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WEEKLY NEWSLETTER August 8, 2016 by L. Swift and Jeff McQ


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From apprentice to A$AP Rocky:
Alexa Cooper gets into the audio touring circuit!

  
Alexa Cooper Occasionally, when you’re learning on the job, the connections and the opportunities may even outpace your studies. None more so than Recording Connection student Alexa Cooper, who found herself thrust into the live touring world soon after starting her apprenticeship with mentor Kaj Falch-Nielsen at Blue Light Studio in Vancouver, BC.   “I was living in Vancouver doing the program, and even before I could finish…I got a job within a couple of months through the connections I made,” she says. I started working in live events and working with some really big names. I have set up AC/DC, I’ve set up a private show with Katy Perry, I’ve done Dave Matthews…I’ve worked with a lot of shows.”   Landing those gigs gave Alexa plenty of work experience she’d never have gotten in a traditional school. She describes some of her responsibilities: “I set up the audio, where I actually set up the physical PA speakers and run XLR cables to get the signal to the speakers,” she says. “I’ll also do lighting, I’ve moved up really fast in lighting. I also do video and LED walls. Basically anything that it takes to set up a concert, like a major arena concert, I’ve done.”   Things continued to move fast for Alexa, and as she planned a move from Vancouver to Southern California, the connections she was making paid off for her yet again, through a chance conversation she had while working on a show.   “I just started talking to this guy,” Alexa explains, “and he was asking me, ‘Who are you? What do you do?’ I was like, ‘Well I’m moving to LA soon.’ He was like, ‘Are you kidding? That’s where we’re from. Hit us up, we’ll get you a job.’ The guy kept his word, he gave me all his info, I showed up, and on his day off for, like, three months he walked me into the shop, had me shake hands, and within a week I had a job.”   The job was with VER in Los Angeles, a pro equipment shop that provides audio, lighting, rigging and computer gear for some of the world’s biggest arena tours. And the opportunities didn’t end there; remarkably, within a couple of weeks of starting at VER, Alexa had a chance opportunity to be sent on an arena tour with artist A$AP Rocky!  
FOH manager for A$AP Rocky, Brandon Blackwell, RC grad Alexa Cooper, and Hector Delgado, A$AP Rocky's music producer and DJ

FOH manager for A$AP Rocky, Brandon Blackwell, RC grad Alexa Cooper, and Hector Delgado, A$AP Rocky’s music producer and DJ

“They needed someone, it was kind of a last minute emergency,” she says. “Typically when you go and start working for them in a shop, it takes at least six months before they put you on an actual tour. Since they needed somebody and they…my name had been popping up a lot, they asked if I could do it, and I had only been working for two weeks with them… Now that I’m on the actual gig, they fly me out and put me in hotels wherever I go…it’s a festival tour, so whenever he’s got a show, they fly me out.”   How did she do it? It sounds like a dream, in some ways, or just a long stream of good luck. However, there’s more to the story of Alexa’s rise to success in live touring—a secret she figured out, which every Recording Connection student should take note of.   “In the industry that I’m in with live events, for every 15 people that come in, there’s one that’s proactive,” she says. “The other 14 are not really that good at what they do and not trying to get better. So if you put even that small amount of effort forward, you’re going to stand out like crazy…You’ve got to be willing to put in work and not just look at the pay check…I’ve gone to gigs and not been paid. I’ve shown up with some of my employers on days and been like, ‘Hey, I want to learn more about this, can I just come in and shadow?’ I’d go in, and I would work gigs and I’d be fully doing what I do when I’m getting paid and not getting paid. That’s completely recognized. That got me more gigs. That moved me up. I moved from regular stage hand to department head of lighting in a matter of months.”   It took her awhile, working around the gigs she landed, but Alexa eventually finished her studies at the Recording Connection, which she fully credits as her entry point to a new career. “I think the most awesome thing about it,” she says, “is that you actually go in the studio and you make real connections. If I hadn’t gone into the studio and met all the guys that I met in there, the one that just nonchalant one day, brought up this job, I would have never known the job existed. That’s the thing that I really like about it. It gets you in there with actual people…It’s the actual connections that get made.”   As for Alexa—even with her success in the live tour circuit, she still has plans to put her newfound skills toward some goals of her own.   “I have a lot of plans actually for the future and things that I want,” she says. “I am currently building my own studio. I just went out and bought some recording equipment, and I moved into this room that has a walk-in closet and I am turning the walk-in closet into an iso-booth. Even though I’m working with established artists and their shows, I still want to harbor my music. My ultimate dream for myself is I want to perform. I’ve got my vision boards, I’ve got all these things I specifically want and want to do. That’s definitely where I want to go.”   Considering the success she’s already achieved with her go-getter attitude, there’s little doubt she’ll reach those dreams.   
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A Day in the Life of Our Students

