Michael ‘Smasha’ Pollard

Audio engineer Michael Smasha Pollard is one of Australia’s most revered front-of-house mixers.

Owner and operator of Smash’n’Sound for over 30 years, he has a diploma in audio engineering from the SAE and a Graduate Diploma in Industrial Education & Training from RMIT. 

He has toured the UK, Asia, New Zealand and Australia mixing bands such as Mondo Rock, Huxton Creepers, Archie Roach, Russell Morris, Jon Stevens, Joe Camaleri and the Feelers. 

When he’s home, he is a sound production instructor, mentor and purchasing officer at RMIT University. Smasha, welcome to the show.

Hi John, good to speak to you.

Good to speak to you as well mate. What got you into audio production and mixing? Was it live mixing of the studio environment where it all began for you?

As a 12-year-old I was sitting around the bedroom recording radio on the cassette tapes. I guess that was, unknowingly at the time, the birth and the attraction to the recorded form. And then, you know, I played piano through primary school, I played drums through high school. And then did the inevitable; leave high school, get a job. So I got a trade and basically became a spark [electrician]. 

Not long into that trade I increasingly realised that all my mates were playing music and I was earning money but pretty much unhappy with the waking moment of each day and what I was doing. So I took steps to fix that just through some sort of life guidance off some friends at the time. Sort of looked at sound engineering as something I hadn’t considered previously. And that was the start of the journey, I guess.

Very quickly, the first opportunities I had were doing gigs because at the time we were in the late 80s in Brisbane. Doing gigs, there was a healthy scene and there were bands that needed mixing. And I quickly discovered that mixing, not only rewarded with a few bucks, but more importantly was sort of a very instant gratification. A lot of pressure and forced me to sort of get my trust and instincts developed. 

So the first few years I guess I developed a relationship with a few bands that were getting airplay in Brisbane on public radio and Triple Z. That I guess, working with those bands live I also ended up working with a few of those bands in the studio. And almost had this synergy between get some recording done for them and the present that live and kind of repeat that cycle.

So that was, I guess, the introduction to the music business.

Surely, being an electrician must have come in handy along the way – just having an understanding of current, I suppose and some of those elements?

Probably. I was admittedly, probably a disconnected electrician. In that, you know, my dad was a sparkie so I guess I fell like the apple close to the tree. It seemed like the right thing at the time. I know I enjoyed elements of it – I don’t think I was driven to be a great electrician. 

It’s proven to be handy, although I’ve let my licence slide and I guess I’ve never promoted myself since then as someone who would be your go-to person for doing repairs. You know? The end of my electrical trade, I was doing repairs to domestic appliances and power tools. I think it was that – that was kind of the breaking point. (Laughs).

Understandable, yeah.

So, it’s been handy in the mentoring and teaching, being able to somehow explain to someone who doesn’t have that background, just the critical connection between electrical principles and, I guess, the creative process of using sound production tools.

That’s really important, you know? I think, as you’d agree, if you venture into owning a fair bit of equipment and traditional audio gear, it’s essentially masses of cabling all running via voltage and current. You kind of need to have a bit of that appreciation.  So yeah, it’s come in handy, sure.

Pressure of live shows

You and I go back a long way to get as front-of-house engineer for a number of my bands.

I’ve seen you work under enormous pressure, with limited time in smokey, dirty pubs full of drunks. How challenging is it? How do you prepare for these types of situations, particularly as a beginner?

I think you just need to persevere. And that’s a slow adaption process. There is maybe no preparation other than some individuals can deal with how that exposes you to moment-to-moment decision making and distractions within that environment.

I think it’s something that evolves over time. I don’t think that’s…. you know, I would never promise to someone studying or entering into the industry that that’s something that I can really teach them. I can give them some anecdotal advice from my experience and I can maybe give them some procedural steps to solve problems and to fault find. 

But you’re right, it’s manic. And I guess, experience is everything. You know, to start with, distractions are plenty. Sadly, some of the best learning experiences can be where you make poor decisions.

You learn from your mistakes?

Yeah, you learn from that.

