Welcome back to another edition of Point Blank Student Success. In a particularly eclectic month, we spoke with metal heads Alex Snape and Julian Dutton, Ibizaphile Phoebe d’Abo and Venezuelan artist Demenz. We compile these every month showcasing students that have studied with us for any length of time and at any of our locations: London, Los Angeles, Ibiza, Mumbai and Online.
Pheobe d’Abo (Hed Kandi / Ministry of Sound / Toolroom) – Music Production & Sound Engineering Master Diploma
Could you start by telling me how you discovered Point Blank?
I’d known about Point Blank for years and had heard great things from industry friends who had studied there. For the last 7 years or so I’d been working in music full time as a DJ which involved a lot of travel, but last year I made the decision to stay put in London and to enrol on the 1 year Master Diploma course in Sound Engineering & Music Production. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
What was your experience in music like before that? What are the things that led you to pursue music?
I started DJing in 2007 after an inspiring trip to Ibiza. I was always into music, and had built a pretty solid collection spanning multiple genres over the years- and it was one of Roger Sanchez’ marathon 7-hour sets at Pacha that inspired me to learn to mix. It initially started out as a hobby, but within 3 years I’d started to make a modest living out of it. The idea of being paid to do something I was totally passionate about felt like winning the lottery. It still does! In 2011 I joined Ministry Of Sound/Hed Kandi as one of their resident touring DJ s- this was such a golden opportunity and allowed me to travel the world and gain a huge amount of experience (and air miles!) very quickly. I played in close to 50 countries in some of the most respected clubs around the world and loved every minute of it. The natural progression from playing as a resident for big brands was to focus more on building my own profile as an artist and honing my production skills. That’s where Point Blank came in!
What would you say was the biggest thing you’ve taken from your studies with us?
I wanted to feel self-sufficient as an artist – Point Blank has given me the confidence to manage all stages of the production process, from composing through to mixing and mastering. Previous grey areas are no longer murky thanks to hands-on, practical learning, and where before, projects would sit unfinished due to my lack of knowledge in a particular area, now my workflow and creative output have improved drastically.
I understand Ibiza has been a massive influence on your journey into music, what was it that drew you there in the first place and how has it affected you musically.
Following my first trip there 11 years ago, not a single summer has gone by without a sneaky visit. I think playing on the White Isle is on every DJ’s bucket list – like most island residents, my initial gigs there were in smaller venues in San Antonio, and as I gradually made more contacts and built my profile I started playing larger gigs in places like Ocean Beach, Space (RIP) and Cafe Mambo where I am now a resident. Musically, the island of course offers a diverse range of genres, but there is something that just can’t beat the true Balearic sound: hypnotic, exotic, undulating grooves as opposed to ‘in-yer-face’ aggressive bangers that dominate the mainstream electronic scene. As much as I love making club weapons, I also love creating long, evolving slow burners that just sound so good paired with an Ibiza sunset backdrop. The live project I’m working on is much more of this style.
You recently had a track signed to Toolroom, can you tell me about that? How did you make the track and how did they go about picking it up?
I started the idea for ‘No One’ about a year ago- and this was when I was using PreSonus Studio One as my main DAW. The track was finished in Logic once I’d made the transition since studying at PB. The main melodic synth riff I made using Sylenth which I layered with another melodic part created using Massive. Usually my rhythmical/drum elements are audio clips whilst my melodic elements are played in as MIDI. To give the track an evolving element I played around with the cutoff of the main synth throughout. Using sends I also automated delays and reverb, most notably in the track’s breakdown. The track isn’t comprised of all that many elements- it’s actually fairly simple, though I decided to source a vocal sample from the website ‘Splice’, which I cut up, edited both the pitch and formant and added into the project quite late into the process. The fragmented vocal sounds as though it says “no one” which gave the track its final name.
The track got signed earlier this summer following a great initiative that was put together by Toolroom Records called #WeAreListening- a series of seminars and networking events aimed at women in dance music. At their very first event there was an A&R feedback session where we were invited to share our music and get feedback from the Toolroom team. I was delighted that following the session they wanted to sign my track!
What have you got in the pipeline – any gigs or releases on the horizon?
