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Keeping the lights on: Meet the techs, the unsung heroes of dBs

Despite often passing under the radar, our dedicated team of techs play a vital role in helping dBs students put theory into practice. Get to know some of them below.

At dBs, we spend a lot of time shouting about our highly talented teaching staff, but as inspirational as they are, our tutors can’t take all the credit for the fantastic learning experience we provide. Equally instrumental to the satisfaction and development of our students are our technicians, a small team of audio technology specialists who facilitate applied learning and teaching at dBs. And, as an institute that believes in the importance of getting hands-on, let’s just say that’s no small task! 

What do the techs do, exactly?

From when you arrive at dBs in the morning to when you leave our studios at night, our technicians are busy working behind the scenes to ensure our facilities are kept in working order. 

As well as being responsible for looking after our precious spaces, our technicians are also fountains of knowledge about all of our equipment. When you first start studying with us, they’ll induct you into the studios and teach you how everything works. They’ll help you set up spaces for practical sessions, and if you ask really nicely, they’ll also share their top gear cupboard recommendations with you. 

As such, the techs are the conduit to taking what you learn in lessons and applying that in a practical sense. They're also fascinating music and audio practitioners in their own right. This shared passion means they’ll always go out of their way to help you. Now we've established just how essential the techs are to making the dBs experience what it is, let’s get to know some of them...

Ezra Gray

dBs technician and sound artist Ezra Gray

Outside of your role, are you working on any interesting projects?

I am currently designing and prototyping a range of bespoke microphones geared towards field recording and sound design, these will eventually be available to purchase from my website. I also play bass in Bristol-based reggae band, The Co-operators. I spend a lot of time working on sound design for short films and media and I am currently developing interactive systems for festival installations on MAX.

 
What are some of your favourite pieces of gear at dBs and is there anything you feel doesn't get used enough?
 
I really like the Elektron equipment which people seem to be a little dubious of using because you have to spend a while learning them. I also really like the Universal Audio 6176 in Studio 3 which people don't tend to use much, it sounds great!
 
 
As a tech, you see a lot of what happens behind the scenes and around the clock at dBs. Any good stories to share?

Well we can't give away all our secrets, but we definitely have a lot of opportunities to 'test' out the synths and equipment when we are setting up for sessions. A highlight is when we had to move the entire tech room to a new location, then we found out we had moved it all into the wrong place!

 
Techs are often called in to save the day when technical difficulties interrupt a session. Tell us about your most creative quick-fix?
 
Well, we certainly go through a lot of Gaffa tape when we are up against clock!
 
Ezra is a technician at our Higher Education Centre in Bristol. Check out his website.

Sam Furse

dBs technician Sam Furse plays electric guitar

Outside of your role, are you working on any interesting projects?

I currently have two hefty projects on the go. Firstly I am editing the dialogue and creating the score for a short film that I got to work on last year. In my spare time, I do game design and am also currently working on an audio-based game for the visually impaired. It’s been really fun working out how to use sounds as visual cues, challenge and engage a player using audio puzzles and create a narrative sonically. I am a strong believer in accessibility for all and don’t see why there should be any excuse that another person cannot experience the same things that I can. 

What are some of your favourite pieces of gear at dBs and is there anything you feel doesn't get used enough? 

A favourite synth of mine is the Moog Mother 32, which definitely doesn’t get used enough! It is a semi-modular monophonic synthesizer with a built-in 32 step sequencer – what more do you need! I like it because it really does explore all parts of synthesis and sounds incredible. I come from a punk and heavy instrument-based background and never really used synths before coming to dBs, but using the Mother 32 sparked this interest in me. I just wanted to keep exploring and because it has so many great features, you can easily transfer what you learn using it to everything else.

A favourite microphone of mine is the Coles 4038 which is a ribbon microphone and sounds incredible on everything. There is a real depth of clarity that comes from anything you use it on and it has a really nice warm feel. If you ever want to perform a minimalist recording, using the Coles as a one-mic set-up to record drums will capture everything you need.

As a tech, you see a lot of what happens behind the scenes and around the clock at dBs. Any good stories to share?

Something that I am sure will definitely be a surprise to most of the students is, every year (pre-covid) we have some researchers come and monitor the migratory patterns and behaviours of seagulls in Bristol and they do so from the roof of the St Thomas building. They have built a load of spaces up there for the seagulls to hide their eggs from danger and so eventually when they hatch we have loads of baby seagulls on the roof which makes any work we have to do up there very hard, but it is worth it to see the little babies in their nests.

Techs are often called in to save the day when technical difficulties interrupt a session. Tell us about your most creative quick-fix?