I’d never felt comfortable watching engineers work under those live pressures. It’s always, sort of, done my head in. I feel like we’re in a sort of safe place up on the stage. 

When my band Five Mile Snipe was launching the Sound of Trees album at the Railway Hotel in Brunswick, I clearly remember you walk into that room that had been ransacked and devoid of critical pieces of equipment. And again, in record time and huge pressure, you made it all work like magic. 

This could be pretty commonplace in your world, you need to be a problem solver, yeah?

Yeah. I think well you know, the classic saying, “It’s not about the problems, it’s about the solutions.” And I think that’s easier said than done. Again, I guess the theme of conversations like this, often about ‘experience is everything’. Ultimately, with time honoured exposure, you have a greater treasure chest of ideas to solve those problems.

And look, I don’t know, part of that is… you know I guess I’ve found with people I work with and my repeat booked clients, one of the things that they appreciate as my role as the engineer, is to disarm the issues. Maybe not alert them to the depth of the problems. Allow them to get on with what they need to do. Allow me to do what I need to do and hopefully, the paying punter just has a show.

It’s incredibly alarming sometimes, the shit that’s happening behind the scenes. It is tricky sometimes to hide it. But at the end of the day, I guess that’s the gig. Someone on stage doesn’t need to know what you’re going through. And I guess, that’s part of the service that I maybe don’t knowingly offer, but that’s definitely some feedback that I’ve had from people.

Such as your comment about the Railway Hotel!

Hearing Protection

I used to work with an engineer in the late 80’s, he had some really interesting views on volumes and frequencies. His theory was: the louder it is, the more wax your ears produce in order to protect your hearing.

As a front-of-house mixer, you can’t use hearing protection can you?

I would typically not wear hearing protection whilst I’m on the faders. The exceptions to that rule, John, have been if I’ve been on a run of shows and let’s say for example, the run of shows is 4, 5 weeks duration. I’ll say it respectively, there’s a little bit of Groundhog Day involved in that.

And the exposure levels, particularly if the gigs are of a small-, medium-size. Where you’re closer to the system, the energy of the band, it has a natural volume, and the paying punter is kind of needing an engagement often to chew through a little bit of volume.

So I have put custom-moulded attenuators in my ears. Not for the duration of the show, but at intervals during the evening, just to I guess, give me just a little bit of a break. And out of respect, I guess, to myself and to the band so I can actually do something useful the next night and just have some hearing left.

I would just counter that also with, if we go back from where I entered the industry in the 80s. Health and safety wasn’t of the same conscious discussion that it is now. And also, I feel that the cliché is somewhat true that when you’re young you’re invincible.

And anyone who’s a lover of music and then also happens to be a lover of sound, there is that addiction to the energy and things like low frequencies and the movement of the body and bowel.

It’s tricky. What I would say now is, I will mix to a level that I feel is appropriate for both the paying punter and the band and the event. Sometimes that’s guided by law or guided by licence and that’s inevitable these days. And the other thing is if I’ve got to put hearing protection in because it’s so friggin’ loud at the mixing desk, God help anyone closer to the stage.

So I think there’s a bit of respect in that and some people you know, you see some people go to sleep laying in front of the speakers and the subs. You wonder if they actually have any hearing left the next day.

That One Frequency

Every venue is different and every room has its own unique characteristics in sound reinforcement. But I’m sure there’s always a couple of culprit frequencies that give you some grief. What is that one troubled frequency you’ll always need to reach for?

Ahh, just make sure 2.5K isn’t omnipresent. Be it on some monitors and particularly for front-of-house, it’s kind of where your hearing mechanism is most efficient due to the dimensions within your inner ear. So therefore, 2.5 to 3.15K, you don’t want to hear that at a dominant level.

So I tend to cut that and… not just me, but it’s a typical approach that a lot of engineers will have. 

Some speaker systems will be less hard in that area. It does depend on where the crossover point is. There’s a few ifs and buts and the style of music and the density of the arrangement and all that.

But if you ask me for one frequency that I reckon most people would not wanna hear overwhelmingly loud – round about there. Start there and I reckon you’re at least aren’t hurting people.

