“I always knew I wanted to be a performer of some sort”

Music Production and Sound Engineering student Andrew Glen tells us about his time at Abbey Road Institute and what his plans are for the future

Hello Andrew, can you start by telling us a bit about yourself and your background?

I grew up in a little town on the East coast of Scotland 5 miles from Glamis Castle, and the birthplace of Bon Scott and J.M Barrie. I guess I inherited my musical genes from my grandfather who played the fiddle. I later developed a taste for music around the age of 12 from my brother who was in a band. I remember I used to sneak into his bedroom when he was out so I could play his guitar and became hooked from there.

I was given my first acoustic guitar at Christmas, and after having played ‘Amazing Grace’, and ‘Blowing in the Wind’ for the hundredth time over several months, I bought my first 4-track portastudio tape recorder. I’d confine myself to my room and started recording the rhythm guitar, moving on to the vocals, and finally adding in the percussion, with the help of my mums rusty cake tins, plastic tupperware boxes, and a couple of old wooden spoons. Thinking back now, I was starting to learn how to multi-track. I went through numerous cover bands in my teens while starting to write and develop my own songs.

And before studying with us you worked as an actor.

Yes. I always knew I wanted to be a performer of some sort. But I had an interest in drama as well as music. I moved to Glasgow when I was 18 and did my acting BA at the RSAMD, (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) where Tennant and McAvoy cut their teeth before me.

I spent the next 10 years doing stage plays, music videos, short films, and then later, once I’d moved to London, found my way into doing voice overs for TV and radio which pretty much brings us up to date.

What was the moment when you decided to pursue music instead of acting?

I’d been recording myself since those initial 4-track days, but when I started to explore the DAW I decided to do a night class at Morley College in sound production with Logic to learn more about the mechanics of music and how to record professionally. It’s what I called my entree into music production. As I was always in and out of post-production houses doing voice overs for a living, I’d quite often ask the engineer at the end of the session what eq’s and compressors he was using on my voice and would memorise them until I got outside where I’d find a coffee shop to run into so I could write it all down. Over the next three years I got more and more heavily into production. I started my own band Northern Light Exposure and built two home studios.

I then started my own business off the back of that at the behest of fellow actors, recording their voice reels, composing music for theatre, as well as writing and recording my own music with my band. I then realised over the course of about 6 months that I’d pretty much lost the hunger that I’d had as a jobbing actor, and through mere frustration of wanting to produce better music and mixes decided to dedicate my time solely to music and found the Sound Production and Engineer course at Abbey Road Institute.

Can you describe your experience of studying with us?

It’s pretty much been a musical awakening for me personally. The level of which we have delved into the vortex of music and the industry, literally from the ground up, covering everything from history of music, through to electronics, composition and later the music business, has all been invaluable to my understanding of how this beast works, both creatively and professionally. I’m not going to lie and say it’s been easy sailing. You’re put through the mill, but hopefully it has made us all stronger musicians and engineers because of it. The real unique thing about this course is that every single one of us are first and foremost musicians, which is exactly the kind of environment I needed to be in. So I think for the most part we understand each other’s frustrations, and motivations, which inevitably allows us to cut through everything and get on to what we all want to be doing: making great music!

What have been your highlights?

There have been so many highlights over the past 12 months. It begins with the first hand lectures from musical legends such as producer and engineers Hayden Bendall, John Dunkerley, and those that are just rearing their heads above the parapet and starting to make a dent in the industry now. A real highlight was being able to invite some of my own musical heroes to come and record in our own custom studio, and to do justice in capturing their music. And having them walk away with something that they respect and would be happy to put out is an amazing feeling. I can honestly say that 12 months ago that would not have been achievable had it not been for these tutors and this course.

What are the projects you are currently working on?

I’ve been fortunate enough to start working on producing and recording tracks for two artists in the industry who are each signed to independent labels. It is a big undertaking and responsibility to manage that shared vision with the artist. Because of my background I approach it from the sense of how a director approaches a play with actors. We’re all there to serve the song and to make it sound the best that they can be. As the Beatles engineer Ken Scott told us in a recent lecture, “you can only do your best on any given day.”

What are your plans after the course?

I’m currently in pre-production to record my band’s second EP with Urban Hymns producer Youth, which I’m super excited about! It’s going to be a challenge to turn off my producer and engineer’s brain and just focus on being an artist for a while. Nowadays though, those of us coming into the industry are going to have a portfolio career and will be expected to turn our hands to a whole number of things. I feel better equipped to tackle that now, but think that the thirst for knowledge and continued learning will be never ending. I also have an avenue lined up to go and do some work at another studio once I graduate. I don’t know where that might lead but that is kind of exciting in a way and all part and parcel of the creative lifestyle.

Are you excited to record and produce your own music?

Apply now for our Advanced Diploma in Music Production and Sound Engineering, the next course starts at the beginning of September.