RISING STARS: Henry Cook - Audio Media International

RISING STARS: Henry Cook

Bucks-based engineer tells us why he's so proud of his audio education work, and why he's a big Yamaha fan.
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We've found another worthy subject for the APIRising Stars section, our regular focus on the best young industry talent from around the world.

Our first Rising Star of 2014 is Buckinghamshire-based engineer, tour manager and promoter Henry Cook, who has worked as FOH and systems tech for Skindred, Newton Faulkner Turin Brakes and many more in the past. Here, he tells us why he's particularly proud of his audio education work, and why he's such as big fan of Yamaha equipment...

Where did you study?

I originally taught myself a lot of the basics by being thrown in at the deep end as a young teenager, left to pull small gigs together with a handful of friends. I was then headhunted to start theatre work, and the majority of my training and practical learning about sound came from the theatre industry (a great place for diversity and I would always go back).

I stopped, however, to pursue my endeavours in education. Having received a BND in Event Management it seemed a natural progression to begin a Diploma in Live Music & Events Management at Buckinghamshire New University. I have wondered why I didn't study engineering directly but so far the majority of my work hasn't required a qualification in audio and my skills and reputation as an engineer get me by.

Where are you based?

I am originally from South Oxfordshire, but I am currently based in High Wycombe, soon to be Brighton.

What made you decide to pursue a career in audio?

As a young teenager I just wanted to get involved in promoting music. I didn't understand how audio worked and I could barely play an instrument, yet here I was tasked with learning overnight how everything plugged together and making it sound good. Without the guidance of a couple of friends I'd have been screwed! But I guess younger minds have the ability to overlook the pressure and I enjoyed the feeling of satisfaction when I'd packed down at the end of a successful night. It was inevitable after that. I was hooked and wanted to do as much as possible.

Can you tell us about some of your recent projects/tours?

As well as being an engineer I also tour manage, manage acts and promote shows, so I get a varied amount of work and it keeps me interested in the industry. Recently I've been working with one of my best friends – a chap called Adam Barnes. Picture a man with very impressive facial hair standing on a stage with an acoustic guitar. It's anyone's guess as to how he will sound. However, his voice and song writing skills are second to none and our aim at the end of the night is to let the audience leave feeling like they've experienced something extraordinary.

Being an acoustic artist Adam plays regular shows in churches and old buildings rich in natural acoustics. When he is accompanied by usually only a couple of other musicians I find myself transfixed on playing with room sound and natural reverb, which is a great opportunity to learn more about each performance space and how I can tweak it to something that stands out from a normal venue.

What are you working on at the moment?

I'm currently head audio engineer at Bucks Students Union, which is interesting in itself. Like most venues we have a lot of touring acts coming through, perhaps more high profile than other towns of a similar size, but that's mainly because of the student population and all our events are free entry.

As a venue our priority is to be diverse. The main room is used for lectures (live sound courses) during the day and our second room transforms into a bar/cafe. This obviously makes it difficult to leave any live setup in place for more than the length of a show, so assembling from scratch and striking at the end of a gig is standard practice. This includes the FOH PA and FOH position. Even monitor world is stripped and replaced with equipment for club nights.

What is your favourite console?

My first digital board was a Yamaha LS9, which was interesting, however I did enjoy learning the basics and got hooked on having so many built-in features and what seemed like, at the time, endless possibilities. I then moved on to the M7 and eventually the CL5, both of which, in my opinion, are great desks, even though a lot of engineers would disagree.

Recently I had the opportunity to use an (Allen & Heath) iLive 144 setup and so far it's got to be my favourite. The general layout and functionality makes sense and coming from a predominately Yamaha background I was able to see familiarities yet massive improvements in the control and manipulation the iLive enables. Being able to create, store and edit shows away from the venue is still a novel experience for me so i have great fun just playing with show files.

But the CL5 is by far my desk of choice for touring with any large scale production.

Do you use any outboard FX/EQ? If so, what are they used on and why?

When I know the majority of desks I'm going to be using are analogue then it's inevitable I'll travel with a box containing at least three FX units. Even when using a digital console I prefer having FX independently as I find I'm never satisfied with built in or plugin reverb or delays for vocals. I'm normally happy with anything stamped with Lexicon or top-range Yamaha. I'm not too fussy as long as I can get good control and manipulation.

If you could tour with any band/artist who would it be?

I could probably puzzle over this one for months but at the end of the day Deftones are one of the only bands that connect perfectly with my ears.

Even with a multitude of engineers and producers on their albums they've still been able to sustain an incredible sound and their drum tracks especially strike with me. Drums are extremely important to their records and I'd love to give theirs a go on a tour. I'm sure that most engineers would agree that once you become part of the industry your levels of expectation from an act rises sky high and you're rarely REALLY impressed by live performances; however Deftones still remain one of the only bands to have, and still, 'blow me away'.

I'm unsure who does FOH with them currently but I saw them with Chad Olech I think and their live show was second to none. As a band the sounds they produce are a massive influence. I'm a rock DJ in my spare time and really into Nu Metal so I just can't help but turn it up to 11. So it's either them or someone epic like Fleetwood Mac.

What would you say has been your greatest achievement so far?

This is a strange one. Most people use moments like this to name drop and even though I've worked with some great and talented artists and at some fantastic festivals, my greatest achievement is giving back.

I think there's no greater satisfaction than seeing someone with a genuine interest in audio learn something new and understand the uses of the skill you've taught them. I've been lucky enough to teach young people some basics and introduce kids – who given another day would probably be sitting in a park experimenting with alcohol – some skills that they can use and plant some seeds which they can grow. Some of those kids have now moved on to structured audio education due to that attention I showed them and that makes me very proud.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Hopefully still doing what I'm doing! I enjoy every day as it comes and always try to gain a lesson from every gig. Ten years from now I see myself happily taking on new challenges and still increasing my knowledge as an audio professional.

Maybe my beard will have reached my waist too? That'd be nice.

Twitter: @bonusbeats
Website: henrycook.co.uk

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 Adam Savage on adam.savage@intentmedia.co.uk or +44 (0)1992 535646.

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