You’ll be getting some of that from the guitars on stage too, won’t you. If you’ve got an amped up band, 2K’s pretty present there, isn’t it?

That’s right. Well, you’re defining the presence area in that sort of, you know, 1-5K area. Particularly that 2-4K, is really where we’re getting definition on a lot of instruments and we’re getting that bite and that.

That’s a really sort of crucial area, so if you take too much of it away, you are losing the definition of the note of that instrument. So you know, there’s a fine line there to strike the balance.

From my experience as a performer for over 30 years, when the stars have aligned and your band’s on fire, you’ve got a support team in place, the last thing you want is a bad live show.

A shit mix can ruin a gig and many occasions I’ve walked off stage after a great performance to be greeted by punters who say, “The mix was deplorable.”

I’ve even seen front-of-house mixers standing at the bar, having a beer during a show. To me, your mixer is almost as crucial as a band member.

Is this not a massive responsibility for the front-of-house mixer to get it right?

Well, that’s the attraction to me. It’s a complementary role. In addition to the performance, the tone, the playing, the delivery of the song on stage. To a punter at a gig, the way that all those sounds end up entering the air and arriving at the punters’ ears – that’s the mix.

That’s the attraction to me. It is a complementary process, you know? I don’t actively perform music. I don’t actively practice an instrument now. As I got into this, I essentially kind of walked away from what I’d grown up to being attracted to as a musician, and treated the mixing console as an instrument.

So I guess that kind of summarises my approach. It is an extension of what the band’s doing. And on a good day, you’re right, it all comes together in such a beautiful way. And sometimes you have a range of forces working against you where you’re still trying to push the song into shape.

But you may have acoustics in the space that are working against you, you may have a sound system which is just difficult or poorly designed or poorly put together, which is working against you. So somewhere in that, you try to focus on the critical elements and the balance.

You mentioned before that loud guitars on stage, that’s a classic for a young band in a small gig. In which case, maybe you just don’t need those to be in the mix. And consider how the punters experience it. Can they hear that instrument? If they can, let it go, let it come off the amp on stage, don’t try to push it up. And that should give a complementary balance.

So you know, it can play out so many ways and I guess that’s what makes life so exciting – or at least a rewarding challenge is that often every instance of each event has a unique set of circumstances.

The Fifth Member

I’ve always been greatly concerned about who was mixing the band and there have been times where we’ve almost pulled a pin on a show because we couldn’t get our mixer, who I felt was an extension of the band.

If the mixer knows your material, knows your direction, knows your whole ethos of the band, they can work to that. Sometimes when you’ve got a walk-in mixer who’s filling in, it always made me incredibly nervous, you know?

Yeah, look that’s right. I guess my path through the industry different to some. I’ve never been an employee of an production company as such, like working for a major PA business. So I’ve typically always had a fairly one-on-one relationship to specific bands or the specific performers.

That has then lead to me often working with those clients for long periods of time. So they have attached me to what they wanna present.

And that’s a great thing for your line of work, isn’t it? Any of the big bands in the world, whether it’s U2 or the Stones, they’ve been using the same front-of-house guys for decades, haven’t they? They’ve got this synergy and they work with these guys continually.

That’s right and it’s back to your first comment. That then means that that role is an extension of what the band’s image and music is that they’re trying to project.

When that synergy comes right, then you know that’s what the paying public ultimately… they maybe don’t know that they expect it, but that’s what they hope they get as an experience, as the whole show is just effortless and of a high standard.

I’ve always figured that the interchangeability between the recording studio engineer and the live front-of-house engineer has been kind of straight ahead. But in some respects, they’re quite different animals, aren’t they?

They are. For me they’ve been really complementary. And I guess there’s a couple of perspectives to that. It’s a brutal industry to keep income and cash flow if you’re self-employed, as many engineers are.

If you are working directly with artists, there can be peaks and troughs in the year. I feel working purely in live performance, there’ll be summer periods that are busy and winter periods that are quiet.

So you could say that if you’ve got a studio skillset, you can fill in the gaps. So on a business level, it kind of makes a bit of sense. On a skill level, I think they’re incredibly intertwined, because the gig forces you to be responsive, forces you to be instinctual, and you don’t have time to second guess.

