My Audio World... by Dani Bennett Spragg (2023)

Entry into (and successful) studio work.

Born and raised in London, Dani Bennett Spragg began her career as an audio engineer and mixer with internships on both sides of the Atlantic. Winner of the Music Producers Guild Breakthrough Engineer of the Year in 2019 and Recording Engineer of the Year in 2021, she has worked with the likes of Black Midi, Palace, Billie Marten, Wunderhorse, Noel Gallagher and Arcade Fire, often with other producers. to develop her own sound at the same time.

Here, Dani details his journey in the industry with tips and insights into the world of engineering and mixing.

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UEGrowing up in Acton, West London, my earliest musical memories were listening to The Beatles, Blondie and The Clash on our four hour drive to Wales on holiday. I inherited a lot from my parents tastes. I knew I wanted to go into music when I was 12 or 13, but I had no idea studio work existed at the time. He was more aware of the role managers and A&R played than producers and mixers. I've always played instruments, starting on violin at 7, then piano, which I loved before it got too difficult, and then I switched to drums, which I started at 11 and still play today.

My dad played bass and we played a lot together. He encouraged me a lot. My brother played classical guitar and my parents encouraged me to try different instruments until I found one I liked. I think it has been clear to all of us since we were little that music is my passion.

UEHe studied music through high school and went straight to the studio after school. My mother is American, so I have American citizenship, and when I finished high school I decided that it would be more fun to work in a studio in the US than in London. I had family in New York at the time, so I emailed every studio in the city I could find and hoped for the best. I think I got answers from one or two of the 30 or so studios, and I ended up spending most of my time in New York, about four months, working as an intern at a studio called Room 17. I had a side job at a deli to subsidize it.

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Returning to London in April 2015, I started working at Assault & Battery Studios, owned by producers and mixers Alan Moulder (The Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, The Killers) and Flood (U2, PJ Harvey, Depeche Mode). I had no technical training and started as a runner. I mainly made tea, ate lunch, and did very basic study tasks like creating callback sheets or packing sessions. For a long time I had no idea what was going on, just trying to get familiar with signal flow and patchbays and the basics of setting up a studio. it was literally'How do I connect this?

My first real job as an audio engineer was during Ed Harcourt's recording sessions.'album'ovens Produced by Deluge. One of Flood's true talents is making everyone feel important, whether they do or not.'shuffle the disc or prepare recovery sheets. ThisIt was the first time in the studio that I felt like someone was giving me responsibility and really trusted me.

Assault & Battery (A&B) is a complex of several studios, but the two main ones are A&B 1 and 2. A&B 2 is commercial recording space, while A&B 1 is used primarily as Alan Moulder's mixing room. I worked and assisted at A&B 2 for about six months before moving to A&B 1 where I trained with Alan to be an assistant bartender. I had it for about nine months.

At A&B, everyone has always worked as freelancers. I never had a formal job there, I just stayed that way until someone decided to start paying me. My friend and fellow engineer.ricoKennedy and I started helping out around the same time, and I think we both decided to go down the same path of staying long enough to get paid.

I took a few slaps from my mom, especially in the early days, when I would come home at 2am from a barely paying job. She'She is a teacher and when I decided not to go to university she told me:'Are you sure?'. She said,'Why do you spend so many hours on this and her?'Don't pay and all your friends are in college? And I said'Put'Don't worry'it is going well!'. My father works in the film industry and his attitude towards her was more'If you have a path in the industry now, go for it. If you go to college,'I will end up in the same place in three years. Time, but loaded with debts.'

Living in London was a big advantage for me when I started working at the studio. When you need to move, your travel expenses can be overwhelming.'I'm going to do these first few years. I was lucky to live at home and be able to work for free. I don't agree with brokers and interns not getting paid, but unfortunately, that's not uncommon in the studio world.

