Behind the scenes: On the decks at Red Bull Studio

The man with all the buttons on new talent, bona fide legends and what it takes to be an engineer.
Red Bull Studios sound engineer Brendon Harding with Toddla T.
Brendon Harding (on the far left) with Toddla T © Alice Pepperell for Red Bull Studios
By Chris Parkin

Meet Brendon Harding (on the far left): in-house sound engineer at Red Bull Studio London and the man who captured Eliza Doolittle’s collaboration with Disclosure for their chart-topping album, Settle.

So what does it take to be an engineer?
"It’s equal parts geek, music lover, and patience. You can teach someone how to use equipment and there are hundreds of millions of people around the world who love music, but to combine that and work with musicians and writers and producers you need to have a great deal of patience just to stay sane. Artists and musicians are creative types and aren’t necessarily the most reliable or schedule-friendly. You have to be able to ride the whole thing out."

Where were you before Red Bull Studio London?
"Before Red Bull I was freelancing at a few studios around London and primarily worked with Adrian Sherwood, who just did a lecture at the Academy in New York. I did an album with Lee Perry, a few English folk albums, The Slits’ last album."

It must give you a warm feeling to see the acts you’ve worked with at Red Bull Studio go onto success?
"Ghostpoet was the first. I produced a large part of the record here and I’ve always been proud of that record and of him, seeing him sell out Koko and tour Europe. It’s always a nice little prize. We did the Disclosure and Eliza single, You & Me, in the studio. I have great memories of that session, when she was in, Jimmy Napes who co-wrote the song was in, and the boys. We spent most of the time listening to old garage tunes and getting the vibe right. I walked past the butcher’s on my local high street at the weekend and they had it blaring out, which was really nice."

You get older while the bands coming in get younger – is that weird?
"We had 15 bands in for the Road To Download project and the last one in were all 17 and 18 and from Wales. Fresh-faced, wide-eyed, everything still amazing. That was interesting to see because a lot of the artists are already on their way and might have a manager or a label."

If I can’t get his drums right then I’m in the wrong job.

Have you ever been overawed?
"There are a few sessions where I’ve felt really nervous. The first was when Theo Parrish and Tony Allen came into write, about six months after the studio was opened. Tony Allen is the godfather of Afrobeat so that was a test for me: if I can’t get his drums right then I’m in the wrong job. So I put up loads of mics, more than I normally would, and made sure it was spot-on. He came in and said it was the best sound he’d ever heard - but he probably says that to all the engineers. Another one was Raphael Saadiq. He was in to record a live appearance a few years ago. That was a big one for me. We ended up sleeping over the night before because he was going to be in bright and early the next day."

Any advice for young bands coming into the studio?
"My advice to anyone is to come in with a plan of what you want to do. When we first opened, people would come in to jam and mooch around. But for us it’s always been about getting an end product. So knowing what you want is key. How many drums do you need? Do you know how long it takes to set up drums? Are you mixing it for radio?"

Discover more about Red Bull Studios London here and the Red Bull Studios worldwide network here.

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