun. I’ve been touring pretty relentlessly with Hot Milk and other artists over the last year, all the while working in tandem to finish the album. I’ve been recording in dressing rooms, hotels, buses and even toilets so I’ve definitely road tested these headphones! I’m also currently scoring some music which will hopefully be featured in a game later this year.

Jim Shaw's Audeze LCD-2 Closed back heapdhones in the studio