Ampé | Marshall Cullen – Be Brave With Your Music
I made my way to the industrial area of West Gosford, down an alley leading to an unassuming warehouse. I organized a pre-containment visit to music industry veteran Marshall Cullen. Inside is a music studio established for over 35 years in various locations, from Ultimo to Balmain to now the Central Coast, Damien Gerards Studio.
DG’s is one of the oldest operating recording facilities in Australia and has recorded some of the best in Australian gaming, such as INXS, Silverchair and Grinspoon.
Studio director Marshall Cullen has been an integral part of the studio, building it for many years. An industry veteran for over 30 years, both locally and internationally, Marshall has covered many areas of the music industry, from record production to management, A&R, marketing, touring and live recording. international releases, music publishing and movie syncs.
Marshall and I sit in the mixing room next to a one-of-a-kind SSL desk to chat.
Marshall started out young in Tasmania, he would sit down and make arrangements for songs, and so quickly developed an appreciation for sound. Not very fond of piano on guitar, he found his strengths behind the scenes, setting up the stages and designing the live sound.
Marshall’s favorite music to work with.
“People tend to hang on to music they heard in their mid to late teens. For me it’s the ’60s and’ 70s, the Beatles, the Stones Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Elvis. But I grew up mixing 80s music, Little River Band, Hudugurus, which I still manage, and The Oils.
“The really big difference between digital and analog is taking the audio part and turning it into zeros and ones, so that takes out the electronic part and becomes a digital file.
Analog was a direct electrical reproduction of what was going on with the microphone, whereas digital takes that source and turns it into zeros and ones.
It’s better than tape because there is no noise, but there is definitely something about recording to tape, especially for musicians, the sound it makes versus the sound. digital, that’s one of the main reasons vinyl has made a comeback, it’s because of the sound ”
Marshall and I discussed the similarities between old movies and old music material. There is a different connection between the viewer and the artwork which has been discussed in depth. Digital just doesn’t enlighten us in the same way as 16mm film and tape recordings for music.
With the digital revolution, I asked Marshall if he thought talent had been diluted since everyone is able to correct mistakes so easily.
“I don’t think it’s watering down, it’s just finding talent in a new way. In the past you really had to earn your ribs and be amazing on the instrument, now everyone has access and that’s a good thing so potentially there are things coming out of people that would never have happened before. .
“Even the term producer has changed. It was the guide who supervised the whole project, now the producer means a guy in his room doing the song. So I think the entry point is a lot lower than before, so yeah it makes a lot of mediocre music, but not everyone is going to sign, so there’s still that filter, but that means a artist can come out of nowhere. You can make a Tash Sultana appear without a label ”
The Damien Gerard studio is the name of the company of two brothers who arranged the space of the original studio.
“I joined the team in ’85 with another guy from Tasmania and I finally had this huge playing field, I learned engineering. I had the vision to take it from a demo studio to a full recording studio, and we got there in 1992. “
When they finally got to the Central Coast studio, they loaded 4 onto a 3 ton truck during the one-year school vacation.
The all-new original SSL console, a legendary console from the 80s, is the only one in Australia. Marshall explains “They improved the original by incorporating the classic eqs but also by having modern parts. They put everything together in this set, a modern vintage desk and they built it all by hand.
Vintage tubes, preamps and mics also sit around us. “Microphones are the source of everything, AKGs, Neumans, whatever you usually see from the ’60s.”
The studio also has engineers and producers packed with knowledge, which only adds to their tool belt.
The rest of our conversation was about authenticity and the future of music.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s harder to be authentic, that it’s harder to be original.
You can take any genre and be authentic to it, but it feels like everything has been done in terms of genres.
The only thing left for people to play with, or aspire to, is to make music with robots or have robots make music.
Marshall thinks digital should be a tool and that’s it. Put the pauses on, that’s one of the things he doesn’t like about directing new music.
“Natural singers now naturally sound like robots, even before you put the effects on. “
Ellen: What kind of music do we need now?
“We need music that makes people feel good, rather music that demeans them.
Music that people can connect to too.
As soon as I hear that robotic voice, I can’t get into the lyrics.
We are discussing how there seem to be, far less groundbreaking songs.
“The whole world has this blandness going on. There aren’t a lot of protest songs. There is a lot more fear in society than before.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, an Australian artist could live in a squat and survive. Now there are no more squats, you cannot survive, you are just a homeless person. There was more room for creativity in people’s lives.
“There is more control of the media. People are looking at their screens and those screens can be controlled. The media have become so much more powerful. There is a silver lining to this, you get to know if bushfires are near you, but like any tool, it can be misused. Powerful media companies can’t help it, there’s the market, we can just push those few buttons.
Marshall encourages, despite what is happening in the world, musicians to dare their songs and their power.
“Someone likes the tones and I, you can have that seamless stuff that gets you to one place, but when you get there with all that reach, that audience listening, use it to say something.”
Like the Beatles, they started with “I Wanna hold your hand” and then dated Sergeant Pepper.
To book with Damien Gerard Studios and meet Marshal, also visit the site.