We spend a lot of time covering music here at Dying Scene and not so much looking at the people behind the sounds. Today, we’re going to buck that trend with an interview with mastering engineer and owner of the All Silk Mastering House, Ed Hall.
Ed has spent most of his life in and around the DIY punk scene in the north of England. He’s probably best known as guitarist with the recently disbanded, hugely underrated techcore proggers, Egos At The Door. With Egos, Ed has travelled across Europe and America, allowing him to build a strong network of contacts from the international punk scene.
His latest venture involved the creation of a sonic fantasy lab in an undisclosed location in Colne, Lancashire in the north of the UK. Ed was kind enough to share his experiences setting up the All Silk Mastering House, which has been a complete DIY effort. From construction and decorating, through to fitting the space out with all the necessary gear and, of course, the mastering itself, Ed handles the entire process. He’s an inspiration to all those who long to cast off the shackles of the daily grind and chase their dreams but lack the gusto to take that initial plunge.
Below, you’ll find an interview with Ed, as well as an exclusive look at his latest project – a regular live session from the All Silk Mastering House floor itself. We’ve also thrown in an example of Ed’s recent work with UK garage punks SWEARS’s latest single, Space Invaders.
Inside the All Silk Mastering House: An Interview with Ed Hall
Hi, Ed. First off thanks for giving Dying Scene the premiere of your live session show and for this interview. Let’s crack on with the questions…
Mastering house? Isn’t that just a fancy pants way of saying “recording studio”? Tell our non-audiophile readers about what exactly goes on at All Silk Mastering House…
Hahaha, not exactly, mastering is the final stage of the recording process. Mastering houses are set up with the purpose of mastering in mind so have a slightly different layout and gear selection than a recording studio.
Typically, the true and tested method of recording goes from tracking (recording) in the studio – getting all the individual parts down – then mixing which is the balancing and affecting of all the individual parts in the song which will make up the final mix.
That final mix gets sent to the mastering engineer who lends an objective and creative ear, tonally balances, dynamically enhances and prepares the files to be ready for all the different formats it will go to – CD, tape, streaming services, music videos, vinyl – each format requires something different from the master, so the mastering environment has to be appropriate.
I don’t imagine you always had mastering as the ultimate career in mind, what lead you to this rather niche area of audio production?
The results and feedback from all the bands that asked me to do a DIY master-on-a-budget back in the day, before I specialised, it all went well so built from there.
Which artists have already had the All Silk treatment? Any that our readers would know?
We just had Umlaut Records’s Coral Springs from the Netherlands bring their album through for a series of masters and it’s absolutely brilliant, the skate punk fans will be very happy with it plus a lot of nice surprises in there too! Lockjaw’s Misgivings brought their album for a re-master to be pressed to vinyl and that’s an absolute end-to-end banger. I’ve worked a bunch with the HOOF chaps in the past who are the epitome of absolute gents with the 90’s skate punk sound dialled all the way in, with their own bita flava flava.
Recently, I’ve been doing a lot with the band SWEARS who are absolutely class, young, and all over the place every weekend, smashing it and doin’ it right, nicely down to earth – anyone who’s into their thrashy garage punk sounds would most likely enjoy. They’re keen as anything and I really want them to take it as far as it can go.
I won’t go into the day to day as we’ll be getting into Finnish native experimental folk, US BMTH-esque metalcore, the Black Square Sessions series and everything in between, haha. I love it.
… and any exciting future projects that you’re working on or have planned for 2019?
Yes, it’s shaping up nicely! That I can talk about… erm, it’s no secret that Today, They Are Older have been recording an album and from what I’ve gathered so far it’s a real step up in their game, they’ve really focused and put their heads into it, gotten smart about a few of the finer things in recording, and got a great young up and coming engineer to take the reigns – Otto Balfour. We loaned out a bunch of the in-house gear to them as well – they’re in great hands and will be getting mastered here.
Kilnsey Green have been cooking up a real nice EP that’s on its way over from Prospect Studios by engineer Luke Haran, maybe not one for the punker side but a real lovely bunch with a great sound, hints of singer songwriter vocal styles from pop to full on Tom Waits, jazz, blues…
The SWEARS train is keeping on track, they’ll be teasing for some months to come.
Triple Sundae are charging on with another EP, love how their sound has been maturing and shaping, it’s a follow up from a banging EP they did just this year so it’s exciting to be a part of the bands who are all out smashing it like these guys. They’re up Manchester way with Such Gold in January too for the Manc brigade!
Egos at the Door were/are pretty wild on the ear, is that the kind of thing you most like to work on in the studio or is anything fair game?
It’s been a good while since I worked on anything that wild, but I’ve got an absolute pining for some grind or hardcore, something classy and dark like.
Absolutely anything is fair game as long as it’s real, I just want to work on art. I won’t turn my nose up at anything but at the same time I don’t want to be in pain doing the job. Just mean what you do, keep your head on your shoulders and we’re golden!
Which of the tracks you’ve worked on do you think most represents “your” sound here at All Silk?
