With just over two weeks until the 2017 Pro Sound Awards, we sat down with the next finalist for this year’s Rising Stars Award – Luke Pickering – 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.
Luke Pickering is assistant engineer to producer Paul Epworth and an in-house assistant and engineer at The Church Studios in North London. He began working there just under two years ago after impressing the Church Studios team during a work experience placement and has already racked up some impressive credits including London Grammar, The Stone Roses and Glass Animals.
What initially made you want to pursue a career in audio engineering?
In my late teens I began to realise a big part of my connection to the records I was listening to was through the production and sonics. I became just as obsessed with the engineers and producers behind the albums as the artists themselves – Steve Albini, Butch Vig, Joe Barresi, to name a few.
Where are you working at the moment and how did you end up there?
I currently work at the Church Studios as an assistant engineer for producer Paul Epworth, and also as an in-house assistant for outside sessions, where the studio is also available commercially.
About two years ago I was on a work experience placement with Miloco, when I got sent to the Church. It just so happened they’d been looking for a runner/general studio assistant, so you could definitely say I was in the right place at the right time. I was very lucky to find myself assisting the odd session from the get-go, but primarily I oversaw tasks related to the day-to-day running of the studio. The place is huge, with so much gear – I learnt an insane amount in a short space of time. From there I’ve worked my way up into a more established assistant engineer role.
What’s it like to work at The Church Studios?
In a more tangible sense, learning from professionals first-hand has taught me essentially everything I know about the practice of being a great engineer – I’m lucky to assist Matt Wiggins and Riley MacIntyre, who both engineer at the Church and for Paul Epworth on a regular basis; the combined talent and experience under one roof makes it a uniquely amazing place to learn and develop.
What have been your favourite moments so far?
Beginning work at the Church for Paul Epworth has been the single biggest moment in my career. On a personal level, suddenly dropping everything where I’d lived my whole life and moving to London was character building, something I needed to do. There’s already so many highlights – witnessing the Stone Roses recording their first material in 22 years was very special.
What kind of projects have you been a part of recently?
We had The Horrors tracking, mixing and partly writing their latest record all under one roof, which was a really creative, epic project to witness. This year I produced a full-length album by fuzz-rock duo Buffalode, tracked in the Church’s Neve Room in just two days, which I also mixed. Lately I’ve really enjoyed engineering a couple of sessions for up and coming artists on Paul’s label, Wolf Tone, who are based in-house.
Can you tell us about some of your favourite gear? What do you find yourself relying on most of the time?
That’s such a hard one. There’s this one synth we have in the studio, the Gleeman Pentaphonic, which is an incredible thing. It’s a real ‘song starter’ – you just pull up any patch and play, and it always sounds glorious.
Recently I arrived late to the Distressor party, experimenting with it on various drum mics – it’s such a fun, powerful compressor. On a more nerdy level, I love the stuff by LittleLabs. Here we have the Redeye reamp/DI boxes, and the PCP – there’s no end to the problems in the studio they resolve, and I still discover fun new ways of using them. The Fabfilter Pro-Q 2 also springs to mind; for me it is a defining example of what makes plugins so great.
In which direction would you like your career to head next?
It really changes all the time! It would be an absolute dream to have my own studio somewhere. I have always loved the idea of working with bands as a producer/engineer figure, while I also really enjoy mixing. Generally speaking, being able to work on projects you love is a privilege, and to make a living doing that is a rare thing. I try to stay open-minded. I’m not sure you ever reach that definitive goal – you just keep learning and trying to improve yourself.