That, taken into the studio environment is really rewarding for the artist and keeps a progressiveness to how a session flows. 

And the weird world of the closed doors of a studio can mean that things occur that no one else ever knows or sees. And that can mean a blow-out to budget. It can mean a band spending inordinate amounts of time in certain steps of the procedure of the recording.

And they kind of could lose the vibe or lose their satisfaction for progress, and that could have an impact. That could have an impact on their confidence, and then all of a sudden people aren’t playing.

I have, at least in my little world, I really felt that what I’ve done between the two have really helped both of them.

Problem Solver

In my studio – and I’ve never done live stuff and I probably should have – there have been moments in the studio when I’ve had technical issues and I’ve had to work through them slowly.

And of course, like you said, I’ve felt I was compromising the band’s vibe and their creative approach while I’m fiddling around trying to figure out what’s gong on.

Now that wouldn’t have happened for you because that is a part of your world, isn’t it? Being on the fly, fixing things, problem solving.

It is.

That’s a great thing to have. It’s a complementary thing for your studio, isn’t it?

The flip side is, in the studio, if you need to, you can take your time and you can investigate sounds, you can explore things like mic positions, you can explore textures and tones and you can go down creative pathways. And that’s one of the beautiful aspects of the recording world.

And often, some of the little investigations that you have in that luxurious environment, you can take with you and apply in the craziness of the gig. So that is part of the complementary idea.

So what advice do you have for the young person considering a career in audio production? Would you suggest a formal education as you’ve had, and training, or just getting out there, jump on YouTube and learning to chops in any way you can?

That’s down to the individual really. Look, I’ve been around enough people coming through programmes who have both seen the programmes out and done a lot of training and mentoring and yet still not reached a level of confidence. To those who have commenced training and abandoned it only to go on to be incredibly successful. That’s a personal journey that I don’t think there is any cookie cutter approach that could be applied. And that’s the beauty of the industry. 

However, the industry at the moment, and the technology we’ve got and the competition there is. They way that the world is operating on a business level in the music industry, kind of rewards knowledge and it kind of rewards a more sort of focused approach. So I think education is important. I don’t think it can be the sole… won’t solely lead to some type of successful outcome. And it will be down to the individual.

Some people can learn by reading a textbook, of course YouTube is an immensely valuable resource, but if you pick a certain topic of production and you look for ideas from YouTube, it’s like looking at forums. You’d better be prepared to filter through some misinformation because there is no filter applied to those posts.

If you spend too much time on Gearslutz you’re in trouble.

That’s right.

Pro Audio Gear

Let’s talk about classic pro audio or outboard gear. The plugins are quite amazing nowadays and I have a couple of UA cards in my Mac and they just blow me away. I only really use my outboard 1073’s and 1176’s and maybe the console for tracking now.

But although like most I adore all the old gear, I advise people not to waste their money, and buy a laptop. What are your thoughts?

If you’re tracking from acoustic sources and you’ve got any type of input via microphone, invest in a pre-amp. Potentially invest in a compressor and for example you said 1176. You could even now go to companies like Warm Audio and get versions of those products, which are incredibly… they’re well made and they’re cost effective.

And I think that would be money well spent and you don’t have to have lots of it. Unless you are going to routinely have to record 20 mics at once, in which case you need 20 great mic pre-amps and you’re probably going to have to look for a console. 

The software world is terrifying because the emulations and modelling that we currently have available are in many blind tests, difficult to decipher from the original. However, there’s still some fundamental differences between, you know, a pure analogue path and a digital path.

Whether people can notice or appreciate it is another thing. I think it depends on the song and the music as to whether the time and expense is validated down one way or another. I like the hybrid approach, you know? The ideal world is you have the best of both.

Very interesting, because there is some incredible music being made on laptops and iPads now. I mean, these creative ‘kids’, let’s say, are able to make things happen and the ingenuity is just amazing, I reckon.

There’s a great interview that’s just come out on Tape Op with the owner of Real World Studios, Peter Gabriel. And one of the comments that he’s kind of made in that interview is the democratisation of the music industry through technology and the laptop syndrome.

