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Axel Kacoutié

Course: BA (Hons) Music for Media

Year of graduation: 2013

When I found out Ravensbourne was doing a new course based on what I was already doing for fun, writing music for film and levelling up my technical knowledge, it was a no brainer! The reason I first considered going to university was to learn new skills and improve my chances of getting a creative job. Ravensbourne took pride in its established industry links and that was something I definitely wanted to make the most of. The other options out there were either too theoretical or generic in their offering.

One of the highlights from my time at Ravensbourne was working as a playback operator at the 2012 Olympics. Not only was it an experience to remember, a chance tweet during one event set me up for the career path I’m now following. I was a big fan of James O’Brien’s show on LBC when I was a student and he tweeted that he was watching one of the taekwondo matches I helped operate. After a Twitter exchange with him and the head technical operator, Clive Jones, I eventually plucked up the courage to ask how him how he got into working at LBC. He ended up training me, and I started working weekends while I was still at Ravensbourne, doing the drivetime show after graduating. I worked with James O’Brien on a daily basis and on Nick Ferrari at Breakfast. Over four and a half years, I worked my way up to become the lead studio manager at LBC.

I eventually left LBC for the BBC, working on Radio 4 and the World Service, before being headhunted by The Guardian to work on their podcast series, Today in Focus. I was told it was the creative work I did outside of LBC and the BBC that caught their attention, as well as my experience working in a newsroom and studio. Over the years, I have created a number of sound and film productions for my own poetry and music passion projects and also produced a podcast with an arts charity, called ‘Poet in the City’.

My sound design was featured in a short film, ‘Wilson’, included as part of Channel 4’s Random Acts series last year. I also write music for a music library production company called SONOTON, which I am still receiving royalties from and have been nominated in two entries in the Best Current Affairs & Best New Podcast category at the British Podcast Awards 2019.

In my current role at The Guardian, I work alongside audio producers and journalists, who handover a rough edit of the next day’s podcast. Mostly they’ve been prepared a couple of days before, relating to a news story or corresponding Guardian article. It’s my role to clean the interview mix with EQ, compressors and any other effects to enhance the story. A musical ear doesn’t just apply to making music. It’s a major help when it comes to pacing speech or knowing when to stop and start the music again in time after a dramatic pause. Everything has a rhythm and that comes in handy when podcasting. The music used in The Guardian’s podcasts is sourced from a sound library we’ve subscribed to, as well as the podcast’s theme music which I composed.

Having stepped into the podcasting world, I’d like to produce more of my own in creative ways. There’s so much you can do and say and I feel like it’s the perfect medium that fuses my music, sound and storytelling skills. In the future I’d also like to give back and support young people to develop their skills in the sound and music world.

I would encourage current students to ask questions — don’t suffer in silence. If you don’t understand what the difference between a condenser and dynamic microphone is, ask!  Don’t compare yourself to others, everyone has different skills and talents so learn from each other rather than compete. There’s plenty of room at the table and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And have fun! You are going to make people feel things with your work and that is guaranteed to be a rewarding experience, so remember to enjoy the process.

Axel Kacoutié

Sound designer, The Guardian

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