German graduates making a difference in Australia
Picture this: You study in Berlin, get your diploma in London and do your internship at the biggest recording facility in Australia. It sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?! For Abbey Road Institute Berlin graduates Marian Hafenstein and Markus Winter, this dream became a reality.
Internship Down Under
Earlier this year, both graduates went Down-Under to do their internships at Studios 301 in Sydney, Australia. And what a place to do an internship! The massive studio complex holds 11 studios and production rooms, offering recording, mixing and mastering facilities and services, while working with some of the most prominent artists and orchestras around the globe. As their website states: “Gain real-world experience direct from Australia’s leading recording studios and engineering team”…it sounds like an attractive breeding ground for interns.
But how is it to fly halfway across the world, doing an internship abroad and working in an ultra-professional environment for three months? We interviewed Marian (29) and Markus (23) about their life-changing experience in Australia.
So how did the internship come about?
Marian says: “It was summer 2018 when we were in our third term of the program at Abbey Road Institute Berlin. One day we had a visitor at the Institute who happened to be the owner of Studios 301. He talked about the studios, showed pictures of the massive reconstruction process and informed the class that he offered two students the opportunity to do an internship at Studios 301 Sydney. When the course came to an end, and when we received our grades after the exams, I was informed that I was one of the lucky ones to be awarded the internship in Sydney. That was really great because it was something I was so willing to do.”
Markus adds: “When I heard about the internship I was astonished and blown away. It was a big motivation for me because such an opportunity was exactly what I wanted. You see, I’m pretty much a Protools nerd, and editing and assistant work is something I love to do. So I was hyped, and the whole year, I worked super hard to make it happen.”
The selection for the internship was based on merit, a combination of grades, enthusiasm and effort. Both Marian and Markus went the extra mile during the course and were awarded this opportunity by the academic staff.
So how does a typical day as an intern look like at Studios 301?
“There are three different shifts for interns” Markus explains us. “An early, extra and late shift. The early shifts involve cleaning tasks, such as vacuuming the carpets and dusting the equipment. Making sure that consoles are neutralized, that there is fresh water and, the most important item in the studio, prepare the coffee machine. All these tasks needed to happen before 10 am to ensure that the studios were ready to be used again. It has to look like a hotel, so the artist and the team feel totally comfortable. As an intern, you support the producer and engineer so that they can focus on the session. But you are also the ‘mysterious ghost’, meaning that you have to be quiet, do your stuff efficiently, but don’t interfere. I’ve learned that it makes sense. There is a hierarchy, which is part of how a professional studio is running.”
Marian says: “The days were indeed structured, but there were always different things happening. No day is the same, which mainly depends on the size of the studio sessions. We had around six interns, and the general assistant coordinated us. And the interns did a lot. From cleaning to setting up sessions and taking care of the catering, making sure there was always coffee and tea or arrange drinks and food from the outside. Hospitality tasks are a big part of the job as a Studios 301 intern.”
Marian continues: “In general, I found it very interesting to get an extensive overview of how to run a large scale commercial studio. We were the ground personnel to make sure that everything runs smoothly. [As Markus mentioned], our role was to support the engineer and the assistant. When musicians arrived for a session, everything was set up, and they were ready to hit record. Seeing how this all works was an excellent experience for me and the level of professionalism, how they organise everything is impressive to witness. It really allows the engineers to work very fast. For example, for the orchestra sessions that we did during our internship, everything had to go super fast and smooth. Because when you have around 40 musicians in the studio who get paid by the hour, you have no time to waste.”
Picture: Marian Hafenstein at Studios 301
Did you feel prepared for the internship?
Marian: “Yes, I felt prepared. I had experience through the Institute working with all the technology and software. At Studios 301 they had a lot of other gear, but I’ve learned the principles at the Institute. I have experience from recording bands, and I’ve been assisting on several sessions in a studio in Berlin. So I was up for the challenge, and I believe it worked out well.”
Markus: “Because I’m a Protools nerd, and I love assisting, I can say I felt well prepared. The Institute played a big role in my preparation, but I also practice my shortcuts, basically every day. Because I’m always waiting for ‘the call’, I feel I have to be ready, there is no excuse. I’m pretty strict with myself and therefore always prepared.” He explains with a smile.
“But also knowing things like signal flow, how stuff is working, having seen all the plugins at the Institute and then all the hardware versions live at Studios 301, was a big plus.
What also helped a lot was the recording session we did at Abbey Road Studios in London. Understanding how things work in a big commercial studio, was great to see, and it certainly brought me the right mindset for my internship in Australia.”
What was your highlight?
Marian: “Most definitely the orchestra recordings. The one I enjoyed the most and learned a lot from was the orchestra recordings for the Australian artist David Campbell’s album ‘Back In The Swing’. It was a recording session with strings and horns sections where I was the second assistant for Jack Garzonio (Assistant Engineer) and Jack Prest (Engineer), and it was fascinating to see how it works and how it was set up. That was a memorable session, especially when one of the microphones began to sink and the assistant engineer tells me “Marian you have 10 seconds, run in there before the next take starts”. So I ran into the live room lifted the mic, fastened it and ran back”, he explains with a laugh.
