Saturday, 11 June 2011

The work experience boy - day three: trying to keep the Faith

Day three: Once again I wake up feeling nervous and feel slightly reluctant on my way into the Assault & Battery studios – I know this is normal when starting a new job but the prospect feels even more daunting than it should somehow. Surely it can’t be down to the fear of making the tea badly or loading the dishwasher incorrectly?

I arrive in the office and Drew still hasn't made it home, making it at least three nights he’s slept in the studio to my knowledge. Out of interest, and also to see if I am really putting myself in the frame to be Alan Moulder or Flood’s next full-time tea-boy, I ask him if he tended to stay till everyone else went home when he was doing work experience. His reply is an unsurprising yes. So does that mean I should be staying in A&B2 with the unknown female singer and her band until their session ends at midnight then sleeping on a couch that has seen some of rock music’s most famous arses (I would say arseholes but that has other connotations!)? Do I really want to be using the shower in the gents’ toilet then eating my Crunchy Nut Cornflakes in reception every morning before the whole process starts all over again? I have my doubts. Besides, I still have freelance journalism work to do that happens to be paid (when the cheques are finally coughed up following the usual pleading and legal threats that is).

French producer Dimitri Tikovoi, who I haven’t shared more than about 15 words with all week so far (perhaps he’s either shy or aloof or both?), has Paloma Faith in his studio for the day. I offer her a hot drink and she asks for herbal tea, 'But no berries, something more grown up than berries!' she giggles. So green tea it is. Who knows, perhaps mixing her tea could one day lead to mixing her album? Doubtful I know but you have to be blindly optimistic in a situation like this.

Alan leaves early having tied up the loose ends and burned a stack of CDs/DVDs for the Big Pink session, that’s not before he and his assistants have indulged in the vegetarian curries I’ve been sent out to buy them. I indulge in one at my reception desk as well, it smelt and looked too good in the takeaway to miss out on yet I realise this is lacking the restraint I would need to show if I ever became one of the impoverished ‘chosen ones’ and ended up with a full-time assistant’s job. Drew’s mystery singer and her gang settle for kebabs on the other hand – which would again be way out of my financial reach.

There’s really not much happening on reception, nobody seems to want to indulge my tea-making expertise as often as I would like and the dishwasher is fully loaded so I ask Barney, the maintenance guy, if he’d like any help. Shortly after I’m scrubbing a fridge outside with warm soapy water and emptying the outdoor ashtray but I did ask for work and I realise you can't consider anything beneath you if you really want to get in there.

Having picked out the congealed, tar-covered cigarette butts and shoved them into a binbag, I go into A&B1 to see if Alan’s assistants would like a drink, an offer that they accept. Chief assistant John says I can sit in on the project they’re currently working on if I'm bored so I find myself a seat next to one of the huge floor-to-ceiling racks of hardware and listen to him preparing and tweaking the rough mix of a track by Chairlift (biggest hit ‘Bruises’ can be seen here) for Alan to pick up later.

John's attention to detail is understandably amazing. I wonder to myself if I’ll ever be in a position – i.e. have the technical skill and the finely tuned hearing – to fine-tune six kick drums and tiny, seemingly inaudible effects and get the balance of a mix right for a world-renowned producer? I decide that while I'm not there yet, if I apply myself I could get there. However, I am still the same person who was on the verge of a nervous breakdown just a few months ago when it came to recording a band made up of Bachelors students. Although that went OK in the end, I still have a fear of looking stupid and looking like I don't know what to do in the studio. I realise that only I can change this and I have a year to do so before my MA ends.

Anyway, work experience is all about taking every opportunity that presents itself and I fear that, by leaving at 6ish rather than staying in A&B1 until the Chairlift prep work is finished, I may have missed that opportunity. The problem is, I have some of that paid journalism work to do at home so leave I do to review the albums I've been commissioned to write instead – even falling asleep at my computer in the middle of the final review.

Would becoming a full-time studio assistant mean forsaking all other aspects of life? I was quickly realising that was probably the case.

Originally posted on on 11 June 2011.

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