For those who read my column on a regular basis, you may recall my wife and I (don't I sound regal?) are currently in the middle of a major building project which will give us a new kitchen. If you think that building a new home studio is hardcore, then you haven't had your partner take on a kitchen remodel - my studio build seems like a hobby project in comparison.
My studio sits across the courtyard from my house, so I have a front row seat to the building works. It has meant keeping my focus on work has been a challenge as I watch foundations dug, then poured, and seeing 7 steel girders go into place to support everything. It seems that every step triggers some childlike fascination as I'm standing there watching the next part of the process.
Today the bricklayers are back to do some more work; it's a real skill to watch a bricklayer doing their job. I've always wanted to be able to lay bricks; I've also always wanted to plaster too. Bricklaying and plastering can't be that hard, after all, I've watched them, and it looks easy.
I'm sure that over time I could learn the skills, but it's not only the practical part of craftsmanship but the experience they bring. For example, when you ask them to do a job they then come back to you shortly afterwards to explain how it can be done better and look better. This has happened to me on numerous occasions with all the trades, where they have given me another point of view based on decades of working in that craft.
The combined skill and experience is priceless and reminds me why I'm paying professional tradespeople to do what I might be able to do but never as well, as fast or probably in the best way.
Modern recording technology has given us the possibility of being able to do anything. Now anyone can be a drummer using a powerful VI, or a bass player. Now anyone can mix the sound for a movie, or do foley. Now anyone can mix and master their own tracks. Technology has democratised the entire recording process, and now we are all gods in our recording universe.
However, I feel that many of us are failing to learn the lesson of Icarus. Icarus was the son of a master craftsman Daedalus, a skilled craftsman who fashioned a pair of wings out of wood and feathers. He counselled his son Icarus not to fly too close to the sun, but excitement and hubris got the better of him, and he ignored his father's warning, and the sun melted the wax, the feathers fell off, and he was left flapping nothing but wood. Icarus fell to his death in the sea.
The promise of being told you can do 'anything' in modern recording, you just need to hand over your cash and get an X is tempting and intoxicating. Who wouldn't want to get the sound of a famous drummer, or be able to mix movies like a Hollywood giant? We watch our favourite heroes talking about how they tracked a vocal or scored a blockbuster and they make it look so easy.
But this is where reality departs from perception, something being made to look easy is not the same as it being easy. A good craftsman makes what they do look effortless.
As I've watched part of my house being demolished and rebuilt by skilled workers, it has been a sobering lesson. I'm both amazed and humbled by their skill acquired through study and apprenticeship and enormously grateful for their wisdom gained through many years of working in their chosen profession.
Of course, money plays a large part in why many of us choose to use a piece of technology instead of an artisan. It is why so many of us think we can master music, but as I've said in countless articles before, the reason I use a mastering engineer has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with their objectivity and experience.
There's an old saying 'if you think a professional is expensive then try using an amateur.' This may be a pithy saying that continues to do the rounds on social media, but the experience of the last month tends to have me agree with the sentiment.
By all means, harness the power of modern recording technology to make a set of wings that can help you to fly to artistic heights, but please take care not to fly too close too the sun!