And it’s fundamentally a positive thing, because at the end of the day, if someone is empowered to capture their creative ideas in music and they can do it without the barriers of expense and space – as in traditional studio – then music’s the winner.

However, there’s the flip side to that in, I guess, the false delivery that anyone who owns a laptop is immediately a producer and have an entitled place in the industry. That’s something which is dangerous.

Where Are The Women?

So where are the women in the industry? I’ve had this conversation with a number of guests, and to me, it still feels like such a male-orientated industry. We need more women mixers, yeah?

Yeah, you’re right, it is. And there’s no one good reason for that. I guess there’s elements of say live sound where there is a physicality of moving equipment. And that may lead to a certain, I guess, physical strength that might be an advantage.

But I’m currently in the middle of doing a day on the green, Brian Ferry’s the main act, I’m mixing the main support act. I’m talking, the monitor engineer for Brian Ferry is a female, Melbourne-based engineer. Absolutely no restrictions to that role, whether it was male or female. It just happens to be the best person for the job. 

But I’m seeing in students coming in to study, at least in my little world at RMIT and the sound production programme, it’s still misweighted, but there seems to be an improvement over time, as in an increase in numbers. That might be awareness because, for example, a school leaver 15 years ago, may not have been aware through their careers counselling options that this was something that they could viably do, whereas now that’s probably more of a promoted option.

Nurturing relationships with you regular high-paying, live performance clients would understandably be quite important to you as we were talking about before.

With that said, I’ve always been curious, is there a first in best-dressed approach for you when you’re being hired regardless of who the client is?

I would like to honour whoever has booked first and with most notice. However, there must be, with clients who there is a trust and a long relationship with, there can sometimes be those awkward moments where I may have been booked by an established client, but then closer to that booking time another client may come in but has a large run of shows, for example.

And in the best outcome, that long-standing client may be flexible enough to allow both of us to workshop an alternative operator. So I tend to promote the idea of an A team and B team. So that even if I’m ill or if something happens, I can provide the satisfaction to the artist that they’re still gonna have someone who I put my reputation with and their gig will get done.

And I think that’s just sort of out of mutual respect. So it’s ideal when that happens, but certainly. Yeah, person who books first I will try to honour, but of course you need to be realistic to accommodate unknown changes. (Laughs).

Yeah, or that tour that’s extended and you’ve got to stay on the road with Mondo Rock or whatever, you’re supposed to be back in town you’ve got to workshop that the best you can, I suppose.

Yeah, I’ve got one of those issues this year. Once I get into May, I basically have a long-standing annual tour that will take about 20 shows around Australia that has taken a number of years to ensure that the crew we have is on a rebooking each year. And it brings a sense of quality and control continue to make sure that show and tour has a sense of identity which is strong and has a high production value.

Which is kind of reinforcing what we discussed earlier about the continual support of the same people who are involved with this project. The delivery is always enhanced from that.

And some of the things that don’t get seen in that is the lines of communication between crew and venues. With repeat gigs back through venues, there’s a lot of, I guess, preliminary communication in advance of shows and talking between events staff and free staff. And all of that basically pays off to an honest conversation and an understanding of what’s required.

That’s a valuable commodity. So allowing the same group of people to deliver a show means that there is a shortcut in all of that communication. People sort of understand who’s involved, what they need, what’s going on, who should they speak to if there’s a problem, and it just makes everything much more efficient, yep.

Personalised Shows

And I’ve always noticed that the better live engineers always carried some pro audio gear to personalise their mixes. Is there any kind of kit that you take to the shows?

If we were having this conversation 15 years ago, there’d be a rack of analogue processing that I would typically rely on, adding into the production chain.

It’s a memory stick now, isn’t it?

Well, we laugh but I can’t live without a bag of USB sticks for digital consoles. Each USB stick is a brand-formatted or console-formatted stick so I don’t share sticks between brands or between console formats.

That then also means that I’ve got a building block for a show, so sometimes when you’re short on time or you’re doing a festival with a quick change over but a high-pressure requirement to get the first song up and up sounding good, the ability to use a USB-recordable shaped show file is the modern reality. 

