“Live sound is something that cannot really be taught in a classroom”
I’m from the home counties and am currently residing in Kingston Upon Thames
How long have you been at it?
What was your very first role in theatre?
Working in the sound department on the original London production of Fame.
What else have you done?
I’ve worked as either associate or assistant sound designer on shows including the UK tours of Never Forget, The Full Monty and The King and I, Daddy Cool in London and Berlin and Cabaret at Teatro Della Luna, Milan.
I was No. 1 sound engineer on Porgy and Bess, Savoy Theatre, Acorn Antiques The Musical, Theatre Royal Haymarket and Anything Goes, Theatre Royal Drury Lane.
Before that I worked as No. 2 and No. 3 sound engineer on shows including Oliver! at the London Palladium and West Side Story at the Prince Edward Theatre.
I’ve also been FOH engineer for bands including PJ Harvey, The Coral, Martina Topley-Bird and Cord.
Have you got qualifications?
Just school qualifications – GCSEs & A-levels
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A train driver, a musician, or an architect
What do you do all day?
There’s never a typical day. As I’m freelance, one day I could be mixing a band or concert; the next I could be rigging speakers in the rain, or sitting at the back of a dark theatre-making sound effects.
If I’m working as a theatre No.1 sound engineer, I’m likely to do the following:
Arrive at about 5pm, have a cup of tea and a chat. Switch on the sound system and spend about an hour checking that every single piece of equipment works correctly (desks, speakers, pit mics, radio mics etc)
Have a bit to eat about 6pm until the half hour call, at which point the backstage team (No.2 & No.3) will go around affixing radio mics to cast.
After the show collect mics and power down as quickly as possible and go for a drink!
What’s the best thing about your job?
The adrenaline and excitement of live performance and the satisfaction of making something sound nice. The audience’s reaction at a good show.
And the worst?
Lots of sitting around, waiting for things to happen. Not seeing the sun during technical periods. The anti-social hours
What’s your dream job in theatre?
To do what I’m doing – slowly achieving the role of sound designer on a successful show
Got any wise words for someone who wants to be where you are now?
Sound, especially live sound is something that cannot really be taught in a classroom. The only way to learn and be good at it is to get out there and start at the bottom. Learn from others by watching and listening and having a go yourself. Always be prepared to learn something new every day and never be afraid to say “I don’t know how that works” – I still do!
To be good at mixing music and songs it’s important to have an understanding of how music works. Not necessarily being able to read or play an instrument, but having the ability inside you to use the tools around you to become part of the orchestra, band or performer and flow with the situation to create something exciting.
Of course having the right attitude is of great importance. The theatre is generally a very happy and exciting environment to work in and you should consider yourself fortunate to be in such an industry.
ABOUT TOM MARSHALL
Tom Marshall is a multi-skilled live sound designer, mixer, and engineer. Starting in 1995 he became a casual backstage sound engineer in London’s West End theatre industry. Over the following years, he learned the art of live theatre sound mixing and achieved the position of No.1 (HOD) sound mixer opening new, large-scale musicals.
In 2004 a hiatus in theatre to pursue a life-long ambition of mixing live music ensued and over the next decade, Tom Marshall was fortunate enough to be employed by several international acts and artists to mix ‘Front of House’ for them.
After returning to theatre in 2008 Tom Marshall mixed his final few musicals, before moving over to the creative side of theatre sound. First becoming an ‘Associate Sound Designer’ to several high-profile Sound Designers and then making the move into Sound Design of his own.
Now predominately a successful theatre Sound Designer who enjoys the odd hands-on dabble in mixing, recording and production work too.