Indieterria meets Joseph Murray

Dear Readers,

Some time ago we had a pleasure and privilege to speak to Gavin Monaghan, the founder of legendary West Midlands` studios – Magic Garden. The interview proved so popular that we were asked to go back and write some more about the studio and its personnel.  And we are happy to oblige. Part of what we do at Indieterria is to highlight the assets that young and up and coming bands have at their disposal. And nothing is more essential than a good recording studio and talented producers/engineers. Bands, artists and those of you who one day plan to produce albums professionally – please meet Joe Murray. He is one of the best engineers in the country and he has a lot of incredible things to say about working with musicians, mixing and making the magic happen.

If that is not the best interview we did this year then we don`t know how to do interviews.

Joe Murray at work

You are second in command at the iconic Magic Garden Recording Studios.  Please introduce yourself to readers of Indieterria.

Joseph Murray: Hey everyone. My name is Joseph (Joe) Murray and I’m here to try to answer these wonderful questions and hopefully not bore y’all to deathhh!

Gavin Monaghan – the owner of  Magic Garden described you as a man of many talents. You act as engineer, producer and mixer. You and Gavin work very closely with each other. How do you divide the workload on a regular day in the office?

Joseph Murray:  That is very kind of him as always. One of my favourite things about music is that there is no such thing as a regular day, which keeps things exciting and creative! I think due to how long and how closely we’ve worked together on mountains of records, we’re able to share the workload in various different ways to get the best out of the track and the band. So here’s a rough example of working with a random 3-4 piece band:

Step one: The Band shows up and before anything we have a look around and a general chat. The main thing is putting the band at ease and trying to make sure everyone`s comfortable and “vibing”. The band`s music is massively important and the recording will live forever,  so of course there can be a few nerves here and there.  I try to make sure the band knows I’m on their side and their music means as much to me as to them!

Step two: After all the gear is loaded in and coffees have been made, we’ll all gather in the control room and have a talk about the song and the vision for the track. It`s crucial to get an idea of where we’re heading.

Step three: Once we’ve discussed the in’s and out`s and any ideas on how we should track the record, there’ll be a little bit of mind reading between Gavin and myself and I will head next door to the live room with the drummer to get a better idea of what kit they are using. Whether they can use studio`s various shells or maybe they’ve brought their own or perhaps they just got their prize snare. I’ll then give all the drums a tune which is HUGELY important and often overlooked! The drummer and myself will have a nice in-depth chat about what they like and we will find two, maybe three snares to narrow it all down.

Step four: When we’re hearing everything back through the mics, we’ll then move on to start tracking against the vibey guide track Gavin and the rest of the band have put together.  We’ll do this till we’ve got the “magic” and then I’ll spend a little while putting together the best of each take whilst the band get some sustenance or a nap.

Step five: Then it’s time for the big bad BASS, which 9 times out of 10 we will capture through a high quality direct signal and an amp for vibe. Having the direct signal means that when we’ve wandered into guitar land, we can re-amp the direct bass through various oddities and balance the mid-range against the real guitars.

Step six: And speaking of guitars – another bit of mind reading takes place and Gavin dons the chef`s hat and starts crafting the bands melodic elements. At this point,  I`ll take what we’ve got so far into my mix room and start doing some session file housekeeping so that once Gavin has tracked the rest of the musical components it`s a matter of bringing it all together. From here I’ll start working on my Mix! Every day is completely different: some days I’m producing an electronic artist in one room and Gavin is recording an acoustic songwriter next door and on other occasions I’m mixing an album whilst Gavin’s producing vocals for another project. Every sessions is different so I’m open and ready for most anything (animal attacks included).

Joe worked with many established acts – here in the picture he is shown with Paper Buoys

About two months ago we interviewed  Gavin himself and he mentioned that the studio was being refurbished. Can you update us on the progress of the works? How does Magic Garden grow?

Joseph Murray:  The studio is always changing and growing, which again keeps things fresh we’re always on the hunt for the next big thing or a mysterious hidden gem.

At the moment, we’re putting focus on the benefits of a hybrid approach so far as getting the most out of the computer whilst also squeezing out the analog goodness of the hardware units. The main room is centred around two different analog consoles from two different eras to give us options and choices, when it comes to different genres or bands or even song by song.

One of the desks is a vintage 70’s German broadcast, which gives us great clarity, punch and in general just makes most things sound a little more lively. Then to the side, we’ve got a fantastic gem of a 60’s British desk which again gives us vibe, colour and some nice, rich saturation.

We’ve also got a stock of various preamps – for even more flavours. I find that if you can get the recording chain working WITH the sound from the start, life is just easier later. They’re all tools, like paintbrushes – some are great for huge broad tonal strokes and others are better for fine movements and just a little bit of highlighting.

