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‘Work smart, not hard’: Getting to know the next generation of pro audio

In continuation of yesterday’s piece on the next generation of pro audio, here are the second half of our selected interviewees that are paving the way in the pro audio industry and offering up their expertise and advise

In continuation of yesterday’s piece on the next generation of pro audio, here are the second half of our selected interviewees that are paving the way in the pro audio industry and offering up their expertise and advise…

With the summer months now upon us, the professional audio industry’s busiest time of year is currently in full swing. Whether it’s traditional festivals out in the fields attracting hundreds of thousands of punters from across the globe, city-based outdoor gigs or comparatively small-scale boutique gatherings, the live events merry-go-round seems to grow more expansive and more diverse with each rotation. As such events grow and diversify, so too do the audio specifications required to ensure a splendid time is guaranteed for all.

To find out about some of the biggest challenges facing engineers out in the field, we spoke to some live sound professionals to gain in-depth insights into what it’s like to work the summer season and find out the best and worst advice they’ve ever received, from dealing with the industry’s more technical hands-on challenges, to facing and combating gender discrimination and coping with the strain such work can place on one’s mental health.

Name: Mads Mikkelsen

Based: Denmark

Job Title: FOH mix engineer

Current projects: Volbeat and Jacob Dinesen

Past Projects: King Diamond, Die Antwoord, Babymetal, Hammerfall

Worst advice you’ve ever received?

There has been plenty, but I think the idea that there is “only one tool or one way to get a job done” is pretty dumb. A lot of people get caught up in doing things the same way, but I think you should try to approach things differently every once in a while.

Best tips?

A FOH mixer that I respect very much once told me to “Do your own thing”, and that has stuck with me ever since. For instance, I played a big stadium gig with multiple bands one time and there wasn’t enough room on the FOH platform to fit everyone’s desks and racks. I more than willingly put my FOH production on the floor next to the platform and behind a camera (I like it better like that, I feel the low end like the audience does.)

What are the biggest challenges of the job?

Not going insane. Doing work like this can be compared to doing your final exams, but doing it every night. You’re never better than your last show, and it can be very stressful from time to time.

Name: Rachael Moser

Job Title: Road staff

Based: Nashville, Tennessee

Employer: Clair Global

Current Projects: Monitor systems tech for Chris Stapleton

Nominations: 2019 Parnelli nominee for Audio System Tech of the Year

What’s the worst advice you’ve been given during your career?

“You’re probably not going to make it in this business; most people don’t. Go ahead and come up with your fallback plan.” I surprisingly heard this more than once. Why tell somebody to give up before they even try?

And the best tips you’ve received?

“Take care of the opening acts. You never know when you may run into them again.” I was first introduced to my current tour assignment when they were in the first opening act slot back in 2015. Helping them out during those three shows has led to being part of their audio team in a headlining capacity for the last three years.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve experienced?

Being away from loved ones; it’s hard to have to miss out on holidays and big life events with friends and family.

Name: Anna Clock
Job Title: Composer/sound designer

Based: London

Projects: Armadillo at The Yard Theatre, a live project with musician Ailbhe Nic Oireachtaigh, Summer Fest for the National Youth Theatre, Fatty Fat Fat which is heading to Edinburgh festival and on a UK tour soon.

What are the biggest challenges of the job?

Collaborating. Creating something is always very personal and emotional, and you have to constantly remind yourself to leave your ego out of it in order to serve the story or idea when you are creating with a team. As soon as ego gets involved you can cloud your vision and start putting up defences which makes the work suffer. I’m at a stage now where I mostly choose to only work on projects that
I can emotionally engage with and get passionate about – it’s the most rewarding but also the most exhausting and challenging work.

There are also a lot of practical problems in the UK theatre industry. Sound designers for theatre still
don’t have a union, and so we have no protection regarding working conditions, hours or pay rates. It’s very easy for institutions, funding structures and producing houses to take advantage of people who make the work for them and leave us feeling overworked, underpaid and undervalued. Basic things like temperature and hygiene regulation in working environments, and being paid, fed or at the very least thanked when working overtime often get overlooked. It often feels like a constant struggle not be hugely taken advantage of. It takes a lot of conscious effort to look after yourself in this industry and not burn out.

As a gender minority within this industry I have of course experienced a fair amount of sexism over the years. It does feel like spaces and attitudes are changing, especially in London where I do a lot of my work, but it still happens. I think there is still a lot of work to do across the board.

Best tips you’ve been given?

Don’t take a course you don’t have the time or money for, just stay up all night and Google it for yourself (I have my sister to thank for that).

What’s the worst advice you’ve heard?

‘Be careful’. Sure that is good advice in some contexts but I feel like some people, especially women, are told it way too often. It’s taken me a long time to learn to be less careful.

Name: Daniela Seggewiss

Based: Leeds, UK

Projects: Monitor engineer for Opeth (SWE) and The Sweet (UK) Sound engineer for Frontm3n (UK) Monitor tech/engineer for UB40 feat. Ali Campbell & Astro and Paul Carrack.

Best advice?

Be nice and stay calm. It sounds very easy, but so much is down to people skills when you’re on the road. If you are a nice person to be around on tour, it goes a long way. The last thing anyone wants is a grumpy know-it-all. Staying calm is rule number one when you’re a monitor engineer. I am there to create a comfort zone for my artist, and if things go wrong (and they will go wrong) it is important to project confidence and calmness in order to keep the comfort zone intact.

Worst advice you’ve been given?

I’ve heard a recording engineer say that everything is down to luck in this industry, that skills and knowledge are highly overrated. I’m not the kind of person that gives up. I set my mind to becoming a live sound engineer, so I did everything in my power to achieve that – learn the basics, observe other techs and network wherever I could. Being in the right place at the right time does play a big role in our industry, but if you know your stuff, one open door is all you need to get in.

Name: Nicola Chang

Job Title: Theatre composer, sound designer and performer

Based: London

Current projects: Six the Musical (West End), OPHELIA (Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe), The Tempest (Orange Tree Theatre), White Pearl (Royal Court), and more.

Worst advice you’ve heard?

“You have to go to school to get into the industry”. Sure, it’ll give you a step up and great contacts, but at the end of the day it’s also about the work ethic, people skills and about how far you take your own personal growth.

Best advice up your sleeve?

“Work smart, not hard.” Never stop fiddling around with what you love. And, you should always be growing, maintaining positive, and nurturing working relationships with people.

Biggest challenges?

Being away for long periods of time. You miss out on a lot when you’re always on the road.