Mat Martin

Mat Martin

Director

After studying applied maths, physics and music at college Mat decided to persue a career in the music industry rather than continue in full time education

“The institutions available to offer the relevant training for my chosen career as a sound engineer were extremely limited at the time, in complete contrast to what is available now. I always had an incredible enthusiasm for music technology – I would be the one recording my bands demos with a borrowed 4-track cassette recorder, being creative, bouncing tracks etc.”

Mat’s first employment was running a rehearsal studio in South London.

“To be honest the money was better than being a studio runner or tape op and at the time I felt it would enhance my skill base – learning how to repair amplifiers and how to acquire basic but essential skills, soldering, valve replacement etc.”

In a surprising change of circumstances, Mat’s career took a u-turn and ended up on the other side of the curtain with a major record deal as an artist.

“It was an absolute dream come true and it happened over a very short time. I found myself recording in places that I’d always dreamed of engineering like Abbey Road and Trident studios to name a couple. My interest in Music Tech was still at the forefront of my mind and it was a time of big changes in the way music was being recorded. Pro-Tools had just, pretty much, overtaken the way audio was being recorded and edited and our album was being engineered on a mobile ‘beta’ Pro Tools desk that our producer was testing out. Seeing first hand, and understanding what this new technology was capable of was truly mind blowing.”

After a few years of being a successful recording artist Mat decided that the touring/rock and roll lifestyle wasn’t for him.

“I have to be honest, the constant late nights and being away from home didn’t suit me at all and I wanted something that could keep me grounded.”

It was when a job offer to work as a Music Technician at the BRIT School things turned around.

“This was a perfect opportunity for me to work alongside young musicians and be with likeminded professionals, of whom a lot came from the music industry, to create and support in a completely unique environment.”

Like, Declan a lot of acquired knowledge and experience came from necessity, an ethos that they both adhere to whenever considering how they are going to manage a project.

“Over the 17 years that I worked at the school the technical demands and expectations were nothing short of ridiculous, mostly because we inspired the possibilities to provide the extraordinary. Additional skills like networking and storage management for data became a necessity for us to learn to provide, mostly because specialist companies that we approached to provide this thought that we were nuts. As a result we came up with our own programming and solutions that has been a stable platform for delivering education in audio and music tech to this day.”

It is widely appreciated that Mat’s skills and vast experience as a live audio engineer was the driving force for success within the country’s leading performing arts institution.

“I’ve always believed in the phrase ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and when you’ve worked in the kind of environments that I have it actually becomes a mantra, that is, if you want to succeed and impress the people that you’re working for. When you’re given a situation that you have to put a show together with 24 different bands, doing one song each, with a day to sound check, and one run before showtime, to make it slick and professional, whilst also being responsible for training a young engineer and trying to maintain a calm relaxed environment for learning to take place – that’s when you realise that over 20 years of experience of dealing with that kind of pressure is a reward when the curtain comes down and the audience are on their feet.”

Declan Cunningham

Declan Cunningham

Director

Declan’s first experiences of audio came from playing and recording with bands.

“I was fairly traditional, my amps were old so I had to get to know about maintaining the valves in my old AC30 pretty quick. Silent gigs don’t cut it. I managed to buy a 4-track which cost an absolute fortune at the time. I learned so much from recording my bands with. You have to work really hard when you have such limits placed upon you. Apart from the technical side of things it really taught me the importance of planning. I still have recordings I made on that old Fostex that I remain proud of.”

Eventually Declan went to formalise his sound engineering education. He managed to find employment installing audio systems during the day and teaching sound engineering in the evenings.

“The installation stuff was really enjoyable. I never knew where I would be working. The systems we installed varied from casino background music systems, conference facilities with AV to full live PA. I did sound systems at the London Metal Exchange, Canary Wharf and even Millwall FC. There was something really satisfying about turning up with reels of cable and boxes of gear which through the magic of solder and hard work turned in to a working system.

The teaching thing came completely out of the blue. I was studying for a City & Guilds in Sound Engineering when after 2 weeks the Head Tutor approached me and asked if I would like a job. I had picked up so much knowledge over the years that he was happy for me to join the team as a tutor before I had finished the qualification. The teaching thing also forced me to seek a deeper level of understanding than just operating the gear. Students will always find a tricky question that you need to be able to answer.”

Declan then found employment at The BRIT School. This was when both sides of his skill base came together. He was employed to teach recording, music tech & live sound but was also responsible for the management and maintenance of the studio facilities.

“When I started, the studios were analogue but it wasn’t long before I was given a budget for an upgrade. By this time Pro Tools had really surfaced as the leading industry standard so it was a simple decision to go down that route. I was lucky enough to have several meetings with Sir George Martin who had helped design the original studio layout and between us we re-designed the whole facility. Over the following years I designed and installed a couple of upgrades which culminated in it’s current Dante based Rednet Pro Tools HD system. We put in over a kilometre of CAT5e cable and re-worked the existing audio infrastructure to allow for a smoother workflow with total flexibility. The School is sponsored by the BRIT Trust who requested that I project manage the design and installation of the Birmingham Ormiston Acadamy’s studios which they were also funding.”

Declan was appointed as Assistant Director of Music and then moved over to become Head of Sound & Music Technology.

“I found that my role in the Music Dept was feeding me more in to a Music Teacher role and away from my true calling within audio. I felt there was a need for a central whole school role to try to improve recorded and live sound across the institution. I also got to do more Production Management and fulfilled this role on all internal and external Music shows for many years. The scale of the shows was bonkers. The amount of planning and technical design that went in to those shows was astounding. D&B FOH rig, 10 monitor mixes, Midas or Digico consoles on both. Sometimes 3 different shows in a week with 20 plus acts in each. A challenging audio patch to say the least. On top of this we also multitracked the whole thing direct to the studio. When we took shows on the road we took the bonkersness of the ambition of the shows with us. Venues ranged from the BBC Radio Theatre to the Queen Elizabeth Halls. It always worked. Within this time, Mat & I were contacted by The Purley Festival for help. Their music offering was little more than a pair of speakers on sticks then but they wanted to expand. Eventually we had a team that managed the logistics for the entire event. Stage, Sound System, Engineers, Crew & Artist Liaison. The festival grew from 2,000 to 10,000 with headline acts including The Aces & Shakatak.”

Declan has now moved on and has become a Director with Clean Line Audio.

“I see this as a really exciting opportunity to utilise my skills and work in more varied environments.”

Whilst having utilised his sound engineering and audio experience within the field of Education since the early 90’s, his background in audio installations within the private sector continues to provide a comprehensive and professional approach to all projects.