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Simon Dobson

Simon Dobson

Composer, Conductor, Musician
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Simon Dobson

With three British Composer Awards to his name, a distinguished list of credits as a top orchestral conductor and a busy touring schedule as a trumpet player, Simon Dobson has still found time to start work on his second solo album, and he’s using Aston gear to record it.

He conducts the Parallax Orchestra, who recently played with Bring Me The Horizon at the Royal Albert Hall (he also wrote the overture for the concert), and has his own gigging trio, the Badcore Horns.

Bring Me The Horizon, Parallax Orchestra, Metropole Orkest, Badcore Horns,
Simon uses:
Spirit
Hardcore

“From the age of 18 I’ve been a composer, conductor and a trumpet player so it can be difficult to know where to put my attention. Usually two take precedence at any given time, with the other taking a back seat, but recently I’ve achieved a better balance between the three.

My first album, recorded four years ago, was more of a ‘look what I can do’ showreel. It was brass-oriented hardcore-classical -contemporary, and heavy at times, although I’m not the most ‘hardcore’ even among my circle of friends who are composers. Classic FM and co have taken 600 years’ worth of music and labelled it ‘classical’, but I write classical music for people to play today.

I’m also spending some time plying my skills more in the pop and jazz worlds and on collaborations with crossover artists who have more of a handle on those styles.

I’ve got funding from PRS to make the new album. They make 4 or 5 awards a year based on applications they like. I just told them this was the time for me to make this record and without their help I couldn’t afford to take the time out to make it.”

Filling in the gaps

“So I filled a van with begged and borrowed equipment and holed-up in a friend’s remote Welsh holiday cottage.

I normally work to commission so it’s nice to have the opportunity to write completely free from all that, with a clean slate. I have around twenty songs started but I’ll probably only follow two or three through.

I don’t have a plan for writing as such, but I need to know the concept, or kernel, before I start, then I just keep going until I find some kind of narrative.

I have a composing buddy, Anna Meredith, she’s a genius – she just got the biggest commission at the Proms. I message her when I get stuck! I had two tracks which I was pretty pleased with but they were completely different in terms of style. Anna just told me to treat them as poles on a compass and fill in the gaps. It was great advice.”

 

Playing with your mouth full

“I used the Spirit for vocals, with an Aston Halo reflection filter for vocals. That thing’s f*****g awesome – the isolation is incredible. The Spirit also got used for all the brass - cornet, flugel horn and trumpet – and I recorded some acoustic guitar with it and a dulcimer.

Vocals couldn’t have been easier with the Spirit. I’m not the greatest singer but they just sounded awesome to me with nothing done to them except a little reverb added.

There are any amount of specialist mics for brass out there but the Spirit did just as good a job on all of it. Trumpets recorded badly can sound like someone playing with their mouth full, but the Spirit just sounds wicked. I always use the pad for brass, it sounds kick-ass close-up.

I use Logic for recording, with a Focusrite Scarlett two input interface, and I often take ideas into Sibelius to work on scoring more complex stuff. The I have a big Akai keyboard with pads. I’m thinking of getting Native Instruments Maschine and a Roland SPD-SX so I can go more performance based.”

Simon’s live project , Badcore Horns, is a three piece comprising trumpet, baritone sax and an electronic drum kit, both brass instruments reaching the PA via a collection of effects pedals.

“We’ve got some great dates lined up including Glastonbury, Wilderness and Boomtown, then a tour planned for late 2019. It’s just horns and drums and people love it!”

I’ve got some good conducting stuff coming up, including working with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and I’ve been commissioned to write music for the Metropole Orkest in Amsterdam.”

Out-takes

Q. Who are your favourite artists?

A. Snarky Puppy, Esbjorn Svensson Trio, Nick Drake, Olivier Messiaen.

Q. If you weren’t working in music what would you be doing?

A. I think I’d be a mathematician. I was no good at it at school but the older I get the more I realise how connected maths and music are. I’m obsessed now with documentaries about mathematics!

Q. What would your fantasy mic be?

A. A trumpet clip-on with remote control so I could move its position while I played. I like to ‘play’ the mic, which you can’t do with a clip-on, however good it is.

Q. What are the 4 words you’d chose to describe Aston, or your experience with the brand?
A. Innovative, friendly hip, sexy.

Q. What is the first song that made you cry?

A. ‘It Must Be Love’ by Madness

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