Huw Jones AKA Fox Control is a music maker, studio engineer and sound designer based in Newcastle, NSW. He first captured our attention back in 2019 when he posted a video of the Ableton Push Orchestra he formed at the University of Newcastle and since then has been releasing a string of interesting videos from music gear reviews, and soundtrack compositions to work he does in his studio, Fox Control Studio. Music education is a passion of Huw considering his background in teaching at TAFE and Universities. We caught up with him to see what he was up to.
We’ve seen a lot of creative stuff coming from you at your studio Fox Control. What’s the idea behind the space and how did it come about
My studio is really my shed, I’d say I’m a tinkerer first. Most of my professional life has been in creative industries and I equate that to listening to people and saying yes to them rather quickly. Then a month later having a quiet moment to myself asking ‘what am I doing and how the hell did I get here?!’
My studio is one room. A room within a room, my father and I built inside a shed. It’s quite nicely isolated and treated. I love the one-room scenario, nice to be in the same space with the people I’m working with. Although, I wouldn’t say no to a second room.
The space has a great aesthetic too, I spend a lot of time in this room, so I want it to feel nice as well as functional. I don’t have many leather-bound books and it doesn’t smell of rich mahogany, more like nag champa and I use the bookshelf with about 1000 records as my diffuser and bass trap. I have made diffusers based using Mills and Boon books that you can see on my socials – classy stuff
Is it more than a recording studio?
I am definitely equipped to do lots of recording. Although, I don’t do a lot of recording in a traditional sense. Producing content is good as my bread and butter, and the studio is geared toward more video work nowadays. Last year I created over 100 product videos for Musos Corner, here in Newcastle. By doing so, my shed has become a global streaming and broadcast studio- amazing!
I also do a lot of creativity and innovation-focused projects from building instruments for performance, composition for theatre and a little bit of TV. Recently I started work on a sound for an art installation that will pair with an animation to be displayed quite prominently on a building in Sydney at the end of the year. Last week, a friend came by to record a satirical version of a track for a birthday present. The room also gets used for band rehearsals and sometimes I sleep out here so it’s definitely a multi-purpose space!
My studio is a real laboratory for cooking up all kinds of crazy things. Importantly it’s a listening space, and I live on my monitors and headphones. They are the lenses I look through all day. A good set of monitors and some quality headphones will change your life.
When you are working with artists, what is your approach with regards to song writing or production?
Always listening, no matter what! However, I usually find people come to me to fill a creative, technical gap. They come with a vision, then we work towards realizing it. I find that for any sound I make, way more work is required in listening; to people, to instruments and to other projects. Sometimes I get to work from scratch and that’s where some real chaos comes into play. Interacting with different
instruments like drum machines and synths can create ideas that you may never have thought of. Once you hit that spark, grab a hold of it and go! For example, mashing a sequencer or drum machine and seeing what it throws back, then responding to that. I call this the “human and machine collaboration.” Creativity is in the process and hardware combined.
How did you get into music education?
I started doing private guitar lessons in high school and it evolved from there. Music has always given me a great sense of belonging and I love to share that joy with people and hopefully help them develop the skills they can pass on. That’s how the Push Orchestra at University of Newcastle came about.
What is your approach using synthesizers, software and other music technology?
Technology has always bridged gaps for me, whether it be drum machines because I had no one to jam with on the farm or multi track recorders to realize my ideas.
Most recently I have been running music technology workshops at schools, from years 5 and 6 up. A lot of the music these kids listen to was created electronically, so they respond well to instruments I bring. With the help of Musos Corner, I’m able to take 15-20 synths, drum machines and noisemakers into a classroom. Music teachers generally love it, because it gives them access to equipment, and a program to engage their class. The kids just buzz from interacting with the equipment and each other.
Is this the first time these students are exposed to music making in this way?
Most of these kids are tech natives, their comprehension is amazing because of growing up with interactive technology of iPads, many of which are music based! I do find that they are very open and willing to experiment and explore, which is fantastic. However, a lot of their lives are on a computer or iPad. In some ways, they are kind of restricted and lose a little bit of that engagement. Touch screens are convenient but at the same time are pretty limited for sensory input.
Do you any have pieces of gear that you are loving at the moment?
Recently added a Lexicon PCM92 to my studio. I’ll never look back at another reverb plugin. It’s time-consuming, but there is no comparison to the depth it provides. Aside from that, I have a sweet little lap steel I just picked up and I love contact mics, geophones and EMF mics at the moment.
I’ve devoted a lot of my adult life to working with Ableton Live. I find a DAW the quickest way to realize an idea. I’m working more with audio these days rather than programming MIDI for example. Interesting to see my equipment evolving from MIDI controllers to sound production and processors.
Fox Control Studio: https://www.foxcontrolmusic.com/