Studio Photography by Will Johnstone
Getting a glimpse of Birthday Boy Studios, the space behind the music of Talk Heavy and many more acts!
My name is Matthew Cochran and I’m a Brisbane-based Music Producer, Songwriter, and Mix Engineer – plus I’m also the lead vocalist, guitarist, and primary songwriter for the alternative rock/emo punk band Talk Heavy.
For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to play guitar. In fact, one of the earliest memories I have is driving back with my Dad from a job he did at night and he showed me ‘The Real Thing’ by Russell Morris for the first time.
According to my Mum, I’d been asking her for a guitar since I was three years old, because I had a toy guitar that I was inseparable from. She told me she wouldn’t let me get a guitar until I was in my teenage years and proved to her that I was still serious about it. When I was eight, my Mum made me get piano lessons for about a year, but my teacher was super mean and that upset young me a little too much, so I stopped. But even after that, my love for music kept growing.
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Eventually I got a copy of Guitar Hero III: Legends Of Rock and that really pushed me to begin begging my Mum for a guitar again. I also found an old nylon-string guitar that belonged to my brother Paul and taught myself the classic incorrect rendition of ‘Smoke On The Water’ that everyone seems to know. My Mum finally caved and bought me a cheap Strat + amp combo, I immediately went on to YouTube and discovered a guitar lesson channel made by a lovely man named Bobby Crispy, and started learning Zeppelin riffs.
Soon in high school I started getting more into ‘90s punk rock and pop-punk and started my own band called Minus Nine, which lasted up until a few years out of high school. After that split, I’d eventually wind up in bands like Muddy Chanter, WALKEN, and Pandamic – and that’s finally brought us to Talk Heavy, which is where I’m at now.
In the latter three years of being in WALKEN, I had an itch to start demoing my own material – this forced me to learn some recording techniques and I soon realised that recording, writing, and producing were my favourite aspects of music as a whole. The next big push came in 2018 when my former Minus Nine bandmate Mitch Chen wanted me to record/produce/mix his new band Loiter’s debut EP. I basically just said ‘if you pay for my DAW, I’ll do it’ – so they paid for my Logic Pro X licence, I used Afterpay to get a new Mac, some monitors, and mics – then that was my first recording job.
Since then I’ve engineered, produced, mixed and mastered multiple albums, plus I co-own and operate Birthday Boy Studios with my business partner and housemate Chris Antolak.
My main project ‘Talk Heavy’ is a mixture of emo, alternative rock, pop-punk, and indie. An easy way to describe us is “Tony Hawk’s Emo Punk” apparently. I’m the lead vocalist, guitarist and primary songwriter for that project – as well as our engineer, producer, and mix engineer. We take a lot of influence from artists like Cloud Nothings, Title Fight, Modern Baseball, PUP, Jeff Rosenstock, Motion City Soundtrack, and Violent Soho.
Alongside that, I put out the occasional ambient drum ‘n’ bass material under the name ‘Flight Data Recorders’ – that’s all very Aphex Twin and Vierre Cloud-inspired.
I’ve also been working on a garage punk solo album under the moniker ‘peoplepleaser’ – taking a lot of inspiration from Oberhofer, Jay Reatard, Neutral Milk Hotel, and The Drums.
Growing up, I was always a massive fan of anything Jerry Finn touched. Plus I’ve always loved Rob Cavallo as well. So those are two big punk/pop-rock names right there.
One of my favourite artists who primarily self produces these days is Yoni Wolf from WHY? – he just always has so many insanely creative ideas, I love it. Plus WHY? are easily one of my favourite bands.
I work out of Birthday Boy Studios, which is also my home. We typically keep the kit always mostly set up and mic’d up to save time, just re-tune, adjust what we need to, changeover any snare, then get going. I try not to overthink things, just make it sound as good as possible and make sure it’s performed as well as possible.
A big overarching bit of equipment would be our TOFT ATB32 desk at Birthday Boy, that thing has some nice darker qualities to it and carries its own specific tone.
I personally use Logic Pro and I’m a massive fan of it, because I think it’s the easiest to write/compose in as you record, which I find super convenient for striking while an idea is hot and fresh. It’s just easy, user friendly, has loads of great virtual instruments already built-in and I just know it the best, really.
Headphone wise, I’m a big fan of beyerdynamic, I specifically use the DT770 Pros. As for our louder monitoring, we use a pair of Adam A7X’s and some Yamaha HS5’s to check in contrast.
I don’t really have a set preference when it comes to the front end, but at Birthday Boy we used the TOFT ATB32 desk, the Orion Antelope converters are great and while we do have some nice outboard gear here and there, I tend to be pretty much all in-the-box aside from some desk EQ going in.
We’ve got a lot of cool hand-built pedals laying around that add some unique tones when we need them, but for the most part we’re pretty conventional. If we ever want some lo-fi guitar or vocal sounds though, we have a little radio speaker we can plug into, as well as those little Marshall micro stacks.
We actually used our Marshall MS-4 for the intro of ‘Open The Door’. From memory we had a Tele running through a Hotcake into the MS-4 and we recorded that micro amp with a mono room mic a few metres away.
There are so many things I wish I could buy but obviously music gear is expensive and we work in a terribly underpaid industry. Like every guitarist though, I want more guitars and one I’ve wanted for a while is a black Peavey T-60.
When it comes to working with other clients, I’m definitely a fan of the eight hour work day – typically 10am to 6pm. However with Talk Heavy, we usually do things in short bursts – it just keeps everyone fresh and present considering the other three members work full time and have commitments outside of work as well.
Plus, a lot of our songs are still super fresh to us as we record them, I think that leaves a bit more room for spontaneous creativity. Like I’ll typically have a really strong idea of where I want things to go and the other members know the parts enough to get by, but then we bounce ideas back and forth as we go to keep things exciting.
In an average mix session, I find myself using a lot of Soundtoys stuff, specifically the Decapitator (as does everyone haha). Again with Soundtoys, I love the Little Plate as a basic go-to. But I also love all the Valhalla stuff. Sometimes, if I want something a bit more warped or specific, I might even use the reverb pedals in Line 6 Helix on a stereo setting.
As far as compressors go, there are so many good ones for different reasons but I guess my most used is the good ole black 1176. For EQ, it’s the FabFilter Pro-Q, all the way.
If I had to use only one effect for the rest of my life though, considering most of my work is in alt rock and punk rock, I guess I could get away with super wet or wildly effected mixes if need be, so I’d probably just go with saturation.
Talk Heavy recently toured Australia with Press Club which was incredible. We’ve got a few shows coming up to end the year on and we’re recording some new singles soon for next year – so keep an eye out for all of that on our socials. And yeah, in the meantime check out the debut EP Jump Into Nothing – it’s out now on all streaming platforms!
My advice? Keep going. Just always keep going. There’s always something new to learn and that’s kind of the beauty of music, writing, production, etc.