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.
This month I interview Dougal Lott who is the resident engineer at north London’s infamous Konk Studios, owned by iconic English singer songwriter Ray Davis from the Kinks. I chat with Dougal about how he got into audio , how he landed the job at Konk and what it’s like having an enviable array of outboard.
Some of his credits include Bernard Butler, Alabama Shakes, Jodie Marie and Rae Morris.
Where did you start your engineering career and what made you what to get into the business?
– During school I helped out a mate who did the lights for the plays and so on, and I just started messing about with the sound desk and caught the bug there. I also started playing with Fruity Loops doing rubbish dance music! After leaving school I didn’t know what I wanted to do so worked in a pub for a year and bought a Zoom multitrack to fiddle with, and I decided to go to college to do sound engineering.
How did you end up at Konk?
– During college, I started out roadieing & FOH for a wedding jazz band, and a few of the guys from there got me a gig at Mark Angelo’s Studios in Acton. I went from there to Metropolis for a bit and then did a few albums in Greenwich. A friend of a friend from Metropolis let me know about the Konk job opening. My interview was to record Ray and his guitarist Bill doing an acoustic rehearsal, which was quite exciting!
Can you talk me through your signal chain for tracking vocals using a limiter then a compressor?
– I usually use the Neve desk pre amp, though for pop stuff I’ll use the GML or similar to get more detail. The chain usually goes Preamp (if Neve then EQ engaged and doing fairly broad stuff) > (post fader) > Fairchild (TC 1, doing a few dB at most on very loud stuff) > 1176 (4:1 slowish attack, nearly fastest release) > sometimes another EQ mainly adding a bit of top > Pro Tools. The idea is to ride the fader as the takes happen, and the Fairchild is only there as a safety net with the 1176 doing the main work.
What techniques have you acquired from working with visiting engineers or producers that you’re willing to share?
– None! ha ha! What I’ve mainly learnt in studios is how to listen properly really. I think that’s the key thing to learn, rather then specific techniques, listening to the difference that little changes make to the overall picture.
What are your monitoring preferences these days?
– I bought a pair of Barefoot mm35’s late last year and I absolutely love them. There were a few little shenanigans with one of the amps but Barefoot sorted it out relatively quickly. I tried them out halfway through mixing an EP and had to go back and mix the first half again, cos I could hear what I did wrong with everything!
With such an array of outboard at your disposal is there a pre amp or dynamics unit you find yourself defaulting too?
– Sort of, I’ve got my preferences for various bits, like close drum rooms I’ll use the Pye compressors, and far drums I’ll either use a dBx 165 pair or my Mutronics Impressor. Bass would be Fairchild 670 or LA3a’s or 1176’s depending on what sound you want.
During a session do you ever have time to A/B or C a signal path?
– Not really, I usually go with what I’m pretty sure will work, but if it’s not quite right then I’ll go for something else, but there’s rarely time to do a full on A/B/C shenanigans on everything. As an engineer you are being paid to get it right first time really.
Dynamics plugins or outboard?
– In an ideal world outboard, but nowadays it’s mixing in the box for recall reasons. Not just for sonic recall, but parts wise it’s just not feasible to do a full desk recall each time the artist wants to change something. Which is a shame, because the real thing sounds much, much better! I’ll always try to use an analogue main bus compressor and EQ though, and if there is something that really needs the real thing I’ll do the hardware insert on Pro Tools.
Are many clients tracking to tape?
A fair few, I’d say every month and a half the 2″ will get a work out!
Will you record into PT’s [ProTools] as the performance goes down to tape?
Yeah as a safety, I sometimes delete the PT takes after transferring the tape into a tape playlist. I’ve kept guitar takes that were meant to just be PT safety takes for instance. They were a touch soft off of tape as I’d absolutely rinsed the tape machine.
Do many punch ins with the tape machine?
Ha ha! I don’t think I’ve ever done a real destructive punch in in my life! I’ve done fixes to parts but only after the original tape has been transferred. So you just have the tape machine slaved and recording still and record the new “punch” into the PT safety then you roll back and transfer in the same punch, but into the tape playlist. I’d quite like to try out that Clasp tape thingy though. I don’t know how much it will speed up the workflow though.
Any clients ever mixed from tape?
Not since I’ve been at Konk, no.
What artists or producers, that you haven’t already worked for, would you love to work with and why?
Anybody good really!
Thanks very much to Dougal for taking the time to answer my questions, Konk keeps him very busy. Here’s a link to a session by Alabama Shakes who did six songs in one day. All recorded and mixed by Dougal.