Rising Stars: Scott Howarth - Audio Media International

Rising Stars: Scott Howarth

Engineer tells us about his 2013 so far, which has included some big tours with British rock bands Mallory Knox and Don Broco.
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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.

This time we speak to freelance engineer Scott Howarth, who tells us about his 2013 so far, which has seen him tour with British rock bands Mallory Knox and Don Broco, and mix headline slots at Reading/Leeds and Slam Dunk...

Where did you study?

I didn't study anything to do with sound, funnily enough. It all just came through hard work and motivation.

Where are you based?

Bolton, near Manchester.

What made you decide to pursue a career in audio?

The decision came from working in the music industry promoting small shows when I was younger.

I started off with just an interest in live sound at first, then the interest grew and so did my knowledge for the subject. I worked for PA companies, but I always wanted to tour with bands and help them develop their live sound, and concentrate on one band rather than mixing four or five in an evening. 

You've done 11 tours so far this year, including a Main Stage slot at Reading/Leeds, but which one did you enjoy the most?

Bit of a hard one really. I've throughly enjoyed most of the tours I've done this year.

I've been doing Mallory Knox's headline tours and getting out to Europe with Don Broco, who are really nice guys to tour with. Scandinavia was scenically beautiful, but not so great, as it was on a smaller scale. I suppose you take things from every tour though really.

Festival season has been a huge thing this year for me. Mallory Knox have given me some great PA systems to mix on, along with some incredible stages.

Reading was the highlight of the year for festivals, though, with Slam Dunk Main Stage coming a close second.

What has been your greatest achievement so far?

This is hard as I've done so much in such a short space of time.

Well, I'd like to be modest and say the greatest achievement has to be doing enough shows that key people in the industry have taken note of what I've done. I've had the pleasure of working with some great artists this year – both up-and-coming and established. Getting a chance to mix bands like Don Broco and Letlive has given me a great confidence boost in my abilities. 

Mixing We Are The Ocean on a Jimmy Eat World support show was also special for me, as I absolutely loved J.E.W. when i was younger. I'm sure there are many more great opportunities in front of me, too.

What advice do you have for other young engineers looking to make it in the industry?

Work hard, stay strong and learn from every experience. Pick your opportunities well and don't just throw yourself about for nothing. Make every decision count towards something.

I suggest the best way is to shadow someone or work hard in-house at a venue, build your skills and learn from each touring engineer. Build a network and attend / visit shows / people when they're in town. Networking is a huge part of this job. Also, assess your attitude before your skills set. Your attitude is what counts on the road as much as your live sound. Nobody wants to work with an awkward personality.

What is your favourite console?

At the moment the Soundcraft Vi6. I love that desk – the sound, the layout, the ease of use, the style. So far I'm yet to have a bad show on it.

The list could go on, though. The Midas Pro and XL8 consoles feel and sound amazing, but I've just not had enough time on these yet in a touring environment.

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

The DBX 160a is a compressor I'm always happy to see; same with the Drawmer DS201 gate. They just sound great and do the job i want. If it's digital I just use the onboard stuff for now.

I tend to try and get my drums sounding nice and punchy, so compressing kick, snare and toms over subgroups is something I've done for a while now. Tightly gating the drums also helps me control the loud levels on stage.

The centre vocal depends on my singer, really. For example, Mikey from Mallory Knox has a great tone to his voice and yet it's still quite dynamic – from higher singing parts to something of a growl in the heavy bits. I have Mikey on the e945 and EQ very little – just HPF up to around 160Hz and cut around 300-500Hz to clean the vocal up. I compress him quite hard and open that output up a little so he can really go at the mic when he feels the need, yet it will stay balanced when he's nice and quiet. That way the vocal sits on top of the mix very well – defined and controlled.

I feel I've learnt some nice little tricks over the years to help my mix breathe a little better. For instance, I HPF the bass up to 50Hz so my kick can fill in the gap below, and LPF my guitars down to 9kHz - 10kHz, which helps me push my guitars without them becoming harsh. I'm not an overly technical engineer though, and like to keep things simple in the mix.

Are there any other sound engineers that have helped you with your development?

I've learnt a lot over the years from various other touring engineers. One in particular is Zach Marshall, who mixes Tonight Alive. Zach has a real keen ear on making any room sound huge. I have taken a lot from just listening to how he does things, and I'm implementing them in my mixes today. 

If you could pick one artist/band to work with, who would it be?

I'm a guy who loves to work with a band on the up, rather than just jump in with an established act. I like to build a relationship with the artists. 

However, mixing Stevie Wonder or Blue Man Group would be very special.

Website: www.scotthowarth.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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