What’s an engineer’s role?
As the in-house Engineer at The Motor Museum, my job is to interface between the artist and recording studio. I take care of the technical side of the process so that the artists and producers can focus on creating great music. To be a skilled engineer requires me to know the studio inside out and ensure the technical process of recording runs smoothly.
In practice, my role ranges from “simply operating the studio” all the way to co-producing the record. On most projects, I find myself somewhere in the middle. The band are usually self-producing, but I’ll offer a second opinion on performances, sounds and certain parts. A big part of my skills are interpreting the vision the artist is looking for, and capturing sounds that reflect it. Having a really deep knowledge of the studio gives me the broadest possible ‘sonic vocabulary’ to draw on.
One of the most rewarding aspects of being an in-house Engineer is that every project is different. This challenges me to constantly look for the best approach to making things happen. Whether I’m just operating the desk or suggesting ideas, I try to find my place early into the project and help out as much as I can without overstepping boundaries.
What do I do when an artist is looking to book a recording project?
Prior to actually booking the session, I like to have an informal meeting with the artist. This allows us to have a chat and get to know each other a little. I find this first contact incredibly helpful, allowing a relationship to spark without the pressure introduced by a recording session. This meeting is a great opportunity for the band to ask questions and get an estimate of how much studio time would be necessary. Finally, it is also an occasion for me to give advice on how to prepare for future sessions.
Pre-production is a really important process that we’re big believers in at The Motor Museum. It’s a chance to do our homework on the songs and to get to know how the band interact together when they play. It also helps to identify what strengths a player has that I can use to my advantage in the studio. This can either be done in person or via an online exchange of demos/videos/documents/etc.
What happens in the studio?
By now, we should have most of the logistics issues under control and have a pretty good idea of what we are trying to achieve. We can focus on creating awesome sounding tunes!!
The actual process varies a lot between projects but the general goal is to create an environment in which musicians can express themselves freely. I’ll have already planned the kind of microphones and equipment I want to use, and will spend time getting this setup and dialled in. Once everything is set we’ll do some test takes to make sure I’m totally happy with everything. Once that’s done, we get to work!
It’s important to make everyone feel comfortable and develop a trusting relationship. Our common goal here is to capture both the best sound and performance for each element of the song. To achieve this, we need to be objective of everyone’s work. Good communication is imperative to make sure that we all get the best out of each other. In my opinion, honesty and constructive criticism are the most effective tools to push our limits and obtain great results.
This pretty much sums up the way I go about new projects here at The Motor Museum. It is undeniable that having a great deal of technical skills is imperative to be a good engineer. However, I strongly believe that cultivating relationships in the studio is just as important in order to create awesome music.