How to image Capital and Capital Xtra – Meet Ashley…

Ashley Bard Capital Xtra

Lately I discovered Ashley’s work on Daryl’s blog and I knew right away this guys needs to be interviewed. Especially his work for Capital Xtra  blew me away – I love how he uses Filters, Stutters and rhythmic in general to create a new world of sound attached to the regular Capital brand, but far away enough to keep an own character. Check Ashley’s audio, hsi screen caps, read about his tips and tricks and enjoy one of the UK’s rising Imaging stars.

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1. Which production system do you use and why?

Protools is definitely industry standard here in the UK and I run Pro Tools 10 HD on a Mac Pro, I’ve been using the software for roughly 7 years now and I still learn new things most days.
I like its clean approach, the way it operates and the way it incorporates video which is handy now we work on our TV brands.

2. What are your favourite PlugIns? What is the perfect VO chain?

Recently my favourite plug in is probably AIR’s Filter Gate, I guess it’s sort of become the sonic logo of Capital XTRA, the best thing about it is there’s so many ways of using it on automation so it doesn’t sound the same, our Head of Production keeps us on our toes to keep ourselves and do things differently, the plug-in comes with over 30 patterns yet lets you customise them for that unique sound.
As far as the perfect VO Chain goes, I’m a bit of a sucker for a thin voice but it’s great to have that thick voice channel to work as a bullet point, to punctuate the word. We run a wide variety template for VO here so our station voices are constant across the 7 producers, I run a mono audio track which has an EQ and L1 Limter on it bused it into an Aux track for a small bit of verb which is  home to Rverb, EQ & compression.

3. How do you schedule your work?

Now we have our new nationwide Dance and Urban station Capital XTRA & Capital TV our workload has increased from just the original Capital FM in London & across the network. Our Head of Production is New Zealand’s Chris Nicoll, he’ll distribute the Imaging work across the team. We also have someone doing a similar distributing job for the sponsorship & promotions, these will just be briefs, it’s up to the producer to write, voice and produce.
I like to work with everything in front of me so ‘I know what’s on my plate’. I keep a note of what I’m working on day-to-day by using an application called Evernote, I have a formatted Monday to Friday table which is my weekly list, I write in the projects I’m working on in order of importance so I can move a project to the next day if needed, once the job’s complete I tick the box. This can also store all the briefs so everything’s kept together. This then automatically syncs across all my devices, iPad, iPhone, Mac etc – so wherever I am I know what’s on and it’s also great for personal organisation.

4. What do you love about working for the global brands?

Global definitely has a family feel, it’s home to the UK’s best-loved radio stations such as Heart, Capital and Classic to name a few, at this moment in time we keep 20.7 million listeners tuned in and entertained each week. Global know’s how to look after you and it’s warming to see how big it is with home to 8 brand, as well as two tv stations & artist management.
Three times a year we put on huge concerts with world dominating artists, 2 nights at Capitals Jingle Bell Ball at London’s O2 Arena for 16,000 people and Capital’s Summertime Ball at London’s world-famous Wembley Stadium for 80,000. Working at these events backstage give you a team-work adrenaline rush that feels far greater than any drug could ever give you, you leave feeling proud to work for Global and proud to have such great teammates, hearing the crowd cheer and knowing you paid a part in making this happen is incredible. We also do great award-winning outside broadcasts and through Global I’ve been lucky enough to travel a bit of the world, imaging shows in Rio De Janeiro, Venice & Paris.

5. What is the best protools or production trick anybody should know?

Firstly, for the last year I’ve been working exclusively in Pro Tools Elastic Time & Grid Mode – it’s a life changer. It takes a bit of getting used too but it does hugely increase the sound of your production and makes you wonder how you ever produced without it.
If I was to offer up a tip, It would be learn the keyboard shortcut for ‘Snap to Beat’. Click where you want to place the audio, then left click the audio you want to move whilst holding ctrl. You won’t believe how much time it saves you.

6. How do you get inspired and what do you use as scource of creativity? What means the term “creative Imaging” to you?

As well as being one of the Imaging Producers for Capital, I specialise in the imaging for our London Breakfast Show, it’s a very competitive market with rivals like Kiss 100 & BBC’s Radio 1 & 2. The competitive rivalry keeps me inspired to keep the Number 1 crown we’ve held for over 4 years. Even though we work to certain brand guidelines, our team of 7 are all individuals and we all do things differently, we learn off each other and our HOP Chris is probably the best producer I’ve ever seen & heard, he’s unbelievable and we’re lucky to have him as a mentor. I also love a snoop around Soundcloud to see what people have been up too, I also do a ‘listen abroad’ every couple of months and listen to a couple hours of radio to see what people do across the pond.
Creative imaging to me means doing something differently, everyone’s capable of putting voice over a bed but what makes yours better? What makes someone say, “how did you do that?”.

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7. Who were your radio production idols, who influenced your work as a  producer?

In 2003 I dreamt of working for what was then the UK’s biggest radio company GWR, home of 34 radio stations, there was a producer there called ‘Small Paul’ aka Paul Rushforth (@smallproducer), he was incredible, not that he’d ever admit it himself but he made production like know one else – it stood out so much and was the definition of ‘cool’. I  got to work with Small and learnt a lot from him, he eventually left the company to work for Music4 in London and now he’s freelancer in his own studio out in Cyprus, he’s done pretty well eh? Sun sea sand & cocktails. Damn.

8. What would be your 3 key advises for a youngster?

1) Be Persuasive

10 years ago I begged my local radio station to give me work experience, I was so involved in those 3 days they made a big mistake and said, “Come back whenever you want”. I went back everyday after school and volunteered for 2 years until I turned 16 when they said, “You basically work here, here’s a contract”. I was being paid for 2 hours a day but worked 8 hours and loved every minute of it, doing all the jobs no one wanted to do – it was my door way and I grabbed it with both hands. We’ve recently had two interns who were like this and they’ve gone on to be producers at stations in the UK.

2) Get some software and play around

There’s plenty of free software packages you can get, for example Audacity or Garage Band with Mac, they’re not amazing but they’re definitely enough for you to get your head around how music works, how to cut up audio and do a fade. Then test yourself, take a song and try to take a minute out of it with the lyrics still making sense, or extend the intro with the perfect loop, or brand the front of the song with your own voice and a couple royalty free sound design FX.

3) Be Willing & Available.

You’re more likely to get into radio as work experience or an intern if you’re willing to be on hand whenever needed, if you look interested you look more attractive.

Thanks to Ashley for sharing his work and tips with us!

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