With the 2016 MPG Awards fast approaching, we take five minutes to chat to another of this year’s nominees. Tom Dalgety has achieved many career defining moments over the last few years. After the sudden success of the number one debut album by BRIT Award winners Royal Blood, he took home the MPG Breakthrough Producer Award in 2015. Following that, he’s produced albums for some of the biggest names in rock and alternative, including Opeth, Killing Joke, and Dinosaur Pile-Up.
Achieving a second consecutive nomination for the prestigious ‘UK Producer of the Year’ award, sponsored by the BRIT Awards, Tom tells us about his long-term love affair with Avid Pro Tools, and how he creates incredible music with the industry-standard audio production software.
What is the very first thing that comes to mind when you think of Pro Tools?
Initially, I think of the old blue and yellow logo on the old 888 interfaces and the mouse matt that used to come with TDM systems!
How have you and Avid/Pro Tools grown together over the years?
The first Pro Tools system I owned was a Digi-001, running version 5… and at the time I thought it was the best thing ever! Now I’m on Pro Tools HDX – so I guess that we’ve both grown together quite considerably!
Why have you chosen to rely on Pro Tools?
It’s all I’ve ever used, so I’m totally confident in the protocols and the system as a whole.
How do you use Pro Tools? Song writing/composition? Mixing? What is your process and workflow like?
I use Pro Tools for every stage of the production process on a project. From demoing, through tracking and programming, and then onto mixing. I usually go to one of my favourite studios, Rockfield or RAK, to track and then bring it back to my own studio to mix and do a few overdubs. Pro Tools allows me to be completely flexible and I usually take my main rig with me wherever I go, meaning I can always work to my maximum potential.
What are your favourite features in Pro Tools?
Some of my favourite features are basic ones that make my life as a producer so much easier, things like ‘shuffle mode’ and ‘relative grid’. I also really love placing in beat IDs to make detailed tempo maps, which as far as I know, is something you can’t do in other DAWs.
Do you use Pro Tools with other software or hardware? How does that openness and synergy enhance your process?
Yes – I run my B rig (HD 3 accel) with Apogee rosettas.
Do you use a lot of virtual instruments? How has Pro Tools recent support for more and larger VIs impacted your work?
Yes sometimes, but this really depends on the project. I tend to use BFD a lot if I’m writing drum parts. I also like the Vacuum synth and it was something I used a lot on the Killing Joke album.
Have you experienced the benefits of any new features in recent updates of Pro Tools, like the Avid Audio Engine and 64-bit processing?
For me, the expanded delay compensation has been an absolute game changer! It’s just made mixing in the box so much more flexible, and was the main reason I took the plunge and bought HDX if I’m honest. Also, being able to bounce multiple outputs simultaneously on a project is really nice.
Any notable plug-ins that you just can’t live without?
I love all the classics really – LoFi, sansamp, and anything from Moogerfooger. I’m also a huge UAD fan and really love the ‘Fatso’. I’ve also really got into the Boz Labs +10DB stuff lately too.
Tell us about you, your musical tastes and influences, and what led your career in this direction?
I like all sorts of music, but in terms of production, the artists I find most inspiring are probably The Beatles, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Depeche Mode, Pink Floyd, David Bowie and Queens of the Stone Age.
I was playing guitar in a band initially, and when we first went to a proper recording studio, I just loved it and didn’t want to leave… so I didn’t!
Since then, I’ve had the privilege to assist and engineer for loads of brilliant producers like John Leckie, Steve Osborne and Spike Stent and have learnt so much from all of them.
What are some of your favourite and most pinnacle moments of your career so far?
I suppose working with Royal Blood from their inception, through to having a number one album and a Mercury Music Prize nomination is a pretty big moment! Also – working on two albums with Killing Joke is another highlight as they’re one of my all-time favourite bands.
How do you differentiate yourself in order to stay competitive and ahead of the game?
I think I tend to approach things a little differently to a lot of modern producers, especially in the world of rock. I don’t like things to be too neat and tidy – its rock, so I try and keep things as raw as I can, and I find it’s more exciting that way. It’s always better if you can get it right at the source and capture it, rather than meticulously piece things together and overthinking something.
How has the evolution of technology changed the way that you work?
It’s made a lot of the administrative procedures much faster, which is great. I’d say the bulk of how I work hasn’t changed much, just the extra benefits that come with each update.
What advice would you give people who want to get started doing what you do?
My advice is to just dive in at the deep end and start doing it. The most important things can’t be taught, and you need to figure them out for yourself.
How does it feel to be nominated for an MPG Award?
It’s an amazing honour – being acknowledged by people who have inspired me throughout my life, and whom I respect is absolutely incredible.
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