Interview with Producer Alex Cooper of Arkham Studios


Alex Cooper bannerInterview by Jason Guest

Jason: Hi Alex. Thanks for taking time out for this interview. Can you tell us about how you got started at Arkham Studios and how your career developed to become manager?

Alex: Yeah, well I started working at the Madhouse really fresh out of college at the enthusiastic age of 20 and I got lucky really, for a long time I thought it was because I had studied and passed all my grades in music etc. but I found out it was just because Jaci liked my hair! So image can matter, ha ha!

I worked at the Madhouse for a number of years doing a bit of everything really and still do; I think a lot of people think it’s all glitz and glamour in the music industry but there is a hell of a lot of toilet cleaning and tidying up after messy bands that goes on behind the scenes no matter what level you’re at.

Arkham started about 3 years ago. I wanted to develop myself with the recording side of things and it just seemed like the right move. I had been engineering in that room for about 4 to 5 years before that after JT from Budgie had his guitar shop in there, so I knew I could get results. It’s nice when you work in a place where you can learn as you go; Jaci and Roy put a lot of trust in us to develop the things we were passionate about.

We made a few adjustments to the control room, introducing a vocal booth for the dry environment and over the years we have improved the gear.

Jason: You studied Performance, Theory, Studio and Music Tech, Drum, Guitar and Vocal education and theory at Walsall College for two years. Has what you learned there helped with your career?

Alex: Oh definitely. The things I learned at Walsall and before that at Dartmouth have helped me so much; college was a breath of fresh air musically. I remember being hit with so much new music it really opened me up to the world.

Alex CooperJason: Some think that creativity, particularly in music, is not something that can or perhaps should be taught. What’s your view on music and technology being taught in schools and colleges?

Alex: Er, I think a skill can be taught to a certain level but a talent will always go one further, and that’s the difference and usually what you pay more for.

Jason: You worked with Andrew Faulkner (producer of Bolt Thrower, among others). What was it like to work with him? And what was it that you learnt from him?

Alex: Andy was amazing, a massive influence for me early on in my career; his attention to detail was brilliant. Andy came at things from a very old school way of doing things, which could be time consuming but it taught me a lot about the way I wanted to produce. He had an amazing way of getting the best out of you, something I always wanted to mimic and learn.

Jason: When working with bands in the studio, how involved do you get with the music? How creative are you allowed to be?

Alex: Depending on the band and the power struggles that go on, I like to be heavily involved. At the end of the day it’s going out there with my name on too.

Most of the time it depends on the band and the situation behind the recording; if you’re getting paid by the band its best not to piss them off too much; if it’s the management of a label, sometimes you get a different brief.

Jason: What’s been the most rewarding production experience you’ve had so far in your career?

Alex: I’ve had some amazing moments in my career so far couldn’t really put my finger on one. Most of the bands are awesome to work with and it’s good that I have been lucky enough to do album with people that are on the same page as me in attitude as well as musically.

Jason: With technology advancing at a rapid pace and becoming available at affordable prices, what kind of impact has that had on studios?

Alex: I tend to find that the style of production is almost as personal as the songs themselves and for that reason people will always use studios and producers.

The industry is changing so we will see what kind of affect this has on studios but I love doing what I do and I’m as enthusiastic with the bands I work with as my own band.

Jason: How do you stay ahead?

Alex: It’s interesting really; people have been producing albums that have sounded great since the 40s without the latest plugins and gadgets so I guess having a good pair of ears is the main thing to stay ahead.

Jason: You work in the studio and the venue at the Madhouse/Asylum. What are the main differences between the two environments? For you, which is the most challenging and which the most satisfying to work in?

Alex: Well, obviously the two are very different; in the studio it’s a lot more controlled and not a fly by the seat of your pants as in the live venue. It’s good to do live stuff as well as the studio though; it keeps you sane and your perspective fresh

Jason: You play drums in Hanging Doll. Which do you prefer, playing or producing?

Alex: Much to the dismay of my band if it came down to it, producing. Don’t get me wrong, I love both but I’ve never been a fan of the logistics involved in gigging. With the producing I still get the high with less of the messing around. I suppose I get the best of both worlds when I produce my band but that has its own complications! Hahaha!

Jason: Does your production work influence your work with Hanging Doll? How?

Alex: Fresh minds, new ideas, I suppose. Hanging Doll have never been about standing still musically so I guess everything I’m influenced by in the studio, even people have an effect.

Me as a producer, I’m always open to new music and new sounds and new ideas so with the environment I am in it’s always gonna influence what I do in my own band.

Jason: Alex, thanks for taking time out for this interview.

  • If you want to find out more about Alex you can do so here.
  • And more details of Arkham Studios can be found here.