I’ve had a hugely busy summer; following my graduation I’ve played extensively across the UK as well as in Italy and France – then I managed to find the time to have a baby a month ago!
I’m now finding my feet as a new parent enjoying some down time as well as studio time. I’m looking forward to playing in Majorca and Ibiza this month and finishing off some new tracks which I look forward to sharing very soon!
Alex Snape & Julian Dutton (Unbowed) – Music Production & Sound Engineering Diploma
Could you start by telling me how you each discovered Point Blank?
Alex : Last year I decided I wanted to pursue an education in the field of audio engineering. I knew that in order to advance my skills on a technical level as quickly as I wanted to I’d need more than just YouTube tutorials to teach me. I was keen on studying in England as I have a fondness for the country, and there are so many English bands and artists which I’ve loved since I was very young. Upon searching for music production and audio engineering programs in England, Point Blank appeared to be amongst the most well-equipped and competent.
Julian: I initially learned about Point Blank through Alex; we were both researching potential schools that offer sound engineering programs. We decided not to limit ourselves to programs available in Canada, and consider international options as well. Point Blank was very well reviewed; both the instruction and resources available to students seemed top-notch.
What were your experiences in music like before that? What are the things that led you to pursue music?
Alex: I come from a musical family, so I was lucky enough to be encouraged to pursue my interests in music. I’ve been performing live since I was 13, so about 10 years now. I started playing guitar at a young age and then eventually moved to bass, and to drums. Now I can, at least convincingly, play a few instruments. I’ve been in a variety of bands, but the longest running and my main discipline is Unbowed.
Julian: I have been playing the drums since I was 11, and began playing in bands immediately. I love the dynamic of playing in bands – everyone supports each other while pushing for the best out of each other. I’ve also met my best friends playing in bands. I began playing shows while I was in high school as various local venues and eventually started travelling to other cities for gigs. I found that I love being on tour and playing shows, and also began to develop an interest in sound engineering. I decided to pursue sound engineering at Point Blank to further my knowledge of sound engineering so that I could apply it directly to recording and playing shows with my bands.
What would you say was the biggest thing you’ve taken from your studies so far?
Alex: The biggest thing I’ve taken from my studies is a solidified sense of purpose in my career and in my life. Learning from professionals in the industry has taught me to value the things I have already learned, and to continually pursue furthering my skills. Going to school alongside a bunch of other aspiring musicians and music producers allows one to assess themselves in context, and I think that’s been the most important factor for me.
Julian: The biggest thing I’ve taken from my studies has been an overall knowledge of how to approach mixing, and how to quickly build a good sounding “rough mix”. Prior to studying at Point Blank I had not done any mixing of my own and had little practical knowledge or experience setting up a mix. I’ve gained experience doing this through my mixing and live sound modules, and I feel much more confident as a sound engineer. Furthermore, I now know how to properly record a drumset, and how to edit/process the tracks so that it sounds like a professional metal album.
Can you tell me about Unbowed and how you guys got together as a band?
Alex: The singer of Unbowed, Ioan Tetlow and I started the band when we were in high school. Since then, we’ve independently recorded and released a demo, 2 EPs, 2 full-length albums, and have toured around a couple Canadian provinces. Since living in England, Julian, myself, and the rest of the band have been writing a new full-length album which we’ll be recording when we get home to Canada. Next year we’ll be touring as much and as far as we can to promote the album.
Julian: I joined Unbowed in early 2016 after hearing that Alex was looking for members for a new line-up. I joined with guitarist Steven Rowlands and bassist Aiden Watkinson, as we were all involved in a separate project (and still are). I had been aware of Unbowed for a few years prior to this, as they were a leading band in the local metal scene. I was very excited because the music was great, and they had more gigging experience.
Obviously, you both studied production and engineering, how does this feed into being in a metal band do you think?
Alex: Engineering and production are massive factors in metal music. Improving my technical knowledge of recording, mixing, and mastering has entirely changed and improved the way I write, record, mix, and master music. It’s important to be aware of the technicalities of how to create the sounds you’re seeking to create, be it electronic music, death metal, or anything else.
