User Profile: Steven A. Williams
At The Chapel Studios in London, England, owner/chief producer/engineer Steven A. Williams has been working with world-class artists since opening in 2003. From Eric Clapton and Seal, to Sting and The Rolling Stones, theyíve all relied on his knowledge, skills and diverse background to deliver the highest quality recordings and mixes. We caught up with Steven recently to discuss his touring experience, studio setup and of course, his use of Oxford plug-ins.
You began your career as a musician?
Yes. Originally I studied classical music at the Royal Academy of Music. At the end of my degree I was more keen on jazz and pop so I studied that as a post-graduate and then became a session drummer. From there, I ended up doing world tours with Midge Ure. That gig spawned many other sessions and tours.
I learned that itís not only your playing that gets you the gig, itís also whether you Ďfeel rightí for the job. I guess I was (and still am) an amiable chap and just got on with everyone. I became Lisa Stansfieldís musical director for many years, and also did a lot album and film sessions.
Around 10 years ago I hooked up with Trevor Jones, a Hollywood composer based here in London, who has composed for a variety of films like Notting Hill, Last Of The Mohicans etc. We got along well and I worked for him programming, engineering and composing. We recorded many performers including the London Symphony Orchestra as well as lots of recordings at Abbey Road. I got to meet a lot of people that way as well.
So thatís how you transitioned into recording and engineering?
Yes. All along, during my touring and session days, I became more and more interested in recording. I realized I really love being in the Ďcontrol chairí of the studio and producing. Because of that, I sort of flipped careers and concentrated more on the studio, gradually doing less and less drumming. I still drum on my productions and other peopleís projects, so if thereís a drummer needed it's usually me that fills the chair or should I say stool, so drumming hasnít gone completely by the wayside.
Tell us about your current studioÖ
I opened The Chapel in 2003 here in London. Itís mainly myself and an assistant. Freelance engineers also come in because we have some amazing gear and itís also a very pleasant atmosphere to work in. Iíve owned a few other studios throughout the years, but this is certainly the most comprehensive and state of the art studio Iíve ever had. Weíve recorded many renowned clients here - mixing the Rolling Stones for a live show, and Chrissie Hynde for example. Itís going strong - Iím fully booked all the time.
Is your setup hybrid?
Yes, Pro Tools feeds an SSL Duality desk. So the processing is done using the console, outboard gear and in Pro Tools.
Is that where your Sonnox plug-ins come into play?
Yes, I use the Oxford EQ to highlight specific frequencies, either boosting or cutting at a high Q. I also use the Oxford Dynamics a lot, and thatís brilliant. If I need compression pumping, noise control, gain reduction or a way to just make the sound punchier, I reach straight for the Oxford Dynamics.
Initially my favourite Sonnox plug was the Inflator. I use it all the time across the mix bus and it's just incredible. Although Iíve researched it, I still canít say for sure precisely what it does, but I suppose ultimately it doesnít matter, I just use it until the mix sounds great. It can make things sound bigger and better in a very musical way Ė itís fabulous!
I also acquired the Oxford Limiter and wow itís just incredible. Using it took my mixes to a new level. I place it across the mix bus, adjusting the Enhance fader, the Attack, Release and Auto Gain, and it just makes the mix sound incredible. I love it not just because itís a Ďgain increaser,í but it really helps expand and improve the overall sonic quality of your mix. With the Inflator and Oxford Limiter across my mix - thereís nothing to beat this pair!
Do you use any other Sonnox plug ins?
Yes, Iím just getting into the Fraunhofer Pro-Codec. When you put that across your mix and listen to alternate codecs, the difference in the low-end is quite incredible. Itís good to send your mix through the Pro-Codec so you know what the MP3 will sound like. The Pro-Codec is increasingly becoming a useful piece of my arsenal. Overall, Iím totally impressed with all the Oxford plug-ins I own. I couldnít recommend them more!
Interview and editorial provided by Rich Tozzoli
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