Mobile libraries, food trucks, ice cream vans, the idea of a service on wheels is not a new one, but The Field Recorder brings something else entirely, the recording studio. Devised by dBs graduate Jus Mike, the project is opening up the world of recording to a much wider audience, so we had to find out more.
Tell us a little about your journey into music production, how you first got it making music and what led to where you are now?
I grew up with karaoke, but when I finished school is when I started writing all the time and rapping with friends over instrumentals we could find online. Whilst searching and failing to find many suitable instrumentals I decided to make my own beats! I knew the kind of thing I wanted to hear. It was just a matter of learning how to do it!
My journey in production has mainly been trying to find the optimal most natural workflow, which in turn involved trying all different kinds of DAWs and methods of sequencing. Starting from Fruity Loops in 2005 for a while, I then moved onto Propellerhead's Reason back in 2016. I really like the Reason workflow and the hardware inspired approach, and had quite a bit of success with it. It's also very visual and you can see how the sound is being processed and manipulated. I still use it as my main DAW!
But since buying an Akai MPC1000 in 2007 I haven't looked back and have been using MPCs almost exclusively ever since. For me they have the perfect workflow and I love to sequence on them. I was able to still control Reason's sounds via 32 channels of MIDI from the MPC, as well as in-built sampling.
Last year I got my hands on the Akai MPC Live, which is the latest generation of MPCs. It has all the same features as my old MPC1000 but with a thousand more features to learn and work with. I know quite a lot of them now but still have so much more to learn. I'm having a lot of fun with it though!
How did you find out about dBs Music and why did you choose to study with us?
I heard about dBs through a friend. I was accepted to study in 2013 at the Camborne College campus when I was 25. I joined up to further my knowledge regarding sound, performance and production. I saw it as a good opportunity to network and meet other producers and musicians for encouragement and inspiration.
What course did you study whilst at dBs?
I initially applied for the BTEC course in Electronic Music Production, but was a bit doubtful because I did not have adequate grades. I decided to go on a tour of the campus anyway where I met Oli Brand who showed me around. I found it really exciting and his energy was really positive. We were discussing what I had done previously and the reasons I wanted to join.
Despite not having the grades, I was given a chance to study on the HNC course based on my existing experience in production that I'd built through teaching myself and working with others. I was asked to write a 1,000 word essay on something relevant in music, so I chose to write about the history of Akai MPCs. They must have liked it, because to my amazement I was accepted onto the course.
You’ve recently started The Field Recorder, which is such a great idea. Could you give us a little overview of the project?
Yes, the website is www.thefieldrecorder.co.uk and I’m really excited for this!
It is basically a service providing high-quality recordings in remote locations using a mobile studio! It's ideal for people who have a large piano at home for example, that they may like to record, but the practicalities of moving a piano into a studio make it unlikely to happen. So to solve this, I can bring the studio to them.
Everything runs on batteries and I can record for up to 12 hours remotely. I also feel it's great for people who struggle with confidence because sometimes visiting a studio can be quite intimidating. The website is up and running now so people can head over to make a booking.
What prompted the concept? Had the idea to start something like this been with you for a while?
It came to me earlier this year, but it had there subconsciously for sometime longer as it was something I was regularly doing anyway when recording friends at their homes.
Through last autumn into winter I decided to live in my van to save money whilst I was working. The money I had saved from not paying rent went into buying music production equipment which could run on 12v or batteries as this was my only option whilst living in a van. I'm really pleased with what I have chosen and how the mobile setup has turned out. Now there's not much I can't do in terms of recording, arranging and mixing and there's no place I can't do it, unless on private property of course!
The project is running in partnership with Phantom DS Music Studio. How did they get involved?
I met the guys from Phantom DS in late 2017. I had entered the Open Mic UK competition and it was coming up to the semi-final performance at the NEC in Birmingham. I was playing my own songs on acoustic guitar throughout the competition, but one eventful night at home I left my guitar out in the rain by accident!
It was not long before I had the next round in the competition so I took it to the music shop, which was just around the corner from my house to see how it had fared. He pointed out to me that it had warped all down the neck and would be difficult to straighten it. He proceeded to get his tools out anyway and started tinkering with it, when out of the blue he asked if I knew any audio engineers. I said that I had some experience myself.
It turned out that Phantom DS, which was close by, were looking for someone to get involved so I got in touch and went for a visit where I met the legend that is Seb. I was blown away when I entered and felt like I was almost dreaming. I felt so humbled with his proposition to help him out and in turn I could use the studio when it was free.
Inside Phantom DS
We have since worked on a few projects together and I’ve recorded and edited a few music videos for them, too. I just appreciate the opportunity he gave to me with access and trust to his studio and am doing all I can to give back as well and make more happen.
I'm really excited for the new projects we have lined up together. They will include pro workshops with passionate artists and engineers who will be doing talks and sharing their expertise. We're also very close to starting up a regular Sunday livestream presenting local bands and artists to the world.
The nature of The Field Recorder means you’ll be working alongside a range of artists. What’s your best tip for being able to work effectively with so many different personalities?
A good tip is to never have any expectations and be cool even if they are not. The focus is always about the artist. Whilst I'm recording, I feel my role is to be more of a relaxed encouraging assistant whilst letting them take control and create their own vibe and so I'm capturing them fully in their own element. Another good tip is clear communication and thinking of ways to communicate ideas to someone who isn’t well rehearsed in theory and terminology.
What advice has proved invaluable for your development in the music industry?
Have a reason, represent and be real!
What’s next in the pipeline for you?
Play, play, play. Learn, learn, learn. Alongside The Field Recorder project I am still just an artist myself mainly. I’m currently working on a new set to play at festivals next year! It will be including my mobile studio and live looping MPCs and beats with some singing and rapping. I would say its in the realm of Hip-Hop/Folk to name a genre.
I’m also running a weekly Word of Mouth open mic session (@womsession) in The Red Lion on Whitehall Road every Tuesday! With charred pizza available to order! A drink and optional recording for every performer also!