Over the past decade or so, Darryn De La Soul has carved out something of a unique and distinguished career. With a specialist background in live sound engineering, her numerous travels and projects have proved to be an invaluable asset in piecing together the components for her latest venture. From her beginnings as a house engineer for East London venue 93 Feet East and subsequent position as head engineer at the Neighbourhood Club in West London, through her touring work with bands on the Domino label and traversing the globe on cruise ships, she has managed to compile a vast and illustrious list of contacts to take pride of place in her address book.
In January 2011, De La Soul founded SoulSound, an agency, which specialises in live sound engineers. However, this is not your average, impersonal hiring agency. De La Soul only takes on engineers with whom she has either worked with or have come highly recommended by those whom she personally knows and trusts, providing a distinctly personal touch to the
service. Furthermore, her interests lie solely with finding the right venues and opportunities, as opposed to merely making a profit.
“The way I’m working is that I’m acting on behalf of the engineer, much like an actors agent. So I get a fee from the engineers who I’m helping, as the service is for them specifically. So for venues who want to use my engineers, there is no additional charge at all.”
To add to this sense of pursuing opportunity, rather than chasing profit, De La Soul also takes on graduates, with a view to nurturing them through their formative engineering years and finding just the right opportunities for which they can cut their teeth. This approach also helps her to select the right person for each job. “I don’t have an application process, I pick people. You can’t provide a service if you’re not sure of the people you are sending out,” she says. “For the young ones it’s about getting them out there and being able to vouch for them, which is something that’s really difficult when you’re starting out; having someone who can say “yes, you can trust them.” “
For graduates and young engineers, the service and assistance on offer from SoulSound is certainly a rare commodity, as De La Soul takes a truly hands-on approach to guiding her less experienced workers through their most difficult moments. She explains: “Because I know these people well, if they’re having a panic attack at 1am because something’s going wrong and they need someone to talk to, I can answer that phone call and get them through those moments. If they’re about to do their fisrt gig in front of 5000 people they can call me and say “I’m really nervous”, and I can calm them and tell the everything’s going to be alright. I’ve been there. I know exactly how nervous they are.”
When it comes to demands for particularly high-profile events, De La Soul leaves nothing to chance with her clients, being sure to send only her most experienced and established engineers for the job. Among her top engineers, she currently boasts Dave Swallow, Barry Bartlett, Marcel van Limbeek and Justin Grealy, who between them have worked with and for such artists as Biffy Clyro, Joe Strummer, Pete Townshend, Johnny Cash and Tori Amos.
While it may sound as the SoulSound is purely a live music orientated business, De La Soul is keen to point out that herself and her engineers take on a broad spectrum of work, ranging from holiday resorts, to high-profile business conferences. “Anything with microphones and loudspeakers, we’ll be able to do. There’s a little bit of conferencing and hotel entertainment, I’ve had people on cruise ships, corporate events, and I’m sending a few people on lighting jobs, where they can double-up and take on multi-skilled work.”
With regards to expanding the company outside of London, she insists that this could certainly be an option for the future, yet she will do nothing to compromise the quality of the service she provides: “Yes in the future, but at the moment I would rather keep it small and quality than expand too quickly and not have the right people for the work. I would like to stay with certain engineers for their whole careers, especially the guys I’m starting out now. I’d like to stay with them and progress their careers until they are doing the 02s and find the opportunities for them, because I know that its easy to get stuck in a house job for 10 years”
Photo by shinydetails.com