Philip Fahy is a Studio Sound Operator for TV3, one of Ireland’s leading national television channels. The journey to get there? Now, that was a tough one. This is a beautiful and very honest interview.
First things first, Mr Fahy, please tell us more about your good self…
I grew up in Dublin and had a pretty normal childhood. My teenage years had their challenges with illness and the obvious pressures of growing up & fitting in. Despite this I had a pretty good outlook on life. I’ve always had a passion for sounds, music & movies and this quietly became part of my creative outlet.
I started Djing when I was 19 and I developed a love for music and the production behind all kinds of contemporary music. I particularly enjoyed house and techno music, as it allowed me, a naturally introverted and quiet person, to be loud! I would play the most exciting and high tempo tracks at such high volume and I loved it. I learned how to mix tracks and blend together entire sets of mixes and I used to love when other people heard my mixes. It made me feel alive. It made me feel heard. With my Dad being a drummer, I guess that’s where I got my rhythm from!
Being taken on at TV3…how did this happen?
A long hard path. I was working in a music store for 5 years, which was ok because I was surrounded by music and instruments, however, it was still just the retail industry at the end of the day and that wasn’t for me really.
So, a friend of mine who worked in TV3, dropped my CV in to the Head of Audio and I was asked to come in for some training (unpaid of course). This began a year-long journey of going into TV3 on my days off and training, learning and hanging around other engineers for as long as I could. It then became apparent that in order to really learn the craft of live broadcast sound mixing, I would have to spend a lot more time training than just once a week. So, I decided to go part-time in my job at the music store, and only work there at weekends and go into TV3 during the week unpaid. That meant, a huge drop in income, and a huge increase in workload. Between both places, I was working 7 days a week for longer than I’d like to remember. Oh, and I didn’t have a car at the time. That’s definitely worth mentioning, because in order to get to the TV3 studios, I had to get a bus, a tram and then walk for 15 mins, a lot of the times in the rain, twice a day. That was HARD! Especially as there was no guarantee of getting a job at the end of it all. I had to just believe that my persistence would pay off. It did.
After approximately 2 years of training unpaid, and freelancing when possible, a position opened up which I applied for and was interviewed for. I was offered the job the following morning. Relief! Relief and joy is all I can say.
When Anne Hathaway won of the Academy Award for Best-Supporting Actress in 2013, Christopher Plummer, who presented the award, said these words: “As I know all too well, persistence pays.” I may not have won an academy award (not yet!) but I knew what he meant by this.
Did you really ever think you would be sitting in a television studio every day? What was the turning point in your journey?
Honestly, no. I had no idea that a passion for Djing, recording & editing would lead me into the television industry, with a further passion for movies. It was only when I was living in London during my last year of college when I discovered a passion for audio post-production for television. (I’m working in live audio now but my longer-term plan involves post-production.) The turning point really was when I met the man who agreed to train me. I couldn’t have met a nicer person who was so willing to share his knowledge and show me the ropes. It’s amazing how the people you meet can help shape your goals and dreams.
What was the biggest hurdles you had to overcome in believing you could realize your dreams?
I basically had to shout louder than the negative voice in my head that always tries to say “You can’t do that” or “You haven’t got what it takes to be that”, etc. This took time, and still requires training my brain to believe in possibilities and not obstacles. It was the same before I learned how to drive. I would look at other people on the road in their cars, even teenagers driving around, and I would think “How am I ever gonna figure out how to drive?” “Will I even be able to do it?” “I’ll probably be a terrible driver”. When I look/listen back to these mutterings of my mind, I laugh out loud. Such nonsense to think that. I am driving now for many years and I both enjoy it and I’m quite a good driver if I may say so.
But there is something almost tragic about the voices in one’s head. They make or break you. I say almost tragic, because if I had believed in those lies I would probably have never learned how to drive or even gotten into a car. It was the same when I started training in television for broadcast sound mixing. I thought “How the heck am I ever gonna figure this out?”… A familiar voice I thought. I recognized its nonsense, and chose not to believe in it. So now, after many years of hard work, I’m doing that which part of me thought wasn’t possible.
What would you say to others who have been walking long roads, still hoping for those life-changing opportunities?
Stop and listen to your initial response to the challenges you face. Take a deep breath. What sort of thoughts/fears is your mind dishing out? The speed of thought can be both rapid and overwhelming. Write down your thoughts. Look for the lies and negative thoughts and disown them. Just think about your next step. “What can I do right now to advance me further along towards my goal.” Give yourself credit. If you don’t know how to do something now, just say to yourself “I’ll figure this out”. Also, if you need help, ask someone. You’ll be amazed how much people are willing to help others out and share their knowledge.
What/who inspires you?
Appreciating artwork. For me that includes seeing a movie with amazing sound effects, foley noises, music score and atmosphere. It can also be listening to a song that is very well produced or even researching some pieces of equipment or new technology that I think is cool and relevant and ground-breaking. Basically, anything that makes my heart beat stronger and lifts me.
Is this it for you? Ten years time…what would you love to be doing?
I want to be working in post-production for TV adverts and movies. Making sounds, noises, music, editing it all and creating something that huge amounts of people in the world are going to see/hear it and for it to make those people have a positive emotional response to it.
I recently watched the movie ‘Sicario’. An interesting story of the so-called ‘War on drugs’ between the cartels and cooperating U.S. and Mexican law enforcement agencies. The stand-out part of this movie is in the mood-setting and tension-creating soundtrack. It just draws you in from the beginning and it’s so effective. It’s very immersive!
I’m really enjoying ‘Sigala – Easy Love’ at the moment. I just think the producers of this track have done such a good job creating something inspiring and nostalgic. Especially with the Michael Jackson vocal sample from the “ABC” song. It’s almost like we’re hearing a young Michael Jackson singing from the other side of the grave.