Third year sound engineer student Kelsey Brooks sat down with us to discuss her time at Spirit Studios, what women in engineering means to her, and what the future has in store for her.
Thanks for sitting down with us today Kelsey. Let’s start with how you got in to the music industry?
In a really roundabout way actually. Originally I had secured a place to study medicine. About 2 months before I did my A-levels I had a complete U-turn as I realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do. At the time I used to do live sound on the side and hang out at Foodie Friday Festival in Stockport where they had a lot of open mic nights.
I’m also an opera singer and play a lot of different instruments including trumpet, guitar and piano. And so I decided to apply for Spirit Studios last minute and got in and that was the start.
So, tell us, what made you want to study at Spirit Studios?
The fact that I wanted to do live sound, and it felt like the right place to be. It’s great to be in a place where everyone comes in at different levels. For me, I was never made to feel any less because I couldn’t do certain things at the start.
Being a woman, how have you felt up until now working in a mostly male dominated industry?
Honestly, I have mixed feelings about it. I’ve had some really amazing experiences, and there’s such an amazing community of women in this industry, even though it’s quite small. On the other hand it can be so hard as there is definitely a culture of not being taken seriously as a female engineer. But then again, there is also a lot of racial discrimination and homophobia in the music industry too. The industry, in particular the performance side of things, is so progressive, but then you look at the tech and production side of things and there aren’t as many women.
And so, do you feel as though things are changing?
Yes, I think things are getting better. However, I think we still have a way to go. There’s still this idea that everything has drastically changed as 50 years ago women couldn’t even touch the sound desk. Since working in the industry, I have only ever worked with around 4 female engineers.
Going forward, how would you like to see the industry in 5-10 years?
It’s a case of just letting women get on with their jobs. At the moment, there’s a problem with belittlement in the industry which is impacting the way women do their jobs.
Despite the lack of women, what excites you the most about the industry, or engineering as a whole?
I’m really interested in the tech side so I like seeing the development of the industry. Even recording is relatively new, it’s less than 100 years old, and to think that we’ve gone from scratching things in to foil, to now having computers that can run algorithms millions of times per second, I think that’s really exciting. Also, the way we’ve moved from analog to digital and what it allows us to do is really exciting. But I’d have to say one of the most exciting things about it is the impact it can have on people. There is no better feeling than doing a front of house mix and looking up at everyone dancing and being happy.
For sure. You’re also working at Kendal Calling and Cotton Clouds Festival this year, tell us a bit more.
Yeah, I’m working as Artist Liaison and Stage Management at Kendal Calling which is pretty surreal. I managed to secure the positions through my work-based learning actually. It was crazy being headhunted for something.
At Cotton Clouds I’m going to be helping out with the stage management side of things; patching and setting up instruments and microphones.
That’s pretty impressive. How do you find being a freelancer?
It’s different to working in an office as you have people around you all the time, so working as a freelancer can get quite lonely. I can go for days just working away on my computer without seeing anyone which was a strange adjustment.
Before you go, tell us, what does the rest of 2019 look like?
A bit scary. I’ll be writing my dissertation and getting ready to leave Spirit Studios which is terrifying. In addition, I’ll be working on festivals over the summer, and I have my first EP, ‘Welcome to the Himalayan Pool Party’ by Himalayan Pool Party coming out soon.
A couple weeks ago I was in Leeds doing a TedX style talk on sexism in the music industry as part of the Vox Pop series, it was called ‘What is it like being a female engineer? And other questions I hate’.
I’m also going to be head of sound at a festival called Camp VC at the end of the summer so I’m really excited about that.