- Year of graduation:
Dan Crook – Music Technology
Dan Crook is a music engineer and musician at 140dB Management, home to some of the world's best producers, engineers, mixers, arrangers and writers. He works closely with world renowned producer Ben Hillier, who has collaborated with bands including Blur, Doves, Clinic, Elbow, Depeche Mode and more.
Dan’s career in the music industry, which began during his time at Staffordshire University, has seen him work with The Who and, separately, on lead singer Roger Daltrey’s solo project. He’s also worked with French composer and producer Jean-Michel Jarre and, more recently, with singer-songwriter Nadine Shah.
Nadine’s latest album, Holiday Destination, which Dan had a hand in creating, was nominated for the 2018 Mercury Prize. Following the success of the album, with the title track focusing on the refugee crisis, poverty and politics, Dan was asked to join the live band to play keyboards and guitar.
He said: “I’ve done a lot quite quickly in my career. The Mercury Prize has always been on my list of goals and I’ve already worked on a shortlisted album. I enjoy playing music but my focus is on engineering and I’m slowly bridging into producing.”
Dan started his degree in Music Technology at Staffordshire University in 2012. Following an Open Day where he met several lecturers, he decided the mix of technical and creative skills development as well as first class recording studios and production labs were the ideal ground for him to learn his chosen profession.
Dan moved from Brighton, where he grew up, and almost immediately began taking advantage of the facilities. Alongside his studies, he took every opportunity to broaden his experience. He said: “I made an album with the University record label and would often invite my friends’ bands to come up and make recordings. We had a lot of time to just make lots of music and it was a safe environment to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.”
In 2014, Dan took a placement year at Yellow Fish Music, back in Brighton. It was during this time he was recording with The Who, gaining professional experience and making music industry contacts. One of those contacts was Ben Hillier, who offered him a job helping to build and work at his music studio, Agricultural Audio, a converted barn in the Sussex countryside.
The prospect of working with a leading producer was too good to pass up, so Dan spoke with his lecturers about completing his degree long-distance, while employed as a music engineer. He said: “The lecturers were really good and bent over backwards to help me finish the degree. It was a horrendous amount of pressure completing my dissertation while working but it was worth it and all paid off in the end.”
“I’ve played music since I was very little but it was the production side of the industry that appealed to me,” Dan explained. “But you need to be flexible and multi-talented enough to work in this industry. I am completely focussed on engineering and producing but it was sort of by accident I ended up touring around Europe with Nadine Shah and her band.
“In an industry of freelancers, with few job opportunities, you need the skills, experience and confidence to pick up work where you can and take advantage of opportunities when they come. I’m constantly using the skills I picked up at Staffordshire University and it gave me a great grounding to start my career.”
Dan was recently contacted by one of his ex-lecturers and invited to deliver a guest lecture to current music students. He added: “It’s great to still be in touch with the University and come back for the day. I graduated in 2016, so it wasn’t long ago I was in their shoes, but it was great to be able to tell them about my career so far and answer their questions. I hope to be back again in future.”