Another year, another golden night at the Oscars for audio specialists AMS Neve.
Almost every film nominated at the night of the Hollywood A-lister had its soundtrack mixed and/or music recorded on the Burnley firm’s consoles.
And the forward-thinking firm is now ensuring the next generation of sound engineers are on the road to potential award night glory thanks to an exciting new educational link-up.
AMS Neve has forged partnerships with six of the UK’s leading audio engineering schools – University of Surrey, dBs Music (Plymouth and Bristol), SSR (Manchester and London), the London College of Music, Leeds Beckett University and the Liverpool School of Performing Arts.
The choice of LIPA was no coincidence. AMS Neve founder and owner Mark Crabtree made his big breakthrough in 1975 when he paid a visit to Abbey Road studios and demonstrated his revolutionary tape phase simulator to Paul McCartney. The former Beatle loved it and became a first customer for the company.
Mark explained: “Sir Paul’s vision of creating a centre for performing arts in his former school building inspired me to forge stronger links with aspiring musicians, producers and engineers. As a private, dedicated engineering company working in collaboration with the world’s best talent over many decades we have played our part in countless legendary recordings on our equipment, designed and made in Burnley.
“Taking my cue from his drive to found LIPA we now want to help the next generation of British proto-legends to break through to international success with the help of the best audio tools possible.
“Britain enjoys a high degree of ‘soft power’ around the world due to its pre-eminence in these areas, exporting our culture and expertise to all four corners and AMS Neve is a key player in this digital and creative discipline.”
A new exhibition floor at their Burnley headquarters allows students to try out first hand the firm’s impressive range of kit including the huge DFC console used by Skywalker Ranch in the making of Star Wars The Force Awakens as well as a host of other Oscar nominated films.
It also tells the story of how the “AMS Neve Sound” has evolved and developed over the past five decades.
Distribution manager David Walton said the exhibition floor, which can also be used for conferences, had added an extra dimension to the building.
“It’s a floor that we renovated and we decided to put some equipment in here to showcase our products and what we have done in the past and how it affects different areas of the industry from music right through to feature films,” he said.
“We started to forge links with universities so that we can get students interested in the really, really professional, high end of the market so they can aspire to work in studios whether they want to be a recording engineer or something along those lines. This equipment is that high end, to get near it, basically you have to get a job at a high end studio. We think it’s a good thing to get students on board with us so they can touch the equipment, understand what it is and understand what it can do for them.”
While the exhibition floor is geared towards older students, AMS Neve recognises the need for sowing seeds early on.
“It’s very important,” said David. “There is currently a huge push with a company located in this building called Primary Engineer. They concentrate solely on going to primary schools to educate on an engineering level because if we’re not careful we’ll lose the engineering background of this area.
“We’ve been working with a lot of schools in the area and it is something that we will continue to you.”
At the Oscars last month, Mad Max: Fury Road picked up the award for Best Sound. Voices, dialogue, effects, music; all were mixed using AMS Neve hardware.
Best Score on the night went to The Hateful Eight, every bit of music appearing in the Tarantino film having been recorded on AMS Neve’s equipment down in Abbey Road.
It’s certainly fair to say that AMS Neve is a company far more well-known in Hollywood than it is here in Burnley. But it is also a brand known the world over thanks to its ties with the music industry.
“To some extent that is very true (that AMS Neve is known more in Hollywood than Burnley),” said David. “The major films are all produced on the West Coast, basically Hollywood. There are some small studios around the rest of the US obviously and here in London.
“Music though is everywhere, every country, every city, so it’s difficult for us to pin down who’s recorded what or used our equipment at any point. It’s almost impossible. It’s only the big ones we know for sure, like Sam Smith who won the Best Single Oscar for Spectre That was totally done on our equipment at Abbey Road. So it’s not just films, it’s everything below that in terms of sound where we have an input.”
Despite worldwide recognition and a reputation that continues to grow, a move away from the UK, or Burnley for that matter, has never been on the cards.
“It is important for us, to say it is built in Britain”, says David. “We don’t manufacture anything in China, Europe or the US, it is all done here at this building in Burnley.
“It would be far easier for us to have 1,000 circuit boards built in China for the cost but we would be losing the quality, we would have no idea what was going on here. We build it here, we can change it, adapt it, do it in five minutes. The hardware is built here, the software is programmed in-house, we sell from here, we support from here. Everything is done from this area.”
More on AMS Neve can be found at www.ams-neve.com