Rising Stars: Tom Frampton
A studio owner at 24, the engineer discusses his gear preferences and past work for the likes of David Guetta and Steve Aoki.
An audio engineer, producer, singer, DJ and more, Tom Frampton has come from a background saturated in music to open his own studio: Mastering The Mix, a mixing, mastering and project studio in Kensington, London.
At just 24, he has already had his fair share of success. Here, he chats to Audio Media International about his early beginnings as a guitarist and drummer and early diet of '80s rock, all the way to recent projects for the likes of David Guetta and Steve Aoki.
How did you start out in music and recording, and where did you study?
My obsession with drumming started when I was two years old – I have photo evidence. This continued to be my main pastime throughout my teenage years. I also picked up a guitar when I was 11 and I loved that just as much. I was dead set on having a career in music from my early teens. I made it my goal to get accepted into the London College of Music, which I achieved in 2009. I graduated with a first class honours degree in 2012.
I began working on projects that achieved commercial and chart success from 2012, but I had been working as a drummer and a DJ since 2008.
And what made you decide to branch out into pro-audio?
After university I landed a job as an audio engineer in a studio in Surrey. I had full access to high-end analogue gear, serious monitoring systems and UAD plugins – I simply caught the bug. I found that the mixing and mastering phase of each project would get me really excited and that’s where my talents were shining through. I wasn't so interested in recording and choosing takes.
Who would you say are your biggest influences?
I grew up listening to '80s rock. My sisters brought a Britney Spears CD home one day and my Dad thought he’d better intervene before things got out of hand. He decided to start what he called my ‘weekly education’. My first lesson was called ‘Deep Purple’s Greatest Hits’ and it continued with Led Zeppelin, Queen, The Beatles etc. These timeless artists still influence me today from a ‘love for music’ perspective. A lot of the new stuff comes and goes so quickly and can lack passion – and it shows in the music.
Looking more towards current artists, Zedd has had a big impact on my productions. When he released Spectrum the production level simply blew my mind. I had never heard track sound so perfectly clear. His musicianship and ability to compose an intelligent piece of music also shines through every track he puts out.
Regarding mastering engineers, it would have to be Kevin Grainger. He masters for Spinnin Records, Swedish House Mafia, Defected and many of the electronic music heavyweights. He is a master of his craft.
Do you have any achievements you are particularly proud of? What are the big landmarks of your career?
The best buzz I get when working on a track is simply how much I like the track myself. I’ve worked on hundreds of tracks this year and some of the best have been from undiscovered artists that have so much talent. I hope they still come back to use my services once they've hit their commercial success.
I have been lucky to work on some commercially successful projects. I was the co-vocal editor for David Guetta’s Ain’t a Party and you can also hear my backing vocals on that track. I also co-produced the vocals for Steve Aoki’s Holding Up the World. More recently I have mixed tracks for an artist being released on Island records. I mastered an EP for Swedish X factor finalist ‘Isak Danielson’. That EP was produced by Grammy Award winning producer Kipper Eldridge. I also mastered an EP for Soundcloud sensation Berhou.
Can you tell us about any recent projects? What are you working on currently?
I’m currently mixing a rock track for an artist who had a number one in Poland. I’m also working on a few pieces for TV and film composer Simon Lacey. I’m about to master a new EP for electronic producer T3n Bears who is signed to Sony. I’m also in the beginning stages of developing a plug-in; I’ll reveal some more information on this in the future. Alongside the mixing and mastering business I’m also writing a lot of my own electronic music.
Can you tell us about some of your favourite gear? What do you find yourself relying on most?
My favourite and most useful ‘gear’ is actually my acoustic treatment. As boring as that sounds it really controls the frequencies in my studio and gives me a flat listening environment. This allows me to really hear and understand what's happening in the mix. It gives my musical ear the best possible chance to make good mix decisions.
Fabfilter Q2 has to be my most used plug-in. It gives me so much control over the audio. From a technical perspective, the Fabfilter plugins are clinically precise. When I want to add some mojo to my tracks I go for UAD. With the exception of the Q2, (which I'm always using) I just pick out what I think will work for what I’m trying to achieve. An SSL EQ is very different from a Pultec EQ and I use them for different purposes.
Regarding monitoring, I listen on my Avantone Mixcube in mono very frequently whilst mixing. By mixing on a small speaker at a low volume I am able to create mixes that sound huge when they are transferred to large speakers or club sound systems. I also use Yamaha HS8 speakers and Genelecs as main monitors to check the low end.
If you could work with one artist or group, who would it be and why?
Tricky question. I could think of hundreds of my favourite artists who I would love to work with in many different genres. If I had to choose one, it would be Skrillex. He is an incredibly talented producer who has never confined himself to one genre. He is also always on the forefront of pushing boundaries and setting the standard for music production at its highest sonic quality.
Where do you want to be in ten years?
I would like to have a few number one mixing and mastering credits to my name. I have a personal goal to win a Grammy. It’s a long shot for now but I’m aiming high.
To get involved in our Rising Stars column, whether you are an engineer who is new to the industry and would like to be featured, or an experienced engineer who would like to nominate a particular student/apprentice, please contact Audio Media International staff writer Matt Fellows on firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0)20 7354 6001.