A student was once trying to record something into and out of an old karaoke machine that he was using as a pseudo tape machine but the output didn’t match any of the cables we could offer. So I took the machine apart and managed to find an output from an old damaged cable we had in the tech office. I soldered this onto the machine and the student was able to use it to record all the lo-fi piano they wanted.

Sam is a technician at our Higher Education Bristol centre.

Ciaran Maxwell

dBs technician and lecturer Ciran Maxwell

Outside of your role, are you working on any interesting projects?

Of course! I produce music under the alias 'Ickle', working for and releasing music through  Hold Tight Records and Firmly Rooted Soundsystem. I recently just dropped my first vinyl record, a collaboration with Bristol band Hotsteppas, which has been very well received and gained support from UK Dub/Reggae legends Aba Shanti, Dubkasm and Earl Gateshead. You can purchase the disc via popular stores, Redeye, Unearthed, White Peach or the Firmly Rooted Bandcamp page. 

What are some of your favourite pieces of gear at dBs and is there anything you feel doesn't get used enough?

My favourite piece of gear at the further education centre is probably the Arturia Drumbrute Impact. Easy-to-use drum synth that can set the groove for a new tune in seconds! Also, it’s really dope to resample in tunes.

As a tech, you see a lot of what happens behind the scenes and around the clock at dBs. Any good stories to share?

In honesty, you'll probably find the funniest behind the scenes stories on my Instagram @icklegram. There are not many stories that particularly stand out, but there's always plenty of jokes in the tech team when we're helping set up and test equipment. 

There’s a lot of quickly laying down silly jams on hardware synths and samplers before students start their lessons (cue Ezra playing the hoover tube, Ciaran screaming down an SM58 in a bid to break musical boundaries into a Roland VT-3 or Ellie giving her best Bassman impression over a D&B loop we've quickly made.)

Techs are often called in to save the day when technical difficulties interrupt a session. Tell us about your most creative quick-fix?

To be honest, I'm naturally quick at fixing issues around the centre so I wouldn't know about having to think outside the box haha... probably some kind of bodge job involving electrical tape!

Ciaran is a Further Education Live Sound & Events Lecturer, who started off tech-ing at our Bristol Further Education centre and now splits his time between the two.

Dan Wack

 
dBs Insitite alumni and technician Dan Wack using Neve mixing desk
 
Outside of your role, are you working on any interesting projects?
 
I'm currently finishing an Ambient EP for Sub-Label Recordings. I took the opportunity to take location recordings around Dartmoor, and the shores of the River Tamar - giving me lots of contrasting textures. Once this release is finalised I will be exploring the use of electric guitar within the Ambient genre - which should be interesting (as I'm still learning to play), but I wanted to challenge myself.

What are some of your favourite pieces of gear at dBs and is there anything you feel doesn't get used enough?
 
It's always difficult to pin down a favourite bit of gear, however, I always end up going back to the Neve 33609 Compressors. I run my bass sections through them to add analogue warmth to a mix.
 
As a tech, you see a lot of what happens behind the scenes and around the clock at dBs. Any good stories to share?
 
Something that I have found really rewarding this year is seeing how our students have progressed in the studios. It can be daunting to walk into a room with a 24 channel mixing desk, but once we go through the signal path and tailor it to how they want to use the studio, you get to see their creativity blossom with new projects.

Techs are often called in to save the day when technical difficulties interrupt a session. Tell us about your most creative quick-fix?
 
The patch bay is the solution to most issues in the studios. It gives us the opportunity to route audio around a piece of equipment that is causing issues or to use a different input path. Being able to use the patchbay also aids our creative projects - allowing us to use more hardware and complex routing.
 
Dan is a technician at our Plymouth centre. He also is a dBs alumnus. Read about his final project, which focused on the use of sound to help people sleep or listen to his music on Bandcamp.

Hauke Moxon-Riedlin

dBs technician Hauke playing with his band the Crinkle Cuts

 
Outside of your role, are you working on any interesting projects?
 
I play in a couple of Bristol based bands; Crinkle Cuts and Ushti Baba. We're starting to gig again which is great! My next show is at the Thekla with Craig Charles on July the 30th.
 
What are some of your favourite pieces of gear at dBs and is there anything you feel doesn't get used enough?
 
The Moog MF-104 delay is a great piece of kit, really dark and musical, I think the DAV BG501 preamps get overshadowed quite a lot, they're great with ribbons, especially the Coles 4038s.

 

As a tech, you see a lot of what happens behind the scenes and around the clock at dBs. Any good stories to share?
 