So USB sticks, of course always with. Maybe authorisations for things like plug-ins, which are an extension of the digital console reality. And then after that, what do you carry in your tool kit? It depends what you need. For me, I do tend to rely on a few microphones that I like to use, both for their sonics that give me a signature sound that I expect to hear and that maybe I apply my sounds on, and also just a guaranteed, known sense of quality.

Things like maybe having clean vocal mics that, you know, if you end up at a pub where the vocal mics that are used night in night out, you know what it’s like, John, you come up to do your first vocal, you draw your breath in and all you can do is smell last night’s garlic kebab.

From Brunswick Street.

From the previous band.

Sounds like the Punters’ Club.

I know.

So there’s no more multi-cores, racks of outboard kit, no more road cases, that’s all kind of history isn’t it?

As far as a walk-in engineer, probably not carrying much more than a pelican case with some mics, DIs, some signal testers and some cable adaptors and headphones. Really, what an engineer carries really does depend on what their exposure to their environment is, you know? Whether you need to carry multimeter, whether you need to carry a spare stylus for a turntable, if you’re doing club gigs, you know. All of that is other variables.

But yeah, the days of… well, a PA will always have some cabling, unless you’re a PA owner or you’re with the production company, you’re probably not going to be carrying any of that massive cabling around.

Sabotage The Support

So let’s talk about sabotage. In all my years of being the perennial support act, there was always some reasonable, healthy sabotage of the support actually’s sound and lights to ensure the main acts look and sound the best.

Does this still happen, and how do you manage it?

First off, my experience on a significant level was a support for a local band signed to a label that was internationally based. They were assigned a support act slot to a well-established national act. No matter what I tried to do in my mix, it literally sucked. What I discovered was beyond my control, to the point where when that band finished and I saw the mix engineer come to the desk, I saw an exchange of money.

And I realised that at that point there was sort of a little bit of…


A little bit of collusion going on, right. Shenanigans. Doesn’t happen on that level that I would… I pretty confidently say that none of that happens now. Anyone who’s in this for the right reasons now has a professional approach.

It’s all about the show. There’s a respect. So if you’re engineering an opening band, you need to understand that a lot of the paying public don’t need to be belted over the head with a 105 dB of kick drum at 8.30 at night. And if you don’t get that, you know, you’ll quickly be told or you’ll probably have people in the room moving away from the stage. And if you don’t see that, then you’re probably not doing your job that well.

So there’s less of that happening now. Typically, for larger gigs, you’ve got complete access to the system and there is, I guess, a degree of understood respect involved to just do what you’re required to do but do it within the context of the entire event. So that the night duals.

So look, you and I are about the same age. What happens to the older front-of-house mixer? Is there life after 50 when hearing frequencies are being compromised, and being home in your own bed at 9.30 looks more attractive than ever?

There’s some pathways that you’ll find across the industry even with younger engineers and younger touring bands, and I guess, promoters. The attraction of having an engineer who can also be the tour manager makes financial sense.

Moving on in your career, maybe stepping over into more solely tour management and having that sort of overarching responsibility for herding the cats and to drive the circus, you know, in and out of airports, in and out of hotels and to do all the behind the scenes organisation. That’s a very typical, I guess, inevitability. 

Or moving more into the production side and being responsible more for the organisation of equipment, the booking of gear, maybe coming back into the folds of a production company and having more administrational control, because you have a depth of knowledge that allows you to make the right decisions

Those decisions might initially be on paper, but they’re going to end up being a practical outcome. That’s a very powerful ability to maybe make those right decisions. 

You know, that’s a couple of pathways that routinely be viewed as optionals or inevitables when the ringing the ears becomes too much or the ability to deal with constant travel or being away from family and home are no longer something you can deal with.

Can you see yourself going that way?

For the moment I strike a balance. I tend not to do any long tours and I do a lot of fly in, fly outs so, I guess, Thursday to Sunday. You can strike a pretty reasonable balance with my home life and my work life by doing that. I foresee that being something I can continue to do for some time yet.