That’s tough because everything that comes through is so vast and varied, it’s a very reactive job so what you’re presented with draws the decision. It’s the experience and tools-at-hand that implement the decision, so I guess there is no distinct thing that I’m aware of? All of our stuff is going through the tube circuits at the moment which sounds real juicy! It’d be a bad thing to work with a ‘putting-your-stamp-on-things’ mindset especially if it made you ignorant to what was in front of you. I’d rather just do and not think about it too much, trust the process.
People have very kindly said it’s doing a great job of sounding modern, perfect and polished on the whole but that doesn’t mean it works for every sound so at the same time it’d bother me to get type-cast like that, like I’m not going to force anything on your sound.
I have done a few projects where I’ve done the tracking at other studios (namely Prospect Studios as their live room is the-shiz) on our mobile rig, then mixed and mastered at AS so that’s a situation where every decision from source to end has been in AS’s hands.
How different would your setup be if money was no object, (but you were using the same room)?
There would be no room to move! The analogue side would be top to bottom, racks in the floor and ceilings…
It’s a beautiful space you’ve created here. Are you not worried that some crusty is going to come in and soil up one of those nice clean walls?
I’m worried a close friend will spill their coffee or trample stones in. So, the answer is a yes, haha.
What are your ultimate ambitions for All Silk? Is there an artist that you think “I can die happy after working with… X”?
I’ve got a ton of upgrades in mind that I’ll chip away at over time but right now I’m just happy every element of our audio game is comfortably covered after all this time!
I don’t think there is a band like that, every band I love to that degree has already done their sound so well I’d feel like a cheap imitation, best to let that be – I tend to gravitate more towards bands who are growing into their sound or who have newly mastered their sound, that suit a few styles but are open to interpretation, everyone has plasticity in their roles then; which produces the best results.
Style wise, I am pining for some open groovy hardcore stuff or some jangly, ropey emo-punk stuff. So, anything like that sometime soon would be mint. Or some dry groovy soul…
All the best albums or releases are the ones where the band or artist have gone ‘theeeere it is’ and have realised the idea fully. Few bands follow up well from that release because they already did what they set out to do. Then comes that phase of expectations – trying to imitate being in a time or place gone by, trying to get it back, to impress all the same people. I would much prefer being a part of that realisation than trying to tick a load of boxes for people I hardly know.
I’ll die happy being a part of building and creating great, honest art for sure! That is an ultimate ambition.
You’ve recently decided to put out a YouTube show featuring some of the talent you’ve encountered on your journey. Tell us some more about it, what made you decide to take this path, and can you leak any forthcoming episodes…?
Yes! It’s been a passion project of late, building a live sessions channel from scratch, learning a ton and having fun!
Currently it’s an acoustic format as I don’t have the resources behind the show to do a full-band setting, which is all part of the fun and charm!
The first episode with Jack Anwyl – a fantastic singer songwriter – was put together on a go-pro with a few halogen lights. It was good to get a close, talented friend in to do a pilot episode because I actually rang him up a few days later asking if we could do it again as our 7B microphone was out on loan and I thought I’d get away with a different mic (LDC) for vocals in that setting and I absolutely did not get away with it, at all. It was a very unforgiving result. The way I lit the set was also poor… so that was the first run, trial and error; fortunately, he was generous with his time and we fixed those little parts of the episode, re-shot, and it came out great for a pilot! Jack’s great too. Singer-songwriter stuff, real well done.
That was about it for the practice run and then the next thing Ducking Punches, Spanish Love Songs, We Bless This Mess and Kilnsey Green all came through in one day! And I learned a bunch more lessons about how to and not to do this project.
Luckily an old friend who runs a brilliant film company, SF films, played a huge role in making sure the second shoot day was a step-up, loaning out some incredible kit and even better providing tons of advice and guidance in the video world. SF films all day! They’ve been instrumental in setting this channel up.
For now, we’ll be releasing an episode per month which features a completely live performance of one track – no overdubs, no tricks. Hopefully resources for the show will pick up and we can move onto a full-band format and hopefully pick up the release frequency too! The ultimate aim is to create a resource for artists and to grow into the visual side of things.
Cheers, Ed. Before we let you go, could you introduce the track we’re featuring for you today. How was the mastering process? Are you pleased with how it’s sounding?
Absolutely! Thanks so much for featuring it! This is a track by SWEARS called ‘Space Invader’
The process was fun and full on – the guys had this release date set for a long time then a couple weeks ago thought they could do a better version of the one they’d already done – before we started working together… So six days before the release date we hit up the studio and it was all hands on deck to get the mix and the master done in time.
Very happy with how it’s sounding for sure, we’d already done a couple tracks before this so I knew what to expect from the tracking sessions and knew what was working for them on the mixing&mastering side, so it was a refined process. I’m a sucker for a grinding bass and boomy roomy kit sound so these guys are a treat, the fact it’s sci-fi themed is even better hahaha. Love it. Thanks for having me!
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