Some creative demolition tactics, the less said the better.
Techs are often called in to save the day when technical difficulties interrupt a session. Tell us about your most creative quick-fix?
 
We had an absolute nightmare when the PSU failed on the API 1608. Luckily with a bit of quick thinking, Callum and I managed to get the room operational using two SSL X-Desks, the API Lunchbox and an Audient ASP800 until we were able to repair the power supply. The studio was only down for a few hours.
 
Hauke is a Technician at our Higher Education Centre in Bristol. 

Callum Godfroy

dBs Technician Callum Godfroy

Outside of your role, are you working on any interesting projects?

Yes, I’ve been studying electronics recently with the aim of designing some of my own audio equipment. It’s been a really challenging but enjoyable process and I'm nearing the end of a fuzz phase guitar pedal build. As well as learning a lot about circuit design, this is the first project that I have designed and manufactured on PCB myself.

What are some of your favourite pieces of gear at dBs and is there anything you feel doesn't get used enough?

My favourite piece of gear is the SSL Duality Delta because of the amount of routing options and flexibility of the console's features. It is a really great piece of equipment to the point of being a bit OTT for almost any typical session.

I would say our API Lunchbox is a piece of equipment that should be used more. The times that I typically see people using these preamps are when they are wanting to run a session with larger I/O counts and need more preamps that a console/interface can deliver. I’d like to see more people using the lunchbox, experimenting with the different tonal characteristics that can be achieved by using a variety of preamps. Our lunchbox is currently loaded with 2 x Neve 1073’s, 2 x SSL VHD Drive and 2 x D.A.V BG501 preamps.

fuzz phase guitar pedal built by dBs technician Callum Godfroy

Callum builds his own audio equipment such as this fuzz phase guitar pedal.

As a tech, you see a lot of what happens behind the scenes and around the clock at dBs. Any good stories to share?

Seeing the additional processes and methods of delivery that have been tested and implemented since the first national lockdown. There aren't any specific stories to share but I’ve been impressed by the efforts made by many of the staff and students to make sure that lessons can continue in the most engaging way possible.

Other than that, just a lot of interesting mic placement and connections between pieces of equipment when students are learning or experimenting. Some good, some... unconventional…


Techs are often called in to save the day when technical difficulties interrupt a session. Tell us about your most creative quick-fix?


When our API power supply stopped working, Hauke and I created a temporary recording and mix setup in studio 03. To replace the API we had to relocate a lot of equipment from other studios or spares including chaining two SSL X-desks together using the desk’s link connections. Then we integrated that into the studio's existing hardware and patchbay, and connected 2 racks of preamps (Audient ASP 800 and our API lunchbox). 
 
Callum is a Technician at our Higher Education Centre in Bristol. 

Jack Hart

dBs technican Jack hartOutside of your role, are you working on any interesting projects?

I co-run a sample label called Labsamples with a good friend, we aim to provide quality production tools for producers at all skill levels. As well as that, working on my own artist alias ‘Jakart'. I specialise in Drum and Bass but have a love for a wide range of music. I'm a part of the extended Collective Bristol family (hopefully we will be back at the Crofters Rights very soon). I also teach private music production and DJ tuition to some brilliant students, passing on the knowledge I’ve learnt over the years is really important to me and is something I’m extremely passionate about. I like to extend this into my tech role when our students need assistance with their work. 

What are some of your favourite pieces of gear at dBs and is there anything you feel doesn't get used enough?

The Avalon 747sp is always a good shout, it sounds especially amazing when parallel compressed on the mix bus with the TSP (tube signal path) setting enabled, that tube sound coupled with the 6 band eq is really something. 

The Neumann KH310 are my favourite monitors by far, they just sound amazing and allow you to make fast decisions in the creative process with no second-guessing. In terms of equipment that doesn’t get used enough, I’d say the Dreadbox Murmux Analogue Monophonic Synth, it’s one of those synths that can prove to be a little unpredictable at times which for me, is part of its charm. Huge, fat, warm bass is one of the Murmux’s specialities.

As a tech, you see a lot of what happens behind the scenes and around the clock at dBs. Any good stories to share?

Too many to share, perhaps not suitable for here!

Techs are often called in to save the day when technical difficulties interrupt a session. Tell us about your most creative quick-fix?

A tutor once asked if we could spontaneously set up a Steve Reich Pendulum Music demonstration for the students, so we found some old curtain rails, some hooks to attach to the ceiling, collected up the backline and our SM57s and went about creating our very own version in the classroom, it actually worked really well and created some really cool sounds!

 
Jack Hart is a Higher Education Technician at our Bristol centre.
 
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