   Bailey Dank Recording Connection student Bailey Dank got proactive recently, bringing local band The Solid Ocean into Imprint Studios (Thornton, CO) to record. It turned out to be a very worthwhile learning experience for Bailey, who’s still in the process of cleaning up the tracks. “I set up the mics for the instruments and dealt with the communication and booking the session. I have also edited the drums and bass and am getting ready to edit vocals. It’s been a great experience and a lot of work but fun. What I took away from the experience is how important it is to get a good recording the first time and to make sure there is no bleeding. It’s really hard to fix the bleeding [afterwards] and make it sound right.”    wanderers Film Connection mentor Sean McCarthy (San Jose, CA) recently wrote in to report that his apprentices played integral roles as part of the brain-trust behind his studio’s new ambitious launch of their digital filmmaking brand, Digital Wanderers. Students were on set during the shooting of many of the segments and, Sean says, they also played key roles in “helping market the reel, as well as reviewing various drafts (as we shaped it). Everything from the edit, the web design, the logo and the shots in the piece involved various Film Connection students… We aim to teach a rounded education. Understanding VFX + Animation today is important to any filmmaker so we try to provide a diverse training so they have a better skillset.” We couldn’t agree more!   
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NUGGETS OF TRUTH: Recording Connection mentor Bobby Ferrari talks studio etiquette, making mistakes, and attaining long-term success.

   With more than 30 years of experience, Recording Connection mentor Bobby Ferrari is a music industry veteran in every sense of the word. Starting out as a bassist in the LA music scene, he went on to tour with major artists ranging from Three Dog Night to Bobby Day. Eventually moving into studio production, today, Bobby teaches apprentices out of Vegas View Recording in Henderson, NV.   In a recent conversation with RRFC, Bobby offered his take on what’s important to establish a long-term career in the music industry (it isn’t what you think), along with other key advice for students and up-and-coming producer/engineers. The best nuggets from that conversation have been mined for you below.  
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ON HOW HE GOT HIS START IN MUSIC:  
Bobby Ferrari, Vegas View Recording.

Recording Mentor Bobby Ferrari, Vegas View Recording.
Yanchar Design. Photo credit: Fred Mordledge

