London born and raised, Andy Gbormittah is an accomplished freelance audio engineer, sound designer and composer that has dipped his toes in a variety of projects. He is the co-founder of Silence & Air, a production company specialising in music for TV, film and digital content. They have worked with several major clients, such as Love Island Australia, HBO, car powerhouses Toyota and Lexus, and brands Max Factor, Versace and McDonalds. Exciting projects Gbormittah is currently working on single-handedly include building a studio for Disturbing London Records, dub mixing at BT Sport Studios, and managing Shoreditch Grind Studios, which is upstairs from the popular coffee shop, Shoreditch Grind.
Here, we chat to Gbormittah about growing up in a musical home, all things sound design, and what advice and knowledge he can offer to those just starting out…
How did you get into this industry?
I grew up in a household that loved music. My dad had a huge collection of records, cassettes and eventually CDs that he’d be listening to pretty much every day. The older I got, the more intrigued I was about the music-making process. How did it go from an artist’s head – as an initial concept – to my living room, in a format that I could play again and again as a form of entertainment?
I eventually took this curiosity to SAE London, where I studied a BSc in Audio Engineering. I was lucky enough to be doing some freelance work at that point. Looking back, although it was tough at times, it was great for building up real world experience on the side whilst studying.
After finishing my degree, I focused on the freelance side of things – working with artists, bands, videographers and directors. I had a pretty functional home setup at the time, and would head into various studios with my clients if their budget allowed. Shortly after this, I started managing a studio in East London (Shoreditch Grind Studios) and have been lucky enough to work with a growing list of clients since then.
Can you name some of your influences within the industry?
I’m influenced by any engineer, musician or artist that has taken the huge leap and turned their passion into a career. You don’t have to be a big name. If you’re waking up everyday and working solely on audio in some shape or form, I have huge respect for you. More power to everyone who has made or is making this transition.
What’s the worst advice you’ve heard?
For the youngsters getting into the industry, it’s hard not to be demoralised by the fact you read and hear about all of this amazing and expensive equipment that we ‘pros’ supposedly use all of the time. You have young engineers pulling their hair out because they think what they make can never sound as good. The bad advice comes from peers that perpetuate this myth and encourage you to constantly chase new gear instead of experimenting with what you already have.
If you only have access to, can afford or know how to use certain gear, that’s fine. Get to know your gear and its limitations, and then you’ll grow to appreciate what the more expensive equipment or sample libraries are doing when you’re in a position to purchase or use them. You get to a point where you come full circle and are happy to use almost any tool that you have at your disposal to get the job done. Of course, it’s nice to have the expensive stuff, but it certainly isn’t the be all and end all.
And the best tips you’ve been given?
If it sounds good, it is good. This is something that I’ve always believed in. Don’t spend too much time getting caught up in the process. If you have a clear idea of your destination, and you can get there quickly, don’t make things more convoluted than they need
to be. After all, a lot of the finer details are esoteric, and your clients won’t necessarily care about how you got there. The only thing they care about is how on-brief you are and if you’re hitting deadlines.
What’s your favourite thing about this industry?
I love the freedom of audio engineering. Everyday is different. I can be working on a mix, I can be with artists running a session or I can be working on something completely different. The fact that it’s so varied keeps me on my toes. It’s a huge industry, and there’s always something to do – if you have a solid client base.
What are the biggest challenges of the job?
When you’re starting out, one of the most difficult aspects of the job is building a client base. Don’t forget, you are a business and a brand. You need to market yourself as such. Don’t be afraid to get out, meet people and sell yourself. Once you make those connections, there’ll be a snowball effect of people contacting you because they’ve heard what you’ve done.
When you’re a bit deeper into the professional side of things, it becomes a challenge to switch off. There’s a fine balance between being mindful of your work and downright worrying about it at all times. Did we need to get this to client X? Is client Y happy with this? Are we going to hit the deadline on job Z? And so on. It’s something that’s a constant struggle for me and I haven’t really found a solution. What has helped me though, is being mindful of exactly where I am. If I’m at work, that’s where my focus is and I do my best to block out any outside interference.
What interests do you have outside of the audio world?
I’m quite an avid sports fan and try to keep healthy by playing as much as possible. Mainly football, basketball, badminton and a gym session or two thrown in for good measure. I find that I’m so much more effective in the studio if I’m generally feeling fitter.
What advice would give to someone else – your best tip or trick?
If I could go back in time and visit a younger me, I would say not to take myself too seriously. We all do this job because of our love and passion for it, so don’t lose that love. There will be times when things get really tough, when clients will hound you, or worse yet, you have a barren period where you wish your phone would ring. Find ways of resparking that inspiration and creativity when the calls do come. Sometimes that even means stepping away and having a break for a couple of weeks.
Where would you like to be in 10 years?
I see myself opening up my own studio in the not too distant future. A suite dedicated to scoring sound for picture, a suite that caters to more commercial artists and a suite equipped to record, mix and master live material, all in the same building. I would also love to share what I’ve learned with people who are looking to break into the industry and make an impact by giving back to people who are seeking a helping hand.