Last week Friday, the Cape Audio College course director, Gaston Roulstone, was asked to head through to Bellville Studios to help Theo Crous with some technical issues he was having in his studio, so Gaston organized two Cape Audio College students to join him, giving them the opportunity to chat with South Africa’s biggest selling rock producer. Both Noel Kriegler, a first year student, and Daniel Brieter, one of our second year students, were very happy to be chosen to join Gaston on his Visit.
The two students were asked to prepare a couple things to chat about as to gather some material to supply you with some feedback on their experience. Reading the reviews it’s interesting to see what Dan and Noel drew from this awesome opportunity.
1st year student Noel Krieger’s write up on his experience
I was extremely excited when I was asked to join in on a trip to visit Theo Crous, the guy responsible for producing most of S.A’s leading rock bands that have been clogging up my cars front loader for the majority of my high school career. I was excited to go in and learn from the guitarist of “The Springbok Nude Girls” and lastly just to see what he has built for himself over the years.
Upon arrival we were greeted by an average looking upper market house in Bellville and I couldn’t help but get nervous before meeting him. As he walked out and greeted us my nerves took a step back, as I could see that he was a down to earth guy by the way he shook each one of our hands and introduced himself. He led us into he’s studio via a small passage with a space invaders gaming machine in the passage; how cool!
As we stepped into the studio, even though there was a Custom SSL 4056 G+ series console staring at us with an impressive gear rack with at least 1 of everyone’s favorite pre-amp, compressor and EQ mounted in it… it wasn’t intimidating. There were no awards hanging all over the room, pictures of him with famous people or funky artwork painted by some new age Picasso. It was just a desk, speakers, a gear rack and his guitars in the corner of an acoustically treated room. This made me begin to realize that he had nothing to prove to anyone.
Even before he came into the room I could feel myself getting motivated just by looking around and seeing the collection of guitars he had in the corner, the fender Stratocaster and telecaster range from 1962 up to the 1969 models. The KRK 7000B’s, the speakers that made KRK famous, and the impressive range of outboard gear. How did a man from South Africa manage to get his hand on these things? If he can do it why are there very few other successful rock producers in South Africa? Who taught him what he knows today?
After some light chatter we got the courage to start asking him a few questions.
Theo’s mentor was a guy named Neal Snyman who himself has quite an impressive resume, having worked with artists like David Bowie, Bjork, Tom Jones and Crowded House. South African born Neal grew up in London and returned to South Africa in 1995 where he setup a home base in the SABC complex. This is where he met Theo and started to teach him all the technical aspects of Sound engineering, much like the things we learn in class. Things like setting up a Compressor, using EQ and routing on a high end mixer such as the SSL series.
This got me thinking. Here we have a high end producer who has achieved so much in his career yet he started out just the same as you or I. He had a mentor/‘teacher’ who taught him to understand and use the fundamental tools that every sound engineer uses; he did not simply just learn it all in a day…. it took years of practice and hard work to get to where he is today. Even after having “mastered” the art of sound engineering he was faced with another hurdle in 2001 where the rise of digital killed the analogue tape. Theo then had to start over, in a sense that he had no knowledge of the digital field. His first digital system, which was an m-box and Pro-tools software, was purchased from Gaston, our head lecturer, before he came to work at Cape Audio. Theo is still constantly learning and reading up on new technologies and techniques that people all over the world are developing and using to widen his understanding and knowledge of the field. Without his strong foundation built from his understanding of the basics he would not be able to adapt to our ever changing world.
Ultimately what I learned from this experience was not some ‘secret’ mic placement on a drum kit to get the drum sound everyone’s looking for, or a fix all EQ which can be applied to any guitar to make it sound ‘nice’, and it was certainly not how to take any song and make it a hit. What I learned was far more valuable to me as a person and sound engineer; with a strong foundation, a willingness to learn, work hard and adapt, you can achieve anything.
2nd year student Dan Brieter’s write up on his experience
A few days ago, myself and another student had the privilege of accompanying Gaston on a short excursion to Theo Crous’, Belville Studios.
Theo is living the dream. We drive up to a beautiful house, get let in, and walk around the back to be greeted by a beautiful studio. When entering Theo’s studio, it’s hard for your eyes not catch the 56-channel SSL desk, or the +- 30 guitars he has lying around for that matter. This was the first real SSL mixing console I had seen in my life. He explained how he bought it from Warner Brothers Studios, where it was initially an 88-channel desk built for sound to film. He bought it, and had it modded to his specific needs. He is now the owner of 1 of 50 desks in the world!
We started off with Theo going through some of his equipment, especially his new ‘RETRO’ Compressor, and his guitars. This guy likes his guitars, owning a fender from every year. Theo has some amazing gear, from Distressors and Fatsos to a 1178 and the classic C 12 Microphone, and way more I couldn’t possibly remember off hand.. I do know he’s waiting for 2 1176′s (If I’m not mistaken) from Pete Townsend (of The Who!).
At one point, Theo decided he was going to give us a shoot out of the SSL desk verse the SSL 4000 channel strip plug-in. As a big user of the SSL software, I was personally very excited by this. And I must say, the results were interesting… If only I could type sound… MY main thought at the time was how the low end was so much clearer and prominent through the desk, while the plug-ins seem to add some snappy Highs… But that’s just my memory of it.
Theo told us how he is going to be recording the Parlotones album soon. He is off to Jo-burg any day now, to record them for 3 weeks straight at SABC Studios Johannesburg.
I can totally understand why this is the Parlotones’ third album with Theo as producer. For a guy so on top of his game, he couldn’t have been more cool or humble. He was so happy to speak to us and answer any questions we had. Theo Crouse is truly one of the more inspirational producers out there. Personally, I’d be very chuffed with an SSL and 30 guitars in a couple years time, and to me, what’s even cooler; he still plays in his high school band (Springbok Nude Girls).
So there you have it, straight from the students mouths. We find it an essential part of the learning experience to be able to take some of the more promising students on field trips such as these. A HUGE thanks to Theo Crouse for playing host to our students and taking the time to chat one-on-one with the next generation of South African Audio Engineers.Share