Interview with Tim Shiel, Meat Market
7 November 2016
Ahead of their first ever label showcase on November 12, we spoke with busy musician, games composer and radio broadcaster Tim Shiel, manager of artist-run music label Spirit Level, which operates out of Creative Spaces' Meat Market studios in North Melbourne. Shiel shares his self-contained sound-recording studio with Ben Abraham and the two record, write music and collaborate on various projects in their studio.
You have a sound studio set up in the Meat Market, but tell us a bit more about how it came about and what you are doing in the space.
I moved in about a year ago. I'd been making music and working from home for many years but started to look around for my own space after deciding that it was time to have a dedicated workspace. For me it was partly about work-life balance, but also for practical reasons because we were in the process of expanding our family out to four. I love to spend as much time with my family as possible but with another baby in the house it was time to stop working at home! A friend of mine showed me the Meat Market space via Creative Spaces, I checked it out and thought it was perfect.
I went through the application process and was very happy to be asked to move in because I know it was super competitive. My friend wasn't so happy, because he had also applied - I think now we're all good. I use the space for writing, producing and mixing music, both my own and with or for other people. The space has also become the home base for the small record label I run which is called Spirit Level. I have musicians coming in and out to collaborate on projects, plus I also have other friends and volunteers coming in and out of the space every day to help with managing the label.
What do you love about your creative space?
It's perfect for me, it's well insulated but has natural light which is not always common for music studios. I can't function if I can't see outside so that was a must. It's a highly adaptable space that functions just as easily as a label office or as a music studio. In the past twelve months we've had string quartets in the space for rehearsal, we've filmed music videos, we've mixed albums and built websites.
I also love that the Meat Market has a fascinating history - my space was a meat locker back in the day, it was where they stored the meat for the market vendors. You can still see the scrapes from where the carcasses were loaded in. One of the quirks of my space is that I'm right next to the Meat Market's main performance hall. I love that sometimes there are theatre shows or awards nights or art installations taking place right outside my door, and they have no idea I'm in here or what I'm working on.
What’s a typical day in the studio like for you?
No two days are alike, it's always a balancing act across various projects. Right now I'm very focused on Spirit Level and developing the artists that we have on our roster, helping them produce their music and get it out there. I also write music for games and have a couple of active projects there, plus I also use my space regularly as a listening environment, as I hunt for music to play on my weekly radio show.
How has your creative space informed your practice?
It's been great for me to finally separate my workspace from my home life. I had a long and very happy run of working from home, but moving out into my own space has really helped me take on a more professional and disclipined approach to my career. Simply the act of walking from home to work has improved my productivity and outlook immeasurably - the walk is about 45 minutes and takes me through the University of Melbourne grounds which are beautiful.
What are you currently reading?
I have a copy of William Gibson's 'The Peripheral', I'll be sinking my teeth into that over summer.
What are you currently listening to?
Our Spirit Level artist Braille Face has just released twelve albums, so I'm making my way through all of them. He made twelve albums in twelve months last year, listening to all of them in sequence is a pretty fascinating peek into one person's artistic process and creative development. He is remarkably prolific, he has such a rich vein of creativity and expression that he is becoming increasingly adapt at just channelling directly into at any time.
What are you currently watching?
Black Mirror and Westworld. Both are amazing, but I'm a sucker for dystopian near-future narratives.
Melbourne has a thriving live music scene, but how hard is it to secure affordable space to make noise these days?
It does seem hard. There's always more people asking around for space than there are spaces around. However, I am a strong believer that you can make the most of any situation to make great music, and you should never let the space you are in inhibit your creativity and productivity. It is easy to make your environment an excuse, there are so many excuses you can make to stop you from doing the work, and I do believe that creativity is work, its a skill you get better at only through the act of doing, and doing a lot. Just make the most of where you are, and if your space has limitations and weaknesses, celebrate those and work them in to your process, the results will surprise you.
You mentioned some great collaborations have been happening in your space lately. What are some of the highlights and breakthroughs you’ve been having in the studio?
We mixed Braille Face's debut album here earlier this year, and people have really been loving that album since it came out a couple of months ago. We collaborated with our friend and filmmaker Andy Hatton on a music video for Spirit Level band Telling, we shot that here in the space and it turned out really special - filmed in one take with some really great lighting, proof that you can make beautiful looking things on a super low budget. My collaborator Ben Abraham also uses this space regularly for co-writing sessions, in the past six months he's had Wafia, Missy Higgins and Ryan Lewis all here, and more.
Finally, what are some future projects you are working on/excited about?
Right now, I'm really excited about putting on Kindred - Spirit Level's first ever label night, right here at the Meat Market on November 12. From my studio window, I look out past a courtyard to another building in this precinct called The Stables - ever since I moved in a year ago I've wanted to put on an event there. We're taking over the space and fitting it out with our own sound system and lighting, trying to create a really special environment to celebrate the first year of our record label with performances from all of our artists including Braille Face, Telling and Don. For me, it's also a celebration of my first year in the Meat Market, the first of many years I hope.
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