Going Bergerk!: Al Smith.
The name Al Smith is synonymous with the Perth music industry, having worked with countless local bands and musicians in his 15 years in the industry and establishing his recording studios Bergerk! Studios.
During his teens Al became a massive fan of music and wanted to work in the industry. Having never played an instrument he decided working in recording studios would be the next best thing.
“So straight out of school I went to the SAE. Everything there rang true for me, the whole recording process was very creative and exciting so I have stuck with it ever since then.”
Throughout the 90’s Al freelanced out of various studios on the weekends. He would pay for the studio time and then bring in his own clients.
“It was a great way to get started, I had some hilarious times doing it that way. I used to record a lot of death metal and hardcore punk bands in a studio in Vic Park that was run by Christians! The owners thought I was crazy I’m sure. The downside to freelancing was I couldn’t get into the studios often enough to just muck around by myself, so I wasn’t using the gear to its full potential.”
He continues: “I soon realised the best way to go was to slowly build up my own gear and start my own studio. The first incarnation was Bergerk! Mobile Studios where I would take all my gear out to location – like jam rooms or peoples houses – and then do all the mixing etc back at my house. After a few years of that I moved permanently into some rooms at R+R rehearsal rooms and that was my first premises back in 1999. I moved to my current Rivervale studios in 2004.”
Over the years Al has worked with an impressive and extensive list of Perth bands as well as some acts coming through Perth on tour.
“I have a few favourites yes, I won’t list them because I really do enjoy most of the music that comes through Bergerk!. As a sound engineer though, its sometimes hard to listen back to a CD you have done and hear it for what it is, rather than hearing all the bits and pieces that went into making it. So the favorites for me are usually the CDs that I can listen to, throw off all technical thoughts and just get into the music.”
Most recently Al has been working with the likes of The Devil Rides Out, Eleventh He Reaches London, Grim Fandango Genghis and Ichi The Killer.
In recent years, Perth’s music scene has garnered both national and growing international attention for its amazing pool of talent. Al he says he has not seen much of a change to the scene over the years but the industry has developed.
“I’m focused mainly on the musicians and the music and its as healthy here in Perth as it ever has been. Music is about people coming together to create as a band or solo artist. The industry side of things has obviously changed. That’s always been an ever changing situation that people grow and adapt to,” he says.
And working with Perth bands is important to Al. “Perth has always had an amazing pool of musical talent. We traditionally haven’t had much in the way of national music industry here. The downsides to that are obvious, but the upside that people tend to overlook is that lack of industry almost takes the ‘business’ out of music. The artists here aren’t always thinking about labels, about management, ‘will we be signed?, will we be added to radio?’.”
He continues: “Music here is more about creativity, of making music to please yourself… That, to me, is a unique situation and every day I work with musicians pushing boundaries which I think is fantastic.”
Copyright (C) 2008 Christina Ballico.