Meanwhile in the “B” Room, we’ve focused on the finishing side of projects and put the emphasis again on a hybrid approach focusing on the summing side and making sure that the hardware used is as flavourful as possible. In both rooms we’ve got matched monitors to make it easier to transition projects and maintain the same vibe and vision. There’s also a vast microphone collection ranging from the standards to the weird and wonderful and that floats between the rooms

What we are trying to do via this blog is to highlight options available for people who want to break into the music business. And we not only mean artists or bands, but also future technical experts: producers and sound engineers. Judging from your experience –  if somebody wants to find themselves on the other side of the mixing desk – where should they do?

Joseph Murray:  I can obviously only speak for myself and my own experiences, so my advice would be… you should be prepared to work hard (and long) and make sure you love music. Luckily music is so multifaceted and there are so many moving parts that I guarantee there are jobs you’ve never even heard of.

I’ve always thought that the technical side of the recording process can come second and will be worked on for years and years and years… So as long as you’ve got the attitude and decent taste you’re onto a winner. I would also say to remain open minded, you could walk in wanting to be the producer but find that you actually enjoy the engineering side more or even the sound design aspect. Be fearless-ish.

Prepared for any weather.

What are the do`s and don’ts of your profession. If you were to pen a list of helpful and unhelpful habits of studio personnel, what would you include?

Joseph Murray:  I think that attitude is probably one of the most important aspects to studio life. It’s long days, usually all in the same room. You’re dealing with people and it`s important that they know you’re on the same team and you only want what`s best for the song at the end of the day. Being able to write a good clear track sheet is always helpful, making (good or bad) coffee is always appreciated, in fact make lots of coffee. Take notes, ask questions, listen to  e v e r y t h i n g .

For don’ts – each studio or professional will have a different view on what not to do but my main one is don’t make mine or anyone else in the rooms life harder and that`s about it.

You have been instrumental in creating one of our favourites albums of last year – “Columbia”  by The Blinders. Tell us more about the recording process behind this record? Was it easy to work on it? Or maybe it was a truly dystopian experience?

Joseph Murray:  That`s great to hear and thank you very much! It was a brilliant album to be a part of for many reasons. Firstly, I lurvve the guys and they’re great to just hang out. Secondly the songs were top notch and they’re performers through and through, which makes creating an exciting record a joy. The process for the album wasn’t too out of the ordinary and just felt organic. They’re a band with a collective vision and unwavering commitment to get to it. They each know what they like and what they want whilst also being collaborative and open to suggestions and guidance. We were able to develop the songs in such a way that I reckon got the best out of everyone!

A parent shouldn’t have favourites but we need to ask  – which album you worked on so far is your pride and joy?

Joseph Murray: (laughs) Well I try to make whatever I’m working on at the moment be my favourite. I like the idea that for the time the band are in the studio with me I join them as an auxiliary member and in doing so it’s not about a personal ego or a personal preference, it`s about collaboration and doing your best for the band. We’re Family!

There are records I’m proud to been part of because of their musical or emotional significance, there are records I’m proud of because of my input and contribution and records that I’m proud to be part of because of the experience, so I wouldn’t say I have a favourite. It`s like being part of all of these different little tribes!

Besides working in the studio, we have seen you delivering am impressive stand up comedy sets at Musicians Against Homelessness gig in Birmingham in April. Was it one off or have you been doing it for a while now?

Joseph Murray: Ah, well thank you very much! That was actually my first set. I’ve never considered myself a stand up comedian, just a guy who spouts various amounts of nonsense and likes to hear people laugh. It was for a very good cause and as I’m a musician who is most definitely against homelessness how could I say no! If you’re also a musician who is against homelessness, I suggest having a look into what Musicians Against Homelessness do!

Joe Murray delivering stand up comedy set at Musicians Against Homelessness gig in Birmingham. Photo by Annie Monaghan
https://www.facebook.com/annie.monaghan.984

Every sound engineer have their favourite tools to use. What piece of equipment you just have to have at hand?

Joseph Murray: I often will rant about how you can make a record anywhere using anything because it’s the songs that matter and a good song will always be a good song. That being said, it’s nice to have the luxury of your favourite tools and it`s more often a question of what you’re comfortable using. The most important thing for me is my ears and monitors. Everything else is a bonus. My desert island bag would probably have in it a particular snare we’ve acquired that I don’t know much about other than it sounds incredible and seems to just balance the rest of the kit really nicely! Not to compare myself to Van Gogh but if he didn’t have his favourite brush I reckon he’d still paint a masterpiece.

