Small Town Sounds Interview
Local music site "Small Town Sounds" caught up with Circa 16 Sound Recording's owner, and recording engineer, Dave Miller. You can check out the article, and stacks of content by clicking here.
Check out the transcribed interview here:
Dave Miller is a quiet man.
You’ll usually see him behind a sound desk in a music venue, where he is the silent presence that has a big influence on the quality of a gig. Indeed, the performers on stage are the main focus, but an audio engineer like Dave has the ability to make their beautifully crafted musicianship sound even more magnificent for the audience.
He’s the face you’ll have seen at a huge number of live gigs and festivals both in the region and further afield. He’s kept busy with his own recording studio in Dumfries, Circa 16 Sound Recording, where a steady stream of bands and solo artists from all genres come in to record their tracks. When events are being organised, Dave’s name is often one of the first mentioned due to his reputation for putting on great sounding events.
Having known him for many years, we already know that Dave is quite a fascinating character. Small Town Sounds founder Melissa Gunn asked him a ton of questions and let him have his say…
Small Town Sounds: Hiya Dave, it’s great to speak to you! How have you been?
Dave Miller: Great thanks! I plod along!
You’re well known and respected right across the Dumfries & Galloway region. How does it feel to have been so vital to the success of so many local musicians?
It feels great! My ethos has always been to do something to the highest level possible and it’s nice to see that contribute to so many great projects in the region over the years. It also suits my personality to be playing all of the assisting roles and not to be in the limelight too much!
Can you tell us a bit about how you came to be a sound engineer and run your own recording studio?
Well! I began as a player and played in some local cover bands and such like. It wasn’t as easy then to record and perform live in a small town so things for my bands were very “D.I.Y.”. Out of necessity, this meant that someone had to have an understanding of how the tech behind both the live shows and the studio worked, and that was me. After discovering I had a bit of an aptitude for it and it was something I could pursue as a career, I’ve been doing that ever since. My own studio came a bit later and is a more recent addition to my life. After engineering a lot of live shows, I was getting acts approaching me about making records for them. I started hiring spaces around town and recording with a portable set-up but the limitations started creeping in, as well as the desire for a well designed, efficient space to call home, and I took the plunge on a “bricks and mortar” studio space in 2016, naming it “Circa 16 Sound Recording”, after the year in which it was founded!
I’ve always been really passionate about pushing the scene forward in Dumfries. Not always in ways you’d appreciate, but in helping artists take on more ambitious shows, add unique elements to their shows, or contributing to youth development work and trying to share the knowledge I’ve accumulated. This has a lot to do with it, along with wanting my skills put to use in my local area. The other biggie is much more of a business decision in that it’s much cheaper to operate here than in cities. I don’t want to be charging thousands of pounds to make a track. In the cities you have no option but to do this and, ultimately, it’s the bands that lose out!
I get this question a lot. Unfortunately, most academic routes aren’t all that useful unless you want an electronics engineer or software developer/coder skill-set. Experience is king. Get as much hands-on experience as possible with any audio company or organisation you can. Be respectful of others and what they’re trying to do, and focus on your “people skills”!!
The best thing for me is simply the flexibility and being able to take time out when I want to, or have an element of choice in the projects I take on. Being a one-man operation, I also love the direct contact with all my clients and building relationships with so many amazing and talented people. There are negatives though – the “always on” lifestyle is pretty difficult and the potential for a really strong mental health impact is always there. I’m really pleased to see a lot more being done within the entertainment/music industry on this.
Hah! I played guitar… maybe around the early noughties. It was mostly young team cover material and some originals – mostly pop-punk! I couldn’t possibly name and shame them here *cough* One For The Record *cough* If You’re Asking. We did the usual haunts of the time – The White Hart, The Venue… that church hall behind Greyfriars and so on. We had a lot of fun.
[laughs] Nope! That said, I’d love to play a bit for fun, I just don’t have the hours in the day! I’ve actually really enjoyed playing on some studio stuff recently – things like the Kate Kyle EP – along with Dave Bass. Perhaps I might do more of that!
In terms of your career, what has been your proudest moment so far?
That would be more of an all-encompassing thing rather than a single moment and would just be getting to where I am now – being able to maintain doing something I love for a living and being able to deliver on the projects I work on. It’s something I’m really proud of.
You often work long days at festivals running the sound for stages as well as touring with bands. Which do you prefer?
I’ve always really liked festival work – it’s “balls to the wall” stuff! You never know what’s going to happen and there’s so much good energy around good festivals – on stage and off. Yes, a 15 hour festival day is long – but not as long as a 24 hour touring one!
Can you tell us some of the bands you have toured with as a sound engineer?
What’s been your most memorable gig? As a sound engineer and as a gig-goer?
Sound-wise, there have been loads of great ones – I always find Shetland Folk Festival a really memorable one for the relentless vibe of the thing! Mixing monitors for Carcass and Obituary at Glasgow Barrowland was up there – I’m sure the venue played a huge part in that. Recently, mixing front of house for local band ONR on the Warsaw Bastille show in February was a total highlight. Feeling a band you’ve worked with from the ground up get a full-on arena response for the first time is a great feeling. As a gig-goer, it would, without a doubt, be Jackson Browne at the Glasgow Concert Hall a number of years ago, or Neil Young’s acoustic set at Hammersmith Apollo in 2008. Maximo Park to a sold out Barrowland just as they were breaking was also great to see!
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Dave!