Alessio Costa recently graduated from BIMM London with a degree in Music Production. Since then, he’s been working at Brixton Hill Studios as an engineer and team member. We caught up him to hear all about his work and his BIMM experience.
Tell us about your personal/musical background.
I believe my love for music comes from both my parents. My mother used to sing all the time, whilst my dad was constantly listening to late 60s and 70s British classic rock.
I started playing guitar when I was 14 and soon developed a keen interest in recording. I guess recording music has always fascinated me, due to growing up listening to recorded music incessantly. It’s always been exciting to buy a new LP and listen to it for the first time, as much as it was to listen to a very bad recording of my band.
Moving to London felt like the right choice for pursuing a career in music, and when the time was right I decided to study Music Production properly.
Can you explain again what Brixton Hill Studios is, as well as your role there.
Brixton Hill Studios is mainly a rehearsal studio, one of the last few standing this side of South London. The studio has 5 rehearsal rooms, each one including full backline. The largest room is also wired to the control room for recording sessions, so it is a recording studio too.
I have two different jobs at the studio, Recording Engineer and Team Member.
As a Team Member I work at the front desk and take care of bands coming in for rehearsals and helping them out with equipment, for example sorting out effects for their vocals on the digital mixing desks. Sometimes the job involves maintaining equipment, like replacing drums skins and tuning drums, which is a great skill worth learning even if you’re not a drummer, especially if you’re a recording engineer.
As a Recording Engineer, I’ve been running my own sessions almost since I started working here, a year and a half ago. I’ve worked with full bands, recorded overdubs, vocals and done voice-overs sessions. On many other occasions I assist Nick Howiantz, my manager, on the sessions he runs. He’s great, has great knowledge and he’s always up for experimenting with microphone placement and gear!
We have some really cool bits of equipment, including a beautiful vintage (ex-BBC) Glensound MX3/6, a pair of DBX163 compressors and a Soundcraft SCM 381-1 1” 8-track tape recorder, which I’m slowly learning to operate and record with, thanks to Stephen Gilchrist, the studio owner.
For the uninitiated, can you explain why you’re learning to record with tape and how it compares to working digitally.
Because it sounds great and it’s fun! We use tape emulation as a plugin a lot so, even if technically speaking digital should sound better, that warmth typical of tape recording is very much sought after, so why not. Most importantly, I believe it helps developing an engineer’s recording skills further. Unlike digital, where you have almost unlimited possibilities, with tape there are lots of limitations, like how many tracks you have, no chance of ‘fixing it in the mix’, and the additional noise you record every time you make a pass on a track. And it’s not just about developing recording skills and attention to detail, it’s also communication skills and a fair amount of admin.
Are there any particular genres you prefer to work with when recording?
Given my musical taste I like to work with bands – in particular rock bands, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy recording a rapper or any other genre. In fact, this year I worked a lot with a young rapper called Charles Edison, and I very much enjoyed recording vocals for Bronski Beat last year. I just love being in the studio and recording, being able to work with talented people, and learn more and more.
How did your course in Music Production at BIMM help you?
The course gave me a chance to put my foot through the industry door, even before graduating, and as a mature student this is very important. The course structure and the way it combines a variety of aspects of music production, as well as learning how the industry works and doing research certainly helped me a lot. For example, the Post-production module helped me when recording and editing voice-overs and gave me the confidence to take on those jobs. Live sound helped with mic-ing up and sound-checking a band for a live event we hosted at the studio this year, and it generally helped me working with the digital mixing desks in the rehearsal rooms. You never know when something you’ve covered in a module will come in handy.
What advice would you offer someone looking to get started with a career in production?
Work hard, be reliable, work hard, research, work hard, and did I forget to say work hard? And network! It’s a small world, some people I met at BIMM now rehearse here at Brixton Hill Studios, and others I recorded during the course now come to record here.