Plugin Alliance: What were some of your earliest musical influences?
JC Concato: My dad was a musician and from an early age I was going on tour and rehearsals with the band, and we would spend all our travelling listening to music and singing along. The Beatles and Ennio Morricone were the records played a lot and have left a strong impression on me, and still are my biggest influences.
PA: Growing up, were you drawn to a particular style of music?
JC: As a teenager I was more into hard guitar stuff (hard rock and punk) and played as a drummer in many bands. Through Punk I then discovered bands like The Cure and Joy Division, which in turn led me to Electronic music through bands like Depeche Mode, New Order, Yellow, and Kraftwerk.
PA: What was the first piece of audio hardware you purchased?
JC: As my dad was demoing stuff, we had a home studio at home (Fostex 4 tracks, Roland TR707 drum machine, a Yamaha DX21 and CP 80). The first piece of gear I bought was a Roland DEP 5 fx processor as I was trying to get that big 80s drum sound. I still love some of the delays and chorus in that box.
PA: Were you writing songs with them, or just experimenting?
JC: I never learnt to play an instrument for the sake of playing, I was only interested in writing songs at first. I got into recording through writing, but with the home studio, I started experimenting as I was trying to make my demos sound like those records I loved, but it took me a while to discover the concept of production.
PA: When and how did you begin working in studios and how did that lead to remixing?
JC: I started working in studios as a programmer in the late 80s in France, then I moved to London early 90s with my band. I was already pretty comfortable operating a mixing desk, tape machine, etc… so when the band split up, I decided to start working in recording studios. I was lucky that there was a scheme in the UK which allowed me to do a training course in a recording studio, and after that the studio kept me on as an engineer, and within 6 months I was engineering for labels such as Talking Loud. Because of my background as a musician/ programmer, some artists I was engineering for, asked me to do additional production, which in turn led to production and remixing.
PA: You’ve been involved with hundreds of productions over the years. Could you tell us which ones you’re most proud of and why?
JC: It is difficult for me to pinpoint specific projects that I am proud of, but there are some records for which I have fond memories because of the process and the people involved. One of my first production / engineering job as a free lance was with a live funk band called Big Cheese All Stars in the early 90's (around the time of Acid Jazz). We recorded it all live at Wessex Studios, using exclusively vintage analogue gear. Not a single digital device was used. This project was a lot of fun, and that definitely came through on the record. I have also fond memories of the album I mixed for the late Bim Sherman, they brought me in as they were looking for a more ‘pop’ approach to the mix, he was a wonderful guy and it was sadly his last album. I also have special memories of the week I did recording demos for Bjork’s second album, she is one the most genuine and talented artist I had the privilege to work with.
PA: You’re currently the Head of Point Blank Music School. How did you get involved with Point Blank?
JC: I met Rob Cowan, who is the CEO/founder of Point Blank, when we were working on Pressure drop’s second album. We became friends and worked on several projects together at Matrix Recording Studios. In 2003, Rob contacted me to see if I would be interested to develop a mixing course, I wrote the course and taught it, which I really enjoyed and found rewarding. I started developing more courses at Point Blank, which led to my current role at the school.
PA: What are some of the benefits of a decentralized educational platform such as Point Blank?
JC: Everyone at Point Blank has a long experience working in the music industry, and although our courses are fully accredited and students can gain recognized academic qualifications, we aim to keep a certain freedom, which allows us to develop a curriculum tailored to the needs of the industry.
Students benefit from that experience and our approach provides an incredible shortcut - being taught production techniques by professionals. I did demo's for several years on my 4 tracks, then 8 track recordings etc.... And it wasn’t until I eventually started working in a professional recording studio that I began to learn the professional techniques for recording and production. Whereas by coming to Point Blank you start to learn the essential techniques right away, which I believe helps you to gain several years.
PA: What have some of the high points been over the past 12 years?
JC: The creation of our online platform has been one of the points for me. I believe we were one of the first schools to offer that level of interactivity online and we are since 2012 offering a full time Higher Education programme online. Our aim is to bridge the gap between education and the industry.
PA: Were you an early adopter of digital technology?
JC: I purchased my first sampler, a Roland S50 when it came out in 86, alongside the Roland MC500 4 tracks sequencer, that was a complete game changer. I quickly moved to sequencing with Atari and Emagic Creator. I also got a fairly big Pro Tools rig in the 90s, which brought me a lot of work as I could bring home full projects recorded in large studios, work on post production before mixing, which saved on studio costs.
PA: Have plugins changed your workflow over time? Are you able to utilize techniques that were more difficult to accomplish in the past?
JC: Yes definitely in terms of speed and ease of recall of course. I also find myself comparing different types of compressor or EQ a lot more now than I would have done with hardware. I think that I am also Eq’ing differently with plugins, I probably have a more precise approach when it comes to removing specifics resonance for example.
PA: When did you join the Alliance?
JC: I discovered Plugin Alliance through the Brainworx plugin bx_digital V2, which is still one of my favorite EQ for my master buss and home mastering.
PA: What are your favorite Plugin Alliance plugins and how do you use them?
JC: The MAAG EQ4 has definitely become my go-to plugin for adding air on the master buss and I insert it before balancing and EQ’ing. Brainworx bx_digital V2, and bx_control V2 are pretty much on every mastering project I work on. I am very keen to try the BX refinement plugin as I am still struggling with the top end in the digital domain.
PA: Any inspiring words for aspiring producers/engineers/musicians?
JC: Looking back on decisions and choices I made, I have a lot J but my main ones would have to be:
1- Do it for the right reason
2- Enjoy the process
3- Don’t aim to sound like….aim to be unique
For more information about Point Blank Online or to signup for courses, visit the Point Blank Online website.