“I got into music really young. I got my first real guitar at 13. My parents didn’t want me to go into music. I was just a drama and music kid. That led to me playing in a bunch of LA bands in the 80s, the heart of all that hair band scene going on. And I got offered a tour, and I was out playing with all the old rockers, like Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night, Spencer Davis…I played with Bobby Day…Donnie Brooks…Mike Pinera from Iron Butterfly…I got this amazing experience learning from those guys. I would just bug them all the time, ‘How’d you make that record? How’d you make that record?’ having no idea I was going to get involved in the studio at this point.”   ON HOW HE MADE HIS WAY INTO PRODUCING AND ENGINEERING:   “I met [the late] Bill Kennedy. Bill was working at A&M and was doing stuff like engineering on some of the Nine Inch Nails stuff and assisting Bob Rock on Mötley Crüe’s stuff. Bill and I found this little studio in the Valley where they were kind enough to say, ‘Yeah, Bill, you’re ready to go to your next career move, becoming a producer and engineer.’ I was just starting out, so they let me assist him…That’s what got me into studio was just basically being the guy who said, ‘I want to do this now. I don’t want to keep playing bass for the rest of my life.’”   ON WHY HE LOVES RECORDING IN THE STUDIO:   “What I loved about it is the performances had to be permanent. Anything that goes on a record is permanent. As opposed to live–you can have a bad night and do a half assed show and people walk away amazed by it. But a record has to stand the test of time. That’s what I loved about it, the intricacy, the songwriting, the what does it take to get from point A to point B and what does it take to make the artist give you a performance that’s going to be hopefully timeless?”   ON WHAT HE LOOKS FOR IN AN APPRENTICE, AND BRAGGING ON ONE IN PARTICULAR:   To me there are two types of apprentices. There are the ones that really go for it and are gung-ho…almost too gung ho like I was, which I love, and I tell them, ‘Sit down and shut up. Here’s studio etiquette. You don’t walk in and take over the room. You come in and you know your place, and you start to build rapport with me and artists, and you help with setups and you slowly learn what the lay of the land is. Then there’s the other type of apprentice who comes in really quiet and kind of afraid. We slowly build him or her up and get them to do more and more. I’m not sure if I like one over the other. I like them both because they have different degrees of interest… AS far as students go, we’ve had some really great people…Tracy Beamon is an amazing guy, and he’s learning so much. Like what we’re doing in the studio he’s applying to the folks at his church. They have a gospel-sounding thing. He’s like so happy…He just asks me questions and then he comes back and says, ‘Oh my God, that’s so much better.’ That’s great.”  
Tracking Room in Vegas View Recording

Tracking Room in Vegas View Recording

TIPS FOR LONG-TERM SUCCESS—WHY IT’S MORE IMPORTANT TO BUILD A BODY OF WORK IN THE STUDIO THAN TO TRY AND “MAKE IT BIG”:   “The industry isn’t teaching people to go beyond their limits and build catalogues that can earn revenue for the next 30 or 40 years. We’re teaching people to build instant hits and go away… Unless they’re amazing and they’ve got the work to back up that ego, then yeah, I think it’s absolutely the wrong approach. We’ve lost substance for hype… I look at all the people I admire, and they’ve done two or three albums with the same artist, not just a single. They’ve created relationships that are ongoing, and there’s chemistry and the work mattered. The work spoke to people.”   HIS ADVICE ON HOW TO GUIDE AN ARTIST IN THE STUDIO:   “I try to do it by suggestion. Let them record what they want, and then go, ‘Is that working for you? I have an idea. Let’s try this.’ Instead of getting into big discussions about it, I look at it as a song is three to five minutes. We can try the part out and hear it back to know whether it works or not quicker than discussing it over the next two hours…You’re giving them the option to not do it, but, ‘Hey, let’s just hear it. Let’s just hear what that sounds like.’”   OTHER KEY ADVICE FOR UP-AND-COMING PRODUCERS AND ENGINEERS:   “Take influences, but be yourself. It’s never going to be the same path for two people. I would say set your goals high, and you may not get what you want, but you’ll get a further than if you were just running wild in the streets hoping that somebody was going to find you…I don’t know any of us that it’s been easy for. So, that’s part of the creative cross to bear right off the bat is there are going to be moments of depression and, ‘Isn’t this ever going to work?’ and disappointment, but that’s every career, I think…You’ve got to be prepared with a high level of detail, and especially if you’re not producing and you’re just the engineer on a session to know that, ‘I’m just the engineer on this one, so I need to deliver.’ The fun part is making the producer really happy; instead of going, ‘I produced this, yeah,’ you’re going, ‘Wow, I pulled it off, and that guy is going to hire me again.’   ON HOW STUDENTS CAN MAKE THE MOST OF THE RECORDING CONNECTION PROGRAM:   “To make the most of the program, do the work outside. We can show you the studio, we can show you routing, we can get you through the tests; but if you don’t apply it, if you don’t make mistakes, if you’re not willing to get out in the world on your own, even if you’re just going to record vocals in your house with friends or do guitars, anything, to be doing it so you go through the trials and tribulations and make mistakes, that’s the best thing you can do. If you don’t apply the craft, you’re never going to get any good at it.”   
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