Ben Neal loves the sound of music … creating, playing and recording it. With the recent launch of his boutique recording studio, he hopes to be able to share this love with Coffs Coast locals. Focus sat down with him to listen to a few tunes and find out more.
Can you tell us about your connection to the Coffs Coast?
I was born and raised on the Coffs Coast and have lived here my whole life, so I guess it’s really a part of who I am.
How did you become involved in sound recording?
It was a natural progression, really. Growing up playing guitar in bands and then picking up bass, drums, and piano, and starting to write and arrange, it really just made sense to want to record my ideas, but it quickly became a passion of mine.
Would you describe yourself as an audiophile?
Ha ha yes, to a degree. I’m definitely not one of those insane old dudes who owns every set of monitors under the sun and sits in a room listening to white noise, lining up their speaker system with a measuring tape, just for the sake of it. But when it comes to the production of a song, then yeah, I guess audiophile is an appropriate term.
What inspired you to set up a recording studio in Coffs?
To be honest, it just felt right. Music has always been a part of my life, and over the years I’ve accumulated knowledge, equipment and experience that has allowed me to record and create my own music, and having the opportunity to help others do the same really excites me.
Who would you like to see using the facility?
Anyone! The Guest Room Studio is a place for creativity and musical expression for artists of any age or stylistic preference. Whether you’re an experienced band or a young singer/songwriter, The Guest Room Studio is definitely for you.
What kind of service will the studio offer?
Audio Engineering, Producing, Mixing and Instrumental Backing.
Basically, if you’ve written and produced and arranged a song, we can simply record what you’ve done or mix what you’ve already recorded; or, if you’ve got a song on an acoustic guitar or piano, we can turn it into a full band or orchestral arrangement.
Where do you find inspiration for your personal projects?
Hard work really… I know it sounds like a bit of a cop out, but I really do believe that most good ideas come from really hard work. Yes, there are those gifted few who wake up in the morning and know exactly what to do on a song, or have a melody in their head, but I think for most people, it’s about digging deeper and finding those diamonds. Try everything, experiment, tinker, muck around, have fun; eventually something will come to you, and you’ll get that perfect idea! Another super important thing I do is listen to my clients. Talking to them, getting their ideas, talking about the emotion behind the song, reading the lyrics and understanding the message that I’m trying to get across – that often brings all the inspiration I need.
What is your favourite instrument to play and why?
I would probably have to say piano; it’s percussive, harmonic, melodic, and it’s all there at your fingertips. I find it very satisfying on a playing level, but the piano is such a great gateway into composing. Just being able to access so many different sounds from the keyboard, combined with today’s ever evolving technology, is actually really exciting!
What genre of music excites you and why?
I really like genres of music that have a broad appeal when it comes to musical and stylistic expression. Genres like jazz/fusion, pop/rock and music for film and television really excite me, as almost anything is possible and they are not limited to specific instrumentation or production.
What advice would you have for someone who is looking towards sound recording as a career?
Listen to heaps of music! It’s so important to have vast musical interest and to listen to music with a critical ear, and deconstruct things while you listen. I think even more importantly, learn an instrument, or two, or three… As a recording engineer or producer, actually knowing music is incredibly important. I think you’ll find that most producers were musicians in bands first, and I think it is really important to have your roots in the art. The reason you produce or record is for the end product; at the end of the day, it’s all about the music!
If you could have a coffee with any artist past or present, who would it be and why?
Probably Hans Zimmer (film composer: Gladiator, The Lion King, Inception, Pirates of The Caribbean etc), because he has been such a pioneer in the world of film music, production and audio engineering, among other things. I would love to pick his brain on how he can continually create memorable movie themes, as well as the way he can tinker with an instrument or a sound and really find the gold in anything.
Where can people find out more?