Chong Lim talks about recording David Campbell at Studios 301.
“Maroubra Beach in Sydney!” Markus explains with a smile. “But in the studio, my highlight was actually during my last shift as an intern. There was one of Sydney’s biggest Jazz musicians in Studio 1, giving a concert for around a hundred people and they were broadcasting the concert live, while I was sitting in studio 2 being the backup for the whole broadcast. So if something would go wrong, they could switch over to me. And it was great! I was sitting there alone, working autonomously, mixing, compressing tracks, putting effects on them…everything! And that was for me the moment where I thought, ‘This is it!’ that moment where I thanked Abbey Road Institute and all the people for everything they’ve done. It was amazing.”
Marian adds: “Another thing worth mentioning as a highlight is that we also did some podcast recordings; artists coming in being interviewed for the ‘The Music Podcasts’ with Neil Griffith, who regularly does that at Studios 301. We edited and mixed the podcasts afterwards, ready for publishing online. That was very interesting to do, learning about the technology, but also creating a good atmosphere for the podcast, making it again very comfortable for the artists. That is something that the people at Studios 301 are really good at, making the artist feel well, comfortable and taken care off. This is definitely something I take with me, care for the artist.”
Great stuff guys! Speaking of which; what did you gain, what’s the real takeaway from this experience?
Marian: “For me, it’s the experience working with people who are amazingly good at what they do. It’s so important to work with those kinds of people and see how they work. That was a game-changer for me! How is the vibe, how do they communicate, how do they prepare everything? I also learned a lot about recording techniques and mixing and how they work with the material. But being there in the room with the people working on big projects, that was invaluable!”
He adds, “If I could turn back time, I would certainly do it again. I learned a lot, and it’s opening doors for me. Because having been at such a big and successful studio with high calibre musicians, engineers and producers, you get to see an environment that not many people get to see. I got a lot of information that is useful for me, but it also makes me more interesting to work with for artists or in studios that need an assistant or an engineer. It helps me a lot.”
Markus, without hesitation: “That I made the right decision to study at Abbey Road Institute. Because now I’m doing what I love, running my own business and working at Studios 301 proved that I have the skills to work in a professional studio as an assistant. During a BBQ and the last get together at the studio, Simon Cohen, who is the vocal producer of Justing Bieber’s #1 track “Love Yourself”, came to me and told me: ‘If you need anything, please call me, and I will write you a recommendation’. That was awesome! I will certainly use and cherish his offer because I would like to go international one day. We are also still in contact with some of the people we met or assisted. And I got a lot better with my English! That’s pretty cool too!”
Picture: Markus Winter at Studios 301
And how was it to be abroad in Australia?
Marian: “Australia is a beautiful country, people are amazing, good humour, So I felt very good there. We had good weather too, and there are beaches all this is very good and a welcome change. We worked hard at the studio, making long hours. Now and then going to the beach and relax helped as well.”
Markus: “It was for me the first time to be that far from home. But Australia is amazing. Especially the people are nice and relaxed. But, even though they are relaxed, they get the work done. It felt like being on vacation. And going to the beach straight after work was amazing indeed.”
And now, what’s next? What are you currently doing?
Marian: “After I returned to Berlin, I set up my own mix room, and I work as a freelance mixing and recording engineer. I’m also assisting in the JRS recording studio in Berlin, where I continue learning from the owner, who is an amazing producer, engineer and person. Besides that, I’m also setting up guitar courses and tutoring on them, which is something I already did before attending Abbey Road Institute. And sometimes I play as a session musician.”
He adds: “I want to keep doing what I’m doing because I love it and aim to build a bigger portfolio.”
Markus: “Getting really good at mixing! My focus is now Heavy Metal, but I’m also willing to try EDM. I want to focus on assisting and editing for other people. I’m a freelancer now, and I still do a lot of PA and live stuff as a FOH. I want to be good and competitive, and I will work until I am. And I work as a technician at Abbey Road Institute Berlin now!”
Thank you so much guys! It was a pleasure interviewing you both and documenting your experience.
Both Markus and Marian want to thank the academic staff and coaches at Abbey Road Institute Berlin and the people at Studios 301.
Last but not least, we asked Ron Haryanto, general manager at Studios 301, if he wanted to share their experience of having Marian and Markus as interns, which he wholeheartedly accepted. His feedback:
“Both Marian and Markus were extremely hard-working, talented and well-liked interns at studios 301. They both quickly earned a reputation for being exceptionally thorough and reliable in their time. It was really sad to see both of them go as they definitely earned their place as part of the Studios 301 team and family whilst they were here. We would highly recommend both engineers for any upcoming opportunities that may arise and wish both all the very best. There will always be a place for them at studios 301.”
With this great feedback, we come to the end of the article. But we are sure this is not the last we’ll hear from Markus and Marian. We will follow their footsteps closely and for now, wish them all the best in their musical endeavours.