I grew up in Northamptonshire, England, in the small countryside town of Brackley. In my early years, my initial musical influences were shaped by a Beach Boys greatest hits cassette that I found in my garage and The Muppet Show LP. At that time, I wasn’t particularly interested in learning to play an instrument; my primary ambition was to become a ninja turtle. However, everything changed when I turned 13. I heard “Two Princes” by the Spin Doctors on the radio and knew I had to get myself an electric guitar and master that guitar riff. I began saving my £1 a day paper round money until eventually, I could afford the cheapest (and most untunable!) electric guitar available in the Argos catalogue. I took a handful of lessons to learn some basic chord shapes but soon preferred to learn to play by ear. My musical tastes soon shifted to the alternative rock bands of the early 90s like Nirvana, then Weezer, and onto pop-punk.
In the mid-1990s, when the US punk explosion made its way to UK shores, I was instantly hooked, eagerly scouring every CD of that genre I could find tucked away in crates at record fairs and hidden within the import sections of my local independent record store. The punk DIY ethos during my teenage years inspired me to form a pop-punk band with like-minded friends and soon launch my own record label, Hectic Records, financed by my job at the local chicken factory. After a few band name changes, we settled on The Bombjacks, wrote our first batch of songs, and booked a session at our local recording studio to lay down our first demo.
From the moment I stepped into that studio, I was immediately fascinated by the music production process.
From the moment I stepped into that studio, I was immediately fascinated by the music production process. I watched closely as the recording engineer captured our songs to tape, attempting to manipulate and polish up our scrappy performance the best he could. We left at the end of the day clutching our first demo cassette but I was eager to learn more about music production.
By now, it was the early 2000s. Over the next few years, we toured all over the UK and self-released a few EPs on Hectic Records. We sold our CDs at shows and via punk mail-order distributors, who advertised online and in punk zines. I usually made back the cost of manufacturing the CDs, which would then help fund the next release. I put out 12 releases on Hectic Records before winding it down, a mix of EPs by the Bombjacks and many other bands that we had struck up a friendship with while on the road.
The following years were the peak of The Bombjacks and would also set me on my path to music production myself. We had recently recorded our first full-length album with producer Iain Wetherell, and began shopping it around in search of a record label to release it. In the UK, we signed with Allstar Recordings, run by future Blue Fox Music co-owner Sean. We also signed to a record label in Japan with major distribution. The album sold well there and they wanted to fly us over for a Japan tour. In support of this upcoming tour they had also asked us to record a new EP.
Instead of booking a recording studio, Sean (of Allstar Recordings) and I decided to start our own. With Sean handling the business side and me as the studio engineer, I could finally teach myself how to use the equipment while producing the new Bombjacks EP myself. After all, I had spent a lot of time in recording studios, peering over the engineers’ shoulders, and had a good sense of how to run a recording session (albeit with next to no technical know-how). So, with the plan in motion, Sean and I had a clear target: Establish a recording studio in London, record the new Bombjacks EP, then quickly take enough bookings to survive as a viable business. I had a lot to learn, and I had to learn it fast!
We began searching for a studio space to rent monthly, just to get the ball rolling. We had very little money and only a basic version of Pro Tools recording software running on a PC, along with two cheap microphones (and no mic stands) that I had purchased a few months prior. Our first studio was located in a music room complex in Bermondsey, South London. It was essentially just a room with carpet stuck to all of the walls and ceiling. It was less than ideal, suited more for band rehearsals than a professional recording environment. Without any ventilation or openable windows, it would turn into a sauna within an hour. A constant 24-hour rumble came through the walls as other bands in the neighbouring rooms rehearsed. It quickly became apparent that this space wasn’t going to work, but it gave Sean time to formulate a business plan and me time to demo the new Bombjacks EP and research all the equipment we would be requiring moving forward.
As luck would have it, a suitable recording studio space became available in Archway, North London. The previous occupant had already converted the ground floor of the building, once an old shoe factory, into a recording studio. It was perfect for us to jump right in. This premises had a large live room with fantastic acoustics for drums, especially compared to the dull carpeted room we were leaving behind in Bermondsey. It also included a separate control room with a den to hang out in at the back complete with the occasional rat that would dart across the floor.
We formed a new company called Ignition Studios and secured a bank loan to purchase the required studio equipment. Sean built a website for our new studio, and amazingly, we immediately started taking bookings! Although I was due to record The Bombjacks EP first and get my head around how to use all of the new equipment, we didn’t want to turn down the money. We now had a much higher rent commitment and a loan to pay off. It became clear that I would be winging it from day one. We didn’t even have time to test if our new equipment was fully functional. The final cables needed to connect our microphones from the live room into the control room were delivered the same morning as our first band arrived with their instruments. They were a young four-piece rock band looking to record 4 tracks over that weekend.
