Here is a little bit about me. Okay so maybe it’s not a little bit, maybe it’s a lot but maybe you genuinely wanted to know more. Either way it’s not my entire life story, but it’s probably the closest thing and most complete recollection I’ll ever write until I decide to sit down and get my autobiography out of the way.
Early Life (The Origins)
At the moment I’m a freelance audio engineer/music composer and producer based in Brisbane, Australia, but it all started back in Widnes when I was about seven. My grandmother bought me a tiny two octave keyboard (possibly a Yamaha PSR3, or something similar) which I would play for hours on end every day. I’d sit on the stairs and learn songs that I heard on the television, one of my favourites being the theme tune from Wallace and Gromit.
Eventually my parents decided to buy me a better keyboard, one that had velocity sensitive keys and multitrack recording capabilities. Learning theme tunes from television shows was quickly replaced with writing my own tracks and layering them up instrument by instrument. My uncle was a massive inspiration during my childhood, having previously been a member of cult 80’s band The Tempest. Whenever we used to visit he would show me his latest work and let play around on all of his studio equipment (but not the teal Danelectro guitar, that was off limits).
In high school I got my hands on an old copy of Cubase which allowed me to work on my first true compositions and arrangements. I could now use recorded audio instead of just purely MIDI notes for the first time. This opened up a whole new world of possibilities and from that point onwards I was hooked on being an audio engineer. I’m not even sure I knew what this meant at the time but I knew that it was what I wanted to do. It was during this time that I first met Kieran Joyce who has always been, and still is, one of my closest friends and musical collaborators. We formed a sweaty rock band, called WornOutFace, at the age of 16 and I fell in love with the guitar, playing many small time gigs in and around Widnes.
College came about all too quickly and along with it also came a proper copy of Cubase SX3. At the age of sixteen I took on my first major project, writing and recording WornOutFace’s first full EP in the college studios. As you can probably guess it wasn’t the most technically proficient or musically versatile production in the world but at least it was a start. It meant everything to me at the time and I can’t even begin to count the hours I poured into getting it to sound as good as possible. Once the EP was released we went on to perform around the north west of the UK, including three times at The Cavern in Liverpool. We also were part of a Guinness Book Of Records attempt at SSR Studios in Manchester for most bands recorded in 24 hours.
After finishing college WornOutFace parted ways and I was left with a big hole in my life and with no immediate musical project to fill it. I kept in constant contact with the drummer and within the space of a year we had created a full album. Sadly, we never found any session musicians to perform the tracks and the recordings are still saved on an old CD sitting in a box somewhere. At the same time as working with Rob I also kept in contact with Kieran, writing multiple soundtrack/score type compositions together. He later joined a band called Paraffin Oil Shop which would become my next big recording project when I was asked to work on their EP.
I then somehow lucked into composing the soundtrack for X3 Terran Conflict, the sequel to the gaming series by Egosoft which had taken up pretty much the majority of my childhood. This was a bit of a big thing for me, having never worked on a project of such a scale before. This made me realise, more than anything else I’d ever worked on, that I needed to raise my game if this was what I really wanted to do. Within months I’d submitted my application to study Audio Engineering at SAE Institute in Liverpool and had been accepted on to the course.
University (And The Big Wide World)
During my time at SAE in 2009 I met a whole heap of awesome new people and artists such as The Ora and Josh Humphries of Cities To Satellites. I also had to forget a lot of everything I had previously taken for granted and effectively start again, finding out that many of the techniques I had been using were massively outdated or just plain wrong. After relentlessly studying and absorbing the knowledge from the people surrounding me, gaining some of the best course results in the process, I ventured back in to the world feeling more capable and more enthusiastic than ever.
Initially I had some work recording with a band called Sydney Chasing Safety (now known as Pavilions) and performed live on keys for them a couple of times, supporting Canterbury at Liverpool Academy.
However, it wasn’t long before Kieran Joyce approached me one more time with a new project idea, this time the band Deafen The Creatures. We initially recorded and released our first EP, The Way The Noise Began, in early 2011 whilst also working alongside the wonderfully talented Elinor Alicia Gray and went on to play several gigs across the UK. I had the pleasure of writing and recording the song Kill The Fire (Here They Come) with Elle which won the MOJO Magazine New Voice 2011 award. The following week we ventured down to London to support the fabulous John Grant at the 100 Club in London.