We know that working with Gavin is a dream come true – he is the Wizard of Wolverhampton after all. However, let’s pretend you can work with any other producer (alive or dead) on any album in existence. Who do you choose to collaborate with and what’s the title of the record?

Joseph Murray: I feel that music is always changing and evolving and growing, so I struggle to pick a favourite album or producer. There are thousands of records that I would love to be part of. Some albums that come to mind straight away are the Berlin era recordings by David Bowie, especially “Heroes” produced by Tony Visconti whilst Brian Eno and Iggy Pop were hanging around too. That would of been an experience, especially seeing Tony recording Robert Fripp creating melodic feedback just by walking around the room.

I also think being with Nigel Godrich recording “OK Computer” would of been amazing, to be at the genesis of this new turn in modern music.

There are so many more – Bob Marley`s “Exodus” (not just for the weather), The Beach Boys` “Pet Sounds”, Marvin Gaye`s “What`s Going On”, Wu-Tang Clan`s ”36 Chambers”, Beastie Boys` “Ill Communication” and of course Fleetwood Mac`s “Rumours”.

Thank you very much for talking to us!

Joseph Murray: Thank you so much for your brilliant questions and I hope my answers made some sort of sense! Keep It Loud and One Love.

You can follow Joseph Murray on the socials:

https://www.facebook.com/josephjosephmurraymurray
https://www.instagram.com/josephjosephmurraymurray/

And Magic Garden Recording Studios can be found here:

https://www.facebook.com/MagicGardenRecordingStudio/
https://twitter.com/MagicGardenUK
https://www.instagram.com/magicgardenstudio/

There is an awesome playlist that showcases all the recordings made at Magic Garden on Spotify:

Yeah we know, we are so lucky to have such incredible studio in West Midlands and people like Joe and Gavin to take care of all the local (and not so local) artists. If you look for a place to bring your art to life – please get in touch with Magic Garden.

R/M

Indieterria meets Raw Sound TV

Hello!

Some might say that there’s never been a better time to be a musician. Internet gives you access to billions of users, streaming platforms are easily to set up and curators are at the stretch of the palm. You can set up professional recording studio in your own bedroom as the equipment is getting better and cheaper and it is not hard to master its use. It seems, the rock and roll dream is just around the corner and ready for grabs.

Others might argue that the technological edge is the same for everybody and it is hard to break through thousands of other bands competing for attention.  There are also external factors that need to be taken into consideration: lack of funding, closure of local pubs and venues, austerity, quickly changing musical trends, constant search for something new fueled by social media and Instagram influencers. DIY musical scene can also be divided and lack of unity affects the bands and gig goers altogether. You could say that for every ray of sunshine, there is a big rainy cloud covering it.

Yet the DIY  scene is holding on despite the odds. Bands are recording, exciting music is somehow making it to the national radio stations and new opportunities are springing up here and there. Indieterria sat down to speak to Mark Piddington the man behind RawSound TV to speak about the new ideas to help emerging artists, production techniques and their plans to permanently change West Midlands musical scene.

You call yourselves an “old school MTV” style music show in the Internet era. Please introduce yourselves to readers of Indieterria.

Mark Piddington: Hi. I’m Mark Piddington. Producer and Presenter of RawSound TV. Part of the reason for the idea of RawSound TV was that I could see that there was a lack of decent live music “tv” shows. Especially for unsigned artists. A show in the style of “The Tube”, “The Word” and many other iconic TV shows from the past that I felt the older generation were missing and the younger generation were missing out on.

Raw Sound TV is live music show recorded at Glass Onion Studios in Birmingham every two weeks, broadcasting on your YouTube channel on the Sundays in-between. Your shows include interviews with unsigned and new artists doing live performances and featuring videos along with interviews with the bands and occasionally live gigs. You’ve had 4 seasons so far and are currently working on a new season which is due to broadcast on the April 14th. Can you tell us how the recording and filming process works? 

Mark Piddington: We invite bands and artists to our studio which is fully equipped for recording and filming. After they arrive and meet the crew, we set them up for a sound check/ rehearsal, during which time the crew get audio levels for recording and camera angles worked out. After a short break it’s on to recording. The red light goes on and we film them performing three live tracks. After a short break we then conduct a short interview. We go through this process twice as we usually have two live bands featured per episode. After the bands have gone we do our ‘bits to camera’ which includes introduction to the show and individual intros to the bands. It can be a long night! Then, once all this is done, its on to editing the show for broadcast on the follow Sunday which usually takes well over 40 hours over the week.

Raw Sound TV at work – photo by Danielle Clarke

How long does it takes for a band to appear on Raw Sound TV? How do you select the bands? What do you look for? 

