Chris Allen on UNKLE, Sonique and the art of great library music
Renowned mix engineer and composer, Chris Allen, has been leaving his indelible mark on the music industry for the past two decades. From seamlessly navigating between dance, rock, and pop to crafting sensational pieces for notable clients like Sky Sports, his talent knows no bounds.
Discovering his passion for audio at a young age, Allen was captivated by the unique electronic productions of artists like Mike Oldfield and Nick Kershaw. The art of mixing intrigued him, sparking his interest in the world of electronic-influenced music. As acid house emerged and home computers offered basic sampling capabilities, Allen found himself drawn deeper into the realm of music creation. This unwavering passion led him to pursue a career in audio, eventually enrolling in the Gateway music course at Kingston, where he met individuals who would shape his entire journey.
His breakthrough moment came when he joined Serious Artist Management, tasked with building a studio in London. Collaborating with Sonique, they released the record "Feels So Good," which skyrocketed to global success, paving the way for Allen to establish himself as more than just a studio engineer. Fuelled by this achievement, he ventured to create his own studio, fueled by the success of Sonique's record. The subsequent explosion of their work in America solidified his position in the industry, opening doors to further remarkable opportunities.
Working with UNKLE (James Lavelle) marked a pivotal turning point in Allen’s career. Amidst his own musical pursuits, he took on the challenge of mixing a rock record, delving into uncharted territory. Collaborating with talented artists like Josh Homme and renowned producer Chris Goss, Chris pushed the boundaries of his abilities, combining dance and rock in a truly unique manner.
Determined to diversify his income streams, Allen delved into production music. A fortunate opportunity arose when he contributed to Sky's music library, and one of his tracks became the iconic theme for Sky Sports News.
“I enjoy making deep and complex music but there is a real skill in functional music, which has to create a certain feeling in a really short space of time,” claims Allen. “It’s hard to be concise and I learnt a lot from doing that, especially the little three second bumpers for ad breaks. Making a piece of music that short, that resonates, is really hard!”
The exposure and success of this endeavor enabled Chris to delve further into the world of concise and functional music, honing his skills in creating impactful pieces within tight timeframes.
Within his Brighton-based studio, Merging Technologies' Anubis and Hapi play an integral role. These exceptional pieces of equipment seamlessly integrate into Chris's setup, delivering impeccable sound quality without imposing their presence.
“I have the Merging Technologies Anubis and Hapi and they are fundamental. Sonically they are invisible, which is the best compliment I can give them,” explains Allen. “I’m not wondering what they are doing. With a lot of converters, you don’t realize how much damage they can do to the sound, which you subconsciously compensate for. The Merging kit just does what it does really well and I don’t have to think about it, it just sends sound to the other boxes – sound comes out, goes to my Thermionic Culture Phoenix and comes back again and sounds exactly as I would expect.”
The transparency of these converters allows him to focus solely on his creative process, ensuring that the sound remains true to his vision. Recognizing the significance of high-quality converters in shaping the overall sonic character, he has found solace in Merging Technologies' offerings, achieving the desired sound without compromise.