Engineering a career in music

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April 8, 2013 by bmcconnelluwo

They’re the men and women behind the music.

Behind the bands, the managers and the publicists are the producers and sound engineers that help put together award winning songs and albums.

And the biggest recording venue in London is EMAC Studios—a business founded in 1979 and the new workplace of 23-year old Kyle Ashbourne.

Ashbourne is a junior engineer at EMAC, having started as an intern about a year ago and being hired on in June as a fulltime employee. Since arriving there, he’s worked with untold numbers of bands and genres.

Ashbourne, wearing a band t-shirt and sitting behind the studio control console says he feels very grateful to be in such a prestigious studio.

“Since it’s such a saturated field there are not a lot of jobs,” he says. “And there are like a million people graduating each quarter, wanting to come into a setting like this. It’s a very competitive market.”

In fact, there are currently two competitions being held—CBC Searchlight and Under the Covers—that boast a first place prize of money towards recording time at EMAC.

Ashbourne says there’s no other place he wants to be.photo (2)

Sitting in a room with lava lamps and guitars along the far wall, a glass partition over-looking the main recording room and state-of-the-art speakers and controls at his disposal, he says each day brings something new.

“Every band is completely, completely different,” he says. “And you’ve got to adjust quite a bit.”

“Vibe trumps everything in this room—hence the lava lamps.”

The day-to-day of a junior engineer at EMAC, he says, is never really the same. During a recording session he often acts as a support for the head engineer. But he has also led recording sessions himself, which is what he hopes to do one day in the near future.

Hailing from Dryden, Ontario, Ashbourne is a longtime musician and amateur producer. He has toured and played with numerous bands, also doing the recording for many of their albums.

After working numerous odd jobs to pay for debt he racked up from touring, Ashbourne went to the Trebas Institute in Toronto to study sound engineering.

He made the move to London to live with a friend’s band and do their recording for them.

From here, he became very involved with the London scene which eventually led to him joining the EMAC recording team.

Ashbourne says he wants to keep refining his craft, work with as many bands and genres as possible and to keep making music.

“When you come in here and you see somebody on that side of the glass photo (3)that loves it just as much as you do, you get this vibe and you capture it and it just always works out really well,” says Ashbourne.

He says the best musicians to work with are the ones with talent, drive and ambition—somebody who really cares about their craft and wants to get the best result.

He says the biggest problem that they run into when producing an album with an artist is a lack of communication about what everybody wants done, egos getting in the way of working together and a lack of understanding about what the engineers are trying to achieve.

“I didn’t get into this because I wanted to make money,” says Ashbourne. “I got into this because I wanted to make music, and make good music.”

Ashbourne says his ultimate goal for his career as a sound engineer is to be a part of the panel at EMAC that judges the Juno Awards submissions for producer and engineer of the year.

“Basically, my life goal as it stands right now is to sit on that panel and do work that those people respect,” he says. “That is where I want to be in my career—I want to be one of them.”

Dustin Andrews—the lead singer for a London band called Wasted Potential—has known Ashbourne for four years and recorded with him out of their home when he first moved to London. He predicts Ashbourne will one day be a head engineer and a producer.

‘He has a good ear for it,” says Andrews. “There are a lot of different people into a lot of different genres of music. Being into metal, a lot of people try to push you into the rock angle. Kyle is really good at pushing you to get the sound you’re looking for.”

“He can record something in his apartment and make it sound professional,” says Andrews.

But Ashbourne plans to continue to learn and grow as a sound engineer in EMAC’s professional environment, rather than in his apartment again.

He says working with his co-workers is a blast. Both inside and outside the recording studio, the head engineer at EMAC and Ashbourne are close friends—something he says is essential to nurturing a creative environment in the music business.

“I think that’s how it works across the board for everybody in this industry,” says Ashbourne. “If you’re not capable of being friends with the people you’re working with then you’re kind of screwed because this is such a creative field.”

— Brendan McConnell

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3 thoughts on “Engineering a career in music

  1. Lindsay says:

    You blog is awesome.

  2. Lindsay says:

    Anonymous? I thought it said Lindsay, but I’ll take it! PS you look good.

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