Thankfully, all of our new gear worked. After a very long day, I’d managed to mic up the drummer’s kit and the first drum track recorded. We finished around 3am, before I finally got some sleep on the studio sofa (my bed for much of the next year), ready for an early start in the morning. We had a lot to get done with only one day left. Upon opening the computer session the next day, the drums I recorded the previous night were all gone! I must have deleted them somehow when closing the project. It was the first of many mistakes that I went on to learn from. I managed to finish the recording session on time and I was relieved that the band seemed happy with the result.
After recording the Bombjacks EP and an amazing tour across Japan, I left the band to focus fully on Ignition Studios. It’s a steep learning curve when you’re teaching yourself music production. There were no Youtube tutorials available at this time and experienced engineers were often very secretive about their techniques. I mostly learned via trial and error and using my ears. I had plenty of time to experiment on the job as the studio was always fully booked, at one point clocking in 72 days in a row. Although the long hours could be tiring, I’d always wake up raring to go in the morning, eager to learn and level-up recording skills and mixes. Within two years, we outgrew the premises in Archway and jumped at the chance to move when a much nicer recording studio became available.
The new and improved Ignition Studios was now located near Finsbury Park, London. It had two floors of recording space, a control room with a full Pro Tools HD setup, a rack full of analog outboard gear, high-end speakers, and acoustic treatment throughout. We even had a toilet hidden away behind a fake bookcase. It was a significant upgrade and led to bookings from more established bands and some major label work. We expanded our staff so that I was no longer running the studio sessions alone, and then began to branch out into other services like video game soundtracks, podcasting, voiceover and language localisation. Some memorable clients included work on 50 Cent’s album, Far Cry 2 soundtrack (Senegalese singer Baaba Maal), John Malkovich, Al Murray, and too many great UK bands to mention.
In around 2008, I started to look for a better work-life balance. I moved out of London to become a freelance producer, working with bands in several different studios scattered around the country. Between projects, I would travel abroad as much as possible. During this time I had moved into a tiny spare room that had become available at a friend’s house. I had to buy a kids’-sized bunk bed just so that I could fit my home studio setup underneath, but the acoustics were surprisingly good for mixing!
In early 2012, Sean asked me to create a few original instrumental tracks for him to upload to a royalty-free library website he’d discovered called AudioJungle. It was my first introduction to the world of music licensing in general. At that point, it had been so long since I had created my own music after many years of producing for other people. I had some free time between upcoming projects, so I set up my own artist account on AudioJungle to give it a go.
I listened to the weekly Audiojungle top-sellers list and it was obvious that there was a popular trend towards happy ukulele music at the time. Coincidentally, I’d recently purchased a ukulele of my own, so I wrote a little tune on it that sounded like the soundtrack to a bank commercial and submitted it to the site. The next morning, I logged into my AudioJungle dashboard to find $7 in my account from a license sale. This gave me the motivation to create a few more tracks. I made some indie rock and synth pop music to see if that would sell as it was closer to my own musical tastes. These tracks immediately started generating sales that snowballed beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Within 6 months I stopped taking bookings as a freelance producer and worked full-time at growing my portfolio of music on AudioJungle. As I sold more tracks, I began to hear my music used in the wild on TV commercials and all over Youtube.
My sales during the early years at AudioJungle were amazing. I became one of the top-sellers on the site and was extremely grateful to have some financial freedom for the first time in my life. My wife and I had always talked about travelling full-time. So in 2017, we purchased a fifth-wheel mobile home. We sold most of our furniture, and I downsized my studio gear to a MacBook Pro, headphones, midi controller, an electric guitar, a ukulele and a French bulldog, ready for a life on the road.
Now into the 2020s, still travelling the UK and mainland Europe in our mobile home, I decided it was time to broaden my horizons and spread my musical output to more music libraries and TV sync companies, expanding the reach and availability of my catalogue of tracks. Up until then I had been exclusively making music for Audiojungle so it was a relief to no longer have all my eggs in one basket. I now made an income from many different sources and could continue to make a full-time living from my music. I’ve racked up over a decade of creating royalty-free music and began to think that I should really make my tracks available directly to creators.
I reached out to Sean, who was now an experienced UX web designer and entrepreneur. This time we teamed up once again with a view to a new business venture: our own royalty-free music platform, starting with the full Blue Fox Music back catalogue and beyond.