We spoke to SAE London Audio Production student, Tim Hocks, about the upcoming release of his debut EP, Carry The Fire, which he produced at SAE Bankstock studios under the supervision of the expert lecturer, Jamie Stonehouse.
The EP is available to purchase via Tim’s website or through direct message on social media from 15 November.
What are the main themes of the six new songs on your debut EP, Carry The Fire?
All of the songs are connected by dealing with either fire or water, in a multitude of contexts. The title tune, for example, is a homage to three people (and one dog) who cannot be with me anymore but whom I wanted to thank sonically for the role they played in my life. I really hope the song can help more people out there who have lost someone they love. We have to carry on and carry their fire.
How does this build on the work of your previous singles, ‘Breathing In’ and ‘Believe In Love’?
After the release of a multitude of singles in the first half of the year, the main focus was to create a set of songs with a common thread this time, while still ensuring sufficient musical diversity to keep listeners entertained for almost half an hour. With regards to production techniques, I tried to broaden the horizons of my arrangements, not sticking to a classic band setup for all of the songs, which had been the case with my earlier releases. Hence, you’ll find more orchestral instrumentation on the record, and even an EDM tune.
Do you have a favourite track from the release, and if so which one?
That’s a tough one to answer, because I am fond of all of the songs really and it’s hard to pick a favourite, also as they are so diverse in terms of genre and production techniques. Still, the most special tune is probably the title track, which is purely acappella and where I sing in an eight-voice choir with myself. I even do some beatboxing towards the end.
As a multi-instrumentalist, where would you say your strengths lie?
Probably in diversity. You have this saying in England, ‘a jack of all trades is an expert of none’. But as budgets in the recorded music industry are shrinking these days, labels are specifically on the hunt for musicians with polyvalent skills, who can cover more than just one role in a production scenario. So, my goal is to reach a professional level in all areas of pop music production, and to position myself in the visual field of major labels looking for songwriters and producers in the medium term.
What parts of the EP recording took place at Bankstock Studios, and which bits did you work on in your own studio in Erkelenz, Germany?
Lead vocals were recorded in Germany and a lot of the choirs and backing vocals at Bankstock, making use of the large-scale live rooms in the SSL G+ and Neve VR studios. A profound share of the instruments were recorded somewhere in between with my interface and laptop this time, as I had to travel a lot during the production phase.
How did your tutor, Jamie Stonehouse, assist you to create this release?
Jamie was a blessing from day one on. He was super excited about the project from the start and confronted me with an abundance of constructive feedback, e.g. by advising me to go for a rather broad and diverse portfolio as a songwriter, as opposed to just serving one genre. Also, he brought his expertise in orchestration, instrumentation and arrangement to the table, and, last but not least, a guitarist’s point of view, which can open the eyes of a piano player sometimes. Generally, the entire module was another example of how brilliant SAE is at supporting students to make their personal projects come true and combine these with the regular module plan.
What are the concepts behind the two music videos that Michael Akinolushola has produced for the singles ‘Fire In The Air’ and ‘Going Under’?
Mike has the skills to bring my visions to life and you can find his own personality in all of the videos as well. I couldn’t do this project without him.
‘Fire In The Air’ is my take on climate change, so we went for a video depicting what might await us and our children if we don’t manage to change the way we live, consume and treat our environment. Therefore, the video contains shots from all across the globe, where climate change affects people’s everyday life already, including Brazil, Iceland, California - and London.
‘Going Under’ is about the feeling we all happen to have from time to time, when we find ourselves disoriented and a bit lost in this ever-changing world, with too many things to do and not enough time to spend with the ones we love. The video plays with the dialectics of darkness and light, so we burnt a solid amount of bengal fires, Chinese lanterns, sparklers, fireworks and pyrotechnics, which was good fun too.
I also have to mention Ibrahim Nebulae here, film student at SAE London, who supported us greatly during shooting and contributed a lot of the shots used in the final video versions.
What were some of the challenges you encountered during this project and how have you overcome them?
Mainly, racing against the clock on a daily-basis, as the entire production had to be carried out in less than three months, to allow me submitting the EP for the ‘Advanced Specialised Project’ module we have in trimester five at SAE. It was a fruitful experience though, which also inspired the research focus for my major project.
You are hosting a release concert in your home town in Germany on 15 November, but do you have any UK live dates planned to support the release of this EP?
So far: No. At least not yet. Not because I don’t want to but because it takes a lot of planning and time to organise live shows, which is a fundamentally different ball game from recording music in the studio and distributing it online. I tried to take one step after the other since the release of my debut single early this year and the release concert in Germany is my first one into the live domain. If it turns out great and people are happy, I will definitely focus on playing a lot of shows next year. Hopefully in the UK as well.
Where will the CD version be available to purchase?
Via my website or by DMs on social media. As it’s a limited first edition, it’s probably a good idea to be quick!
What are you working on this trimester - what are your plans for your Major Project?
As I mentioned before, the main challenge I face when producing my music and working for my solo project is efficiency in my workflow. Mostly because I do all the tasks which usually are split up between members of a production and marketing team. Therefore, I will focus on how efficient and productive music production techniques can look like in our day and age, especially addressing singer-songwriters who are producing their music themselves, like I do.
Any idea what’s next for you after you finish your studies at SAE?
Get famous (laughs)! If that does not work out immediately, probably a master’s degree somehow related to pop music or music production. I haven’t spent too much time making up my mind yet though, as first I want to focus on getting my major project done in the best way possible. Whatever happens, my main goal is to be happy with what I do and I am excited to find out what the world of music holds in store for me.