Captain’s (B)Log: Friday 1st of February 2019

Happy February! Firstly a brilliant well done to our Damien O'Kane who was able to announce the money raised from the #folkprostate cancer gig in November and it was an amazing £6409.67!! ...and he's going to do it again this year.

Time is marching on and so does album production. This week, Kate's new album has reached the mastering process with the brilliant Nick Cooke from Nick Cooke Mastering who you may know from Kate's band, but this is his day job.

We managed to persuade him to take a minute out to answer our questions so we can find out more about the mastering process...

Sally: What has been done up to this point where the album is mastered?

Nick: Well, after months of composing, researching, rehearsing, recording, editing, mixing and listening the album is ready to be mastered. 

Sally: What does the process of mastering involve?

Nick: Mastering is the final step where you are able to use fresh ears to enhance and mould the recordings into a finished product that sounds great on everything. It basically involves a lot of listening in an acoustically accurate and balanced environment, then using technical processes to subtly enhance, clean up, and clarify the music so you can hear everything in a way that is really pleasing to the ears, whether you are listening on the radio, on a phone, CD or vinyl, or even in a concert hall or cinema.

Sally: How do you work with Kate and Damien as artist and producers during the mastering process?

Nick: I get involved towards the end of the mixing process where I speak with both Kate and Damien as well as Josh Clark (mixer extraordinaire) to understand what they want the album to sound like. For this album, both Damien and Josh were able to attend the mastering session so they were able to hear first hand any alterations I was making, which was great. After the mastering session, everyone listens to the album on various devices: at home, in the car, on headphones at the gym and so on. There may be some slight tweaks for me to make but then it’s pretty much done. 

Sally: What happens after mastering?

Nick: Once everyone is happy with the sound of the album, the masters for each format, along with the artwork for the album, are sent to the various manufacturers for production. The digital download and streaming goes to a digital distribution company, the CD masters go to a CD duplication plant. For the vinyl release, it is a little different as the masters will get sent to a vinyl cutting engineer who creates a physical master for the vinyl pressing plant to produce a set of test pressings. We will then listen through the test pressings making sure they sound amazing before vinyl production (vinyl pressing) can start.

Sally: Ooo, we'll have to find out about vinyl pressing too...!

Sally: What skills do you need to be good at your job?

Nick: Definitely a love of music and carefully listening to music. But mainly an ability to listen to people and interpret their descriptions of what they want their music to sound like, and of course the technical knowhow to achieve that. Oh... and patience, it doesn’t always happen first time!

Sally: Is mastering a science or an art?

Nick: A beautiful balance of both, it is quite technical but the science is there to enable the art to come through and shouldn’t hinder it.

Thanks Nick - for anyone interested in more - check our this article all about Nick's studio here

Earworm of the week: Changeable Heart by Ruth and Sam

This week’s teabag count: 62

Steve’s Quote of the Week: We're digging our way to Whitby so get t' kettle on!

More next week…