Mark Piddington: We encourage bands and artists to get in touch with us if they want to appear on the show.  Selection is very difficult for us as there are so many fantastic bands and artists around at the moment. We know that a lot of them unfortunately won’t get to appear on the show as we are only able to feature two bands per show.  We don’t let our own personal tastes influence who appears on the show. We try to look for quality in musicianship, song writing and what/ who we feel our viewers should be seeing and would appreciate.

Besides the music show, you also offer other services: recording live performances, making and editing videos and even access to a recording studio/rehearsal space. We know many artists look for those services – so please tell us about what you also offer and how bands go about this? 

Mark Piddington: The recording studio is a separate entity to RawSound TV. I established Glass Onion Recording Studio in 2003 and have been recording bands there since.  As well as recording, I also offer rehearsal space, studio dry hire and also music video production. If anyone wish to use any of the studio facilities/services, they can contact me via any of our social media platforms or at RawSoundTV.com.

Money matters are hard to talk about – but essential for both businesses and artists alike. Can you tell us about the fees and other charges that artists approaching you should consider?

Mark Piddington: Firstly, to clarify, we are not a business. RawSound TV do not charge anything for bands and artists to appear on the show.  It is totally free.  As the crew and I do not get paid and the studio given for free, we are currently trying to get the show funded in some way so we can continue to offer this opportunity to unsigned bands without them having to pay. Having been there myself I know that young musicians don’t generally have the funds to afford what some companies charge for ‘promotion’ and what they get for their money.

You’ve featured and worked with an exciting array of West Midlands acts: Alex Ohm, The Clause, The Cosmics, The Verse, Ivory Wave, Karkosa, Lady Sanity, MeMe Detroit, The Novus, Sugarthief, Violet, Lycio, La Dharma, The Goodwater and Candid – the list is endless. If an artist or band wants to get involved, how can they reach you? 

Mark Piddington: We have worked with over eighty bands and artists in the twenty months since we started. Some of whom are most definitely destined for big things. If an artist wants to appear on this show they can contact us on our website at RawSoundTV.com and navigate to the ‘want to be on the show?’ section.

You have filmed performances in many different places in West Midlands: The O2 Institute, Castle and Falcon, Square One in Coventry and The Flapper to name just a few along with outdoor festivals such as Lunar and the Bewdley Music Festival. Is it harder to record in a small, intimate club or in a large arena? 

Mark Piddington: They both have their difficulties. As opposed to the studio which is a controlled environment set up for filming and recording, live venues are not. Therefore, we always have obstacles to overcome when filming away from the studio.  More often than not, sound recording and lighting problems are the usual suspects as we have little or no control or influence over these.

Raw Sound TV have recorded many, many bands and concerts over the last couple of years but we are sure some of the performances must have stood out from the others. Do you have any favourites? 

Mark Piddington:  That’s a very difficult question. If I’m honest the ones that have stood out for me are when the whole recording process and post production has gone smoothly or when the crew have had a particularly good session and the band have performed well and, more importantly, enjoyed themselves. It is great to see the bands’ reaction to the whole process from ‘our side’ of the process. Festivals are always good fun for the crew but the days are long and can be a logistical nightmare (especially when it rains)!

Imagine that you can film any artist in the world, where and why?

Mark Piddington: Ahh, you might want to keep your eyes peeled for something exciting we “might” be doing over the summer that will answer this question. So watch this space!

Is there anyone you’d like to invite to appear on the next series or future series? 

Mark Piddington: There is no one in particular I have in mind.  The plan is to keep on inviting the best new, unsigned bands and artists on to the show.

Last question – we are only in April, but what are your plans for the upcoming months. Anything exciting to tell us about any what you’ll be including in forthcoming shows?

Mark Piddington:  Every show is exciting for us. Being able to give young artists this kind of platform and the excitement and enthusiasm they have for the show gives myself and the crew a massive buzz and makes the whole thing worthwhile. We also get a huge lift from the positive comments on social media from the bands who have now become friends and their fans alike.

No rest for technical crew – photo by Danielle Clarke

Lights, camera, action – photo by Danielle Clarke

You can follow RawSound TV on their socials:

Official website: http://rawsoundtv.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Rawsound.tv/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/rawsoundtv
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rawsoundtv/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzvfJMPXYhK65X2VRDIkifg

Please contact Mark if you’d like to be included in the next series of concerts. Also, if you have performed for RawSound TV in the past and you’d like to share your videos, please contact us and we will be more than happy to share your experiences.

We also have some incredible  artists to showcase  this month and we are thrilled to be sharing our new interviews with you soon.
Thank you for reading and see you soon!

Rita and Malicia