Phil Eades

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What goes into making an album? How do you get the perfect sound? Candice Rose speaks with local audio engineer and father of two, Phil Eades, about his passion for making music.

You grew up here in Port Macquarie. Tell us what inspired your interest in music production?

I’ve always loved music. My parents always had a radio or a record playing rather than television when I was a kid. I even played a couple of instruments during school.

I stopped playing when I was a teenager, but my love for music remained. I was always getting into trouble for having a Walkman in class. I guess you could say my passion for music, but not having the ability, provided me with inspiration to take this path.

> You studied and taught classes at SAE in Byron Bay. Tell us about the prestige of that particular school. 

SAE was started in Sydney in the late 70s and has since spawned over 40 schools globally. When I worked at the Byron Bay school, we were the world headquarters. So basically, all the other SAE schools looked to us.

The facilities are incredible – million dollar studios are at the students’ disposal. It spoilt me; I had everything at my disposal that an audio engineer could dream of. So long as you knew how to use the equipment properly, a great recording was easy to do. Being back in Port Mac has grounded me, and I’m very thankful for it.

I have had to re-learn my craft – how to get good sounds out of less expensive gear, less acoustically treated rooms, more time constraints. I actually just received a phone call from a very impressed local musician who heard a recent recording of mine, and that made my day.

> Who are some of the known Australian Bands that have recorded at SAE? 

 The actual recording part of SAE is 301 studios. That’s where all the big names would record. For example, The Living End, Powderfinger, and Eskimo Joe have all recorded there in recent times. As for bands recorded at SAE, I was involved with recording the entire East Coast Blues & Roots Festival a couple of years ago. We basically recorded everything for 5 days. That was an experience and a half – 18-hour days, 2 stages and lots of coffee! Some of the acts we recorded were the Dave Matthews Band, Violent Femmes and the Wailers of Bob Marley fame. Great experience … worked with some fantastic people and met some very interesting characters. 

> When talking about music production, how much time and effort goes into the recording process for an album and/or song? Walk us through it.  

Well we have just finished recording an EP for local band Barrel House. It took a month to record the 5 tracks, then 2 weeks to mix them and then another week to master it. The recording process is the most time consuming part. Set up of a drum kit typically takes an hour. The microphones have to be put in place and I then have to adjust the positioning of the microphones or change them to get a good sound. Once this is all done, we can start recording.

Guitars are recorded in much the same way, except settings on amplifiers and pedals are played with – even the way the sound of the guitar reacts with the room is taken into account. After the setup it’s up to the musicians as to how long it takes to record their parts. Guitars are typically multi-layered too, meaning that we record the same guitar part a number of times. 

Vocals are particularly time consuming to record. Even though the tuning of the ‘instrument’ in this case is relatively simple, the performance is what you need to capture. The most perfectly sung line might not be the best one ‘performance-wise’. The challenge is capturing the feel, or the vibe of the singer. But once you get it, you know it.

Songs change and develop in the studio. Even if a band has a song polished and sounding fantastic when they get in the studio and record it, most of the time the producer or the engineer may say, “ What if we add a Hammond organ, or another guitar part?” Or “What about changing the phrasing of this line?” A song is ever evolving, and it’s rare for a song to stay the same the whole way through a recording process. Make it full; make it interesting.

> You’re now based in Port Macquarie and have most recently worked on the sound for Festival of the Sun 2008. What other projects have you been recording?

As I mentioned the new Barrel House EP. I have recorded some tracks for The Grains, guys from Beechwood called Another Typical Routine, Ziggy Zygon, Yanni and The Whores for Pinot, Dazed, and I worked on the sound at the Fresh Art Festival in July last year. I was also recently offered to go to Tamworth to work at the Country Music Festival for a couple of nights, but had to decline due to a conflicting schedule – which is a shame, because I think that would’ve been a blast.

I should also point out that I was not actually responsible for the great sound at FOTSUN. I recorded the whole thing, and I’m currently going through it all to see what we got and sync it to the video they captured. Who knows … there could be a DVD released later if there is any gold!

> As a man of music, which bands/albums have been terrifically recorded in your opinion? And what albums should our readers look out for that display great studio production?

Wow, what a question. My favourite producer/mixer is a guy named Andy Wallace. Everything he mixes sounds great. He is responsible for albums that we all love such as Jeff Buckley – Grace, Nirvana – Nevermind, Silverchair – Freakshow. As for great records from a production point of view, Beck creates very interesting and good music, so much is going on in a Beck track and Bjork’s recordings always sound great. However, musicians such as Jose Gonzalez, who is just vocals and an acoustic guitar is great. He keeps your interest for a whole record, and I’m pretty sure he recorded it himself. As for homegrown stuff, Eskimo Joe’s last album sounds great, Goyte’s record is amazing, and he recorded that in his bedroom! And of course the new Barrel House EP rocks! Ha ha! Sorry … had to slip that one in!

> If someone wanted to get into sound production, how would they go about it? 

Go to a lot of gigs; get to know your local industry and local guys that work in it. We are always looking for assistants! Unfortunately, an assistant is rarely paid, but do it a couple of times and you can learn a lot! I know I did when I used to do it. I still assist at recordings at 301 when I get time! You may even get a credit on an album! 

> What’s next for you in 2009? 

 More recordings! I have been and will continue to be working closely with the crew from Sand Events to get more local music out and noticed. The music scene is starting to get a buzz about it, and it’s mainly thanks to guys like Scott Mesiti, who has been working hard on bringing acts to Port and developing the local scene.

Also, the quality of the musicians and songwriters that are developing and being heard around town is fantastic. My New Year’s resolution is to get a full time recording/rehearsal space up and running. At the moment we are using any space we can get and trying to juggle schedules with work commitments and other bookings, and it is getting to be painful.

> Where can bands or artists contact you if they need some work recorded?

 My website at has links to artists I’ve worked with, and also all my contact details. 

> Thank you Phil.

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