Did you always want to work in Music Production and Audio Technology?
I grew up surrounded by music really so I think no matter how much I tried to convince myself I wanted to be Postman Pat, a career in music was inevitable. I was actually planning on being a teacher all the way up to transition year in school. I thought that I’d prefer to keep music as more of a hobby rather than anything else. It wasn’t until our TY class paid a visit to Liam Clancy’s studio, in Ring, Co. Waterford, that I seriously considered a career “on the other side of the glass”.
What was your background before studying at Pulse College?
I grew up in a pretty musical family. My mother and father were both members of the local musical society and various choirs (that’s where they met). Myself and my sisters, Kelley (who’s now a professional Opera singer and Piano Accompanist) and Keira (who decided to get a Real job and become a nurse), were all members of our local town band. I spent nine years playing the trumpet, then switched to tuba for two years, had a little stint where I played tuned percussion that I try to forget (I can still hear the glockenspiel ringing in my ears), and then back to tuba. We played a great selection of styles there: from classical to jazz, marching band to film music. That’s one thing that I think definitely stood to me during my time at Pulse, being very comfortable working with different styles of music, and also having a good understanding of how different instruments worked. I also played guitar in a load of different rock bands growing up, so I was very used to dealing with rock-band drama!
Why did you choose to study at Pulse College?
I suppose it was really the amazing facilities that made pulse stand out for me initially. When I came up to Dublin for the open day and we got a tour of the studios I was just blown away by all the buttons! It wasn’t until I got there that I realised how perfect the place actually was for me. The small class sizes in the degree course and just the willingness of the lecturers to sit down with me and listen to my mixes, or just give some advise on projects, or even career advise, made it feel like I was in a course specifically design for me.
How did Pulse College prepare you for your career?
In Pulse College you really learn how to become the whole package! The assignments that we were given gave us a taste of, and opportunity to learn about, a wide range of jobs within the Music Production & Audio Technology industry. If you go in there eager to learn, you will come out with an arsenal of skills, tools and tricks under your belt which will help you feel comfortable working in any sort of job really. I went in with a one-track mind that I was going to be in the studio recording bands for the rest of my life. I came out as an audiovisual installation artist who also does sound design and music composition for animation, as well as game design and programming….and I get the odd bit of studio time now and then too.
What is a normal day like in your line of work?
I’m currently working as a freelance Audio Visual (AV) artist and audio editor. For the AV installation side of things there is a lot of organisation involved. Usually you will be working with and relying on a lot a people who have very different skillsets, so clear & regular communication is essential. This ensures the project is moving along as planned and that everyone knows what’s expected of them to meet deadlines. Depending on the stage of the project you’re in meetings trying to pin down the concept, sourcing equipment, building some mad crazy setup, or creating content for the piece. Deadlines are usually tight so expect to be working long hours, but being able to be involved in the whole process of it and see everyone’s work all come together at the end is always great.
The audio editing work I’m doing at the moment is for a great little show on RTÉ Lyric FM. I’m usually given about a 2 hour recording of an interview and I have to cut it down into two or three 7-8 minute episodes. This involves deciding myself what the most interesting content is, making sure it keeps in continuity with not only itself, but with other episodes that possibly may have come before it. Once I have a rough section edit done I would then go back to the start and begin the fine edit, getting rid of all the Umms and Aaahhs, editing the flow of the speech to make the dialogue more coherent and easier to listen to. This usually involves locking myself in a room with my laptop and headphones and not coming out until it’s done. It can be a little repetitive but also very interesting as you basically have complete control over all the little slurs and syllables that makes up someone else’s voice.
One great tip I learned in Pulse was about always keeping your digital media and work sessions organised and having everything clearly labeled. It makes working with other people so much easier and, on more than one occasion, has even been the difference between getting the job over someone else.
What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
The most challenging aspect of the job would definitely have to be the time commitment. Be prepared to work long hours and to work with tight deadlines. A lot of work can be done from home, on your laptop, where there are a million other distractions. Knowing your working processes and basically what gets you “in the zone” can be the difference between getting a good nights sleep and having to stay up for days on end working to meet deadlines. The more work, or pre-production, you do at the start of the project, the easier your life will become. Also, decisions made today are nearly always going to be better than decisions made next week.
What would you say are the top requirements for someone entering the industry?
You need to be hard working. Take as many opportunities as you can and just work hard, stay organised, be easy to deal with, and at the end of it all, deliver on time. There are a lot of talented people out there so you need to show that you’re going to work harder than everybody else.
What are the major changes you see happening in the industry in the future?
I see a move towards “new experiences”. People what to try and do things they never done before. I think that with all of this Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality technology being developed there is an opportunity to rethink how we experience sound, as well as how we can use these technologies to redefine the role of the listener from that of a passive one to a more proactive one.
What’s next for Conor?!
I have a few big editing / composition projects now for Lyric FM that will keep me busy for the rest of the summer. My “plan”, however, is to in the next 6 months to a year move off to a nice sunny country somewhere in South-East Asia where cost of living is cheap and I can work on some of my own projects that I’ve been building up over the last few years. Won’t that be nice…
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