Raphael Williams: On A Level

Looking from the stage, a lonely figure is stationed at the rear of the Venue in dim light the illuminated figure twiddles the controls of his mixing console. Responsibility is an understatement. Who in their right mind wants to be the guy to blame when the sound goes wrong? Step forward Raphael Williams the in demand sound Engineer whose numbers on speed dial among the UKs finest performers. Ever been to a concert and heard the MCs rip into the Engineer because of microphone issues. Not nice. Raphael Williams got it lock though he’s served his apprentice from an early age. Now he’s gone pro rising to rank where equipment specialist now values his opinion and endorsement. All down to his ever tuned ears and expert knowledge.
Jan 2018


What's your role?

My job role is to balance instruments and vocals in an audible translation so the audience can enjoy. Sometimes I get love, sometimes i might get hate, [laughs]. I’m at the back of the room and nobody appreciates the little person at the back. You might not even see me but you definitely hear me through the PA.

What makes a good Live Sound Engineer?

To get a job in this industry, it’s who you know. To keep the job, it's what you know and to maintain the job it’s how you are. You could be a good engineer but if your attitude is stink, people are reluctant to call on you. Likewise you could be a nice guy but you don’t know what your doing. There needs to be a balance, like a good mix. The artist needs to feel your approachable your relationship with the band/artist is essential to smooth flow of the show. You work for them.

When you go to artists “Hi my name is,….. how are you today? I think you sound good”, that puts confidence in them. If and when you do have an opinion on how to help them their hearts and ears are open to listen. This the way that you can get in.

Some engineers have agents or work for companies. As a freelance engineer, I rely on recommendations. People request me because they’ve been to a show and asked about the engineer. I’ve worked for Stormzy, Wretch 32 and others. That’s why manners is the first thing because your ability will always be there if you’ve got it.

Your equipment of choice?

I use Sennheiser products because it’s a great product.  Between their microphones wireless and hard-wired their wireless IEMs they all sound great. The artists I work with appreciate the added benefits of Senheisers technology and expertise. There’s an open communication between the manufacturer and engineers, which aids product development. They listen, to our suggestions interpret that back into the technology that we’re using and things happen. Sennheisers is a worldwide network so all the artists I work with have access to suppliers no matter if it’s overseas.

Do you combine live with studio work?

Not anymore. When I was younger my dad worked in the community and got some government funding, which made it possible to build a studio in the basement of our church. At 14 I was engineering for my peers, getting beats off line, layering it up and putting them out. That was my entry level to this profession, then we started recording live shows.  These days with just a live console, you can do live recordings easily multi track all the instruments take it back to the studio and remix it. That’s amazing! Recording many channels with little gear.

Are your peers doing a similar thing as you?

In my category I would love more people like me, hard workers, who like learning about the mixing desk, working with good vocalists and musicians. To me, the accessory of money is just something we need to get through life. It's not my starting point, 'cause if I started there I don’t think I would be where I am right now. It's always been about appreciating the music. The industry is stretched, especially in the black community; there are not many black [sound] engineers. I can count the number that are at a level that’s in the public eye. I’m always looking for new people to train and support.  I have four artists out in the next few weeks so you can imagine. There’s always a project and I can’t do them all. It doesn’t matter where you are in the UK. I’ll invest my time if that person is willing.

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