It’s hard to tell when day turns night when you’re in a space like this. Closed off from the outside world, the main studio in Chapel Lane is isolated from outside sound and light, creating the perfect environment to record.
Creating a comfortable environment during recording sessions is important to Simon Kither, but now he’s challenging himself to help more people feel comfortable in the wider industry.
On Wednesday nights, Kither holds consulting sessions with people aspiring to make a career in the audio industry.
“I don’t consider myself to be super successful, but I can see other people struggling and I’ve also been in the same struggle,” Kither says.
For the in-house engineer for Chapel Lane Studios and lecturer at the School of Audio Engineering (SAE), he wanted to find a way to give back to the audio community. He was at a cross roads: he wasn’t the Elon Musk of audio in Adelaide, but he was far from a beginner.
“You hear about people who are quite progressed in any industry and they’re willing to give back if you just ask. I thought it would be great if I could find a mentor for myself, but I realised I was eight years more progressed than someone just starting, so maybe I could do it for other people,” Kither says.
Kither also runs his own Youtube channel. He has created engaging audio engineering tutorials and podcasts.
“I keep finding myself in these amazing conversations that would’ve accelerated my learning and help avoid mistakes if I heard them earlier. It would be amazing if I can share this information with other people,” Kither says.
It all started with a Facebook post where Kither put out an expression of interest to anyone interested in receiving advice, because he owed his life to the music industry and wanted to help.
Two sessions are held every Wednesday night and each session is uniquely catered for the attendee. He follows up each session by emailing them notes, recapping everything they went over.
“I had a songwriter who was put-off the music industry and went into teaching, but he saw my post and was interested in talking to me. For him, I had a bucketload of notes of just starting in the music industry. Now it’s a continuous thing, where if he needs more advice he can contact me at any time,” Kither says.
Michael Carver was a lecturer at SAE when Kither attended, before later becoming colleagues at the institute. They now frequently collaborate on audio projects.
“Simon was one of the harder working students I met. He was the first one there before the start and the last one to leave every day; you had to kick him when it was time to go. He was always working on something or actually going out and seeking opportunities, he was always driven,” Carver says.
Despite his success in the industry, it was dealing with failure which gave him motivation to give others guidance. At one point, he considered leaving the industry. He had moved onto selling cars and had even considered joining the police force.
“I always say to people you have to walk through a bunch of fires to get anywhere in this industry. At that point, I wasn’t any better than anyone else and competition was crazy high. I had been walking through fire for two and a half years and I was tired of being burned,” Kither says.
“I got declined for Centrelink payment, even though I wasn’t making that much money. There was a point when my girlfriend at the time and I were grocery shopping and we went 20c over budget. You can only deal with that for so long before you decide to get out of the industry.”
There was no specific person holding him back, the issue was trying to break into an industry lacking a conventional entry level path. Despite the external pressure of conceding music is only a hobby and not a career, Kither’s passion for audio engineering brought him back and this time he fought the flames successfully.
“I don’t know of someone in Adelaide who hasn’t given up on the industry at least once,” Kither says.
“I think people should people should go through the process. A friend went through it recently and the day it happened I messaged him saying ‘you need to get back on the horse,’ but I think I did it too early because he probably needed to digest it for a while. I can offer those kinds of people advice and be like ‘I’ve been through it, it sucks, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel if you keep going.’”
Every industry has issues and drawbacks, and Kither has become driven to develop solutions to improve the audio industry, not only in Adelaide, but as wide as possible.
“I want to build on the idea of making the Adelaide music industry easier. I’m gathering a lot of data, not that I’m using it for any purposes right now, but I’m getting a good sense of what people are struggling with just by having these consults. I’m seeing familiarity and patterns. If I get enough of the same cases, then I can really look at what the solutions should be and how can we implement it on a large scale,” Kither says.
It was after a discussion with an engineer from a famous studio in Santa Monica where Kither realised some of the problems aren’t unique to Adelaide either.
“I was discussing the issue that we need to charge a certain amount to cover costs, but that charge doesn’t seem to be consistent with what people can afford in Adelaide. I thought it was just a problem with the city, but [the Santa Monica engineer] had the same problems. If I can find common threads with what people are struggling with in the Adelaide music industry, then maybe I could improve the whole industry.”
Bethan Madison was one of Kither’s students and later did work experience under him at Chapel Lane Studios. She says her experience with Kither greatly impacted her audio engineering knowledge and skillset, but it’s his interpersonal approach that separates him from other producers.
“He cares about making clients comfortable as much as he does about getting the sound good. He cares about their experience and not everyone has that kind of approach,” Madison says.