Around 60 guests, from all points of the pro-audio compass, navigated themselves to the Soho Hotel last Thursday night for the third edition of PSNPresents. The event, sponsored by Focusrite and Roland, brought together personalities from the worlds of the studio and theatre sound design to discuss the topics of the day – and to share a drink or two with their peers. The night was dedicated to the memory of Sir George Martin, whose death had been reported only two days before.
The first guest to join presenter/journalist Phil Ward on stage was recording engineer Phill Brown, whose book, Are We Still Rolling? recalls his days at Olympic and Basing Street Studios with the likes of the Rolling Stones, Steve Winwood, The Yardbirds and many, many other acts. Brown tackled the whole digital versus tape debate, and recalled his time mixing Bob Marley’s legendary Live at the Lyceum album for Island Records and Chris Blackwell. It took six hours to mix then, Brown said, but now they would need to “spend three days” on it.
Nick Keynes, studio manager at Tileyard Studios, reported on the phenomenal success of the project: there are now around 150 businesses present, including 70 studios, all been designed by Chris Walls (who was present in the audience). Keynes joked that his career in pop act Ultra found him “miming his way around the world for three years”, and he couldn’t understand how he’d still not made any money despite selling 400,000 albums.
Award-winning producer Youth (AKA Martin Glover) was the first session’s third guest, fresh off a plane from DJing in Panama City. Youth described how working with Paul McCartney on his ‘Fireman’ project allowed the former Beatle to “have fun, without being Paul McCartney”; how he’d worked with Jimmy Cauty ahead of him forming the KLF; and how he’d been practically sacked by Pete Waterman for “being too creative”. He also shared a charming anecdote with the audience, remembering a time when he’d been faced with an ill-tempered orchestra of 100 players at Abbey Road (“they start mumbling and moving their instruments about – it’s intimidating!”), and how Sir George Martin had entered the room and poured calm on all those assembled. There couldn’t have been a more fitting story.
The second session saw top West End musical theatre sound designers Ben Harrison, Simon Baker and Gareth Fry join the PSNEurope editor on stage. Subjects tackled included the Tony Award (or lack of one) for sound design; whether smaller footprint desks really contribute to theatre income; great musical flops of recent times; and an almost complete (but tantalisingly amusing, nonetheless) embargo on information about the forthcoming Harry Potter musical.
Merging’s Chris Hollebone said of the event (via Facebook): “Easy to support because it is a great event. Very enjoyable and a free drink. What’s not to like. I thought every one of the speakers was top notch.”
On the Challow Park Studios blog, Will Biggs and Amy Blyth wrote: “We cannot stress how brilliant this event is, honestly if you have an interest in the music/recording/live sound industry then you should make sure you go to the next one – you will not hear such candid discussions of our industry anywhere else. Egos if they ever existed were left at the door (most likely by the stupid large cat at the entrance to the Soho Hotel…).”
Representing co-sponsor Roland Professional A/V, sales manager Simon Kenning told us: “It is with great pleasure that Roland have once again sponsored the recent PSNPresents. The event goes from strength to strength, being very informative, educational, and provides attendees with plenty of opportunity to ask questions of those being interviewed, providing everyone with a great opportunity to network with industry colleagues and meet new people. The topics of studio recording and theatre sound design were of great interest to the attendees and extremely well received by all. We’re already excited to be involved with the next event in the autumn.”
The next PSNPresents is planned for November.
Pictures, top to bottom: Theatre sound designers panel with Dave Robinson; Phil Ward (left) with (L-R) Youth, Nick Keynes, Phill Brown; View from the audience; Guests socialise in the drawing room before the event.
All pictures: (c) Carole Edrich 2016