As I write this, we are coming to the end of seven weeks of self-isolation in the United Kingdom, as a direct result of the Coronavirus. The virus known as Covid 19, started in China and has since become Pandemic in a very short time. Schools have closed, travel is prohibited, restaurants and theatres are closing daily and we’ve all been told to stay at home.
If thirty-five years ago someone told me that my career would involve long periods of time in isolation, on my own, no one to talk to, and long stretches where human contact was rare, I would have disputed their predictions or certainly gone for another profession.
Having spent many years working in other people’s studios, I decided it was time to splash out and invest in my own. There was a time certainly when it was simply too expensive to buy your own studio; large mixing desks and even larger multi-track tape machines ran into the hundreds of thousands of pounds. Outboard gear and effects were sparse and equally expensive was the servicing required to keep it all going. Which was why we all had budgets and paid for studios, tape and services on an hourly rate for every project. There were very few ‘deals’ to be had. Hence things were expensive all round.
When in the mid-eighties the prices tumbled and some clever geek created a simple but effective studio recording package around the Atari games computer, we all leapt at the chance to own our own studio. It was the dream. Multi-channel desks and tape machines followed in quick succession and within a very short time I’d managed to finance and secure a fully stocked 32 track recording studio in a barn in West Sussex.
After the initial honeymoon and thrill of owning all those knobs, dials, bells and whistles, I realised that I had no clue how it all worked. How do you record a guitar, a vocal, piano, drums? Help! Added to this, my long-term engineer decided to self-isolate himself with a nasty dose of man flu. So, I had to get out the manuals and start reading (RTFM as they used to say). The beginning of my personal journey into isolation.
Years later having had a fruitful time writing, composing, playing, recording and producing, I realise that a vast amount of this time was spent on my own. In fact, it got to a point where I would walk outside the house after a couple of weeks realising that I hadn’t been out or spoken to anyone. Such were the deadlines and requirements at the time.
It was an exciting time and rewarding when, after a commission was completed, you met the producer, director or some of the other people involved, who made nice noises about your music and how it complimented the programme.
Commercials were also brilliant to work on; I would write and record the main music beds in my studio, on my own, singing along out of tune to what I imagined the vocals should be. Then get in a bunch of amazing singers to sing it properly. This was always a highlight and broke the isolation for a short period where we laughed more than sang.
Now we are in this forced self-isolation and I feel a little guilty. Nothing has changed and I’m still on my own, working on songs, Topline production library music, Podcasts, producing for clients and generally making a noise. There are times when I need company of course and my wife is a constant who has enabled me on this long, isolated path.
Enjoy this time while it lasts despite the challenges. I hope to have more self-isolating years ahead of me.
Now, back to the music.