Our Stories: Josh Polhill

Tom Aston

Josh graduated from our Sound Engineering and Design course last year, but that was just the beginning.

From releasing an EP in October 2019, to being offered the chance to record at the legendary Abbey Road Studios, Josh has been quite busy since graduating, and plans to continue making his mark in the industry. 

Thanks for chatting to us Josh. To start, what drew you to Sound Engineering as a career?

Like many who end up pursuing production, I started out as a musician. I wanted to record and release my own songs as a teenager, so I found myself down the home-recording path. Even though I didn’t properly know what I was doing, I fell in love with the production process, and knew from that point that having a career as a music producer was what I wanted.

And so, why did you decide to study at Spirit Studios?

I did a course in music performance at BTEC level, and my tutor at the time noticed that I took a particular interest in the production-based aspects of the course, rather than solely playing an instrument. When I was unsure about what to do after college, he advised that I go on to hone some production skills, and Spirit Studios was his top recommendation out of the many that he knew. 

Very cool. What have you been up to since graduating?

I knew I’d want to get around to finishing and releasing an electronic EP I’d been working on for some time, so I released ‘Atmospheres’ under the alias Nyquism in October 2019 which had some small success on platforms like Amazing Radio; being played next to Tame Impala was definitely a nice highlight!

Besides my own music, I’ve been consistently looking for opportunities to work as either a studio or a live engineer, and have luckily sorted a position doing the front-of-house sound at a brilliant live venue/recording studio in Blackburn, which I hope to start at some point after the lockdown.

Tell us about Abbey Road, how did that come to be?

It’s a strange one because it was entirely coincidental. While browsing audio forums, I came across a one-man company called Sky Audio, which is owned by Jurgen Lusky of HOFA Mastering in Germany. I got in touch with him, asking where I could listen to his speakers in the UK, and he put me in touch with some associates that work at Abbey Road, who proceeded to invite me down to listen to the monitors.

After getting to know the engineers and showing them some of my music, they explained that Abbey Road was starting an exclusive program aimed at unsigned artists to allow them the opportunity to record at their world-famous facilities, and they invited me to be one of the six artists selected to take part. I thought I was dreaming to be honest, it was so surreal! 

Wow, that’s amazing, congratulations! What are you hoping to get out of the recording? 

Well firstly, I’m hoping that the track will sound great by the time it’s finished, there’s definitely been a lot of work put in so far! For the release phase, the artists are going to get links with playlist pluggers and radio stations, and even UMG, so I hope there’s some kind of stroke-of-luck there. Obviously I’d also hope to have some kind of boost for my new music alias Ocean Physics, but to be honest, it’s been a dream come true regardless of whatever happens next.

That’s so exciting. What else have you been working on?

I’ve started a new project under the alias Ocean Physics, and I’ve been working on learning a lot of new approaches to music production for more commercial genres. I’ve been listening to a lot more pop and house music, which is the style I’m going for, rather than the experimental style of Nyquism. I’ve finished my debut release ‘How It Feels’, which will be coming out on the 15th of May. 

I’ve also recently taken on a job for a metal band, where I’m going to be creating some atmospheric layers, glitches, transitions, risers/impacts, etc. for them. It’s nice, because I can use my creativity to make some cool stuff without having to worry about recording, editing and mixing a full album.

How are you staying productive while in lockdown?

Since I’m going to be doing more commercial sounding songs for the time being, I’ve been delving into music marketing techniques. There are a lot of things out there that independent artists can be doing in order to promote their releases and artist image, and in the age we live in, I would say it’s very important to look into this as much as possible. Particularly Spotify official playlists, radio plugging, and social media advertising.

Do you have any advice for others on how they can stay productive as well?

I would say it’s a good idea to plan things in advance. Use Google Keep or something similar to write down some of things that you want to do, where you can access it from anywhere and check things off one-by-one. I would definitely say staying organised and focused is the key, and setting realistic targets so that you’re not setting yourself up to fail.

We’d love to know, who are you currently listening to?

A lot of singers. I’ve recently found the likes of Sabrina Claudio, Gregory Porter, and Nao – all of which I’m loving. When it comes to electronic music, currently it’s Kiasmos, Lapalux, Jamie xx, Shigeto, Burial, with maybe a bit of Disclosure here and there too. And I can never resist throwing on some Paramore for old-times sake. 

What advice do you have for others looking to get into the same career?

I would encourage people to try and network face-to-face, since that’s what’s helped me, especially with Abbey Road Studios. See if there’s anything cool going on, even if it means travelling a bit, it’s so much more direct than getting hold of people remotely. 

Before you go tell us, what are you looking forward to most once lockdown is lifted?

I’m definitely excited to start as a live sound engineer when the venues open, and also to create my own live sets and hopefully do some shows as Ocean Physics at some point in the future. Going to the Chinese takeaway is definitely high up there as well!

Thanks for chatting to us Josh! Best of luck with Abbey Road, we can’t wait to hear what you create.