In June or July 2016 I started working at the Hoxa headquarters.Studys in West Hampstead, almost by accident. The studio had been taken over by composer Jimmy Hogarth (Amy Winehouse, James Bay and Paolo Nutini) and they never had a house assistant or sound engineer there. Jimmy didn't set it up as a commercial studio, it was his own recording space that he rented out to some friends, but people liked it so much that it started to fill up. Jimmy, who is an incredibly successful songwriter and producer, initially had to personally help out with the sessions, which hurt his own work. Completely coincidental, I think in June 2016 an engineer I worked with at A&B was doing a session on Hoxa and he needed an assistant and he asked me to do it. I helped him with Hoxa for a few days and at the end of the session I said to Jimmy:'I really loved working here. If you ever need a spare pair of hands, we'I am looking for as much work as possible." He said:'In fact, I do. I was a bit overwhelmed at first, but it was a great baptism of fire - I ended up doing a little bit of everything.

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UE'I never thought I would have a particular breakout moment, but moving to Hoxa was a big step, and since I had only been an assistant up until that point, it put me in the tech space. In the first few months, I worked solidly on a Noel Gallagher record,'Who built the moon?'. This is how I built my first records: Baxter Dury'S'The Prince of Tears andblair dunlop'S'Notes from an island" LP. No end of 2016 feel'd almost completely migrated to engineer.

At Hoxa, I met a wide variety of people, many of whom would say, without condescension, that it was their first time working with a female engineer. Yo'I've definitely had a few dates where'I felt protected or not taken seriously, but more in my beginnings: nowa lot less. It can be frustrating: someone walks into the studio, assumes I'm the assistant or receptionist, and asks:'Wo'is it the engineer? … "AND'I am!'but it was'It was not so common that it affected my daily life.

oOn those occasions, I never took it personally. I think this attitude was almost ingrained in previous generations of the music industry. Manufacturing and engineering has been a boys' club for so long that I think a lot of the older people in the industry were quite surprised to see a woman running a session, and not necessarily in a negative way.

THere'It was also definitely a big shift with the studios wanting to have a more gender and experience diverse group of employees, which is great to see. When I started working in studios, I felt like I could count the number of well-known female engineers on one hand, and I did.'I don't feel like there was a particularly strong producer/mixer/technician/assistant community, which now couldn't be further from the truth.

At the time he was developing the Baxter Dury and Blair Dunlop albums, he was also working with a band called Palace and developing some tracks for the Life After album.'. My work on these three albumsgainI the music producers Guild (MPG) Innovative Engineer of the Year 2019. Andrew Hunt, a producer and mixer I was working with a lot at the time, nominated me. He told me to get in touch, which I thought was ridiculous.So He moved me forward and then I won.

I think one of the best thingsSThe best thing about the MPG Awards is that they are all voted for by peers and there is no doubt that it is very rewarding to receive recognition from those around you. Yo'I had my most successful year as a freelancer when I got my first MPG and worked on several records that I was very proud of. So it was nice that my colleagues recognized and validated what I thought was the best work I had done up to that point.

the prize has'It doesn't bring me an influx of work, but I wasn't expecting that. The only thing that changed immediately was the number of interviews and press opportunities that I was offered and requested. don artist'I don't see your name in [recording industry magazine]'request sobre requestAnd go,'Yes, we want to work with her!' ES'It's a very nice recognition from the industry, but in the context of blockbuster, as I see it, awards mean next to nothing. It's working on records that people really connect with that will get you the recognition and success that matters. People see your name on the back cover of a record that they really love and want to work with you because you were a part of it, never because of a magazine interview or a podcast.

