As part of our Newday Music interview series, we recently spoke to Nathan and Luke Fellingham and what their roles are in Newday music releases reaching the public.
Before any Newday music makes it out to the public it needs to go through an important process, what role is that you play?
Nathan: I run a recording and publishing company called Freedom Sounds. Essentially my job is to oversee the project as a whole, making sure the producer and engineer know the deadline that they’re working to, providing all the details for those doing the design work for the album artwork, making sure all the copyrights are detailed correctly and necessary royalties are paid. I’ll also arrange getting the album into shops through a distribution company and also into the digital platforms as well as getting all the CDs sent out to those who have pre ordered at newday - my favourite people!
Luke: I look after all of the recording, mixing and mastering for Newday Music.
How did you first get started in this line of work?
Nathan: I gained a certain amount of experience through helping to run a band called PHATFISH - in which I played drums primarily, but also wrote and produced for. We handled a lot of the releasing of albums ourselves - as well as working with other companies. But it was in 2012 that I started Freedom Sounds - primarily to help facilitate the newday Live worship albums.Luke: I've always loved music and have enjoyed using the technology that goes with it. I started by recording bands I was playing in. As time has gone by my interest in the recording process has increased and I now run a recording studio where I work with many different people.
What exactly does mixing and mastering involve? How would the album sound if it missed this stage?
Luke: I think the best short description for how the album would sound without mixing and mastering is 'unfinished'. Once the songs have been recorded they need to be mixed. This process makes sure that all of the sounds within the music are working together as they should be. Is the vocal loud enough? Is there too much bass guitar or not enough? Should the Snare drum have more reverb etc. Once all the songs have been mixed they need to be mastered. This process takes all of the mixed songs and makes sure that they work well together. It addresses how the songs start and finish and therefore how they transition from one song to the next. It also ensures that they play back at a suitable volume relative to each other. Perhaps most importantly it is also the final opportunity for quality control, making sure that anything which could still get fixed or made better is indeed fixed or made better!
When you’re finalising the album, how much of this is a collaborative effort between you and the band or the songwriters?
Luke: When recording the Newday album I work very closely with the producer, Sam Cox, who happens to be one of the songwriters and also in the band. So the collaboration is actually very strong.
What’s the process for determining which tracks make it and which don’t and then how do you decide the order?
Nathan: We’re obviously keen to keep profiling songs that are written by the team who lead the worship at newday - people like Sam & Becki Cox and Simon & Anna Brading. So we’ll certainly be giving those songs a high priority. But we’re also then looking for moments in the week that felt particularly ‘special’. Usually Sam Cox and Simon Brading will talk that through and begin to draw up a draft list during the event. We’ll then get it back into the studio and double check it all through and make any final tweaks. In terms of the order, we’ll again collaborate between us and come up with a draft list. I personally then like to get all the songs onto my laptop and listen through the different potential orders until we hit on one that feels ‘right’.
What sort of challenges do you face with live recordings?
Luke: There are many! The services where the songs are recorded are always somewhat unpredictable. You may end up singing a song you want to record three times in one night, or sometimes it isn't appropriate for what's happening and it just doesn't get done. This is quite different from working in a studio where you can usually do things as many times as needed until you have got what you want. Biggest ongoing challenge is capturing good versions of the songs where you can really hear the crowd singing. The recording will probably get added to and polished but the finished product should retain a good amount of the life and energy that is so enjoyable about live music. Unfortunately the microphones which record the singing can also capture many other noises as well. These can be anything from rain outside the tent to delivery trucks driving past, plus of course all the other noises that get made when thousands of young people are in close proximity! Careful positioning of the microphones is obviously important but I am still sometimes left having to make careful edits getting rid of noises that would be distracting on a recording.
How important are audio engineers to the sound of a project, ie. Do certain engineers have recognisable sounds that you can hear in people’s music?
Luke: Ha! To a large extent, audio engineering is about helping the musicians and the producer to achieve the sound that fits their creative vision. There are however parts of the process, especially the mix stage, where the line between engineering and producing gets a bit more blurry. This does leave some room for me to put my own stamp on the sound.
What equipment do you use, what’s the studio setup like?
Luke: For the live recording I just set up in the back of a van: a computer and a pair of speakers. This is directly connected to the event's audio network and I record on to Logic Pro. Fairly simple really! After the event the music comes back to the studio. It's well equipped with plenty of vintage and modern gear plus all the usual software and plugins. It comprises separate control and live rooms so we have everything needed to finish off the recording process. Unlike the back of the van, the studio provides the kind of accurate listening environment that is essential for doing this work.
These days music is played on such a variety of devices and in so many different contexts, how does this affect what you do, is it a consideration whilst mixing that some people may only ever hear this music from their phone speaker for example?
Luke: This is something I'm definitely aware of. With some playback devices, such as phone speakers it would actually be possible for certain sounds not to be reproduced at all! With this in mind I pay close attention to what is happening with low bass elements of the music. If a sound is very sub heavy I will ask myself the question - Is this part just an effect, or does it need to be heard clearly in order for the music to make sense? If it is the latter then the sound must be treated in a way that allows it to be heard even through bass deficient speakers. This usually means that some form of higher frequency must be introduced to the sound so that it will definitely get reproduced. Music reproduction systems have always been inconsistent: from too thin and no bass, to boomy and no high end. Of course there is also every possible variation between these two extremes. The most effective way to ensure the best playback on the widest variety of systems is to aim for a well balanced production that sounds right on a properly set up full range speaker system. If this can be achieved then the sound reproduced by other systems such a phone speakers will be different but will still make sense.
Where should people go to keep up to date with your work?