This week we had a chat to front of house, sound engineer Danny Evans
Danny’s notable work includes acts such as festival favourites Elbow and homegrown alt rockets New Fast Automatic Daffodils. We talked to him about his musical past, his studio, and his use of iZotope products…
Hi Danny, thanks for agreeing to speak to us today! First off, how did you get into the music production industry?
I first started recording music when I was a teenager – with two borrowed Akai domestic stereo reel to reel machines and a couple of mics, overdubbing by bouncing from one machine to the other and blending in the live takes! When I came to Manchester in 1985 I took a job as House Engineer in a modest demoing studio in Hulme – “The Kitchen” had a Fostex E16, a 32:8:2 desk and a few bits of outboard – I’d never even seen a mixing desk in the flesh, the possibilities seemed endless!
Was this always something you were interested in pursuing a career in?
Yes – as soon as I realised it was possible to have a career in music production, I never really wanted to do anything else.
Who were your biggest musical influences growing up?
Growing up? Queen, The Stooges, Talking Heads, David Bowie, Captain Beefheart, The Fall, Hendrix and also a few early electronic acts.
Do you remember the first piece of music production software you ever used?
Cubase (midi only) on the Atari ST.
You’ve been working with Elbow this year – how did you first meet and start working with the band?
I first met all the members of Elbow through working as in-house engineer at a couple of Manchester music venues, Night and Day Cafe and The Roadhouse, where the various members of the band all worked on the door or behind the bar at one stage or another. I first heard them play at local band nights at these two venues, and they asked me to record an EP for them (Anyday Now) around ’99 I think, prior to their first album release. I’ve been working with them on and off ever since, both live and in the studio.
You’ve also worked with artists like New Fast Automatic Daffodils. Would you say working with alternative rock groups is your niche?
Yes, I worked with the New Fads throughout their career, from the first demo to their last gig, which was a big part of my education – but I’m not sure I’ve got a niche – I’ve worked with electronic/dance music acts, some pretty out there Jazz, some african bands, I’ve recorded classical acts, chamber music etc.
Are there any artists/bands that you’re particularly enjoying at the moment?
I have to admit, I haven’t really got my finger on the pulse, but Guy’s always playing me new stuff – Here We Go Magic and This Is The Kit are both favourites, and I love Jesca Hoop’s music.
Tell us about your studio – where is it and what key pieces of gear can we find in there?
My studio space is in Blueprint Studios in Salford – I rarely do any tracking in there, mostly just mix work, there’s no outboard, its all in the box on a Mac Pro with an H/D Native rig, H/D Omni interface and a pair of PMC monitors – If I need to track anything we go elsewhere – we’ve done a few sessions at Real World in the last couple of years, and other than that, Elbow have their own facility, or for Guy’s solo project we tracked a couple of tunes in Bluprint’s own studio.
No, Elbow’s last LP was completed before I started using any of the iZotope products, but I have been using it a lot on Guy’s solo album. RX has been great for correcting the odd oversight in the recording process, really got me out of jail on a couple of tracks, and I like Alloy a lot, I’ve been using the exciter to add warmth/grit etc to individual tracks, and the multi-band transient shaper has been a great tool for shaping especially drum sounds and acoustic guitar tracks.
How have you used iZotope RX to clean up and repair audio in your work?
I’ve used RX to clean up normal broadband noise, hiss, that was hard to avoid as we were using a lot of gain on some ambient mics on quieter acoustic instruments.
I also engineered on Steve Mason’s new album, which Craig (from Elbow) was producing – the big room at Blueprint is an amazing recording space, but it has a lot of glass, skylight windows etc, so if it starts raining when you’re trying to record quieter acoustic instruments, strings, acoustic guitars etc, the resulting rain noise can be an issue – using RX it was possible to almost completely remove this background noise from the takes, I was very impressed!
I also occasionally get sent poorly recorded dialogue tracks with lots of ambient noise which I need to clean up, iZotope has been invaluable in dealing with issues like this.
Why do you choose to use Ozone over and above other mastering software?
I don’t often use it for mastering to be honest, but I have found it useful to process individual instruments – the EQ and Dynamic EQ can do things that none of my other tools can accomplish, and the limiter is great too. I think the whole plug in is very well thought out, I like the visual feedback, for example the graphical view really helps when setting time constants with the limiter, and the spectrum display is very useful when working on eq.
Finally, what’s on the studio schedule for the rest of 2015?
It’s all about Guy’s solo project at the moment, the album is finished and I’ve started live prep for the tour which starts in November – I expect there will be live recordings of the shows too, which will need to be mixed for broadcast etc, but for the most part I’ll be focusing on Guy’s live sound rather than any new studio projects for the foreseeable future.