Ask me that question in 10 years’ time, John, and we’ll see just how radically different the answer is. I may have taken up my professional cycling career by that time.

Classroom Instructor

You’re a class instructor and mentor. Your experience is  sure to be a massive benefit to those entering the industry, have you seen any changes in the kinds of young people entering the sound production industry? Are people more interested in live or studio work?

Yeah, this a very topical discussion between staff. We have noticed, particularly in the last 4 or 5 years, a few shifts. In that last few years have, I guess, struggled to attract the same number of students to meet the business model requirements that is professional education. And there could be any number of reasons for that.

Part of it is there’s maybe the attraction of the straight sound engineering is no longer the same as it was previous because the type of students we’re getting now are more distracted by technology. And it’s not a straight engineering study that they think they’re seeking out. They just wanna understand how a broad range of equipment works and then find out how they can fit into their future life.

So there’s always been musicians who need to understand production technique. I don’t think that’s changed too much. I think there’s been a drop in the driven, focused, engineering attraction.

Part of that maybe is 20 years ago, you’d pick up a recording and you could read the credits and you would always have in written form, a reminder that there was producer, there was an engineer, there was maybe an assistant, and there was an advertised delegation of roles. It’s very hard now to actually find out who wrote the song, let alone who were the production staff.

Those types of details and how someone interacts with recorded music is stopping that transfer of knowledge and information that there’s human beings and there’s roles and employment opportunities behind it. 

So we’ve got a great bunch of students coming through this year as there is most years. Numbers are reasonably healthy this year, there’s maybe no single reason for that. It’s early days as to what their future offers, but yeah. 

There has been a shift to answer your question. There’s definitely been a shift in the type of student. The shift in the student means we’ve had to change, we’ve had to adapt how we teach. We’ve had to adapt.

So what will Smasha be doing in 10 years’ time?

Ahhh, yeah, great question. Well, I think what I think of is what will the technology have evolved into then? You know? Looking into the past, something that has been proven is the future proof of classic analogue equipment. Now, I’m curious in how that trend, that cycle back to that, how that’s going to inform what we do in the future. 

We are typically, in some part of all our lives, slaves to technology, and with audio, slaves to the freedoms and the evolution of digital gear. But I’m reminded that if I try and access a CDR, a CD recordable backup of a virtual session that I did in 1999, my expectation is going to be 50:50 whether I can access that. So that makes me fearful for what I’m recording now and what I can do in 15 years’ time.

So what can we do in 10 years’ time? I don’t know. If you ask what I’ll be doing, I don’t know. It’ll be up to how my hearing is, be up to what my state of mind is, what demands of my family life, if I still am driven to enjoy it. At the moment, that drive and that satisfaction is still very much very strong.

Don’t Give Up The Piano

And so finally, if you could speak to the 18-year-old Smasha, what would be the one piece of advice you’d give him?

Don’t give up the piano!

I did too. I would love to sit down and play the piano beautifully, but yeah, like you I moved on guitar. Oh well.

Yeah. It’s a good question. Gee, I don’t have an instinctual answer to that. Not a lot of regrets. I tended to say yes to opportunity and then worked out how the hell I’m going to meet that obligation. And I don’t think I’d change that.

So that was putting yourself out of your comfort zone. It was forcing you and challenging you to do things that you wouldn’t normally do.

I just finished an episode on stepping out of your comfort zone. I think it’s very interesting because that’s something that I think we’ve all done, haven’t we? We’ve pushed ourselves into an uncomfortable area and that’s where all the growth occurs.

That’s right. And I think that’s more easily done when you’re younger. But then, ironically, you probably do more of it as you get older, but you just don’t acknowledge it as much because you feel like you’re not as much outside that comfort zone. You tend to be able to explore more opportunity with life experience. 

You tend to be more comfortable with – as I say – more comfortable with being uncomfortable.

That’s well said!

Michael ‘Smasha’ Pollard, thank you for being on the show, mate.

Always a pleasure to talk with you and I look forward to being around some of your music and your creative vibes again in the future.

Thank you mate, I appreciate it.

Thanks, John.

Next episode of Indie Confidential is about playing live.

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