So Now What?
Ok, so you graduated from recording school. Hooray, sucker - that money is never coming back. New engineers today face a new set of challenges. There just aren’t that many great commercial facilities and even less with actual staff as most people are now freelancers. You can’t expect to work your way up through the ranks, mentored by various brilliant people along the way in your quest. When I say brilliant, I mean the full gamut of characters including those who would tape a mic to your head and make you walk round the live room looking for the sweet spot.
People have a laptop, Logic, Cubase or Protools, get an interface, some mics and that's it. They are instant recording engineers, never mind the tea boy or assistant phase! When I started I thought it was tough, but it’s worse now. It’s great from one point of view as far as access to the wonderful world of recording but has gutted the recording studio business to the point it has contracted massively. There are a lot of people with pretty decent private studios that resemble real studios. The people that own these are maniacs. They have created their own personal kingdoms outside the laws of time and space. When I started of course, I was hungry for experience so found one of these maniacs, a songwriter who had worked with some huge names at some mystery point in time, had a fantastic voice and enjoyed pot a little too much as these people invariably do.
He had a super hot French wife, and subsequently a super hot half-French daughter. As her boyfriend left, The Maniac turned to me and said in his Ozzy Osborne voice: ”Look at him. I fookin’ hate 'im. He has a bloody ’ard on every time he looks at my daughter” Well, she was pretty. Mental note; do not even look at The Maniac's daughter. I got a loan for a moped, and rode the deathtrap to the studio across very sketchy backcountry roads. I'd show up for work, hours would pass until he emerged then we would go to work.
“Boy, I have a song in my head”
"It could be in A...or B...or C…"
If you want the gig, you’ll sit there programming drums, with a guitar in your hand, dutifully trying to imagine what your boss wants really trying hard in the keys of A, B and C until you get somewhere close, “making beats” as they call it now…record it and he will be happy. In exchange you will get experience and get to play with the toys.
I learned about the joys of under-maintained vintage desks and studio quirks. This studio had an unusual monitor setup. Firstly they were huge Tannoys, one in front, to the right of the mix position roughly where you’d expect it, well..far too close to a howitzer of that size, certainly not a nearfield by any stretch of the imagination and...one to the left at 90 degrees, next to you. Crazy. Still, that's how it was. There was also a big graphic eq patched over the monitors. You will see occasionally these sometimes. Unless they are part of some very well thought out scheme taken into regards with the rest of an acoustic design, they don’t f*cking work and are more trouble than they are worth. You’re better off listening to some music you know in the room, and trying to figure out what weirdness if any exists and working around it. Do not CHANGE the settings on these EQ's because the studio owner will go mental at you. If the producer you're working with wants to change it, well...take a picture, or note the settings before they do, and THEY can have that conversation with the owner rather than you. And you can put “the magic settings” back later.
Anyway, the moral of the story is that these less than perfect situations teach you to not worry, improvise, not to blame limitations of the room you’re in and to get on with the job….because you’re IN!