Paul Smith - Biography.

After my older brother was born, my mother was told she couldn't have any more children. As a result I was born fully grown at some point in 1968.

My first 17 years or so was filled with the usual and boring working class endeavours. Stealing food, trying to avoid beatings and secretly learning to read so as not to enrage your working class elders. It was a lot of fun at times. About mid-point of those first 17 years I realised that the word 'fucking' wasn't just a warning that there was a noun coming and, maybe, I could do something else with my life. Maybe...

My youth was surrounded with events like the Miners' strike, the Poll tax with its subsequent riots and the Thatcher era. But it wasn't all good times. By the time I was 12 my mum had come to her senses and was, for all intents and purpose, saved by my (now) step-dad. Let's face it, the guy's a fucking hero.

At the ripe old age of 17 I discovered a miraculous device called a 4 track cassette recorder. Armed with this, a Roland D10 keyboard, HR16 Drum Machine and a guitar I set out to rule the world of music with my friend, Paul Harris. At the time I had become so bored with higher education ('A' Levels) that I very nearly scooped out my own eyeballs. Luckily, my eyeballs fell upon Crystal Studios in Portsmouth and after just turning up and making a thorough nuisance of myself day after day after week after month, the owner, Stephen T Hoff, really had no choice than to give me a job. Back then, stuff wasn't just handed to you on a plate. You had to go out and find shit yourself. I worked at Crystal for around 8 years, learning how to track, place mics, mix and, most importantly, get on with people you really couldn't stand. That's the main trick you see.

Before I knew it, 1995 was here and the FOH engineer for Cranes, Tim Daniels, (another inhabitant of Crystal Studios) got me some Cranes shows. I say 'got me' I'm still in the band Cranes to this day, over a quarter of a century later, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Over the years I had learned to play a few instruments, to engineer, to mix and to wire things up. Computers eased themselves into the recording environment and suddenly my 'A' level in Computer Science came in useful. Actually, it didn't. I may as well have wiped my arse with the certificate as computers had changed so much in the interim years. Just having the piece of paper was enough even though you knew it meant fuck all.

We had to learn to integrate computers into our workflow and Crystal Studios was the first in the area to have a stand-alone CD burner. Those babies cost you £40 each back then, the blank discs were £25 and each had to be prepped and burned manually, in real time. Yes, you had to hit a button to write a start I.D. Miss it and you screwed the disc up. I burned nearly all of the CDs that came out of Crystal. The burner machine cost £2500. Alongside this, sequencers were starting to incorporate audio and we moved from analogue tape to DA88's to ADATS then to Akai hard disc recording and finally Logic and Protools. The computer had become the tape machine and a new set of engineering rules replaced the old.

Whilst all of this was occurring I found myself doing all the Cranes shows they could throw at me and that was a lot. My second ever show was in front of 35000 people and broadcast live on Italian television. It was becoming clear that 'the deep end' was actually my normality. I didn't mind that though. Thanks to Cranes I toured the whole of the Western world several times. Some of those experiences I talk about on my YouTube channel. Click the link under 'Video/Podcast' if it takes your fancy.

Around 2001 my thyroid decided to go so overactive that the specialist actually dropped the results on to the floor. That little bastard had to come out and I was determined not to rest up for the 6 months that was insisted upon. After 3 weeks I did a week of Cranes shows and it nearly killed me. Luckily, that was the last of the Cranes shows for a good 8 months so I had time to recover.

Boredom can be a wicked nipple to suck though and I found myself fixing people's Macs, setting them up for audio and fixing their artwork. As a designer I suck. As a technical Repro person I'm OK. I had also built up a fairly decent and private home recording and mix room. Between all these activities I managed to pay the rent and eat enough food to keep me from starving to death, which, I believe, is still quite a popular thing to do. The things we do to earn a living, and it seemed that explaining things to people who just looked at you as if you'd asked a horse to book a holiday was quite normal in the workplace. That and knowing deep within your heart of hearts that you may as well have explained it to a nest of tables can be equally entertaining and demoralising.

Offices were a strange thing to me. You were told you had to watch your language and a load of other rules. It turns out you don't. You say something then you decide whether or not you give a fuck about it. Realising that no one is going to do anything about something you do say is rather comforting. As I happily walked this path of office work and international live shows my mum contracted and died from cancer. It's a tough gig but if the wheel turns its natural path, we will all have to live through these things. Let's face it, none of us are getting out of this alive.

Not long after this I had to move house and I set up a much better recording and mix room in my current house. I really need to use it more but no one, it seems, wants to pay for music any more. My life is now split between music and computers with a lot of overlap between the two. Maybe it's time for a change or maybe there'll be a resurgence in the need for musicians where we can earn a living again. After people going without for the best part of two years, who knows. I look back at myself with only 1 or 2 regrets. That's not bad for an old bastard like me, not bad at all.