Audio graduate speeds to success as sound tech for French band Air

14 Nov 2016

When Emilio ​De Virgilio​ started studying Audio at SAE, he had no idea that in four years he would be touring the world with iconic French band ​Air, a​nd mixing tracks on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

SAE caught up with London alumnus recently, to hear about his amazing career.

Welcome Emilio and thanks for taking the time to meet with us. Please, tell us about your journey since graduating from SAE?

Yes so I graduated back in 2014 and during the two years I was at SAE London, I also worked as a barback for this members club. To be fair, it was a tough two years. I used to work in this place until four AM and then come in to campus study. I did that for a year and a half.

That’s dedication. When did you land your first paid gig?

Well I’d been working there for a while unpaid and then two months after I graduated they offered me my first paid shift as a live sound engineer. So I started working there, whilst going around London with my CV and working at different venues, most of the times working for free. Slowly, more work started to pick up and I got offered work in Camden Town and a few places in Mayfair. This is where I built my contacts and in May this year, I got offered the position to work as a stage technician for Air.

Air - they are huge!

Yeah, I just started this worldwide tour in May, which is incredible in my eyes, as they are one of my favourite bands. Everytime I get asked what kind of music do you listen to, or what’s your favourite band, I always say to them Air together with Radiohead, Sigur Ros and Mogwai. Incredibly enough I met all of them on tour.

And this is your first tour?

Yes, so the last three to four months, I’ve been around 15 to 16 different countries, including the US and Europe. Now we’re going to South America for gigs in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Mexico.

Wow. And so what does your job entail?

I’m the stage technician and the front-of house engineer assistant. So on tour, audio wise you have the monitor engineer, front of house engineer and then there is the guy who takes care of all the audio equipment. Well, I am that guy plus I’m the assistant of the front of house engineer. It means I take care of all the audio equipment and deal with the local crews ensuring the correct setup for the band.

And the band members, tell us what they’re like?

They are very, very cool people.They’re a duo, the members are J​ean-Benoît ​​and Nicolas and then there are the two session players Vincent and Louis. And they’re just really nice people. How it works usually is the crew is a little bit detached from the band. The band is in different hotels, they live their superstar lifestyle, and you are just there to set up their gigs but with Air it’s different. We spend a reasonable amount of time together. The first day I met them it was my 30th birthday. We were in N​îmes, South of France​ and the band just turned up with a bottle of champagne and was like, “Happy Birthday!” They’re very friendly, very open-minded and it’s a pleasure to work with them.

Incredible, and what’s next for you?

Now I am waiting for the South American leg of the tour and then there will be something else probably next year. In the future I see myself being the front of house engineer for a band like Air. When we were in L.A. we did the Jimmy Kimmel show and because the main engineer was busy doing the mix for the TV, they let me do the front of house mix. So I had to take care of the live audience production. Needless to say, it was amazing and I just can’t wait to repeat the experience.                  

Well it sounds like you’re living the dream. Did you find your training at SAE helpful?

Yes. When I started I was a newbie in the audio world and I didn’t really know which career path I wanted to take. Thanks to SAE I acquired a 360 degree picture of the sound engineering world, so that I could choose the right direction. Also the equipment in London was great. I mean SAE Institute can be considered one of the best audio studios in London. You have ten to eleven different rooms and desks where you can learn about audio production, post production, 5.1 mixing and recording a band. There is so much you can learn. So for me, I think it was the best choice for my studies.