Metropolis Studios’ Nina Jackson

After a visit to a studio during her youth left a lasting impression, Nina Jackson has embarked on an envious career in the music industry. Jory MacKay catches up with her to talk about her latest role as studio manager at London-based Metropolis Studios.

Tell me a bit about your background in the industry – how did you first get into the business?

I was lucky enough to visit a studio in LA when I was 10 years old and decided that’s where I wanted to work. I trained in sound engineering on a ‘YTS’ (1980s youth training scheme) in Liverpool and then at Goldsmiths University in London. In the early 1990s I worked as a tape op in north London’s Music Works studios, which later became Protocol studios. I took over studio bookings and became manager a year later. I think we subsequently hosted every shoe gaze band there was!

You’ve had quite a varying career from working with labels to helping organise festivals like Oxjam and Glastonbury. What made you switch back into the studio world?

After five years at Protocol I wanted to experience a different side of the industry so I moved to Asgard agency, booking live shows across Europe. We also booked and ran the Glastonbury Acoustic stage each year. I was tempted back to studios five years later when my favourite band, Cocteau Twins, took over Pete Townshend’s Eel Pie studios. They later started the Bella Union record label and I worked on syncs for them and Setanta records, for artists including Dirty Three, John Grant, Richard Hawley, Divine Comedy, and Edwyn Collins.

I enjoy mentoring and I’m so proud of Oxjam – it’s a pleasure to work with the amazing people at Oxfam. We are tasked with training hundreds of volunteers in how to put on a successful festival with local artists and no budget. It’s become a large-scale operation but I have never worked with such dedicated people and there are now over 60 festivals that raise hundreds of thousands each year.

Where do you see the role of the large-scale commercial studio going in the future?

The industry has seen a lot of change as technology has developed but we still provide the service we always have. Our large live rooms are busy with tracking and vocal sessions and our mix rooms are ever popular. We have built more writing rooms to meet increasing demand and are currently building more. Artists have changed the way they record, but for our clients we provide the versatility and expertise a smaller studio could not. With four studios, four writing rooms, five mastering rooms, edit suite, production, and digital departments we are meeting these challenges head on.

Do you have any big plans for Metropolis?

We have just hosted an extremely successful Producer Masterclass with the wonderful Eddie Kramer taking us through his days recording Jimi Hendrix.

This was the first in a series of events throughout 2014, the next being with Timbaland in January.

We are also in the middle of a studio refurb and update which will be completed in early 2014.

We plan to host more soundtrack and film work, and also offer content days to marketing departments, enabling labels to film all their promo needs in one day – all completed in house by our production department. To complement this we have just built a 5.1 screening room in conjunction with PMC Monitors, and also have a 5.1 surround mix room and mastering suite.

Lastly, what do you think is the next big thing in the recording industry?

A lot of new acts make music now without ever entering a studio, so we are tempting these acts back to recording in the traditional way. They are missing out on the wonderful acoustics and expertise studios like Metropolis provide. It was a huge pleasure watching Eddie Kramer deconstruct Hendrix tracks, some of the most famous recorded using two-track machines.

I’d like to see a return to those recording methods; discovering new sounds an egg whisk or comb might make!

We have seen a resurgence of artists recording their live tours for release, completing overdubs, and mastering in the studios, and we also provide a Live To Vinyl recording, mixing, and cutting service, which is proving popular with a newer generation. Overall I think acts are discovering you can do a lot more outside of your laptop.