There are many jobs involved in large-scale touring — and established front-of-house mixer Bryony October has pretty much done them all.
Times have changed since the career path for a would-be sound engineer began with a stint as a roadie, which, with luck, led to a spot of knob twiddling on a primitive mixer through to, well, who could tell? If the band you were working for went on to stardom and international tours and you went with them, the sky was the limit. Today, by contrast, the aspiring engineer is quite likely to have gone through some form of academic training before starting out on his or her career. It’s a different approach that is not without its merits, but there is still room for people with determination and ability to get to the top without making their way there via the classroom. Take Bryony October as a case in point. She’s one of the highest-rated live-sound engineers in the UK and has worked with a long list of major artists. She toured as a PA tech with James Morrison, Morcheeba, Embrace, Katherine Jenkins and Snow Patrol, working her way up as both tour manager and front-of-house engineer, and for the last 20 years has mixed for Laura Marling, Noisettes, Foxes, Billy Ocean and now Katie Melua and British female country duo Ward Thomas.
Her route into this career began at school. “At the age of 15 I got Year 10 work experience with the Levellers at their fan club, and kept going back to help out in all my school holidays from then on. I started officially touring with them in the late ’90s, around the time of my ‘A’ Levels, and through university as merch seller. Very early into selling merch, I’d started helping out with building PA and other audio setups, as I wanted to get stuck in and help with the sharp end of the gig, rather than be stuck selling T-shirts.
“I actually took one of the first ever ‘A’ Levels in music technology, but did miserably at it because they didn’t really have anyone to teach such a subject back then, so at 18 I thought I was hopeless at anything technical — but once I got to uni I joined the union technical crew and found my technical calling. Once I had some of the rudiments of how a mixing desk worked, from doing mainly DJs...
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