Happenings

Happenings

Happenings

Happenings

INTERVIEW WITH JAMES LYE, RENOWNED SOUND ENGINEER

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1. Let’s talk a bit of your background story. How did you get involved in the music and then, the pro audio industry?

During my student days studying for a diploma in Music and Audio Technology at Singapore Polytechnic, I had the opportunity to intern at a post-production studio. From there, I ventured into commercial projects, live performances and special projects. I was heavily involved with composing music while furthering my degree in Music and Music Technology in the UK, and I have since started my own music production studio business.

 

2. What made you want to continue this as a career?

Seeing the success of my mentors in the industry convinced me that it's both viable and rewarding. I've been blessed with many opportunities along the way, each opening new paths and it has been a fulfilling journey so far.

 

3. Do you prefer studio or live, and why?

The studio, for sure. It's an environment where I'm able to pace my work process and make calculated decisions. Moreover, each piece of work created in the studio is very much like a piece of history fossilized.

 

Photo: Davian Teo

 

4. What is the most satisfying thing of being a musician, a music producer and sound artist?

Music is sound, sound is energy, and energy is in constant transference. It's invigorating. There are times when work doesn't feel like work.

 

5. What are some of your more significant projects?

Touch:Identite, a multi-disciplinary collaboration I produced with traditional Malay dancer and researcher Amid Farid and urban dancer-choreographer Fasihah Latiff. Power To The, an interactive installation which explored sounds and gestures, through sensors and sound diffusion. This debuted at The Substation's SeptFest and was subsequently featured as a parallel event to the Singapore Bienniale in 2015. I greatly enjoyed working on the sound design and music components on Emily of Emerald Hill as well, as part of Esplanade's Studios: fifty theatre season. And more recently, in the studio, I produced and mixed Gareth Fernandez's latest single 'Bit Of Your Love'.

 

6. Speaking of ‘Bit Of Your Love’, we heard you did something radical by using 3 kick drums and our ATM25 microphone for the kick drum tone in the recording of that song. Tell us about it.

The recording technique utilized for the kick drum in Gareth Fernandez's ‘Bit Of Your Love’ can be termed as the kick drum tunnel. I first observed it through photos of drum recordings online, and had always wanted to give it a try. The fact that it utilizes 3 kick drums gives an impression of the recording having a huge sound.

 

Since I knew I'd needed something unique in the drums for ‘Bit Of Your Love’, I decided to give this drum tunnel a try, using a 16”, 22” and 26” kick drum coupled with multiple microphones – including the ATM25. Due to the sheer size of the setup, there were some phase issues that needed to be resolved. However, it was really interesting to be able to experiment with forming different sounds through varying the blend of the tunnel mics' levels – which ranged from a punchy and defined tone, to a deep and open one.

 

7. What is the greatest challenge in your work?

That there are only twenty-four hours in a day, and I am continually pushing on to perfect my craft.

 

8. What Audio-Technica equipment are you using and how are they working out for you?

The AT2020 was one of the first microphones I've owned early on. Despite being very accessible, it's proved to be hardy and versatile. There’s also the ATM25 (now known as ATM250) hyper cardioid dynamic, which is one of my go-to mics for the kick drum, toms, and easily any source with a high SPL. I am also using the In-Ear monitors ATH-IM02: This was an impulse purchase I made to facilitate a last-minute performance back in 2014. To this day, it's one of my live performance essentials.

 

9. What can musicians do to make life easier for their sound engineers?

In a live sound context, Guitarists: getting gain staging right from clean to overdriven to modulated effects can be a big help and time saver. It's best to avoid cranking an amp too loud. One way of achieving this is to aim the amp as close to your ears as possible, to lower stage levels, and improve the FOH perspective.

 

In a studio context, it’s easier to work with musicians who have a clear idea of what they want coming in.

 

10. What problems do you see inexperienced sound engineers making?

Clear and decisive communication is necessary. The lack of it can amount to frustration and time wastage in the production process. The lack of exposure to a diversity of musical scenarios can also be limiting. It's good to keep an open mind to broaden one's aural palette.

 

11. How would you describe the music scene now compared to when you first started out?

It has become more vibrant in the past few years. Infrastructure for the scene has flourished, both in terms of hardware and 'heartware' – audiences are gradually becoming more sophisticated and receptive.

 

12. What are your plans currently and for the future?

Between now and the first quarter of 2017, a number of tracks produced by me will be released, and I'm really looking forward to sharing it with all. Additionally, there are some very exciting new ventures on the horizon, but I'm not yet able to reveal much at this point! As for future plans, I do plan to continue producing music and multidisciplinary productions that inspire people.

 

13. Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians and producers?

Keep grinding, even when there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.

 

 

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