Making a name for yourself as an up and coming producer isn’t an easy task amongst an increasingly crowded pool of talent, so basing yourself in a prime location can be key to unlocking success. Dean Glover, producer and engineer at Manchester’s VIBE Recording Studio – owned by former lead singer of The Mock Turtles, Martin Coogan – tells PSNEurope why his city is offering some of the best opportunities for the next generation of audio professionals…
I guess I’ve been producing from about the age of 14, plugging a home made 1/8” jack to jack into the back of an old HP computer, with an adapter on the other end to stick into my beginner’s electric guitar, on a demo version of what was then called Fruity Loops. Since then, I’ve cut records in warehouses, office spaces, living rooms, lockups, attics, sheds, airing cupboards, kitchens, toilets, pub basements, and in actual recording studios, of course. But I still think back to the bodged, fragile, twisted together mini-jack cable I was using to stack-up layers of electric guitar over the top of primitive drum sample rhythms and synthesised electric bass. It taught me a valuable lesson – to be resourceful. I didn’t necessarily have the right equipment, but I had enough to get me started.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
There’s a bit of a myth about the music industry (or any entertainment industry for that matter), that you have to go to London to ‘make it’. When it comes to being a producer, I’d argue a very strong case for Manchester being the best place in the world to launch your career in audio.
For a start, geographically, Greater Manchester is about a tenth the size of London, so when you’re leaning against the sound desk at Jimmy’s, stood round the le hand side of the stage at Night & Day, or hanging around the backstreets of Soup Kitchen, you won’t be surprised to bump into the same bunch of characters, buzzing around on various different errands and missions.
There’s a short generational turnover of musicians and creative-minded people here too, young and old, with a new batch seemingly spawning every year: be it a gaggle of homegrown musical Mancs, a hoard of well-schooled BIMM students, or a mob of hungry young beatniks originating from anywhere north of the Watford Gap who’ve upped sticks and made Manchester their new home, they're all pouncing on the city's vibrant music scene. This rich vein of ambitious and talented personnel is the ultimate resource for producers keen to put their creative stamp on some fresh material, as well as build up their all-important list of experiences.
But what use is a vast influx of musicians and creatives to a wannabe producer without the infrastructure to support it? Well, we’ve got the most fertile circuit of independent live music venues in the country, and that goes right through to the upper echelons of the UK’s largest indoor venue in the Manchester Arena (second largest in Europe, too), plus, there are also fantastic educational institutions such as Spirit Studios (formerly SSR), BIMM, Royal Northern College Of Music, and more. But if you want to be a producer, you’re going to need a dedicated recording studio, right? Not necessarily.
I get so many emails from people asking for a job in a studio, begging to make brews or sweep up, and while that career path is well trodden, it’s considered by a few to be somewhat ‘old school’ in this day and age. However, there’s lots of people who think that their career as a producer can’t get out of the starting blocks until they get on a studio’s payroll. Obviously, I’d love to take on as many assistants and runners as possible, but they’d be queuing all the way down Cheetham Hill Road if I said yes to everyone. And while most of these CVs boast state-of-the-art DAW skills and the ability to operate a deluge of different mixing desks, the main trait I keep an eye out for is the ability to get out there amongst it, to start networking and building connections, and most importantly, actively producing records.
OUTSIDE THE BOX
Taking risks, making brave decisions, believing in your abilities and getting yourself out there is a strategy that’s perennially rewarded in this city – from way back with our revolutionary industrial heritage, to being home to the likes of Emmeline Pankhurst and one of the world’s first modern computers, to name but a few. Great musical examples are when 10cc self-produced 'I'm Not In Love' in Stockport’s Strawberry Studios using all sorts of never before tried techniques, or when Owen Morris decided to go full bore brick wall mastering on Oasis’ era-defining debut album, Definitely Maybe, or even when Bugzy Malone decided to play London at their own game and revamp modern grime from within the confines of the M60 outer ring road.
Individuals that are prepared to take a leap of faith and think outside the box are more often than not the ones who reap the rewards and encounter the amazing opportunities around the next corner. So, rather than waiting around patiently for a reply to your email or a notification from a jobs website about a new studio engineer vacancy, make yourself known as a producer and be where the action is. Whether that’s your local music scene, the nearest big city or round here in Manchester, you don’t always need expensive equipment, or the keys to a recording studio, to start producing the various weird and wonderful artists and musicians who are forever buzzing around this talent-heaving place.