Paul is an engineer, producer, composer and musician who these days spends a large portion of his working life mixing FOH sound either on tour or in-house at London venues – including the legendary 100 Club.
His studio credits include Lucky Soul, The Hope Rebellion and Nick Evans and he tours with Various Cruelties, Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed & ZZ Ward mixing FOH. He’s also performed on stages around the world and on many recording sessions over the last 20 something years.
Howdy from sunny London. Every month I’ll be sharing my audio adventures and interviewing some of the people I’ve either worked with, worked for or once shared an interesting conversation about music technology with in the last 25 years.
This month I caught up with freelance audio engineer, producer and musician Sonny Flint. Some of his clients include Maverick Sabre, Imelda May and The Blockheads. Recent work includes touring as FOH engineer with electronic outfit Is Tropical and recording an intimate session for Blues journeyman Seasick Steve in a shop basement. He took time out from his busy schedule to sit down long enough to answer my questions about his work.
You’re currently doing a mixture of live sound, recording and producing, which did you start doing first and do you have a preference?
“I first had an interest in recording as a kid. In the early 80′s as a teenager, my friend and I would get these 70′s tape recorders, the ones when you press play and record, you can record using the in built condenser mic. With two of these devices you could double track over what you just did. That was how we made our first demo tapes before we got hold of the first commercially available 4 track recorders. They were rough as hell but exciting. I didn’t start doing live sound until about 2000. I started out as a stage hand while studying Sound Technology. I soon got the hang of how it all works. I don’t really have a preference between Live, Recording or Producing. It’s all relative to how good the band is or if their music is your bag. If you have amateur musicians, bad songs, egotistical or annoying musicians it can be dull to work. On the other end, if you get a great band, it’s the best job in the world.”
Producer Kevin ‘Caveman’ Shirley once said in an interview that producing ‘is like being a house painter. If someone says to me ‘paint my house pink’, it might not be my color of choice , but I’ll do everything I can to make it the best pink house in the neighbor hood. Do you pick and choose your work or are you a house painter?
“I do try and get the sound how the band want it of course, but sometimes you have to use your own judgement. I recently recorded an EP for a young band and they just keep telling you they want each instrument louder. They don’t really have a great concept of how frequencies and volumes can play against or for each other. So then you have to take the reins a bit. When I worked with The Blockheads on a live album, all the instruments just found their place naturally within the mix because they are such excellent players. So then it’s just tweaking this and that. Getting the source sound/recording and arrangement right is very important, otherwise you can spend hours editing.”
Your arsenal of equipment includes the Toft ATC2. How did it catch your ear?
“I was looking for a quality dual Pre Amp/Compressor with phantom power and EQ. With any piece of kit you get what you pay for. I had a budget, so looked at a few makes and came across The Toft ATC-2 designed by Malcolm Toft who’s background is that of a hands on audio engineer who has worked on songs with Marc Bolan & T Rex, The Beatles “Hey Jude” and David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” with Tony Visconti. I figured this man knows his compressors so I took a risk and bought an ATC-2. I find it great for recording vocals in live and studio applications. Being a FET compressor I find it precise, clean and more musical than some VCA compressors. The stereo link does not act as most dual compressors and can take some time to align up.”