The Iso Files: Tim Powles (The Church)

Monday, 29 June 2020 9:51 am

Where you are in isolation: Inner-west Sydney, Australia – within walking distance to the river, in my own home - and above my own studio.

What projects you are working on: At the onset of the iso stage, I was working on multiple projects, all I had played on at some point, so some more playing, a lot of engineering and production. That had all started at the beginning of 2020, in mixed-up, eclectic sessions every week, including a few days a week on new album completion for my band, The Church, doing vocal sessions with Steve, our singer, shaping, writing, arranging tracks jammed up in late 2019, liaising with band members overseas and interstate, working with an artist from Canberra, Michael P Cullen, on his tracks that we recorded to tape in 2018 and a whole bunch of other stuff. As iso progressed, I made a call to close the studio door for a few months and took a much-needed break from the band album and the intense jobs - and stripped back to a solo project, with some remote sessions.

What gear you are using: I have a Toft AB console modded, a collection of pre-amps and mics - an eclectic assortment, MCI 16 track 2” tape machine and, more conventionally, 32 inputs Apogee Symphony system running mainly Logic X, some ProTools, some Ableton and a pile of keys/synths.

I have three kits in the studio, none entirely conventional in sound or appearance! There’s a fourth upstairs - part of my main touring kit in Australia. I have two SPD set-ups: one I just use as a controller to a large collection of virtual drum machines (Heartbeat, Softube, Breaktweaker, Izotope) and a little cheapie by Audio Thing called SR88. I have triggers on two of the kits and Ashton amps on the floor to feed samples through as mix/hybrid with the acoustic drums. I feed mics lying on the floor into FX and record it all, often with no direct lines. My other fave drum machine or sound source is the Teenage Engineering PO32.

What you miss most: The touring: I’ve been touring and a lot in the USA and, more recently, much more in the UK/Europe, and I tend to create a lot on the road, get super-fit in play mode - from long two- to two-and-a-half-hour sets every show (often seven shows a week). It’s an energy that you take into everything you do.

I’m not missing work for others too much at the moment because iso has been the perfect time to insulate and complete things for myself. But, you can’t survive without a sense of feedback in the end - a sanity check. I really miss the feeling I get when there’s someone else around - and I’m being bombarded with the sixth studio send – it’s unspoken: you just suddenly know what you have to do - or not do!

How you think this experience is going to change music production going forward: There’s a big shift to making and selling everything anyone needs to do anything on their own. Now everyone’s getting the same tools and ingredients and the noise we’re making is just bigger and bigger. I like the idea of NOT knowing what anyone else is doing! I also see some people embracing the AI and robot-inspired creative - and I see the fight-back resistance with more organic processes and time spent doing things the long, hard way.