Later that year Deafen The Creatures released their second EP, This World Of Ours, and things really started kicking off in early 2012 with a number of appearances on BBC6 Music with Tom Robinson. It was also during 2012 that I made the move from Widnes to Manchester, coincidentally enough living with Kieran Joyce. I went from job to job at the beginning of my independent life away from home. Stints at both The Unsigned Guide offices and Beehive Mill/Sankeys Nightclub eventually lead to full time employment with Lloyds Banking Group at the start of 2013.
Sadly for the following year and a half the audio engineer within me died a little bit. Although I had the opportunity to write my own material and record with artists such as Caroline England, Deafen The Creatures slowly faded away. Due to the increasing hours and workload at the day job I found myself with declining interest, motivation and (most importantly) time to pursue any creative musical projects. There were a number of occasions when I was dangerously close to packing it all in and selling my gear but, thankfully, I was convinced otherwise by my closest friends and family.
At the end of the year I was asked by Egosoft to come back onboard and compose the soundtrack for their latest release X Rebirth. Once again the day job proved troublesome and I had to resort to booking a week off so that I could concentrate solely on this project. What followed was probably one of the most intense weeks of my life, working at least 16 hours per day for more than seven days straight, knocking out at least one new track from start to finish every day. In hindsight, it was also one of the most satisfying weeks of my life. The game quickly became the #1 best-seller on Steam for a number of weeks, outselling big hitting titles such as Call Of Duty: Ghosts, Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag and Need For Speed Rivals.
Although this was a nice confidence boost, things quickly returned to the routine of sleeping, working, eating and repeating. I did a little session work for The Cape Race, performing a handful of shows on keyboard across Manchester but this was also short lived. As the day job demanded even more of my time, with a six week training project in Edinburgh, my ability to do what I had dreamed of doing as a child appeared to be diminishing. Upon my return to Manchester in mid 2014, I became increasingly dissatisfied with the lack of control I had over the direction my career was taking. Don’t get me wrong, I met some amazing people whilst working at Lloyds, but in the grand scheme of things this wasn’t something I could see myself lasting at for much longer.
Taking The Leap (It’s About Time)
I eventually came to the decision in mid October 2014 to quit the job and pursue my ambition of being an audio engineer. This is probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make as I knew I would have to rely solely own my own motivation and abilities to earn a living and pay my rent. But hey, I figured that if I was never going to be happy working in an office job for the rest of my life then I should at least give being freelance a go. No regrets.
What followed next was liberating. Recording project after recording project with Kieran Joyce, standing in on piano for Yarbo as part of their UK tour, mixing and mastering for a whole heap of local bands and location and dialogue recording for Papertwin. Most notably I had the opportunity to work on some of my own material and by June 2015 I had released my very first solo EP! This had been something I’d been wanting to do for years and it was such a relief to finally get it done. To my surprise, one of my tracks was picked up and played on air by BBC Radio Manchester within days! The very same month I also made the biggest decision of my life and purchased a one way ticket to Brisbane, Australia.
My girlfriend Clare was born and raised in Brisbane and, after a couple of years in the UK, decided to head home to be with her family for Christmas. This woman means the world to me and since I’ve met her I’ve realised that sometimes you just have to go with what your feelings tell you, jump in head first and push the boat out a little. You can make all the ‘sensible’ choices and draw up as many pros and cons lists as you want but, at the end of the day, the most important thing is to be happy.
As I write this on January 27th 2016, I have been living for two weeks in a sunny suburb called Geebung just outside of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia. My equipment is in the process of being shipped overseas to join me here and, as you can imagine, I can’t wait for it to arrive and get stuck in! The end of last year wasn’t too productive, understandably with the personal upheaval that was taking place. That said, I did get to see the legendary Paraffin Oil Shop return to play another show and also recorded with Welsh wizard Barry Jones. Moving forwards, there are no more opportunities for excuses and, once all of my gear turns up, it’s time to get my head down and make some serious headway towards re-establishing my business. To be honest though, I’ve never been more excited to be able to do what I do.
To see what I’ve been up to since writing this page, check out my blog!