Job Envy: Graduate to music producer

ANY STUDENT hoping to kick into the music industry is set to face a stressful future. Positions at record companies are highly competitive, and in a small town like Aberystwyth it can seem even more impossible to find the experience and exposure necessary. Meet Steffan Woodruff, a student who took matters into his own hands by creating his own online music service. He now works in and around Aber, and will soon be launching his own independent recording company. We caught up with Steffan to find out more:
grains of sound
What services does Roughwood Records provide?
Roughwood Records provides online mixing and mastering service for signed/unsigned artists. In brief, the artist would send me their song(s) in separate tracks, and I would then process each track, tidy it all up, build the song up so it’s well balanced and then polish it all up (mastering). I then send it back as a high quality, completed track.
What, in your opinion, makes Roughwood Records different from other recording companies and businesses?
I’m one of the only mobile recording and mastering services in Aberystwyth at this point in time. This means I get to work in so many different and amazing spaces, meeting so many different talented people along the way. For example I recorded the singer songwriter Laszlo Xavia in the Oriel at Canolfan Arad Goch – so I am very flexible.  I also play a few instruments and am classically trained so I can step back and look at possible orchestrations that are more feasible in a recording environment than when being played live.
What inspired you to start your own recording company as a student?
I started Roughwood Records in the summer between second and third year of university.  I was studying Music Technology at the University of York at the time, and for me the course didn’t focus enough on the creative recording, mixing and mastering side. It focussed instead on the electronics of the devices used to achieve the recordings, which gave me a great understanding and respect for the equipment I use. By this time I had been recording for almost 6 years, and I thought I might as well start the service. The motivation came from a certain amount of boredom and frustration post-university. A love for music would be the best way to describe the beginnings of Roughwood Records.
What advice would you give to students hoping to enter the music technology or radio business?
Don’t do it, unless you are willing to forgo sleep and a social life for the majority of your time.  This type of work doesn’t fall in the category of the 9-5 jobs.  You start early in the morning and you finish late into the night.  You stare at a screen for hours and hours looking at small wiggly lines. You will get frustrated over the fact that the cables are all knotted and you will tear your hair out over the smallest hiss or buzz or random sound that shouldn’t be there. Granted, you do get to socialise with the artists, and if you end up doing live sound you do get to see people, but you will stress out over the fact that the crowd, and sometimes artists, are drunk and you have thousands of pounds worth of kit about the place and one small spill and you’ll be in tears. At the start you will also be rather poor.  You have to work for no money at the beginning getting your name out there; slaving for hours for a meagre 10p an hour, and the money you do get will go on new bits of kit or fixing old stuff.
In the end, if all of the above doesn’t bother you, then you are probably right for the job.  It’s really down to love. If you love doing it enough that you will suffer these things day in and day out, you’ll get addicted to coffee and probably see waveforms everywhere. It will ruin recreational music listening; you will analyse each bit wondering how they got that kick sound or that vocal effect etc.  But if you love it enough, you really don’t care.
 You’ve been looking for music artists and producers in Aberystwyth, what sort of music have you found in this area?
I have found such a vast range of musicians around the area, from singer songwriters to D’n’B producers and Bohemian gypsy folk bands to rappers.  We have people like Stu Hampton, a singer-songwriter that hails back to the Beatles and Bowie era of bohemia-esque LSD style acoustic tunes. You have bands such as Beacons, who go for the heavy grungier style of playing, distortion fuelled madness.  You have people like Gater who raps over locally produced beats and you have producers such as Roughion and Aeron who cover a large span of electronica.
And you have a compilation album coming out in March?
So yeah, the Compilation Grains of Sound should be coming out on the 21st of March.  There will be a limited number of physical copies being handed out for free at the event, more details will be given out closer to the time.  But if you are unable to get your hands on a physical copy, it will be available as a download off my website after the launch party.
Finally, what ways can students get more involved in the music scene in Aberystwyth?
There are such a small amount of opportunities for these artists to perform around here since the closure of the infamous RAFA club, though the nights we do have are worth supporting.  You have Rewired music and the paper club for all your acoustic needs, and you have DJ nights such as Funk’d, Fuse, JDC and others for all your electronic dance music needs.  These are all run by students or local musicians and occur in different pubs around Aberystwyth.
If you as students would like to get involved with Roughwood Records in any way to create a more cohesive scene in Aberystwyth then get in touch.
You can contact Steffan or find out more at his website!