Julian: Music production and sound engineering have applications to any musical genre. Studying sound engineering has proved very useful, as we self produce and record all of our own music. I’m confident that our next recording as a band will reflect what we have learned; in its production, mix, and arrangement. Metal relies heavily on high gain guitars and acoustic drums reinforced with trigger samples to achieve its powerful but still human sound, which can be difficult to record and mix without prior experience. I feel that I understand much more about how other engineers and bands achieve these sounds on their recordings and feel that we will be able to achieve these sounds on our own – in our home studios.
Alex I know you make music as a solo project as well, can you tell me a bit about how that differs from the stuff you do with the band?
Alex: My solo music differs from Unbowed greatly. My solo music is purely for me to have fun with and try a bunch of new ideas, whereas Unbowed’s music and entire aesthetic is a lot more dialled-in and focused. That’s exactly what I strive for. I want Unbowed to be me, and the rest of the guys at our very best. My solo music is an avenue for me to try new things and work on ideas that don’t really have a place in Unbowed’s discography.
And Julian what about yourself, do you have any other projects on the go?
I play drums in a thrash/death metal band called Scorn, along with Unbowed members Steven Rowlands and Aiden Watkinson. Steven and I also have a Star Wars themed metal project entitled Star Destroyer. We are currently arranging and recording an EP for Star Destroyer, and writing new material for a future Scorn album. Our demos are currently up on Bandcamp, and our future efforts will be available on all major streaming services.
Finally, what have you got in the pipeline – any gigs or releases on the horizon?
Both: Yepp! Utilizing all of the knowledge and skills Julian and I have accrued during our studies in London, we’re going to recording Unbowed’s new full-length album as soon as we get home in Autumn. We’re aiming for an early 2019 release and we’ll be getting on the road in support of that as soon as it’s ready.
Jorge Martinez (Dushee, SL Records, Miaw) – Music Production and Sound Design (LA)
Could you start by telling me how you discovered Point Blank?
I discovered Point Blank because I was on youtube looking for music production tutorials all the time and I always saw the music tutorials so every time that I saw a video I started to feel more curious about the school, I saw the competitions, the blog and I was definitely checking the channel all the time to see the updates.
What was your experience with music like before that?
I was djing already, I got into djing in 2010 and started to play in clubs and small parties around 2012, then started my own parties but it wasn’t until 2015 that I started to get more interested in music production. Before Point Blank I did a few short courses about Ableton live, some basic courses just to learn how to use the software, and struggle a lot by myself, so that was when I decided to join Point Blank to learn from the best.
What would you say was the biggest thing you took from your studies?
I would say that the music composition and sound design class opened my mind and give me a better understanding of how to make your own sounds, and a bit of music theory on how to get the sounds that you want from scratch just by learning every different wave and how the instruments really work. That was something that I was really looking forward when I got into Point Blank, I really wanted to learn how to create the sounds that I was looking for. Also, a big thing that I took from my studies and that I realized is very important for being an efficient producer is the workflow. This is important so when you sit down to make music, you already have everything set so you can flow with the production and not waste your time organizing every drum rack or instrument every time you want to make a track.
You’re living in Miami right now – how would you say living in such a vibrant city is complementing your music?
I have to say it helps me a lot because in Miami there is always something happening and you can get inspired by that, not only with music but with art in general. Also there are always big artists coming to play every weekend, artists that I admire so I feel very blessed that I get the chance to experience that.
What is in store for you in the coming months? Any gigs or shows we should know about?
I’m actually in the middle of a tour right now until finals of the year where Im going to play in Panama, Tulum, Venezuela, Los Angeles, Houston and of course in my actual hometown Miami, so if you are in any of these cities come see me playing. also I have some releases incoming so definitely check my Soundcloud to stay tuned.
Successes such as these are common among our students and alumni. We can teach you how to DJ like the best of them at any of our schools. If you’d like to learn how to produce, then we can build your skills from the ground up with our range of degree programmes, including the latest addition, the BA (Hons) in Music Production and DJ Practice. All of our degree programmes are quality assured by Middlesex University, including our online BA (Hons) course. For more information you can contact us here.
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