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Chris Cracknell

Chris Cracknell

Producer, Engineer, DJ
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chris cracknell

Chris Cracknell is a Mix Engineer/Producer/Dj who lives and works in Brighton out of his own self built studio, Gold Tone. He also regularly DJ's across Europe and at festivals such as Glastonbury and hosts a weekly radio show on 1BTN.

J Felix, Paula Cox, Hollows, Nick Franglen
Throwing myself into things...

“Music became something more than casual listening when a friend taught me how to beat match on two turntables one Friday night when I was about 20. Apart from learning the guitar when I was 7, I hadn’t given much thought to actually manipulating or controlling sound and this BLEW. MY. MIND.

It’s in my nature to throw myself into things, and that was it, all spare cash went on records and a set of decks soon came into my house. I remember starting to fiddle about with my turntables, laptop and a program called Ejay, but I always thought it was just a game, so I never thought it would have a purposeful place. Fast forward to Serato and Ableton coming along and I kick myself for not seeing the possibilities back then.

After years of using Logic to record and edit mixtapes, I just got drawn into the production side, firstly making samples and edits to compliment my DJing, to sampling from tracks and then making all original compositions.

My main influences have been a guy called Andy Diagram who worked as a tutor at City Lit college in London (as well as being an artist in his own right), who taught me the foundations, which remain the bedrock of my work as an engineer now. Then Nick Franglen who, very generously, invited me to join him in the studio one day, and through a quirk of life,  I ended up working for him for nearly two years on various projects. He taught me to make noise, lots of joyful noise, and how to get busy editing.”

Chris' set up

"After years of temporary set ups, I’m lucky enough to have spent last year putting together my own workspace where I can make as much noise as I like, with everything in easy reach, cabled up ready to go. My biggest bug bear is setting down to work, only to find something isn’t working properly and then spending ages figuring out why, feeling time and the creative juices ebbing away.

When I’m mixing, I work mainly in the box, mostly for speed and ease of recall for revisions. I use the Waves SSL plugins a lot, I really like their sound. NI’s Transient Master is useful on your drum buss. I always treat vocals with the Abbey Road TG12412, it can subtley change the tone of the vocal to suit the instrumentation and adds a little of that ‘thing’ that brings a track to life. I’ll always pass a mix through my RND 542 Tape Emulator with the silk setting on red, which just adds some nice harmonics and sheen, as a final polish."

In and out of the box

"If I’m producing or working on my own music, I go to three synths, a Sub 37, a Minilogue and a Juno 60, all of which a capable of producing great sounds. Having worked mostly in the box, I’m still learning their subtleties and really enjoying the hands-on approach, using my ears and not clicking a mouse. It’s a luxury to have hardware these days but for me that is the difference, using your hands and ears to alter the sound, not a mouse. I have a weird old desk that I know nothing about and was bought as a punt, which is still at my technicians. I’m looking forward to getting that back and using that as a central part of creating my own work, as it is going to work more as an instrument than a desk.

I use NI Guitar Rig when I’m looking for something a bit different on guitars, run through a Vox AC15, captured using a pair of Aston Starlights, then through Rupert Neve 511 pre amps, which sound amazing.

I also have turntables and my vinyl collection in my studio, and I'm always digging for samples. I do cherish the NI Maschine, Kontrol and Komplete stuff too, you can’t fault the sounds and the speed in which you can create with plug ins and I’m not sniffy about analogue vs digital, I think they all have a purpose and place, as long as the sound is right, then it doesn’t matter where it comes from."

 

 

Back into noise mode

"On my own projects, I usually spend an amount of time making noise in as free a way as possible, having everything turned on and tracks armed, and I’ll go whichever way the music goes. Then I’ll go into edit mode and start pulling everything into some sort of structure which I’ll leave it running whilst I am doing other things, like pulling tunes out for my radio show or having a tidy up. Listening out for little sections or elements that stand out. Then I’ll take those and go back into noise mode using that as a starting reference. I’ll keep going like that, until something comes together and then I’ll arrange and try and leave mixing as late as possible.

The trouble (or the luxury) these days is that you can have almost limitless possibilities, so it is trying to find a an aesthetic that tells the story and sticking with that. One problem I have noticed increasing is that artists throw everything at a track and have tons of tracks, with parts duplicated and panned everywhere, which makes it hard to unpack a song and get to the bones of it, making it sound as it should.

One of the things I love about my radio show and being part of 1BTN is that I am constantly exposed to a diverse range of music and I try to take something from everything. I’ve also started volunteering at Audio Active in Brighton, who run workshops and support for young people through music, it is hugely rewarding and inspiring working with young people and seeing how they are using technology. Using my experience I help them make their sound as good as possible and try and give them reference points they might find inspiration from."

A resounding 'YES'

"I’m interested in products that follow strict design rules, that don’t compromise for cost or looks. When a product then achieves those goals and surpasses them, that really gets me going. Aston have done just that with their range. From their ‘British’ build quality to the eco packaging, to the performance, they become something more than the sum of their parts.

In an industry that seems to tell you that the more expensive something is the better, Aston boldly create something that weighs in against expectations, I used one to record myself after I had been using an SE Gemini II, and I was blown away by the quality of the sound. I haven’t got a budget for loads of different mics, so I have to ask myself ‘can I use this across a variety of sources and will I get good results?’ The answer is a resounding YES.

I think a big part of the Aston identity is wrapped up in it being The UK manufactured Mic brand. Having such a close eye on detail and the production process, tackling the problems that will be inherent in placing such barriers on themselves, when it would be easier to get a generic company to knock up some mics and put a logo on, is what has produced such a product. British engineering is one of the last industries in this country we can be proud of, Aston have used that industry to great effect."

Starlights for Christmas

"I’ve been using a stereo pair of Starlights to mic up my guitar amp and the results are great, capturing every detail and I swap voicing quite often, or have them on different settings at the same time. My Origins and Spirit I use for vocal work and for acoustic instruments, depending on what sound I’m trying to capture, but they are my go-to mics for most applications.

I've also been using a pair or Origins to capture audio for my podcast, The Current State of Music, they always generate some interest from the interviewee and capture conversation really well, I’ll have my guest with one set up on a stand, and I’ll just hold mine and they work great.

Aston have become my go-to mics, I even used a pair of Starlights to record my daughters Nativity play last Christmas."

 

Chris is a member of the Aston 33, the panel of top audio professionals who help in the development of each new Aston microphone by participating in a series of blind listening tests, the results of which are used to voice each mic and ensure it performs to a standard way beyond its price point. Read more on the Aston 33 here.

Out-takes

Q. Who are your favourite artists? 
A. Four Tet, Melanie De Biasio, DJ Shadow, Gaz Coombes, Gorillaz, Dollar Brand, Wotjek Mazolowski.

Q. If you weren't working in music what would you be doing? 
A. Snowboarding!

Q. What would your fantacy mic be?
A. Maybe one that could actually emulate all others, but then everyone would have one, so what would set me apart?

Q. What are the four words you'd chose to describe Aston, or your experience with the brand?
A. Family, Sound, Design, Awesome. 

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