Was music always a big part of your life?
Karen Hewitt: My Mum loved music so the house was full of her favorites: Roy Orbison, Glen Campbell, John Denver and The Seekers. In 1974, the year Countdown began, Sundays became my favourite day of the week. From then on I was obsessed with popular music and studied every album cover I could get my hands on. I knew then that I wanted to become a recording engineer.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I sent Ted Albert a letter asking for a job. He was a true visionary in the music industry, and took a chance employing me, the country’s first female trainee at Alberts Studios, Sydney. I was 16 when I started my apprenticeship. Afterwards I wanted to learn more about acoustics, so I moved to Melbourne to work for Graham Thirkell at Platinum Studios.
Graham was a genius. The studio predominantly made its money from jingle recordings in the daytime, and I did the midnight to dawn sessions, which were mainly band demos for record companies. Most never got signed but I did record Kate Ceberano’s first time in a studio, as well as the Indigenous band No Fixed address. Later I went to work for John French at his custom-built mud brick studio, Fast Forward. This studio, in my opinion, was the best in Australia. John was an amazingly talented recording engineer; from him I learned how to give recorded sound depth and space, and to translate what producers and musicians wanted. During this time I worked on albums for the bands Goanna and Men at Work.
After Fast Forward I took the leap to be a freelance engineer and worked mainly out of Metropolis Studios in Melbourne (formally Bill Armstrong Studios).