Inside the Lollybox
Words & Interview by Beth Wynne
Photos by Mark Boskell
Noah Shilkin is a Margaret River local, musician and producer with a studio based just out of town. Over the past couple of weeks, Mark Boskell and I have been lucky enough to step inside the studio whilst Noah has been working with artists and bands, and see how his studio and mind works. I put some questions together and had a chat to him to find out a little more about his background, passion and ideas to share with the public.
Tell us a little bit about your background prior to moving here to Margaret River.
I have been very fortunate and carved out a sustainable career in the music business. The statistics for doing that aren’t good he he! I began life in Australia training to be a concert pianist and after I realized that wasn’t for me began the long slide into the “other side” of the music business. I recorded, wrote, played keyboards for and toured – 1200 concerts in 4 years – with a major international act when I was very young and when that ended took a one year working holiday in Canada. I must’ve lost my return ticket because that adventure lasted 23 years and afforded me the opportunities, mentors, training, connections and ” breaks” that meant there was never any chance of turning back. I lived and worked in many capacities between Vancouver, L.A., Toronto and New York. Just over 4 years ago we moved back to Australia to be closer to my mum. She can’t travel as easily now and I have two small kids who I wanted to share with her. We didn’t really want to live in the city though we weren’t sure we could still participate in the global industry from Margaret River – but we said what the heck and it seems the universe wanted us to be doing what we’re doing! We put together the parent company Sonic Lolly and built The Lollybox studio and I guess the rest is history. If someone had told me 10 years ago that I could be this busy in Margaret River making music I would never have believed it.
Noah recording with Saint Ravine earlier this year.
What brought on the idea and concept of your studio “The Lollybox”?
I knew I would need a place to work from. I was still writing and producing for projects overseas so I needed a connected studio to get all that work done. Plus that’s just what I do – I always need somewhere to write, produce, create and rehearse. Loud sometimes!
We were so fortunate to find the property we have because most of the infrastructure was already in place – the house, the cottage and this amazing location for the studio. The parent production company I own is called Sonic Lolly so it seemed appropriate to call the studio The Lollybox.
The concepts we had always toyed with were residential, special, sustainable creative environments.
Juerlaine Prideaux playing in the courtyard outside the studio.
How do you find working with Artists in a much more creative and open space rather than a boxed in studio?
To me it’s a no brainer – I am a huge advocate and I am certainly not alone. For Artists to be able to come and live and spend time in this environment and create at the same time…..it’s so ideal. Look, who wouldn’t want to work in Abbey Road or Montserrat or the likes but there’s not a lot of recording projects these days that have those kinds of budgets. Necessity is the mother of invention. We haven’t got something purpose built configured to only one methodology – we design the solution for every project and whatever gear we want we can get. Great recordings come from great artists, working with great producers and engineers in exactly the right mindset, place and time. It’s never about the gear. I just prefer walking down to the river on my break rather than heading into the twilight in some industrial area car park.
Working with Juerlaine in the studio.
Do you think this idea will become increasingly popular in time?
It already has. There are so many examples of amazing projects being done now in such non-traditional ways. You just have to look up any of the current recording trade magazines and they are filled with articles on projects being done in outdoor courtyards in Morocco or someone’s living room in Martha’s Vineyard or in a rented country town hall in rural Australia. This is the path to new and fresh and different approaches to making and recording music.
Where can Artists and Bands find you? What advice would you give them before contacting you?
Finding me is easy – www.soniclolly.com - I am always so excited to hear from emerging artists and I always return emails and telephone calls. Giving advice is tricky but these are the first 3 things I always say: 1. Be on time; 2. Be kind; 3. Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to.
As for the more specific music things here’s a few! Get yourself a producer – whether or not it’s me he he find someone who loves what you do and has way better production skills than you. Learn what the differences between a producer and an engineer are. Treat your career like a business. If you were starting a restaurant you’d need to invest in it somehow. Same as your music career. You need to get really good at what you do – that means practice, commitment and that certain je ne sais quoi. Read Malcolm Gladwell books – particularly the one where he talks about the 10,000 hour thing. Be self aware – truly self aware. Be prepared to reiterate. Listen. I could go on but if we ever chat I’m happy to rabbit on about it all. I’m very passionate about artists, their music and the business and want to help people not make some of the mistakes I did.
What’s on the horizon for you and Sonic Lolly in 2013?
Lots! Well lots more recording projects and writing projects and live shows. It’s going to be a great year. I feel it in my bones.
I’m also on the board of WAM and am very excited about where the organization is heading. So thrilled to be involved and I think we can really help the music business and the people in it. Probably going to take a trip to the States at some point just to do some selling of some of the fab music we’ve been making at The Lollybox.
I have a great network of supervisors/publishers etc. but it’s always fun to drop by for some sushi and saki with the new stuff!
What are some examples of projects and Artists that have already come through “The Lollybox”?
I just got some great news last Friday. Of the 7 finalists in the Sync to Swim Event at the upcoming Emergence Festival two recorded with me at the Lollybox. Juerlaine Prideaux and Rachel Gorman. I’m going to claim another half point too – I produced Carmen Pepper’s solo EP. She plays bass with the fabulous Warning Birds who were also selected in the top 7. I’ve been very fortunate and have had the opportunity to work with some amazing artists since setting up The Lollybox. Mental hip-hop mania with “Cowtown”, the amazing Tomas Ford, Sir Thomas, and the unbelievable Jed Handmer. Just recently in January, Saint Ravine, who I think are poised to do great things. The Londons ( Simon and Tammy London), Rachel and Henry Climb a Hill, Paige Trantham, my very own mUnk and the inimitable Holly Norman. And on it goes! We’ve also done some fun commercial music projects for Madzoon Yoghurt, Fluro Industrial Safe, The Chicago Transit Authority and the likes.
One of my faves has been producing and mixing the “Live From Settlers” album project. We have recorded live at the great Settler’s Tavern over 25 acts during the last year or so and will be putting out this fantastic collection of the best tracks from these fabulous artists. Hopefully it will be released early 2013.