“Many singers can’t even sing. Their voices are changed by our work, so anybody can sound like Whitney”
To be an audio engineer, you really have to love the field of sound, else it can be frustrating. To start with, it’s a job where you go through life doing great work and never get credit for it. More so in India, where there are no awards for recording and mixing—the main areas of interest for a sound engineer. If you make a jingle, your name doesn’t appear anywhere. In albums, which are hardly made anymore in India, only the chief engineer’s name may appear. It’s only in a film that everyone in the sound team is mentioned. But who sees credits? Resul Pookutty is an anomaly.
There is no money either, at least for the first few years. You are lucky if you get Rs 10,000 as a beginner. That’ll be your salary for the next two years. Many engineers work for free. You could be on call 24 hours for that Rs 10,000. Some days, you may not be working, and all you may be doing is making tea.
Many singers can’t even sing. Their voices are changed by our work, so anybody can sound like Whitney Houston. One stanza is sung 50 times, then engineers clip together the best takes. So it takes a lot of time if the artiste is not good. Most artistes also want a signature sound, but will come up and say, “Make my voice sound like Akon.” If you try and do something different, it never works. When you use Auto Tune, which gives their voice that Akon texture, they are happy. Then they actually say, “This is so me.”
Many songs these days are copied. There are two types of music producers. The first type includes those who have already prepared 500 tracks. They can convince any client who turns up that one of the songs in their collection matches their requirement. The second type are those who visit strange Indonesian, Malaysian and African websites and copy that music. In both cases, there is no creativity involved.
(This professional has been working in this industry for six years)