One half of exciting new audio production partnership SoundQuake, pro-audio Rising Star Sam Turner has been chatting to Audio Media International about the birth of his studio to his plans for the future and everything in between...
Can you give us a brief rundown of SoundQuake’s history?
SoundQuake started straight after myself and my business partner Sam Jump left university. We both did the same music technology degree and basically did the entire course together. During these three years we both started working with other studios, engineers and producers outside of university and started to build up a client and contact list. We both knew that in this industry we had to do it for ourselves and couldn't really rely on anyone for help. So come the end of our degree we had a brilliant working relationship between ourselves and many other great contacts in the industry; a really good leg up to start our own partnership. We then sourced a suitable location to base ourselves and SoundQuake was born.
Now we run this studio for the purposes of mixing, composing and post-production, with the ability to do some light tracking if needs be. All of our big recording projects are still carried out at the major studios we use. Over the past couple of years we've managed to work on some amazing projects both in the music and post-production world and are continuing to pursue projects in both of these areas.
Where are you based? Can you tell us a bit about the studio?
Our studio is based in a pretty remote location in South Wales. It's not so much a studio for bands to come and record in, but more of a production lab for ourselves. We do bring bands in for mixing but it is much more of a facility set up to cater for us than for artists. It's actually made up of two rooms, the second of which is currently being turned into a dead room to create a dry recording space for simple tracking purposes. The main room is where we work from and everything we need is in one space.
If you come down and see it, it may not be quite what you expect. It's actually baby blue and relatively colourful throughout. This sort of came around after being sick of all the dreary grey and beige studios that we were used to seeing. We just wanted to create a really fun, relaxing friendly vibe so we can get in the right mindset to get creative and make clients feel at home when they are here.
Who are some of your main clients? Why did they choose you?
We actually did a small composition for a Mercedes advert. It was in a strange vocal rhythm style that we have used on quite a few projects and I guess they just liked that sound – something a bit different. We've also done some work with Only Boys Aloud, ESTRONS, Paint Happy and Fireroad – big names over this way.
What is the reason you maintain a two-man team and rely on freelancers? Does this provide advantages over a more traditional team?
I think this primarily comes down to a lack of trust! It's very hard to find someone else that you trust to take care of some work for you that you really put your heart and soul into. The only way that this works is because of the three years of working together prior to starting this business; we both came into it at the same level, grew our knowledge together, bounced ideas off of each other, experimented with what does and doesn't work and naturally came to a method on how we approach projects now. It would be very hard to find someone else that would be able to fit into that method.
For now, using freelancers that we know do a good job can lighten the work load. But even this is very rare; we like to do as much as possible in house. Having said that, and from being involved in work involving other industries, I can honestly say that I've never seen a group of people work so hard and put so much time and care into what they do as those working in music. Toiling away for hours for very little gain and still plugging away just to get a brilliant end result. It really has to be admired and that does give me a bit more faith in using more freelancers and potentially taking on someone more permanent.
What is the reason you utilise studios across the country rather than operating from one facility?
There are so many great studios across the country that have been there for many years, accumulating tonnes of great gear, desks, and mics that it made no sense to build another one of these at massive expense. They have all been so good to us that we love going back. They all seem to have their own sound as well, especially when it comes to tracking drums and you're getting a room sound so it's useful to have different flavours from different studios (something that can't really be emulated in mixing). The cost of renting top-end studios has dropped so much in recent years that it makes no sense to start competing with them now and just utilising the great studios that are already out there.
It's not key to our business to be based out of one place all of the time. In fact it is quite nice to get away from your own studio every now and again; it really helps to get the creative juices flowing.
What are some of your key pieces of gear?
All of the power in our studio comes from a Universal Audio Apollo. We wanted to get the best in-the-box mixing tools and there's no real other way to go than the UAD route. This open us up to a whole world of amazing plug-ins and the unison pre-amps mean that we can get amazing results from the recordings that we do carry out here. Generally this is vocals and acoustic guitar parts. So these pre-amps, plus my second favourite piece of gear (the sE Electronics Z5600a) gives us an amazing warm sound. We actually bought this mic by accident and is perhaps the best mistake we've ever made. Even when we go to studios with a mic locker big enough to get lost in, we still take it with us and make use of it. We can't recommend it highly enough.
My third favourite is the Equator D8 monitors. These are amazing reference monitors and really put things into perspective when you think your mix sounds amazing on a pair of Genelecs.
How do you see the current market and how does this new studio fit in?
What we've got going at the moment is working really well for us – minimal overheads but giving us all all of the tools we need to do our work. We plan to get some more gear as we go, purely for the reason that I'm a bit of a gearslut! But other than that we don't really plan to expand the studio anymore. We're just going to keep creating the brilliant work that we have been producing so far and only when we find a major limitation will we look to expand the studio itself.
How are you planning to get your name out there?
It's all word of mouth and reputation. South Wales has a great music scene and it does't take too long to get yourself known, but there's a great deal of competition and it's still a tough market. So at this point we are making sure that every single project we take on receives the upmost care, and doesn't leave our studio until we are more than happy with it. We take pride in our reputation and want to keep that as strong as possible. We've taken on work nationally and internationally through nothing more than word of mouth and the internet and hope to keep the momentum going on work like that to get our name out there on a wider, geographical level.
What would you say makes your studio unique?
It's the simplicity and streamline-ness of how we work and how our studio operates. We have undertaken a philosophy from Mr.Ikea; he claims that absolutely everything should be simple and streamlined. This keeps the end goal clear, reduces mistakes and helps everyone know what's going on. If you were to see our project's files you might be amazed at how simple they are. We have got out of the habit of using 15 different plugins on a single snare bottom track – it just makes for a bad mix. We also remove any plug-ins from our computer that we don't use very much. This is something that I think many producers overlook but it saves you a massive amount of time and gets you to the end result much faster if you limit the amount of plug-ins you have access to (as well as saving money), much like if you were in an analogue studio. The general rule is, everything can be simplified.
Audio Media International is on the lookout for the industry's top up-and-coming audio professionals as contenders for the Rising Star prize at this year's Pro Sound Awards. If you think you or someone you know qualifies, contact Audio Media International staff writer Matt Fellows on firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0)20 7354 6001.