Rising Stars: Jake Miller
Miller, who has worked in some big London studios as a producer, mixer and recording engineer, first started his pro audio career in Australia.
With just one week until the 2017 Pro Sound Awards at London’s Steel Yard, we had a chat with another one of this year’s Rising Stars finalists, Jake Miller, to find out why he deserves to be recognised as the industry’s most promising young professional.
After receiving excellent submissions from all areas of the trade for the Rising Stars Award, we recently revealed the shortlist of nominees and spoke to all of them about their pro audio journeys so far.
Jake Miller started his career in Australia as a studio assistant from 2008 to 2013 before relocating to London and working out of Abbey Road, RAK & Strongroom. He has been a producer, mixer and recording engineer for artists such as Imogen Heap, Dreller, Shy Nature, Jesse Davidson, The Cairos and many more UK grass-roots music projects.
Where did you study and how did you first get into pro audio?
When I was 16 my love of music eventually caused me to come across sound engineering, and I wound up helping out at a local studio in Brisbane. I was taking a lot of the demo sessions by the time I started at university, but I actually left uni only a year or so later to spend more time as an assistant in different studios in Melbourne and Brisbane. The course seemed to be designed primarily to help give you a better idea of your options within the industry, whereas I knew I just wanted to spend my time getting good at recording and mixing.
Could you tell us about your most recent role before you went freelance?
My first year trying to do everything freelance full-time has been really great, but up until this year I'd been working as personal engineer/mixer for Guy Sigsworth (Björk, Madonna, Imogen Heap), and he's quite specific with his requirements when it comes to Pro Tools, programming and attention to detail.
It was an incredible three years, and not really what I'd expected when I came to London. I found myself thrown in the deep end from day one, but I was getting a first class musical education in the process. Working with Guy – truly a walking encyclopaedia – was an honour and a genuine once in a lifetime opportunity to grow, both professionally and personally speaking.
How would you compare the pro audio industry in Australia to that of the UK?
I suppose the main difference is that there's enough work to go around here in the UK. That's not to say it's easy in London... but certainly I've found people are much more welcoming and eager to help here, especially after moving a long way from home (I was overwhelmed by their kindness during my first day at Abbey Road).
I’d say often in any major Australian city there might be one or two really exciting things happening at a time in music, and that doesn’t prop up the industry as well. My favourite part about being here so far is the sheer variety of interesting music being made to a very high standard.
Could you tell us about some of your highlights so far?
I've had some great experiences at Abbey Road and working for Guy with artists like Imogen Heap, Dido and Alison Moyet, but I'm always most proud of the grass-roots projects I get involved with. A major personal highlight this year was recording and mixing a piece with London Contemporary Orchestra (LCO) at RAK Studios. The orchestra is run by Hugh Brunt and Rob Ames and they've done some incredible work for the contemporary-classical work, and I really hope to work with them again in the future.
Which element of the overall music production process do you prefer and why?
I think the production itself is without a doubt the most exciting part for me. It’s about being in the studio, setup to record and leading the process of turning a scrappy idea into a song with an arrangement and an aesthetic both musically and sonically. I do really try and make the instrument and sound choices cohesive with the arrangement before I plug any microphones in, so to speak.
Also, anyone who's worked with me will probably talk about my obsessive tendencies, nurtured deeply in no small way by the three years spent with Guy. It comes from the same determined place to make things exist exactly as you hear them in your head.
What advice would you offer to someone looking to get into audio engineering?
It's as clichéd as they come, but be ready to work incredibly hard if you want to get anywhere. Everything comes in waves and you have to be able to stick it out or go looking for trouble when things go quiet. If you're not happy, change what you're doing; try your best to avoid working on music that doesn't make you feel good. While we all have to work within parameters, try not to compromise too much and don't forget why you started in the first place.