Recording engineer/producer Curtis Hatton has been working audio in the industry for ten years. He started at Studio Truth Brisbane back in 2012, then in 2015 migrated to Melbourne to start up the Melbourne branch, the aptly named Studio Truth Melbourne.
We spoke with Curtis about his love of music, the studio operation & the importance of great monitoring.
Is it in-house or freelance engineers that mainly work at Studio Truth Melbourne?
Strictly in-house engineers. We are 100% focused on quality here, and in this arrangement we have full control over the quality of work that leaves with the Studio Truth seal of approval.
Tell us about the space …
StudioTruth MEL is a brand new studio, nestled in the heart of Collingwood. We are surrounded by the likes of Warner Music, Ditto Distribution, Collarts and Polytechnic Art and Music Schools and more studios than I can count on my hands. It is really a bustling creative hub. Some even call Collingwood Australia's music capital.
The space we chose was at one point a lawn mower show room, and an office before that. So needless to say the build was not without its hurdles. But there were blessings too. Did you know that an old server room with a few tweaks makes a perfect vocal booth?
What are the dimensions of the tracking room, and how do you normally lay it out?
There are 3 tracking spaces at our Melbourne facility.
- Live room 7x4m
- Dead room 4x2m
- Vocal booth 3x2m
The dead room and live room are actually adjoining with no doors in between. This makes for some fun and versatile micing techniques.
All spaces share the same tall slanted ceiling, 4.5m at its highest point giving these spaces a lot more room to breath.
The dead room is quite lively and sounds amazing with our in-house custom Roulette kit, it pretty much lives in that room. It sounds so great that we're too scared to move it!
Is there a unique ‘sonic character’ to the live room?
The live room is very bouncy and can be too much without strategic placement of gobos. But when mic placement is just right it really adds a warmth and width to the source.
It can make an acoustic guitar performance feel super intimate and “real” sounding, too.
Studio Truth covers all aspects of production - what is the breakdown of Tracking/Mixing/Mastering work that you do?
Here at the Studio Truth Melbourne we have a team of 4.
Luka J – Head of PR, in-house rap and hip-hop specialist.
Toyah Hoetzel – In-house writer, electro and dance specialist.
Hamish Keen – In-house scoring and post production specialist
And myself, Curtis J – Chief engineer, in-house pop and indie specialist.
Personally I do a lot more mixing and mastering work these days, which is where I want to be. The others tend to lean more on the production side.
How would you describe a good day at the studio?
A good day is when artists come in to hear their mix/masters for the first time.
It's a really special moment to be a part of, and very humbling to be trusted with such an important task. When you hit play and their emotions take over, be it jumping around the room, dancing, or even being brought to tears. It's just so special.
And a bad day?
I like to think we don't have too many of those around here. Aside from being a hub for our team to help each other grow as engineers, we are also big advocates for mental health. Having good support around you makes the bad days not so bad.
A bad day for me is when things break. Big things, things that halt the studio from operating. Earlier this year we had our main Pro Tools machine die, and although we were up and running on a brand new Mac the next morning, it was not without its stresses.
What led you to recording music?
I was fortunate enough to grow up with music all around me. My mother's side of the family are all vocalists, pianists and guitarists.
From as early as I can remember, music has been my everything. When I was 16 it dawned on me that it might be more difficult to become a famous rock star than I thought, and I might need to have a backup plan in regards to a career. I went to an open day at SAE in Brisbane, and due to my conviction somehow ended up being offered to start the following Monday. I was finishing my studies at the same time my friends were finishing school, so it was quite the leg up. Not long after that I met Tyson Ruth, the founder and operator of Studio Truth Brisbane. Although I was young, I guess he saw something in me. He became my mentor and to this day, although separated by thousands of kilometres, we remain very close.
Do you have a favourite piece of gear that you use in every session?
Yes, Without a doubt it's my entire monitoring path, can I say that? Well I'm going to anyway.
The combination of Amphion Two18's, Reftone 2LDs, my trusty Apple earbuds and Cranesong Avocet. With these tools all working together it just feels like nothing gets in your way. You always know exactly what the problem is and how to fix it.
What was it that led you to choose Amphion monitors over other premium models?
Where I was in my career dictated it was time to upgrade my most important tool to something I would have for the rest of my life. Once you enter that world there are a few usual suspects, and to be honest none of them seemed like that great of a leap from what I had been using for the past five years. Sure there was better extension but I never much cared for that, most listeners wont have systems that support huge ranges anyway.
Tyson had upgraded to Two18's about 9 months prior and had not stopped raving about them.
So on one trip up to the Brisbane studio with a few hours spare until our meeting I plugged in and got to work.
Those two hours changed everything for me. The speed and ease I could work at was crazy, and even though I had not worked on these before they just translated so well! And within a month I had ordered my own set with an Amp500.
Have the Amphion changed the way you work?
Not exactly, I still work and think the same way but the time it takes to formulate answers to problems is roughly halved. For example, let's say there is something harsh in the main vocal.
On my old monitors I might have fussed around trying to eq it out for five minutes before finding something that worked.
With the Two18's the detail is so great that I don't even open the EQ, I can already hear that the issue lies elsewhere and can get straight to work solving that issue then move on. I honestly spend 2-3 hours less on a mix now and it comes out sounding better!
We’ve heard from engineers that since moving to an Amphion setup they monitor at a quieter level now without losing detail & impact - would you agree?
I have always been an advocate for low level monitoring, there are so many benefits!
Sure the detail is still there but the thing that really blew me away (aside the speed of working on them) is the phase coherence and stereo field... its absolutely stunning. Especially when listening to high quality files through the quantum DAC of the Cranesong. It's just incredible.
Ben Feggans from 301 has said that the Amphion Two18s accurately represent the ‘character’ of the sound without ‘getting in the way’. Would you agree?
There is no way to say it without sounding cheesy, but listening back to the Two18's it really does feel like it's just you and the music, everything else melts away.
Is there a project you’ve worked on recently at the studio that has been exciting or tricky?
My band “Dead Before Breakfast” just finished our debut album not long ago. (Single “Haze” out now and the album “Rogue” out 14th June)
It was particularly difficult for me as I am so accustomed to the pop and indie world, and this project was progressive rock. Worlds apart in terms of production and textures. I hadn't mixed anything with Distorted guitars like that for years!
Perhaps a recording that could only have been captured at Studio Circuit or a session that utilised all the studio’s resources?
Well again, my band's soon to be released debut album “Rogue” was definitely one that utilised all our resources.
Having both Luka J and Toyah Hoetzel assist on the engineering side, PR work from Luka J and mastering from Tyson Ruth at the Brisbane HQ. It is true that many hands make light work.
I think it's also fair to assume that almost every piece of gear was used in some way during the making of the record.
With all that great gear, how much mixing do you do ‘in-the-box’?
All of it. At the Melbourne facility we “track dirty, mix clean”. Colour that bad boi as much as possible on the way to protools, but once it's there it doesn't leave till the job is done.
What plug-ins are exciting you right now?
I operate almost exclusively with UAD, Fabfilter and Soundtoys. I love anything from those companies. Although Lately I have been loving Soothe by Oeksound. It's so cool! Such a great and interesting tool!
Check out Studio Truth here: https://melbourne.studiotruth.com/
Short Studio glimpse: https://youtu.be/L8uA1hyffPM
Check out the Amphion range here: https://federalaudio.com.au/collections/amphion