Alan Moulder is perhaps the UK's leading alternative rock producer/mixer/engineer. His credits can be found on some of rock's most iconic records - including those by Nine Inch Nails, The Killers, U2, Arctic Monkeys, Suede and Foo Fighters. Alan started out as an assistant engineer at Trident Studios in the early 1980's, with his big break engineering on The Jesus & Mary Chain's acclaimed "Automatic" in 1989. MixBus host Kevin Paul chats with Alan about all things studio...
Gareth Jones’ 40-year career started in the late 1970’s training at the BBC. After working at Pathway and Garden studios (which he helped build) he moved to Berlin to work at the legendary Hansa Studio, working on many projects including Depeche Mode’s “Berlin Trilogy”. In the early nineties he moved back to London and settled at Strongroom Studios. Gareth can always be found on the bleeding edge of new technology and was an early adopter and pioneer in the use of digital recording techniques, synthesizers and sampling – including a Synclavier brought in by Daniel Miller for Mute Records.
Catherine Marks is a Grammy Nominated Producer, Engineer and Mixer who was Winner of the UK Producer of the Year 2018 MPG Awards and Breakthrough Producer of the Year 2016 MPG Awards. Catherine has worked with artists such as The Amazons, Foals, Wolf Alice, The Killers, St. Vincent, The Wombats and more...
MixBus is a series of new podcasts curated by Kevin Paul featuring leading producers, engineers and mixers talking informally about their careers in the recording industry and how they approach their work. Kevin has mixed over 100 artists including David Bowie, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Goldfrapp, Ed Sheeran and many more.
To introduce the podcasts, I caught up with Kevin to find out how the idea for MixBus came about…
KP : I started out wanting to be a DJ - way back in 1985 during the birth of Hip Hop and House music. I'd seen 'recording engineer' credits on the back of records and religiously bought a magazine called “Home and Studio Recording”. I thought engineering sounded like something I wanted to do.
I got a list of studios from the APRS, and worked my way down to letter 'S' where Soho Studios said to come down for an interview. They offered me a job for 6 months and that's where I got to meet Steve Dub. When I started looking for more work, Steve suggested I try a studio in Crouch End called Konk.
I basically begged the manager at Konk for a job. They thought I was too old (I was 21), but I managed to convince them and was given a two-week trial - my first session was with Dave Eringa!
After two years at Konk I was offered a job at Mute Records. Although the Mute studio wasn't as big or as well known as Konk at the time, it did offer an opportunity for me to start engineering with their artists. I spent about 10 years there and must have worked with every single artist on their label at some point.
KP : I've always gravitated towards mixing, it's the part of the process where I feel I can add the most value. I love the idea of merging sounds together, maybe it's from my DJ background. Mixing is the part of the process that most excites me.
KP : I actually assisted on one of the first 16 track Pro Tools sessions in the UK. At that point in time it didn't work - it just fell over every time! Before that we had Cubase and Logic Audio, and we could only do 4 tracks at once. The sound of analogue is great, I'm a big fan, but I can't say I miss lining-up tape machines - because I don't!
KP : At Konk I remember the last thing I ever did there - I was assistant on Elastica's first album. They recorded the songs pretty much as the album and when you heard them do the performance you just went "oh wow". Everybody immediately recognised that this was a great band making great music. I'm sure there was something poignant about it being my last session at the studio, but nevertheless that was a very special time for me.
At Mute, I went through so many journeys from engineering to mixing my first record with Pascal Gabriel - I mixed tracks for Goldfrapp’s “Felt Mountain” there. The label suggested I go and work with artists outside of the studio and that became another aspect of my career. That led to me recording with Nick Cave on “No More Shall We Part”. That was an exceptional record to work on.
KP : I always had my own thoughts, although I wouldn't necessarily volunteer them unless they were asked for, but I'd usually say what I liked rather than what I didn't. I just listened to the music as a fan really, and try and step back and not hear it from an engineering point of view. I was fortunate at Konk and Mute to work with some great producers.
When we did the Depeche Mode 5.1 back catalogue, I had to try to mix like every single one of those great producers - that was such a learning curve! I had to learn how to mix like Dave Bascombe, Gareth Jones, Flood, Steve Fitzmaurice and Tim Simeone.
KP : Mostly I just got on with it myself and then once I'd got to about 80-90% of the mix, we would ask the relevant mixer or producer down to the studio if they were available.
There was one Depeche Mode song on Violater – “Personal Jesus”, I could not for the life of me get the vocal sound. I must have spent weeks trying to get the sound right. In the end, I managed to get hold of Flood, as he was incredibly busy, but we were on the phone and I just asked what he used for this vocal sound and he said, “Oh it's really easy, go to the SPX90 and just dial up Small Hall and do the pre-delay to whatever the beat was, and there you go!“. I did what he said, and it fell into place immediately - it had been driving me absolutely crazy!
KP : Technology has changed how people make records. It used to be a recording studio was the only place you could make a record, whereas now it's really more the place you go to finish a record. Most people do the work in their own space now - it's just changed the way we work. There are still a lot of artists making great records!
Apart from working in the studio, I also do lectures about mixing approaches rather than technical aspects. Nobody these days needs to be shown how a compressor works, there are so many channels on YouTube for that. Far more important for me is showing students why I use a compressor. They want to know WHY you're doing something rather than HOW – so I encourage students to try things and experiment, rather than simply copy me.
Which is one of the reasons for the MixBus podcast. I'd been listening to lots of podcasts and had started to look for specific audio engineering content. I then thought, “I know a few people!” so I went through my phone book and got about 20 people on a list. I thought if five agreed to take part I could probably do something and see what happens. Everybody I contacted said “yes” so people are obviously excited about sharing their experiences and knowledge…
We’ll be bringing you more MixBus podcasts as they appear – look out for Pascal Gabriel, Flood, Dave Bascombe, Steve Dub, Tim Bran, Dave Eringa and more...
In the meantime, you can follow MixBus <<HERE>>.