January 30, 2024
Working with Dan I've been incredibly fortunate to work on a very broad array of projects across the musical spectrum. It seems like every few months we'll get a project in, which I'll be pinching myself because I get to play a very small part in it. Working on Sam Ryder's Spaceman, and seeing him take Eurovision by storm with it was certainly one of those moments, as was getting to work on George Ezra's most recent album Gold Rush Kid. Another highlight that comes to mind is co-mixing two songs on Muna's eponymous third album with Dan, as that was a really incredible experience.
The vast majority of my work is as one of Dan's Mix Assistants. My role is to get mixes prepared and ready for him to look at by having sessions immaculately organised, set up in a way that makes sense to him, and dealing with any technical issues that may need addressing. If I've done my job correctly this should mean that Dan is free to get stuck into a mix and be creative, and not have to waste time dealing with technical errors or deciphering erroneously named tracks. Whilst this is a similar process song to song, each prep has its own challenges and intricacies, so no day is ever the same. At the other end of things, I'm then responsible for staying on top of all of the deliverables for a project (mix prints and stems etc). I then try to dedicate any free time I then have to my own projects, whether that be producing or mixing up-and-coming artists. I also have my own musical projects that I write and play in, as I like to try and stay in touch creatively with that side of things.
I've been interested in music from a young age, ever since my Dad got me a copy of The Beatles Love album when I was 7. I've kind of been going down a one-way road since then really. I played guitar in bands during my teens, but it wasn't until I then got to go into a studio whilst studying Music Technology at sixth form that I started to think I could pursue music further. I then moved to London when I was 18 to study recording at the University of West London, during which time I worked for free as a runner/assistant across London for several years, which then eventually led to me working for Dan as I finished studying. The rest, as they say, is history.
I think some of the biggest musical influences that can affect you are the records you fall in love with when you're in those incredibly important formative late teenage years, sometimes the right records find you at the right time and they end up massively shaping you. The early Oasis records and the first Stone Roses album exemplify that for me really. Less abstractly, it'd be remiss of me not to mention Dan Grech and Charles Hicks (Dan's other assistant) as two massive influences on me though, as they both taught me everything I know and instilled the work ethic, the level of skill and attention to detail required that goes into making records at the highest level.
I think whenever presented with an obstacle in the studio, it's important to try and keep as clear a head as possible. If you're stressed out you may be missing a more obvious solution. Sometimes it's better to take a second to collect yourself, and you'll find that the answer will present itself all the quicker for it. If you're in the room with an artist, it also looks so much better to be calm and collected. If you're stressed that will be noticeable, and rub off on the artist, which is the last thing you want. If you've had a fairly major equipment failure, sometimes it's best to say "sorry, this is going to take 15 minutes, would you mind grabbing a coffee?" It'll be a better experience for everyone.
I have to say I'm a bit of a creature of habit with gear. I work in the box the majority of the time so I'd be pretty stuffed without Pro Tools. I'm a massive fan of Universal Audio, I think their plugins are amazing - they're definitely my go-to. I really love Valhalla plugins too, they're terrific value and exceptional quality; I also use a lot of Waves and Soundtoys stuff. On the day to day, Izotope RX is something I definitely could not live without. It's such a powerful tool to have, and the results you can get removing artefacts from a noisy vocal can quickly help translate an ok vocal recording into a world-class one. If I'm recording, I really love the sound of API hardware, their EQs and mic pres are sublime. I've also really gotten into the Helios EQ recently, Waves and UAD do really good plugin versions, but there are some really good 500 series remakes of the original out there too.
I think you just have to be super super dedicated. Studio hours are pretty all-encompassing so you have to be prepared to kind of dedicate your life to it really. My friends often think I'm insane for spending so much time in the studio, but if you truly love what you do then it never feels like work or a sacrifice. Having good interpersonal skills is also really integral in the studio, it's no use knowing an SSL like the back of your hand if you're rude or impolite. Being someone that people want to have in the room is an extremely important quality, as well as being able to read that room and knowing your place within it. Knowing when to speak, but often when not to.
Headphones are a really important part of my workflow and have been for some years now. Having an amazing pair of monitors is really useful, but that's not how people listen to music. I find that I'm hugely reliant on my headphones for a lot of mix detail. You have to make sure that your balance translates to as many different mediums as possible, and in a world where most people listen to music on Airpods, it's imperative that your mix translates to headphones.
The LCD-X have been a really great tool, the level of detail they provide is pretty staggering, I've never heard so much detail in a pair of headphones before. The detail in the low end is particularly impressive, which enables me to make decisions I'd not normally be comfortable making on headphones, which is very convenient, particularly if you find yourself working in a room you don't know.
I've recently produced & mixed some upcoming singles for London-based singer-songwriter Hugo Joyce, as well as mixing an EP for DC-based band Lotion Princess. I've also mixed several songs for Zayn Malik for an upcoming film that he stars in, which the LCD-X were extremely useful for as it was a very tight turnaround, which meant I had to make decisions quickly, and trust that they were the right ones.