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I worked at Hoxa for about three years in total and it's the studio where I really got to develop my own recording process and find what I like. The number of different engineers, producers and artists I worked with on each session meant that I was always picking up different tricks and selecting and tweaking the ones I wanted to use in my own process. This is how you should develop as a mixer and engineer. I think finding and developing your own sound and taste can be one of the hardest things in this field, but I think so.'is essential

The Covid pandemic has changed the course of my career quite a bit, but in a very good way, in my opinion. I started working with Craig Silvey (Florence & The Machine, Arcade Fire, Portishead) in October 2019 – he joined Hoxa in May this year to produce a Baxter Duryrecord. I became friends with his engineer at the time, Max Prior, and long story short, I ended up taking over for Max when he decided to leave Craig and start his own business. if I had not been'If it hadn't happened I probably would have stayed with Hoxa as national coach and could have had a very quiet few years during the various UK lockdowns. Instead, 2020-2021 were the busiest years of my career.

Working more or less with a different person every day, as I have with Craig for the past three years, can definitelybe defiantsometimes, but it's also incredibly rewarding to be part of such a well-oiled machine. Craig and I know each other so well and know our respective ways of working that we barely have to say a word to each other to know what the other is thinking.

I am now nearing the end of my time with Craig and I will definitely miss him and he will continue to provide me with ideas, but I am also looking forward to working for myself again.

In the last two or three years I'I shifted my focus more towards mixing, which is where I spend most of my time now. Yo'I've been in studios for seven years and I feel like'I'm getting to the point where I figure out my sound and hone my personal tastes that people end up hiring you for.

This is definitely something that I tried to explore while album Wunderhorse'puppy'which I developed in Rockfield, Monmouthshire. Living can be hard: you can spend a lot of time with who you are'You go back to work and go crazy, or you can be super productive and do really well. Lucky for us it was the latter and we had a fun few weeks. This'It is the first complete album that I recorded and mixed.

I have'I don't have a lot of time from recording to mixing, and I actually found the transition more difficult than I expected. A big part of mixing is bringing a new perspective to a song and bridging the gap between the artist and the listener, but if you're involved in recording a track, you may have ties to certain moments or takes that aren't involved. . it necessarily has to have the same emotional impact on someone who wasn't in the room when it happened.

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If you have a lot of time between recording and mixing it might be easier to get enough distance to get new ears, but I found it difficult to get into that headspace and not get too attached to the recordings. I had to learn to listen to songs with a new perspective and not think like the sound engineer, which wasn't easy. I only noticed two or three tracks that I was on'I wasn't pushing the compounds far enough off my brutes. Since then, I've spent another twelve months doing almost solid mixing, and even in that time, I feel like I have a much deeper understanding of how I approach mixing the songs I've recorded. Mixing is definitely something you get better at the more you do it. I think this is the only real way forward.

My number one piece of advice for anyone looking to break into the recording industry is to persevere. The only reason I ended up where I am now, from three years at Hoxa to working with Craig, is because I stayed here and asked people about opportunities. things do'It doesn't happen when you put'Don't ask: there are hundreds of people who want study assistant jobs, and only a few are going to get them. The only way to stand out is to be persistent and kind. Nobody hires you because you have a title, they hire you because you are'It's fun to be here, you care about work, and you really want to be there.

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One of the biggest challenges in mixing is when the mixer disagrees with the artist. This happens all the time. It's not often you hear that mixes don't go so well and you end up at revision number 12, but of course it happens, even with the most successful audio engineers. When you upload your first mix, this is essentially your chance to put your likes on the table, and it can be daunting when someone says they don't like it, but you just have to learn not to take it personally. I tend to think that the mix could end up in a better place if you miss the first pass. In fact, it is usually the collaboration between the mixer, the artist, the producer, etc. that makes the mix interesting. I don't think people do their best work when they're not challenged. People hear everything differently, so I think collaboration can bring out the best in everyone.

What is your favorite Flare product and why?

I did not have centelleo's And prototypes for so long, but they quickly became my go-to headphones. They are the only headphones I trust for working in the studio, reviewing mixes, or recording. The sound is either super round and flat, or natural and confident. Nothing is over the top: they sound like real music. She'They are also incredibly easy to transport.

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