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70 Mastering the technique
Kmag went to West London’s Metropolis studios Stuart’s expertise lies in getting the loudest cuts to Stuart is one of 10 mastering engineers at
to talk with Stuart Hawkes, the man who’s mas- a dubplate or a digital recording, while maintain- Metropolis, which bills itself as the biggest inde-
tered everything from Goldie’s seminal ‘Timeless’ ing or improving the sound quality of the origi- pendent mastering house in Europe. Housed in a
to Pendulum’s massively successful album ‘Hold nal mix. It’s here that Stuart’s skill and the quality disused power station in Hounslow, Metropolis is
Your Colour’. of Metropolis’ custom-built mixing desk are so a constant hive of activity. Recently, members of
valuable. both Oasis and the Prodigy have attended master-
Stuart Hawkes is one of the unsung heroes of the ing sessions here.
drum & bass scene. He’s been mastering tracks “Anyone can just turn the track up and go louder
and cutting dubplates since the early ‘90s, putting and louder, but there’s a law of diminishing re- The building includes recording studios too.
the final touches to releases by artists from Alex turns,” says Stuart. “The louder you go the more During Kmag’s visit, Irish band Duke Special are
Reece to Chase & Status. you’re squashing something. And with squashing recording a live vinyl cut to celebrate the 60th an-
comes distortion. I find when you use the analog niversary of the 7” record. Engineers connected
For a man whose successes include ‘Pulp Fiction’ desk you can push that harder, you can get away their mics directly to a lathe to cut four songs as
and ‘Slam’ as well as non-drum & bass hits in- with more without it distorting. the band play, just as was done in the early days
cluding Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back to Black’, Stuart of recording.
is remarkably down to earth. He casually explains “With drum & bass, you can introduce distortion
how, at age 16, he got into mastering by mistake. into a track and doesn’t necessarily sound hor- Kmag lets Stuart have the final word on why pro-
As a keen drummer and hi-fi lover, he’d intend- rible,” he adds. “It can actually add to the excite- ducers should bring their work to Metropolis:
ed to get a job in a recording studio. But, turning ment of the track and the energy. But not every “Predominantly, because of the job that we do
up on his first day, he realised his employer was track can take it. You don’t want to kill the bass and because we offer a reasonable price. I’ve been
actually a mastering house. end to the kick and make the roundness of the cutting since the beginning of drum & bass, since
bass suffer, just to get the track loud.” the days me, Peshay and Bukem would come in
The accident turned out to be a stroke of luck, be- for sessions. Cutting from the very beginning
cause Stuart began his career just at the dawn of the Stuart has seen the drum & bass scene grow from I’ve got a pretty good understanding of what to do
digital era, in a studio with one of the first digital its infancy and, as well as being a technician, he is with drum & bass tracks. People come back again
mastering rooms. He’s now spent 20 years work- a fan, though he admits he rarely goes to drum & and again. So I can’t be doing too much wrong!”
ing in mastering and occupied the same room at bass raves these days. Kmag asked which of Stuart’s
Metropolis mastering studios for the last 12. many releases is his favourite. Stuart’s prices have recently changed, as have a lot
of the engineers rates at Metropolis. With multi-
Stuart fondly remembers the social side of the “Some of the older albums are the ones I’m most ple savings for bigger orders they can cater for any
job as much as the bread-and-butter mastering proud of. Some of the classics like ‘Timeless’,” mastering needs and answer any questions you
work. He recalls dubplate cutting sessions with says Stuart. “But my favourite album, which I still may have. Should you have a query or would like
10 to 15 DJs sitting in the room with him. Miles listen to now, is ‘Logical Progression’, the first to make a booking, please contact Dan Baldwin:
Showell, a colleague at Metropolis, remembers one. I think it’s a great album. Still sounds excit- / 0208 742 1111
that on Fridays, the studio car park would be full ing and musical.”
of Mercedes – the vehicles of top-name DJs, who
were all waiting for dubs to take to weekend raves.
K68-70_Mastering.indd 70 19/3/09 14:48:41
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