I like to think I’m a pretty laid back bloke. I try to take the rough with the smooth roll with the punches and any other cliché you might want to add. I guess it’s one of the most important attributes in our industry, as is a very good sense of humour. Sometimes even my bonhomie gets a bit of a battering. Usually when I’ve spent time on the phone with a bad timewaster – or even better when I’ve spent time explaining the way we do things, then have the would be client go somewhere else, then come back and complain about the service they received at some two bob studio.
But then you think of the jobs that make it all worthwhile. Most recently we worked with a special needs school who we have worked with in the past. We worked with the same class we had worked with about four years ago, so it was lovely they remembered us and great to see how they’d grown up. We were recording the kids to backing tracks. I inwardly groaned when I saw the songs I was recording, as we tend to record the same songs with parties and solo experiences. But then I dropped the track into record, and spent the next two hours with a huge smile on my face. These kids were just putting everything into what they were doing, and they were loving every minute of it. No drama, no divas, no pouting, they got on and did their songs.
We were approached by Follow Your Dreams a while ago, and they asked if we could help them out with some downtime recording for some of the kids they work with. We do these sessions in pretty much the same way, but because of some of the needs of the kids we tend to only offer one song.
Of course, these were incredibly powerful and emotional sessions. Some of the kids were exceptionally competent – one who springs to mind beautifully belting out “Do-Re-Mi”. I had to pad the mic and drop the gain way down on the preamp. Such gusto, and again he was absolutely loving it. He’d obviously been practising with his parents, and he knew how good he was – he took all the compliments he received as if everyone was merely stating the obvious.
And then other sessions are heartbreaking, working with a lad with such deep autism his communication with us was basically echolalia. But thinking of him working his way through “You Got a Friend” still chokes me up. I had a sense of being welcomed into his world for a very brief moment.
There are other issues, in the way that Jess has to adjust the way she coaches, or the way we manage the expectations and needs of the clients. There’s also other things to consider, like making sure the kid knows that a disembodied voice is going to talk to them through the headphones.
These jobs are especially gratifying as we originally set the company up with a remit to work with people who wouldn’t ordinarily get a go at recording, and it seems that now we are making inroads doing this.
On a different note, the hardest job I have had to do is probably the one that puts everything into perspective. I recorded a solo experience with a chap who had outlived his time. He’d been given six months to live and his time was up. He knew he was going, and so he wanted to record his and his wife’s favourite songs. All well and good, and we had a lot of fun. Some of his friends turned up, and there was a bit of a party atmosphere in the control room.
But then he wanted to record his goodbye message to his wife and his family, and he broke down several times during this. I’d lost my dad a few months before, so it was still a bit raw - I managed to keep it together, but only just. I filmed him as well, and it was nice to be able to give his wife all of the footage, and all of the audio from the sessions as well. It is the hardest job I have ever done in my life, but it’s right up there in the “I have done something that has had a positive effect on at least one other person” stakes.
Every time I hear “Sweet Caroline” I think of him and his wife, and I think of all the other really nice people we have helped out. Whenever I’m having a bad day I think of them and I thank them.
Christian Thomas is Production Director at Space Studios. Sleep well, Dave.