When health issues left producer and bass player Matthew Herbert too disabled to work, he was faced with a stark choice. “It was either give in or get on with it,” he says. “I could either waste away in front of daytime TV or I could find something else to do. As I suffer from Arthritis and could no longer play bass, I decided to switch my focus to music production and build a small studio at home. It was definitely the right choice because I need to be occupied, otherwise I’d go nuts!”
It was also the right choice for Mat’s community in the West Midlands because he is now using his studio to help promising local musicians who need his expertise and technical facilities to get their music recorded, mixed and mastered.
“Lee Beddow, at AbbeySound, a local 8 track studio, will pass me material from people who clearly have the ability but can’t find the money for professional mastering,” Mat explains. “It’s great being able to help give someone a hand on the way up that they might not otherwise be able to afford.”
Mat adds that recording and production is something he has done for years as a hobby and he now takes great pleasure in helping people who are serious about what they do because he sees it as a way to give something back.
“I believe great records are made at the recording stage so I have invested in good equipment that allows me to really capture the emotion of the music I am recording,” he says.
Before he was forced to retire, Mat worked with Derek Holt (ex Climax Blues Band bassist and vocalist) for some years. He has also worked with well known fusion guitarist Carl Moreton and is also producing his own music with keyboard player/programmer Chris Leese and guitarist/orchestral arranger Si Rollinson under the alias ‘This…’. They are currently helping artists including Mae, Phil Heathcock and several others to develop their musical portfolios.
In recent weeks, Mat’s set-up has been boosted by two classic Neve units – an 8801 channel strip and an 8803 Dual Channel Equaliser. These now have pride of place in his new rack which he is using in conjunction with a computer running Cubase, Adam monitors, an RME interface and a selection of condenser microphones.
“I decided to invest in some high end Neve units because I love the legendary Neve sound,” he explains. “Many of the records I admire were recorded on Neve consoles and I wanted to emulate that silky smooth sound in my own productions. My new 8801 channel strip is ideal for recording and mixing because it gives me the sound I want and it is absolutely amazing in the high frequency range.”
Mat initially tested his 8801 by recording his own voice through a Neumann KM184 – a microphone he knows very well.
“The Neumann can sound very angry in the upper mids when I record it through my other channel strip, but with the 8801 it just sounds silky and expensive,” he says. “That was quite a shock – and a very pleasant one. I’ve since discovered the 8801 is also extremely flexible and a breeze to set up. The expander completely kills any room reflections and sounds entirely natural. There's definitely something very special going on with Neve that makes these units incredibly desirable.”
Mat believes that adding Neve to his studio has made a significant difference to the quality of his recordings. “The sound I’m getting is gorgeous,” he says. “I have an SSL channel strip as well as the 8801 and the two are really very different in terms of what they deliver. The SSL is like a brutish RS Turbo - fantastic in its own right – but the 8801 is like a McLaren road car that is less aggressive and smoother, and much silkier at the top end. I can see I’m going to have a LOT of fun with it!”
The 8803 is an incredible unit, it’s more than just a beautiful EQ, I use it as a line amp for boosting signals and it makes a wonderful DI for synths as I can filter and EQ them to pretty much where I want on ‘the way in’. It’s wonderful for tracking and adds buckets full of analogue goodness on the master bus when mixing…. I LOVE it!!!
The Recall software is handy too as my eyesight isn’t great these days so I use it to set both units as I can see the settings I’m using on screen.