Martin Mittler came in to our studios to use our Charlie Jones Live Venue to prep his front of house mix ahead of The Twang’s performance at Coventry Godiva Festival on July 6th.
No stranger to the music scene, Martin sat down with us for a quick chat about his career in sound engineering and what sound engineering means to him.
Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us today Martin. To start, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what it is you do?
Sure, I’m a self-employed front of house engineer. Currently I’m working with The Kooks, as well as working on some stuff with The Zutons. A band I’m working with, The Twang, are playing at the Godiva Festival in Coventry, so I’m currently polishing their mix. It’s much easier to mix on a proper desk, as opposed to the offline editor I’ve been working with.
That’s pretty cool. How did you first get in to sound engineering?
It was the classic route of being in a band years ago in Manchester. We rehearsed in a place called The Boardwalk, and this one time we turned up for a show and all the gear was there, but there were no engineers. The band’s roadie and I just cobbled through a soundcheck and kind of put it all together. So, I guess, that was the beginning of it.
Wow, that’s impressive. Was it all self-taught then?
Pretty much. When I say self-taught, you know, I’ve also learnt from other engineers I’ve met along the way. But there were no courses available for stuff like that when I was first starting out, so it’s basically all self-taught.
I’d always been interested in sound engineering. It was like alchemy to me, how you can go in to the studio, mess about creating sounds, and then end up with something you can be proud of.
The live side is also great because it’s more immediately rewarding. When you see people enjoying themselves and having a good time, you feel instant gratification which is really cool.
For sure. Do you remember who you did your first proper show with?
I do actually. It was for this local band called Yargo at The Boardwalk.
So, how did you get in to working with people like The Kooks and The Zutons?
I did tours for 808 State and Northside back in the day, and then I worked at Night and Day Café for a few years. I would often get calls asking if I wanted to work a gig or work on a tour, and I always said yes. Eventually, you will end up working with a band you click with, and find yourself going back again and again to help them out.
Of all the shows you’ve done in your career, what’s your favourite front of house memory?
One of my favourite recent memories would have to be when the Kooks headlined Finsbury Park as everything went so smooth. Sometimes you get a perfect show where everything goes right; the band plays well and the crowd has the perfect reaction. However, you don’t get many of those, so when you do it’s wonderful and I always get tingles when it happens.
What a feeling that must be. On the flip side of that, has anything ever gone disastrously wrong?
Oh of course. Not many times, but it happens sometimes, especially when you walk in to a gig where you’re covering for someone and you aren’t using your usual mix or equipment. One incident stands out in my mind that was pretty horrible. I was working on a show with some technicians who had never done one before. When the band came out on stage, it just didn’t gel together and there wasn’t a vocal on the first song.
Tell us, do you find it hard constantly being on the road?
You do get sick of it, being away so much isn’t for everyone. I definitely miss being at home with my family, having my own bed, my own space. But I like sightseeing and eating food abroad, so I just try and take advantage of it.
I appreciate that it is a very unique job that affords you a lot of opportunities to do things you might not be able to do in other jobs.
Before you go, tell us, who’s been your favourite band/artist you’ve worked with?
Honestly, all of them. They all present their own sets of challenges. Some of the bands you get very friendly with, and others are more work-focused and you simply show up and get the job done. However, both are fun and both provide new challenges for me so that’s really nice.
The most memorable bands are the ones you grow with. You get a massive sense of achievement when watching grass root bands play arenas. It’s great to be a part of their journey and go along for the ride.