Rising Stars: Tom A. Wright

Audio Pro International’s focus on the best of the industry’s young audio engineers continues this week with the latest addition to our Rising Stars section.

This week we catch up with touring FOH engineer Tom A. Wright…

Where did you study?

I went to Leeds College of Music and did their BA (hons) in Music Production. Before I went to LCM I was living in Exeter playing in bands and recording things on an old PC copy of Logic (3.5 maybe?!?). A lot of my production experience comes from playing and arranging with ska and punk bands in my youth. I was always interested in folk music, but it wasn’t until university that I started to take it more seriously and got to know the ins and outs of the English Music I play now.

I started messing around with writing and recording with my dad and uncle (Martin Haskell, who used to work at Decca) on a four-track tape machine and experimenting; making strange noises with tape speeds and such. So, I guess, it was quite a retro introduction to the recording and producing thing. I still use Pro Tools and Logic in a pretty clunky, old-fashioned way I think. I don’t like to over process stuff. Well, I don’t any more. I think everyone nowadays goes through an ‘over compressed’ period in their lives! I learned a lot at uni from listening to a wealth of music and recording styles. Most of what I do now was learned then from people outside of the folk scene.

It’s strange how many ‘folky’ people did the same degree as me. Andy Bell, Nick Cooke (my old housemate, now my go-to mastering engineer), his brother Jay, Katriona Gilmore (who plays in The Albion Band with me), Jamie Roberts, Pete Ord…. these are the people shaping the sound of modern English folk music.

Which band/project are you currently working on?

About a year ago I was invited to join the new line up of The Albion Band. We released our first album with this lineup on April 30th on my label, Powered Flight Music. I recorded and produced the record with Katriona. We had Julien Batten mix it up at Quayside Studios in Newcastle. Nick Cooke did the mastering.

It was an interesting undertaking from a writing, performing and producing perspective because the band has a 40-year history and has been through so many lineups. We opted for a rocky, modern sound while trying to retain some ’70’s idioms. We processed a lot of stuff a bit too loud through some valve preamps to try and dirty it up a bit. Katriona is a real perfectionist when it comes to editing and getting the best performance out of people. I focus more on the overall sound and goal of the track. Between us I think we have a good production team and I hope we work together on other stuff.

It’s approaching the summer now so a lot of time will be taken up with live engineering and performance at festivals. I’m also in the process of moving my studio to my new house before some new projects start in October.

Where are you based/working at the moment?

I live and work in Sheffield. Katriona Gilmore, Jamie Roberts and Andy Bell are all nearby so we have a nice little community of engineers and producers. We use a few halls and spaces around the area to record, as well as our own home studios. I’m expanding mine at the moment to facilitate drum recording before I start attempting a solo album!

I also spend a fair bit of time up in Newcastle where I used to live. I produced Dogan Mehmet’s debut album a while back. He’s now got a nice little project studio up there that I’ve done some bits in recently.

Between Newcastle and Sheffield, there is a huge folk scene; lots of variety and loads of talented players to call on. It’s really handy if there’s a sound you need on a track that you know you can’t make yourself. I think a lot of my production sound is gearing more towards instrumentation and arrangement these days. It used to all be about effects. I won’t lie, I still like my silly noises though!

What console are you using at the moment?

I’m not! I only have a small, 16-channel unit set up straight into ProTools. When I move to the larger studio space, I might consider upgrading some gear but I’ve got used to working within ProTools. I do a lot of location recording so it’s good to keep stuff compact, I think. I use an old G5 tower in the studio that chugs along getting things sounding right. A lot of my gear is a little outdated but I think it helps me to keep things simple.

Do you use any outboard effects/EQ, and if so, what are they used on and why?

I use a few different valve preamps, mainly for re-processing. I have a couple of ART Tube channels that I’ve had since before uni that I still love for most stuff. The EQ on them seems to work pretty well for getting the semi-vintage sound I want out of the acoustic instruments I record.

I also use a fair few guitar effects pedals as processors, just for crazy effects! I rely a lot on the effects in Pro Tools; the Moogerfooger Analogue Delay is a favourite!

What is your console of choice?

To be honest, I don’t know! It’s a pipe dream to own the kind of thing I’d really like. Something old and valvey I expect.

If you could tour with any band/artist who would it be?

I’m very lucky in that I have already worked with so many of my folk music idols; Eliza Carthy, Martin Carthy, Simon Care, Ashley Hutchings… and I supported so many amazing bands when I was a teenager in Exeter Cavern; MU330, RX Bandits, Capdown, Mad Caddies…

I’m really looking forward to doing some live sound for Edward II this summer. They were one of the first bands that got me properly into folk and roots music.

I’d love to play with Springsteen. That’d be top of the list I think. I think it’d be cool to tour with Mad Caddies or someone like that. A lot of the punk and ska bands I was into as a teenager are getting much more roots and world influenced these days, which I love.

Tom Wright currently plays, produces and blogs at www.thealbionband.com

To get involved in our Rising Stars column, whether you are an engineer who is new to the industry and would like to be featured, or an experienced engineer who would like to nominate a particular student/apprentice, please contact Audio Pro International editor Daniel Gumble on daniel.gumble@intentmedia.co.uk or 01992 535646.

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