The mu­sic MAS­TERS

Some of the great­est pop and rock acts of the cen­tury share a link with a Taun­ton stu­dio and the small team of per­fec­tion­ists who work there

Somerset Life - - LOUD MASTERING - WORDS: Si­mone Stan­brook-Byrne PHO­TOS: James Clancy

What con­nects Taun­ton, Ul­travox and noisy shirts? You’d be for­given for not know­ing. The an­swer is LOUD Mas­ter­ing.

Re­mem­ber the 1990s? It was a time when mu­sic pro­duc­tion was be­com­ing in­creas­ingly digi­tised, los­ing the pu­rity of sound avail­able with ana­logue. At that time highly-ac­claimed mu­sic en­gi­neer, John Dent, was trav­el­ling be­tween his West Coun­try home and work at The Ex­change Stu­dio in Lon­don. Life was vi­brant but hec­tic and John had the vi­sion of set­ting up his own stu­dio. Get­ting off the train in Taun­ton he chanced upon the newly-built premises which were to be­come his stu­dio: LOUD Mas­ter­ing was born, named for his favoured ex­treme shirts.

Work­ing with bands such as Dire Straits, U2 and Bob Mar­ley, John was renowned in the in­dus­try to the point of rev­er­ence. At one time every act on Top of the Pops was a client. Peo­ple col­lected his work, want­ing mu­sic mas­tered by John. His lec­tures were trans­lated into umpteen lan­guages, be­com­ing part of the syl­labus for mu­sic en­gi­neer­ing stu­dents.

They say that ‘be­hind every great record is a great mas­ter­ing en­gi­neer’ and John’s was the in­dus­try stan­dard; his work leg­endary. His Taun­ton stu­dio grew in em­i­nence as his phe­nom­e­nal ex­per­tise in mu­sic mas­ter­ing cre­ated a highly sought-af­ter sound, ma­jor­ing on the ana­logue tech­nique. In 2014 John won the Mu­sic Pro­duc­ers’ Guild ‘Mas­ter­ing En­gi­neer of the

Year’ award. But tragedy struck. In De­cem­ber 2017, af­ter a long bat­tle with ill­ness, John died.

This could have been a loss too great to bear, but it is a tes­ta­ment to the le­gacy of John’s in­spi­ra­tional skills and teach­ing that LOUD con­tin­ues from strength to strength.

Ar­riv­ing at the stu­dio I am greeted by Anna, John’s wife. Orig­i­nally from Rus­sia, Anna’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to en­sure that all John’s achieve­ments con­tinue and are built on is ad­mirable.

She takes me into Stu­dio 1 with its mind-bog­gling ar­ray of equip­ment, where Ja­son Mitchell is work­ing on a Lev­ellers al­bum.

I freely ad­mit that my knowl­edge of mu­sic tech­nol­ogy was non-ex­is­tent. I say ‘was’ be­cause af­ter a chat with Ja­son it sud­denly makes sense. Ja­son worked along­side John Dent for more than 20 years, ab­sorb­ing knowl­edge and skills from John to the point that what Ja­son doesn’t know about mu­sic mas­ter­ing isn’t worth know­ing.

So what ex­actly is it? He ex­plains: “If some­one wants to re­lease a record, whether as a

CD, on the in­ter­net or as a vinyl record, then the best way to have that mu­sic pre­sented to the pub­lic is to bring it to a stu­dio like this and have it pro­fes­sion­ally ‘mas­tered’. This ‘fin­ishes off’ the record, mak­ing sure there are no tech­ni­cal er­rors, that the sound is right. It’s con­sid­ered to be the last cre­ative stage for the record, like edit­ing a piece of writ­ing. We make sure it’s in the best shape it can pos­si­bly be.”

It felt like a bit of a light­bulb mo­ment, not in­ap­pro­pri­ate given that the ma­jor­ity of the equip­ment in Stu­dio 1 utilises

‘The best thing I see in here is the cre­ativ­ity, peo­ple’s pas­sion for their mu­sic’

John’s much-loved, and of­ten cus­tomised, ana­logue tech­nol­ogy, al­though there is also dig­i­tal equip­ment. Stu­dio 2 at LOUD is more equipped for dig­i­tal.

Ja­son’s en­thu­si­asm is pal­pa­ble. “The best thing I see in here is the cre­ativ­ity, peo­ple’s pas­sion for their mu­sic. The job is tech­ni­cal, but it’s very in­stinc­tual as well, get­ting into a client’s mind­set and de­liv­er­ing what they want.” He tells me of his work with Midge Ure. “Work­ing on the Or­ches­trated al­bum was amaz­ing. An in­cred­i­ble al­bum. It was fan­tas­tic to hear Midge

Ure re-singing the vo­cals for new ar­range­ments of orig­i­nal Ul­travox tracks.”

Mu­sic ar­rives at LOUD in var­i­ous for­mats: on USB sticks, over the in­ter­net, on

CDs, some­times on tape. Af­ter mas­ter­ing it will be de­liv­ered as an in­ter­net file to the artist or to their record la­bel, such as Uni­ver­sal, for pro­duc­tion into what­ever plat­form is re­quired, be that CDs, iTunes etc. LOUD also has a vinyl cut­ting lathe so that a ‘real’ record, known as a ‘master lac­quer’, can be cre­ated.

“From this orig­i­nal vinyl master lac­quer,” Anna ex­plains, “the com­mer­cial vinyl records are pro­duced in a press­ing fac­tory.” And you don’t have to be a big name to be a client; LOUD works with lo­cal peo­ple, such as the builder whose dream had al­ways been to make a record.

Since John’s un­timely demise a new en­gi­neer has joined the

‘My job is to make sure that the amaz­ing things John achieved con­tinue’

team: Richard Wil­lan now works along­side Ja­son and brings a fresh ap­proach and new an­gles. He has re­cently been work­ing with rap­per Bugzy Malone.

From all corners of the planet, artists flock to LOUD Mas­ter­ing, rel­ish­ing their ap­proach­able ex­per­tise and the pu­rity of sound that they cre­ate. And in the essence of every note they make John lives on. A her­itage of skill and sound that will never die.

ABOVE: Mas­ter­ing en­gi­neer Ja­son Mitchell cut­ting vinyl

ABOVE:Stu­dio 1 equip­ment, cus­tomised for John Dent

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.