Did you always want to be a sound engineer and tour manager? How did you start your journey?
I studied Popular Music Production at University intending to become a studio engineer/mixer. During my course, I had to do a placement year working in the industry, and I did this in a live music venue where I started to enjoy mixing live bands. After finishing my placement, I jumped straight into working in multiple live venues and networking with people.
From there I went on to split my time between live music venues and assisting and engineering in a studio, which gave me plenty of opportunities to meet people. Eventually, this led to me being asked to go on tour as a sound engineer, and from there I’ve just built up my network of bands that trust me and know my work. The tour management side came later when my obsession to know what was going on all the time turned into me taking charge and being the one organizing everyone else and the tour.
Besides being active on your Instagram @himynameisjameshill, you also share tips and tricks on your Instagram and YouTube account @rattlinbonesclub. What made you want to dedicate an account to stories about live sound and touring?
I've always enjoyed sharing more BTS bits on Instagram. It started with an account called @WhileSheTechs which was me giving others a look at all the different crew member roles and jobs from the band While She Sleeps. But then during the lockdown, I thought I'd expand this to @RattlinBonesClub to not be limited to just talking about that one band.
I realized that most of the bits that make my mix more exciting are usually little tips I get from other engineers on the road and not something that is taught so this gave me the chance to share these with other people just starting.
Educating and engaging with the community seems very important to you. Through your Rattlin Bones Club, you often share content that shows what the tour looks like behind the scenes, advice, and tricks that make everyday life on tour easier. What does your community look like now?
It's mainly younger people who are wanting to get into the industry and may be off on their first tour or still trying to get their foot in the door. I often get questions asking for advice and info on different things, it's not just limited to audio either.
I’d love the community to grow and include all different roles from the touring industry with everyone being able to share advice with each other. I'm currently looking at building a Discord server for everyone to be a part of and become a place to get advice from like-minded people.
What are the most rewarding and most difficult aspects of your work?
The most rewarding part is when I finish a successful tour and look back at all the hard work that went into making it work for the bands and their fans every night. Sometimes mid tours I don’t see the big picture as I’m too in-depth into my job and making sure everything is working as it should be, but it is rewarding to know the bands are happy with my work and I get asked back or recommended to other people.
The most difficult part is being away from my family for long periods. I often come home for maybe one week and then I’m out again with a different band.
What is the go-to mic that help you deliver the best quality in your everyday work and how important is it to have products you can rely on?
A mic that made a big difference for me was the AE6100. When I first swiped my vocals over to this microphone it was instantly clear that this was the correct choice. I now had clarity and durability in my setup, and I haven’t looked back since.
AE6100 Hypercardioid Dynamic Microphone
How about headphones? What are the features you value?
It's got to be the M50’s - I take a pair with me worldwide as my go-to set. Having a reliable set of headphones for a live mix is essential and the M50’s have always been great. The quality is amazing, and I can always rely on them to know what my solo’d channel or even my full mix should sound like during a chaotic live show.
ATH-M50x Studio Monitor Headphones
In your free time, you're still busy recording videos and podcasts. Can you talk us through your setup?
For video, I’m using a Canon M50 as my main camera and my iPhone 13 Pro. For podcasts, I’ve been using a Focusrite Scarlett and after trying a few different mic options, I recorded most of the While She Techs Podcast using an ATM250DE and just using the condenser mic channel from that. It gave me a nice clean signal which is exactly what I wanted.
What can your followers expect in the future? Are you working on any new projects you would like to share with us?
I'm just continuing to build up the RBC YouTube channel and Instagram as much as I can when I have free time. I'm trying to get used to filming videos and content while I’m on tour. It’s sometimes hard to remember when I’m busy doing my job, but I’m keen to show more touring BTS bits in the future. I'm also attempting to start up a Rattlin Bones Podcast when I can find the time. This will be a place I can answer questions about touring and give more detailed answers than I can with an Instagram post.