In this episode I talk to filmmaker and musician Dominic about work, his childhood and how a desire to create music changed the way that he heard it.
Occupation: Freelance Camera Operator
What does it mean to be a freelance camera operator? How do you go about finding work?
Well, most jobs in film production industry are freelance positions. Typically you have a production company that brings in the clients, writes briefs and negotiates budgets etc. Then the Cinematographers, Camera Operators and Gaffers etc are all freelancers that work on a job-by-job basis. There’s no sense in paying a Cameraman full-time if you don’t have any shoots on for two weeks! So, generally speaking, I just wait for the phone to ring and then I’m told what the job is and when.
So, generally speaking, I just wait for the phone to ring and then I’m told what the job is and when.
And I guess if a company likes your work then you’ll be the first one they call?
In theory! I’ve found that people typically hire those that they like working with. That seems to be more important than a flashy showreel, in my experience.
Would you still be doing what you do if money wasn’t a necessity?
I think I would be doing almost exactly the same as I am now. I started doing camera work for free just because I loved doing it but over time people started to pay me more and more. And because I’m freelance I can still spend most the week doing whatever I want. As long as I have a couple days work at some point I can pay the bills.
That sounds pretty ideal! I’d love to ask you more about your film work but let’s talk music. Would you say that music is important to your life?
Without music and film life would be totally vacant – imagine working all day, Monday to Friday, in some shitty office and not listening to music or watching films when you got home… I can’t imagine anything worse personally.
Do you have any early memories wherein you paid attention to music in a way that was new to you?
My mum has always listened to Jazz fm – now Smooth fm – and I have quite strong memories of sitting on the carpet in my room playing Zelda on my Nintendo 64 listening to Earth, Wind & Fire from her room… not that their music is remotely jazzy.
Maybe that explains the change of name. In what way was that moment significant for you?
I’m not sure really. I had a fairly turbulent childhood and it precedes all of that kicking off. It was just me and my brother living with mum in a little house at a time when we were at our closest as a family.
It’s quite a sensory memory; I remember the feel of the carpet, the noises from the TV, the echo of the music and the general smell of the house.
Maybe it was a sense of comfort that that whole scene gave you at the time that made it significant to you.
I think so. I just bloody loved that game. And it was at a time when memories were just of ordinary things, which were hard to come by at times.
Can you describe the way in which you connect to music?
I’d say I have a very personal relationship with music, as most people would. When I was younger I used to get banished to the shed if I wanted to play guitar or sing, so one year I spent a whole summer holiday sat in a shed writing songs. There’s always been a huge amount of escapism in it for me.
In a way I also treat the music that I listen to as reference material, particularly since I began recording and learning to produce music myself. On some levels I’ve separated the emotional feeling that you experience by listening to music from the songwriting and production process. For example, I often pay attention to the arrangement of a song as much as the words. If a lyric really speaks to me then my first thought is, “that’s great, I wish I’d thought of that”, whereas when I was younger it was more of an absolute escape into a song, no pragmatism involved.
So it was your interest in producing music that altered how you consumed music?
Yeah, producing and writing. I was loved metal music as a young teen and, because I played the guitar, I would sit and listen specifically to what the guitar parts were doing. So that ‘tuning in’ to individual elements just expanded from there to include the lyrics, instrumentation, production, panning, harmonies etc.
Do you play any other instruments?
Primarily I sing and play guitar. I used to play bass and drums. I absolutely adore playing the drums but haven’t had a chance to for years, living at university and then in London.
What is it that you enjoy about playing the drums so much?
It’s just such a physical action! Making a loud noise. There’s something universally human about keeping a beat.
Are there any other instruments that you’d like to learn?
I need to get better at piano and playing the sax would be awesome. I remember my step-sister learning to play the violin; the noise was horrendous! I imagine learning to play the sax would be somewhat similar. But there are some things that you just want to jump to being able to play.
I don’t know, I think maybe strings instruments sound ‘worse’ initially than woodwind when it comes to learning them…
Well, I learnt to sing from being totally tone-deaf and have already put many people through a lot I imagine.
Interesting. I’ve heard being tone deaf puts lots of people off learning to play music.
Yeah but you can definitely overcome it. I started practicing for my grade five singing a while ago so at least I feel I’ve gotten over that hurdle!
You must’ve been pretty passionate about singing to do that.
I’ve always wanted to be able to sing; I bought an online course at university and did loads of different vocal exercises three times a week for about three years…and they worked! My flatmates in second year can tell you all about it. Actually I remember once opening my front door to a random topless dude who told me that he lived downstairs and that I was shit and needed to stop singing.
Bet you’re glad you didn’t though! What music are you currently listening to?
I’ve been listening to Metallica’s new album pretty solidly and the soundtrack to the musical ‘Hamilton’. Also, ‘Kiss From A Rose’ as it’s in my recommended YouTube videos pretty much every day – never gets old!
It’s a classic! Okay, name me three albums that have been particularly life-changing for you.
‘Ride The Lightning’ by Metallica – That album made me want to pick up a guitar. Before that I was really into football. I played for a good team, lots of my mates got signed to big sides and that was kind of my goal too. I was offered a trial with Arsenal when I was eleven! But then guitars and music came along. Somewhere there’s an alternate timeline where I just play football every day and listen to shit DnB.
‘Soul Punk’ by Patrick Stump – Its not an especially great album but it made me want to get better at singing. Singing has engulfed a lot of my life since then so in that way it has changed my life significantly.
‘By The Way’ by Red Hot Chili Peppers – I was about eleven when it came out and it marked my transition from hearing songs on the radio to listening to entire albums.
‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ by Metallica – I went out and bought a bass to learn the intro riff, then a guitar, and my brother had a drum kit. In other words, I learnt every part on every instrument for the song. It lead to starting my first band at fourteen.
‘Dance Miserable’ by Patrick Stump – It has the most unnecessary vocal solo halfway through but this was the first instance that I’d heard a straight-up vocal solo. The whole album is kind of unlistenable really. As in, they’re not really songs, it’s just one thousand layers of Patrick Stump doing note bends. But I absolutely love it!
‘Invasive Attack’ by my friend Rob Leane – I went to an open mic night at the start of university where Rob played a few songs that he’d written. The bands I had played in at secondary school were pretty shit and we were never met with a very positive response. But Rob totally inspired me to start writing and performing again. Within a few weeks I’d written a bunch of songs and put a new band together.
Describe your current mood with a song, if you dare.
Haha…’Kiss from a Rose’.
Lastly, describe in a sentence what music means to you.
High risk, high return.