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It’s Electric! Behind Sam Clapp’s Summer Internship

Q: Where is your 2018 summer internship?

A: I am a student intern at Electrical Audio, a studio complex in Chicago.

Q: How did you find the position?

A: My friend Daniel Ruder, who is a recording engineer, musician, and excellent dude in St. Louis, connected me with the company. I believe he interned at the studio when he was in college.

Q: Why did you choose to apply? What was it about the position that appealed to you?

A: I’d been aware of Electrical Audio for a long time – a lot of incredible musicians have recorded there – and it’s renowned for being one of the few professional analog studios with rates that independent artists and labels can afford.

When the time came to apply for internships, it was a no-brainer to apply at Electrical Audio. When else will I be in Chicago, have student status, and know someone who used to work there?

Studio apprenticeships used to be the primary way that novice engineers learned the craft of making a record, from working with musicians to operating the mountains of gear used in the process. With the advent of digital recording and online music distribution, many big studios closed up shop, almost eliminating the apprenticeship system in the process.

This position appealed to me because it’s a rare opportunity to learn firsthand about the equipment, production techniques, and business concerns of an analog-first studio. 

Another thing is that the studio is run by engineers Steve Albini, Greg Norman, and a small staff, whose commitment to helping independent artists make beautiful recordings is legend. Maybe the primary reason I’m excited to help out at Electrical Audio is to contribute and learn from the independent-minded, and dare I say, “punk,” ethos of the place.

Q: What type of sound experience are you gaining from this internship experience?

A: In this internship, I’m learning a lot about analog recording: routing signals through a console, recording to multitrack and mixdown tape machines, and using outboard gear for signal processing. Electrical Audio has a world-class microphone collection, so I’m exploring the subtle colorations different mics provide. I’m finding out about room acoustics for music recording.

I hope to learn about electronic components and things that can go wrong in analog circuits. I’m also gaining understanding about the flow of recording and mixing sessions, the business aspect of running a recording studio, making fluffy coffees, and bathroom-cleaning praxis.

Q:  How does this internship align with some of your post-grad or career goals?

A: I’m interested in assisting the creative efforts of others, as well as making works of music, art, and journalism myself. Working alongside independent-minded people who take inspiration from both artistic and technical tasks is essentially my career goal. Electrical Audio is full of engineers and musicians who meet that description, so the studio is a great place to learn about how creative work can fit into a life.

Q:  How do you feel that Northwestern has prepared you to be successful in your internship?

A: Though I’d recorded a lot of music before coming to Northwestern, I had never worked in a professional studio environment. The program at Northwestern filled in gaps in my knowledge of digital and editing, signal flow, and physical aspects of sound, signals, and perception. Working with faculty members – and my talented classmates – provided a sense of community and common purpose.

Q:  What are your goals once you’ve completed the internship?

A: After my internship, I plan to make music, sound art, and radio to stir the soul!