Q.1 Tell us about yourself. Where you’re from, who you are?
A.1 Hi my names Paul, I’m a co director at Audio Animals studio in London with my cousin Nick. I grew up in east London and lived here all my life. Music is my life and I spend pretty much every minute of every day working with it in some way shape or form.
Q.2 What is your role at Audio Animals?
A.2 I will literally do everything, there’s not a role I don’t get stuck in to. My main role at the studio is mixing and mastering engineer. Over the years I have gathered a whole host of unique high end studio equipment that paired with my knowledge and understanding of mixing and mastering allows me to create a very unique creative sound heard only in my mixes. I think this is important to any mix engineer to have their own sound. People come to me from all over the world for this sound. To me it’s important to be unique in as many ways as possible when it comes to music. I work a great deal with sample packs. Both recording, engineering and putting together sample packs. I find this strangely therapeutic. Looking at waveforms for hours on end, splicing samples for release in our sample shop. I’ll work a lot with administration, website management. Whilst Nick works with the more technical side of the website. I’ll work with business strategy and creating interesting content for visitors to read. I could go on there’s so many other small things throughout the company that I work with or along side.
Q.3 Any interesting projects you are working on currently?
A.3 Yeah there’s so many that this interview would turn into an essay if I mentioned them all. I have just launched a cd printing and duplication service, which is going amazingly. So much so I’m thinking of taking an employee on to take on the printing side of things. It’s quite time consuming duplicating 2000 CDs even with the aid of a robotic arm on the duplicator. We’re mastering some amazing film trailer music at the moment which I’m looking forward to seeing in the cinema. Nothing better than hearing your masters on an iMax cinema sound system. Also knowing millions upon millions of people have heard your work is awesome. I’m currently writing a lot music for vocalists around the world with my group, the Southeast Connection. As I type this I’m actually sitting by a pool in Portugal writing my album. I like to write the music in a note pad before even touching a piano. I find it limits writers block. I know when I sit down in front of the piano to write I have the song already planned out and a vision to follow. It’s a process I use as im used to writing for other artists to their spec and vision. I treat it in a similar way. I write a song on paper with a spec and vision then turn that into music at a later date. May be a weird approach to writing but it really works for me. Try it it’s a very creative process. I’m also in the process of finishing about 15 new sample packs. One of which im recording tomorrow in Portugal while I’m here with my zoom h4n’s. These sample packs have been a few years in the making and have a couple of months left in them. All of them will have there own custom gui within Kontakt and have been designed for instant use and full control over the samples.
Q.4 You mentioned Southeast Connection. What’s the story behind that?
A.4 Well we have small team of writers and composers were working with consisting of myself, Nick Burchall and Alex Tower. We all live in the South East and have a connection through music. Hence Southeast Connection. Myself and Nick have written a lot of tracks for other artists over the years under a different name, which I won’t name for obvious reasons. Mainly because I like to keep certain music especially ghost writing unassociated to myself or company. Southeast Connection is the group name we are using for our personal work. Music we are writing for Audio Animals and for our film compositions. We’re really excited to unveil our albums especially the film compositions.
Q.5 Your studio is one I myself look at and droll over. I’m sure much like many others do. What’s your favourite piece of equipment?
A.5 Now that’s a question I was dreading you asking. It’s like asking a father which one of his kids is his favourite. Each piece of gear I have here has been purchased for a specific purpose. Nothing really doubles up or is not needed. I have so many items of equipment that are just essential to my sound and without them I’d not be able to achieve my sound. If you put a gun to my head and made me chose one I’d maybe say the ATC monitors. Without those my sound wouldn’t be so detailed and accurate within the mix. The shadow hills compressor is a big favourite of mine as well as the Maselec compressor and limiter. And if we’re going to mention them we can’t not mention the SSL console, Maag eqs and Neve tape units. Oh and elysia channel strips they are incredible. Also Uad plugins have always been a big part of my sound. Without them I’d be lost.
Q.6 Obviously a big gear enthusiast. Why do you prefer to work out the box to working in the box?
A.6 interesting you ask this I was asked this in an interview yesterday as well. I think a lot of people are under the impression working out the box isn’t as important these days. I would strongly disagree with this. In an age where everyone sounds the same it’s more important to get out the box to achieve a unique sound. I mean for instance you’re a producer and your creating a bass sound and let’s say you use massive. You create a massive patch it sound great. Somewhere someone out of the thousand upon thousands of other producers who use massive, that sounds been made before and there’s probably a very similar preset patch online to download. You create a sound on a Moog voyager for instance. There’s only a minority who have invested into such a synth, so this sound isn’t widely available to the majority. Thus achieving a unique sound unlike anyone else. Same goes for mixing. A mix engineer using waves plugin will achieve a mix anyone else could achieve using the same plugins and know how. Only a small percentage have the luxury of owning or using an SSL summing console and truly unique analogue outboard equipment. The sound is far superior and a lot more fun than a mouse and keyboard. Coming out the box does have its drawbacks of course. Cost being a major factor. A plugin eq is free with a daw or can cost £50. Then an eq like the Maag Eq’s we have here will cost you £1500. The difference is mind blowing though and like I said before it’s far superior in sound quality. Fancy things don’t interest me like cars and watches. Id much rather buy audio equipment.
Q.7 So what car do you drive?
A.7 Well I drive a Ford Focus 2 litre Gaia which to be honest just sits on my drive. I’ll usually drive my girlfriends corsa or is it a clio. Like I say cars don’t really interest me its black and she always keeps it clean. On a special occasion I’ll drive a Lotus Ellis. It’s not very practical it’s like a little road legal go kart. That reminds me going go karting tomorrow must take my zoom recorder and record me driving around. Will be great for a riser on this track im writing. Something unique as you know by now that’s what I’m all about with my sound.
Q.8 Your girlfriend, is she supportive of your music and what you do?
A.8 Yeah she’s amazing. She knows how demanding my job is and the long hours I have to work. I now have a small studio setup in our bedroom so I can spend time with her whilst I’m splicing samples and doing admin which means I can work whilst being in her company, which is also nice as she won’t mind me saying she’s my best friend and enjoy being in her company. She’s always supported and understood what I do. It’s funny when I got in a relationship with her a client of mine gave her a message and said as long as you don’t distract Paul from being an awesome engineer I approve. Did make me laugh.
Q.9 Any plans for the future with Audio Animals.
A.9 Lots of big plans in the works at the moment. We’ll be looking at a new studio base some time end of this year. Something bigger. Due to the workload we need around 4 studios and recording studio too. So going to be looking at somewhere bigger. Will probably end up going into next year by the time we find the perfect spot. Where we are now is great we’re just going to out grow it soon. Just a case of saving till the end of the year as building 4 studios and kitting them out with the best equipment isn’t cheap. The plan is to have a studio for each service. Digital mastering studio, analogue mastering studio, mixing studio, recording studio and production studio. Will be a lot of jobs available when we do get round to building this. Always wanted to build an empire with a team of employees so I’m excited to get the ball rolling asap and start the interview processes.
Q.10 All sounds amazing. Any parting words of wisdom you’d like to share.
A.10 Yeah. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something. If you want something bad enough work hard and go and get it. Anything that’s worth having takes time to get. If it was easy everyone would be doing it. In many cases it’s only you that is holding you back. Gain the self belief that you can do it and go out there apply yourself and go get it. Whatever it may be.
Has been a great interview. Thanks guys all the best.
Paul Ashmore ( Director at Audio Animals )