Rising Stars: Dale Wardell - Audio Media International

Rising Stars: Dale Wardell

South African studio owner and musician describes how he divides his time between engineering work and making his own material.
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We've found another worthy subject for the Audio Pro InternationalRising Stars section, our regular focus on the best young industry talent from around the world.

Having already set up his own studio, worked with several successful musicians and a key member of South African band Habit To – set to release their third album this year – Dale Wardell from Durban is certainly making a name for himself in his home country. Here, he tells us about his recent collaborations and how he divides his time between engineering work and making his own material...

Where did you study?

I studied at the University of Natal in South Africa, majoring in Electro-Acoustic Music and Sound Technology under Jurgen Brauninger.

Which band/project are you working on/with at the moment?

I have just finished a collaboration with Machel Montano and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. It was an inspiration to see such great musicians working together, and being involved as engineer was a humbling experience. At the moment I am busy with the new Habit To album and a new South African band called Nje, which means Justice.

Where are you based?

In Westville, which is a suburb of Durban on the east coast of South Africa.

Tell us a bit about your recording studio The Audio Suite. What does it offer potential clients?

The Audio Suite is a recording studio for musicians run by musicians. We offer various services, from band demo recordings to full length international albums. We also work with the advertising industry and create jingles, voice overs and sound design for video/film. I have had various international artists recording here. The studio is run from our home and many artists come from overseas to record here. We have state of the art facilities, as well as an entertainment/pool area where clients can relax after a long day of recording, and many of them see The Audio Suite as a home away from home.

You have also achieved success with your band Habit To. Has it been a challenge balancing your own music with your work as an audio engineer and studio owner?

Yes, it can be challenging at times. Habit To is keeping me even busier these days with touring and recording, and I constantly have other bands wanting me to engineer and produce them. I've really had to learn to manage my time more effectively so that I can deliver the highest quality of whatever is needed. The life of an engineer/ producer/musician is often very demanding. I wear many different hats everyday whether composing, mixing or performing.

The awesome thing about what I do is that I love what I do, so it doesn't really feel like work. I've had to learn to say no to certain projects, which, when you run your own business can be hard to do, but if you spread yourself too thin you risk letting something out that has your name on, but might not be the best representation of your abilities.

What is your favourite ever piece of audio equipment?

What a tough question! There is so much gear out there that I love working with for various reasons. I love microphones and old mic pres – too many to name – but I'd have to say my Studer 169 console is my favourite when it comes to recording and when doing a summing mix. The mic pres and eqs are amazing and really beef up the sound, turning average mics into awesome mics.

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

Another tough one! I'm a rock guy and I really enjoy working with artists who are driven and dedicated to their craft. Mark Tremonti would be awesome to work with for his song writing skills, as well as one of my favourite bands, Van Coke Kartel from South Africa, as these guys are such good musicians and prolific song writers. The list could go on and on, but it comes down to artists who have passion for their music, are experimental by nature and have good control over their instruments.

What advice would you give to other aspiring engineers looking to create a name for themselves in the audio industry?

Know what you are good at or want to be good at and find a niche for yourself. It's good to be diverse, but pick a genre that you like and study every aspect of it in order to get the sound you need to get and push it further. Kevin Shirley is a perfect example; he has produced most of the Iron Maiden albums and he works with rock bands in that style. You won't see him mixing 50 Cent's latest album because he knows what he is good at.

Websites: The Audio Suite, Habit To

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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