James McCormick
Audio Production Programme Coordinator
MA in Audio Production – University of Westminster 2010
BA (Hons) in Music & Politics – University of Liverpool 2009

Please tell us about your background in Audio and what route you took to get where you are today

Like most, it was a very mixed route, and highlights why experience in a number of areas is useful. My interest in audio began in a fairly typical way, experiencing recording studios as a performer and becoming curious about the technical processes that went on behind the glass. I studied music at university and went on to specialise in audio production in London. After graduating, I was involved in several different audio fields. I worked in a recording studio in Hackney, London, before opening a studio with a colleague, and learnt the hard way how to deal with clients under strict time pressures. At the same time I was working on sound design, composition and location recording projects across web, TV and film. I was a sound editor at a post-production house, and following on from that worked on several video games. After moving back to Liverpool, I focused on my mixing & mastering studio and producing music, as well as moving into teaching. Alongside work, I enjoy audio electronics and building and fixing equipment.

What excites you about passing on your knowledge and expertise to the next generation?

It’s less about passing on knowledge and more about witnessing the learning that occurs when students are working on and engaged with their own professional practice, which is very satisfying. When that happens, the learning and the doing become the same thing. If the knowledge and expertise that we have can inspire and motivate students to raise their game, then even better. The most exciting aspect is hearing from alumni who have gone on to have great success after leaving us.

Why should students choose SAE to further their careers in Audio?

SAE is unique in the sense that we are providing a broad course with strong academic content, but which is also heavily vocational. The course responds to changes in the industry, and the eventual aim is for students to have a strong and varied portfolio upon graduating, which will help them get a related job. We support students with small-group tuition and an ethos of practice-based learning. There are very few courses out there that cover so much ground, especially in two years!

Which musicians/producers inspire you and why?

I am interested in the role of the producer in the production of music, and I think you can find inspiration from the varied styles of music producers across all genres. I find the mindset, working practices and leadership involved in ‘king-of-the-hill’ style production fascinating, as well as the ‘I’m not a producer’ producers such as Steve Albini. Quincy Jones has a very interesting mixture of qualities and production techniques, as well as an immense musical background and compositional ability. Having skills in so many areas and applying them to music production generated some of the best-engineered and produced albums in recent history.

What is the biggest ‘pinch me’ moment of your career?

Watching myself perform on Channel 4. In a good and bad way.

If you were stranded on a desert island with only one album to keep you sane, what would it be?

The Durutti Column released a vinyl that had a sandpaper record jacket to destroy other records when it was taken off the shelf. Could be useful for starting a fire.

Please list projects you have worked on outside of SAE and any publications:

  • Video games including Dreamfall Chapters, Dino D-Day, Company of Heroes 2, LEGO City: Undercover
  • Sound designer, dubbing mixer and composer for national TV series and adverts
  • Sound engineering / production for theatre shows
  • Recording, mixing and mastering: for artists including Terri Walker, Xander and the Peace Pirates, Lowlanders, Viola Beach, The Entertainment, Exposure, Red Sails, Pixels…
  • Performer / producer: performed on BBC / C4 TV and radio, at festivals and alongside the likes of ‘Friends’ and ‘Pendulum’
  • Member of Audio Engineering Society (AES)