Audio Pro International’s focus on the best of the industry’s young audio engineers continues this week with the latest addition to our Rising Stars section.
This week we catch up with touring FOH engineer Pete Ord…
Where did you study?
I went to Leeds College Of Music (LCM) where I studied a BA (hons) in Music Production. Before I went there, technology was pretty new to me, and before I decided on LCM, I had been ready to accept an offer to Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama to study contemporary composition!
Writing and arranging were (and still are) a huge part of my life, and in the end I went for Music Production at LCM because I hoped to learn how technology could arm me with more tools to be a better composer and arranger. That was my original intention, but once I was there I fell in love with producing; it felt like I’d stumbled upon the side of music I’d always been looking for. I don’t think people realise how creative it can be and what a difference a good producer can make. I get to be a composer and arranger, as well as whole host of other jobs all rolled into one and I find that really exciting.
I didn’t have my heart set on folk or traditional music while I was there, which I think was good because I spent the first two years of my degree exploring production techniques in all manner of genres from pop and rock and Motown, to grime and drum ‘n’ bass, and I’m so glad I did because I feel well grounded and able to bring a slightly fresher approach to production in folk.
I was lucky to be surrounded by some like-minded people at LCM and since graduating, I have noticed that there are a good selection who have gone on to be successful in the folk scene; people like Jamie Roberts, Katriona Gilmore, Andy Bell, Tom Wright, all good friends now and it’s certainly not a coincidence that we all studied in Leeds.
Which band/project are you currently working on?
I currently run an independent record label, Haystack Records, which specialises in folk, roots and acoustic music. I engineer and produce all our artists in-house, and I’ve just finished a couple of debut EPs – one with singer and multi instrumentalist, Jen Ord, and another with folksinger, Maz O’Connor.
The next big project that I’m just starting at the moment is the second solo album for Sheffield-born ballad singer Gavin Davenport. He’s a great traditional singer, but also an inspiring songwriter. So far, we’re in the process of demo-ing all the material, which is really exciting. I like to be involved in a project as early as possible so that I can really get my head inside the album. We’ve got a host of great musicians lined up to be involved too, so I’m really looking forward to getting in the studio over the next month or so to get some takes down. I’m also a live sound engineer, and I’ll be FOH engineer at a few folk festivals over the summer.
Where are you based/working at the moment?
I’m based in Manchester where I mostly work out of my home studio, but I’m also a big fan of mobile set-ups, which can be particularly useful in the genre in which I predominantly work. For example, one of my first projects was recording a collection of Cumbrian songs from a local singer. He was pretty elderly, and more or less the only surviving singer to remember some of his repertoire. We wouldn’t have been able to take him into a studio, so I was glad we could go to him. I’m a big believer in creating an environment for people to record in, and often that can be easier in people’s homes, or in beautiful surroundings. As long as there is a decent sounding room then I’m happy. Obviously some things just need a studio; I try and always use one for drums, for example, or if I’m tracking a lot of things at the same time. There’s a really nice studio that I’ve been using recently called Edwin Street Studios in Bury. It’s attached to The Met, which is a great arts venue, and the studio has a really good sounding live room, particularly for acoustic music.
What decision process was behind the choice of this console?
I don’t currently have a desk in my home studio for a couple of reasons: mostly because of the space, but also I don’t really think I need one. I run a Focusrite Octopre connected to a DIGI003+, which gives me 16 channels, and then I’ve got a Mackie Big Knob, which allows me to switch between monitors, switch to mono, and gives me talk back. In Edwin Street Studios they have one of the new 24 channel Toft desks, which I really like. I’ve heard a few people criticising them recently but I think they’re great. I used one when I was at Leeds College so perhaps familiarity plays a large part in why I like them. When I’m working with an artist I try to make everything about them and their music; the gear just needs to be something I can use in a way that doesn’t get in the way of the take and the moment.
Do you use any outboard effects/EQ, and if so, what are they used on and why?
Again, I don’t tend to use any outboard, mostly because of the space I’ve got. Mixing for folk is a funny one; folk audiences can be very sensitive about arrangements, particularly in the over use of compression, but things are beginning to change; the genre is becoming more professionalised, more adventurous and innovative, which is probably helped by the newer, younger producers such as Jim Moray, Andy Bell, Tom Wright and Julien Batton who are pushing things forward in terms of bigger and fatter mixes. Nevertheless, a certain degree of sensitivity is still needed. That’s why I don’t track with compressors; I like to get everything back into my home set-up and take everything from there. There are some really great plug-ins and I can get pretty much everything I want out of those.
What is your console of choice?
If I was going to get a console, and I could have anything in the world, I’d be looking at the Neve, but on the whole it’s a fairly unrealistic dream, at least for the foreseeable future! I’d probably look at getting one of the Tofts, as I find them quick and easy to use, helping me concentrate on the session and getting the best performances out of the people I’m working with. In a live setting, any of the Allen & Heath desks would please me. I prefer to use analogue because I like being able to see everything in front of me, it’s more tactile, but when you’re running a festival desk with lots of artists with very little change over time then digital just makes so much more sense. I used a Soundcraft Si 24 and found that pretty user friendly, with some pretty good built in effects for the money.
If you could tour with any band/artist who would it be?
That’s a huge question! I’d love to tour with Afro Celt Soundsystem I think what they do is great and really exciting, and working in any way with Richard Thompson would be an absolute dream, especially if he had Danny Thompson with him. I also think what Treacherous Orchestra are doing at the moment is really fresh, and dealing with such a large band with so much going on could be really creative. Outside of folk, though, Cinematic Orchestra would be pretty challenging, and I’ll never stop wanting to work with Radiohead!
Photograph by Toby Lowe.
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 Pro International editor Daniel Gumble on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01992 535646.
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