Ever wondered what an audio engineer and producer does? Or what a career in that industry might look like, and how to get there? We were lucky enough to chat with Producer Jeremy Giddings from Hothouse Audio St Kilda, who gave us the lowdown along with some good advice for producers and bands alike!
Hi Jeremy, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for us. Firstly please introduce yourself and tell us your position at Hothouse.
Hey there, I got my first contacts through The Push so I’m more than happy to take the time. My name is Jeremy Giddings, I go by Jez, and I’m an audio engineer and producer at Hothouse Audio St Kilda.
What does a typical day at your job look like?
Well every day is different depending on what is going on and what stage of the project we’re at. But the last session was 12 hours to track and mix one song for a 4 piece rock band. We always start the day with coffee, then right into drum setup. The drummer and I set up the kit, I gave it a tune, made it sound as rad as possible in the room, then we picked some cymbals to suit the song.
I put some mics on the kit and the band were off, tracking drums and laying their guide parts as they went. The rest of the day is spent tracking bass, that’s easy, the 62 p bass gets the sound most every time, getting guitar sounds, trying lots of different vintage guitars to find the right sounds for the parts. With the band tracks down we got into some vocals, bv’s, a bit or percussion. Knocked them over pretty quick. Then I spent the remaining hours mixing the track, giving it whatever it needs and talking with the band about any tweaks, changes or ideas they had. Once that’s done it time to print it, go home and sleep, then do it all again tomorrow.
A few years back you went through the FReeZA Central Mentoring Program. Can you please tell us who you were paired with and what you learnt from your mentor?
I was paired with musician and producer Jef Samin, he’s been in the Melbourne music scene for years. He’s a super friendly dude and gave me a lot of good advice. He taught me to be persistent, meet people, remember them and make an impression.
How did participating in the Program and being mentored help you get into your current role?
It’s funny because I was actually in the performance group in the Mentoring Program, so I was there as a musician, not an engineer. But I always wanted to make records for a living in a real studio. So as part of The Push Mentoring Program my band at the time got put in Hothouse Audio St Kilda for one day, through that I met the studio owner and producer Craig Harnath. He must have liked the cut of my jib because he asked me to come in and intern for a few days. I couldn’t have been more stoked. The Push made it possible for me to make those contacts and have that opportunity. Now it’s years later and I’m a full time engineer and producer.
What other experience or education do you need for your role?
It always helps to play an instrument, that way you can speak the client’s language. Communication skills are a big one, in this job you are in control of your client’s sonic landscape, and when they’re asking for something specific, whether it be drum sounds or a guitar effect it can get a little difficult to describe. It’s your job to understand what they’re going for and translate that into sound coming out of the speakers.
Uni courses are really good at the moment. They’re a great foundation, but you still need experience in the field, and a lot of it. You will encounter many different situations in this job and you gotta be prepared to deal.
Do you have any advice for young people who would like to pursue a career in recording?
Get in good with a studio owner and intern, do it for free if you have to. Be there whenever you can and learn as much as you can. Ask questions and make yourself invaluable. Make is so it sucks when you’re not there. Soon you might be able to go find your own bands and bring them in to do their sessions, for free probably. Gotta cut your chops somehow.
Did you always want to work in the recording industry?
I think I was 15 when I learned you could do this for a job, as soon as I did I called up the now closed Metropolis Audio and did some work experience there. That’s when I knew.
How does a band know if they’re ready to record yet? When is a band not ready?
A band should be ready to record when they are happy with the songs and their arrangements, everybody knows their parts and are rehearsed enough to play them confidently (this includes bv’s, yeah I’m talking to you, you bv’ers) and the lyrics to all the songs are written. It always helps to do pre production. Make demos, make 2 demos. Home recording hardware is super cheap these days, use it. I’ve just been recording an album with a band who demoed their record at home twice before coming into the studio. They were super prepared and we got the bulk of the album tracked in 3 days.
What are some key things for bands to remember when it comes to recording? Are there any do’s and don’ts?
Do practice, do practice some more. Decide if you want to record to a click track well before you enter the studio, if you do, practice to one. Do get your guitar/bass set up properly, this one’s huge, especially if you are in a dropped tuning, it’s really not fun tracking a badly intonated guitar. Decide on a budget that considers cost/time (time is literally money in this game) for tracking, mixing and mastering. Do Demos. If you do all that, then there really are no do’s and don’ts when you actually get inside the studio.
Are there any bands you absolutely dream of working with?
Really I feel like I’ve already met a lot of the dreams had when I started engineering, I’ve been lucky enough to work with some legendary Aussie bands like The Living End, Dallas Cane and Jim Keays. They’re all dreams come true for me. Although I probably won’t be fully satisfied until I’ve tracked Tom Petty.
Got any aspirations for the future, where you hope to be working and doing what?
I plan to be in the Melbourne music scene for a long time, there are so many sweet bands here in Melbourne, and I want to help them make their records.
The one thing you wish you’d learnt earlier is…
There is no magic bullet to recording any instrument, no secret mic or piece of gear that’s going to make your recordings great. You gotta use your ears and get up out of your seat and move mics. Get off gearslutz and go make music.
Read more about the work of Hothouse Audio St Kilda at www.hothouse.net.au