Next Generation Spotlight: Katie Tavini

Audio Media International, in association with Genelec, is delighted to present our latest Next Generation Spotlight. Today, mastering engineer Katie Tavini discusses some of the key projects she’s worked on throughout 2020, and how no two days are ever the same in the studio…

What is your name and what do you do?

Hi, I’m Katie Tavini and I work as a Mastering Engineer.

What inspired you to get into studio work?

I’m not sure there’s been just one thing, it’s been a mixture of many influences and a lot of happy accidents. I honestly never thought I’d be working with music in this way, but I’m totally buzzing to be doing it! I’ve just really enjoyed sounds and music since I was really young, and music was the only thing I was really good at in school. So it seemed natural to carry on playing and writing, and learning about the technical side of music.

Tell us about your route into the industry?

It’s a bit of a long and weird route, but in a nutshell – I was on a Music degree at uni, studying mainly classical music. There was a recording studies module where we were encouraged to use the studios and to see them as almost an instrument in themselves. I really loved this approach – being allowed into the studio and just being able to experiment with sound and see what happened. It was such a great way to learn! Big up Salford uni!

I used to spend all my time in the studios, and eventually one of my tutors asked if I’d like to do some work at a studio that was looking for an engineer. I sort of dived into that and did so much reading and practice outside of the work. And then it just snowballed really. Getting into mastering was a weird one though – I started trying to learn more about mastering when I was still engineering because I wanted to make my mixes better (someone online offered me that advice – thanks mate!).

I always hated mixing, but it was always expected that an engineer would mix as well as doing sessions. So I used to practice loads, mainly on my own mixes at home, and try and evaluate masters that came back from the pros to try and see what they’d done and why. So when I first got asked to do a mastering job, I had a general idea but was slightly clueless. It took a while of learning and collaborating and experimenting but eventually the first project I mastered got released, and then led to more.

Tell us about some of the key projects you’ve worked on over the past 12 months?

I think a big one for me is Nadine Shah’s Kitchen Sink, for many reasons. I was a really big fan of hers before I got asked to work on the album, so that was a bit surreal, and then working with Ben Hillier who produced the album was just next level. The whole thing was such a huge learning curve and Ben taught me so much, I’m really grateful for that! He’s really changed the way I listen to music.

What is your approach to work in the studio?

Every project is so different, and every day is different. I love that there’s never any two days that are the same. So I approach everything completely differently!

Who/what have been some of your biggest influences in your career to date?

Definitely meeting Mandy Parnell for the first time! She’s worked on so many of my favourite records that when we met for the first time in 2011 and I was just so starstruck by this amazing person who’s also so lovely and kind. Definitely the bands and artists who I work with too, it’s bonkers to work with such incredibly creative people!

What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the industry?

I guess perhaps being in a male dominated world has been a bit of a weird one. In some ways it’s great because you’re different, so people remember you, but also having to prove yourself so much more just because you’re not a man is extremely tiresome. That doesn’t happen a whole lot any more, but there was a good few years when it made me not want to work in music.

Also the fact that audio can be a really hard field to get into if you don’t come from a super privileged background and are able to work for very little / free at the start of your career. When I stopped engineering to focus on mastering seven years ago, it was very clear that there would be no opportunities for me to learn unless I was able to move to London; but if I moved to London I would also have to get a full time job in order to survive, which would probably have put studios off taking me on as a runner since I wouldn’t be available 9-5 during the day. So I stayed in Manchester for a while, taught myself as much as possible, and worked different day jobs to fund my studio / pay rent / survive.

I only just went completely freelance in September this year – so that’s been a long seven years of working during the day and mastering in the evenings and weekends! But when there’s something you love, you do whatever it takes.

What projects do you have coming up?

This is one of those questions where if I told you I’d have to kill you! It’s weird not being able to talk about stuff coming up, but there are always releases which don’t get announced until way after they’ve been finished.