Mark Pickering

Staff. Audio and Music Technical Officer.

Mark works at ARU as a Technical Officer and part-time lecturer for Audio Music Technology. Outside of ARU he works as a video director, and audio professional in both creative and technical capacities, directing music videos, working on organisational aspects of audio-visual events, and also producing and composing music.

How does your work outside the university tie in with your work at ARU?

With the music videos, for example, you get to find out what the younger generation are listening to.  I started working on grime videos, and me and my brother were the first people to really make grime videos look good. Before we came along they were really low budget, but we put a production value to them.

We got to work with emerging artists like Lethal Bizzle, people who were well known maybe ten years ago. It changes so quickly, but it really helps being able to relate to students, and to understand where they’re coming from. Also with keeping your finger on the pulse with what’s happening technically in the industry. I can feed that back to my manager and colleagues and say ‘look, this is happening - we need to find out more about this.’

What one thing most inspired you to do what you do now?

It was massively inappropriate. At 6 years old I set my VCR recorder to film American Werewolf in London, which is a brilliant horror film, a black comedy by John Landis, and that just got my imagination going. As it turns out, 30 years later, I’ve now made my own horror film.

But there’s also just music. Growing up in the ’80s there was a lot of good and bad music about, but I just wanted to be a musician. Round about the ’90s, when I first heard the band Nirvana, I was just like ‘this is what I want to do’. It was through learning to be a musician, and getting into recording studios, that I found a passion for the more technical side of it as well. And I’m glad I did, because there’s certainly more work that way.

What single piece of advice would you give your younger self?

When I was at sixth form I was talked out of studying music technology and film studies, and convinced to do chemistry. I just wish I could go back and say ‘you’re going to be doing music technology and film for your career, so do that.’ I’d go back and have a word with myself.

But I always knew this was what I was interested in. You’ve got to make decisions when you’re 16, and that’s a lot of pressure, but if there’s something burning inside you that you want to do, you only live once. You might as well try and do the thing that really motivates you, that you really want to do. Obviously you need talent as well. You need to have skills within these sectors. I think sometimes media and art subjects can be frowned upon at a certain level, like it’s not academic enough. I think the current environment, the way media and art are interacting everywhere, just shows you how wrong everybody was.

What’s the most valuable thing you took away from your education?

I look back at my A-levels as a bit of an error. Because I wasn’t interested in what I was studying, I drifted and got involved with other things. I wonder if that would be a little bit different nowadays. It was 1996, it was ‘oh, the future’s in science...'  But I was aware that the digital revolution was going on, and it hadn’t really ramped up yet, and I knew there was going to be loads of creative jobs in the future, but still I listened. I think what I took out of it was probably learning that, if I ever get the opportunity to study again, I’m going to put everything into it.

What’s the most interesting thing you get to do in your role?

The most interesting thing is that I don’t do any one thing all the time. I wear different hats, and that keeps me interested. But also meeting people. I love meeting people. I love having helped someone become more employable, or seeing students develop into employable young people.

Working in the industry does give me the opportunity to help steer people in the right direction, and those who are really interested, I’ll take them on my film sets and give them work experience, and sometimes pay them as well. It’s a great chance to meet people because, obviously, in the creative industries, it’s all about your contact list, and by bringing other people into the fold, and meeting other people their age, they can start making their networks happen just by coming on work placements.

What do you think future university courses will look like for film and audio students?

I think the lines will blur between film and game. I think there’s going to be more opportunities. What it will be like to teach, I don’t know. It will be interesting to see how things change because we’ve got a lot more applications than we had last year and I think, because of lockdown, people who are musicians are starting to learn technology, and that’s going to have an impact on the next few years at least.

I really think with film, music, audio and gaming, there’s going to be much more interaction and collaboration between those courses, and there should be, and it will be interesting to see how technology develops, whether we have more 3D entertainment or not, I think that very much depends on how VR goes. I don’t think VR can really last while you have to wear big goggles all the time, but the technology will develop, and I think we’ll be serving that technology.

What projects are you currently working on?

At ARU, I’m trying to get the podcasts developing again, now that we’re coming back. For next Trimester I’m going to try to get students more involved in that. I’m also working on putting a masterclass together that we’re going to stream live on Twitch, with a local music producer called Matty Moon who’s incredible.

Outside of ARU, I’m working on series of videos for band called Morcheeba who were really, really massive in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, and are having a bit of a renaissance at the moment. I’m shooting a video for that as First Assistant Director, working with my brother who’s the Director. So that’s a really cool experience. Three performance music videos, and one of them has got live animation in it and green screen, it looks fantastic. One of them, we created a fake underwater world with material, and that looked amazing. And then we’ve got more of a live performance one coming up.

Morcheeba - Sounds Of Blue (Official Music Video)

Tell us something about Cambridge that other people might not know…

Cambridge has got quite a long affiliation and history with the dance music scene, in particular drum and bass and breakbeat. It’s got a really close affiliation with the city of Bristol, where Drum and Bass was born, and so the nightclub ‘Warning’ was set up, and that’s one of the elements that catapulted Drum and Bass to the mainstream, I would say.

There’s a very active musical scene in Cambridge. It’s a little bit under the surface, but there’s a lot of musicians all collaborating. If I can give you a tip, anyone coming to Cambridge, the Portland Arms has music three or five nights a week, and live comedy. There’s plenty of things to discover about Cambridge, but you have to dig for it a little bit.

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