Catherine Marks trained in one of the world's most demanding professions — then gave it all up to make tea in a studio...
"It feels like home, because I've been around this building for so long," says Catherine Marks of Assault & Battery Studio 2 in Willesden, North-West London. The facility has been her HQ since she joined as assistant to producer and co-owner Flood in 2005. In that time, she's engineered, produced and mixed dozens of projects in here, in her own small studio downstairs and in Assault & Battery 1, the SSL mix room down the hall. Her impressive list of credits to date includes records by Wolf Alice, the Killers, St Vincent, the Wombats and Foals.
Recently, Studio 2 has undergone a refurbishment, its Neve VR console replaced by a Cadac G-series. Flood and his business/production partner Alan Moulder bought the console from Radiohead, who first used it to record their 1997 landmark album OK Computer; prior to that, it had lived at Wessex Studios in North London, where it was employed on classic recordings by the likes of the Sex Pistols, Queen and the Clash.
"I've always loved the sound of that room," says Marks, gesturing towards Studio 2's live room. "But it was very wild, quite reflective. I always embraced that. But since the refurb, everything is a lot more controlled, 'cause there's big curtains at the back now and we've got curtains for all the windows. So you can still have the wildness, but I'm really starting to hear the sound of the room more. I like using a space and capturing the sound of the space, because that's sort of unique to the room that you're recording in. It becomes like another personality or another character for what you're recording."
Born in Melbourne, Catherine Marks studied piano from the age of four, and wrote and scored pieces for her school orchestra. "I don't know how I did that, because I would have no idea how to do that now!" she laughs. "I do it more now in MIDI, or I use the Solina [String Ensemble] and I'm imagining myself playing a violin.
"Towards the end of school, there was no specific route that I could see to get into music. I didn't know whether I wanted to be a performer, and I got horrible stage fright as well, so that would have been a stupid avenue. But I was more interested in making music, rather than being the centre of attention in that way."
Adopting a safer plan, Marks ended up studying architecture for three years. For her compulsory fourth year out in the workplace, she relocated to Dublin, where she began to mix with various musicians in the city's vibrant music scene. Then, one night in April 2001, at a Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds show at the Olympia Theatre, she met Flood, and told him about her ambitions to work in music production.
"He said, 'If you're interested in working in the music industry, go back home, finish your degree,'" she remembers. "I'm like, 'Aw but I don't wanna.' He's like, 'You should and your parents will thank me as well. Go and join bands and do a load of stuff, write songs. Because if you want to do what I do, it's a big sacrifice and a big commitment. Let's see where we are in a couple of years.'"
Marks took Flood's advice, moved back to Australia, played keyboards in a '50s-inspired rock & roll band called the Harlocks, finished her architecture degree and a Masters degree, and then moved to London, where she found herself making cups of tea at Assault & Battery. "I did think that I would be walking in and suddenly producing albums," she laughs. "So it was like a rude awakening when I suddenly realised, for the next four years, I'm gonna be making cups of tea and maybe learning how to plug things in."
Starting as an assistant back in 2005, Marks had to learn quickly and intensively. The one overriding lesson she says she's learned is that record-making is all about gaining and maintaining trust in the creative process between producer and artist. "I mean, that is a lot of what this business is, I think," she says. "It's about trust in what you know, trust in the equipment that you're using. Trust in the assistants. The...
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