james gasson: music producer
After spending 9 relatively stress-free months developing inside my mother, I eventually plopped out into the world one October evening in the early 1980s. Since then I have regularly found myself preoccupied by creative endeavours, which for a long time in my childhood consisted largely of drawing pictures of Garfield to the sustained amusement of my friends (I guess it was a simpler time). However, as I meandered into the hormonal wilderness of my teenage years, a penchant for punk rock diverted my path from budding cartoonist to that of struggling musician, consequently also instigating my metamorphosis into a spotty young Kurt Cobain.
And so, where once there were pencils, now plectrums could be found. Drumsticks and battered old cymbals replaced my canvas and watercolours, as I sought to physically embody as many members of Nirvana as I possibly could, my throat regularly savaged by full-volume bedroom renditions of inappropriate songs. God only knows what the neighbours thought. Still, those formative years led to my later delight in occasionally doing things like this.
Nightly feasts of angst-ridden journal scribbling soon ensured that I wrote a generous compendium of my own punk rock songs, and before long I found myself occupying my very first recording studio experience, when on 7th - 8th August, 1999, the shy 17 year old me booked two days in a Brighton recording studio, all on my own, without even the most remote knowledge of how an entirely self-performed full-band recording would be possible. All I knew was that ambition + technical people = greatness. It cost me 240 quid. I still have the recordings.
That was the start of my journey.
Since then I have been a fervent student of audio recording and production, concurrent with an almost unnerving obsession with the recording techniques of Steve Albini, with the intent of learning how to produce the most powerful and cutting drum sound known to mankind. Additionally, quite a lot of other stuff has happened, most of which going some way to justifying why I have chosen this particular career, and why therefore I am in a very good position to help you produce your music. In no particular order then, allow me to list some of those things. Concision, as no-one has ever said, is the antidote to incoherence.
Since 1999, I…
- Attained a 1st in Music Production from the University of Brighton.
- Played drums in the heavy punk band, Orchid Trip, hitting super hard and covertly using this to court the attention of female audience members.
- Had an album recorded by Steve Albini at his Chicago studio, Electrical Audio.
- Later returned to Chicago to work at Electrical Audio, taking care to identify and learn the techniques of “that” drum sound.
- Built my own studio out of the remnants of the very first studio I ever recorded in.
- Built my own microphones.
- Built a really awesome cheese sandwich.
- Shut myself in a room for two months designing a complex guitar synth effect with Max/MSP that I never actually ended up using.
- Toured extensively around the Balkans where I frequently played clubs in Albania and was once violently sick in a car park in Macedonia.
- Recorded loads and loads of bands of various genres including rock, electronica, folk, Americana and, through no fault of my own, dubstep.
- Worked as an engineer in a variety of recording studios, including Brighton Electric.
- Worked in a London post-production studio editing mixes for Simply Red DVDs and soundtracks for a particularly bad children’s CGI adventure series.
- Recorded lots of gigs for bands and promoters in variously different sized venues.
- Realised the importance of experimentation over simply claiming that you know stuff because you read it somewhere.
- Wrote loads and loads of songs, most of which are located on my Soundcloud page.
- Developed a total competency yet robust dislike of Pro Tools.
- Learned how to calibrate two-inch tape machines.
- Made myself into a cartoon.
- Became music department technician at the University of Sussex; configuring, maintaining and repairing their studios.
- Almost hit a deer.
- Developed an aptitude for synthesis.
- Built custom Neve emulation preamps.
- Built lots of sound-controlling acoustic panels including absorbers and quadratic diffusers.
- Did lots of re-soldering after squirrels nibbled my cables.
- Regularly created and edited audio samples for a toy company, often leading me to make embarrassing monster noises into a microphone or record the sound of my Peugeot 306.
- Learned how to hypnotise my cat.
I expect I did some other things as well. Perhaps if you drop me a line I might just shed some light on some of them...