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PHOTO: Phoebe Fox

P33 MARCH 2019

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Spragg in the studio

are you doing, you’re working for free making tea for people, why are you there until so late every night?' I was just enjoying it.” Alongside Flood, Spragg would also be sitting in on sessions with some of the most prominent producers and recording engineers in the industry at Assault & Battery, from which she would soak up as much knowledge as she could. “Alan Moulder and Catherine Marks were downstairs, Steve Lipson was upstairs working on all of the Hans Zimmer soundtracks, so it was a building full of people working on amazing records,” she recalls. “Now, some of my favourites are Flood and Alan Moulder records, but at the time I hadn’t started listening to that stuff. I really got into Pixies, Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails a couple of years a¤er I started working there, and knowing that these were the guys I’d been working with was quite a weird realisation. I could’ve named maybe five producers when I first started there – my knowledge of music was fairly broad but my knowledge of the technical side was non-existent. “I did that in the October half-term and I went back in the Easter holidays to do a session for a week with Catherine. I got on well with all the engineers and assistants working there and they said to let them know whenever I wanted to come back. There was a guy called Drew who sat down with me and explained everything about mics, going through polar patterns; I would memorise all the mics in the mic cupboard. I was o¤en there for 15 hours a day as an 18-year-old while all my friends were going to uni, but eventually I got my first

assistant engineer job, which was a session with Gianna Nannini. That was the first job I got paid for. I still wasn’t doing loads and was watching a lot. It was a nice session to start with, it wasn’t particularly stressful. I had a few like that before it got really intense, which was a nice way to start.” Having impressed those around her during her time at the studio, more projects, and indeed more responsibilities, began to present themselves. “The first project I got really stuck into was Furnaces by Ed Hardcourt, which Flood produced,” Spragg continues. “That was the first full record I was involved in. It was a long period, and we moved between the big studio at Assault & Battery and the little programme rooms. "I was involved with that for five or six months in total, and it was the first one where I felt I was there from start to finish. I loved it, but it was really hard. Flood really pushed me on that one – he was like, ‘you’ve been here for long enough now’ – and he put me wholly in charge of stems. I’d also done a couple of months with Alan Moulder looking a¤er stems. "Flood makes you work super hard, but he’s amazing at making everyone feel important. He wants to push you to do well and if you don’t think you’re doing a significant job, you probably won’t do that job very well. There were a lot of people working on that record, and a lot of really long days, but it was one of my favourite records I’ve been a part of.” For numerous reasons, Spragg ranks Furnaces among the most enjoyable and memorable records

she has worked on to date. Not only did it mark a clear progression in her burgeoning career, but it also paved the way for a multitude of future projects that would establish her as one of the most exciting young engineers in the industry. Spragg continues: “The more involved you are in a record the bigger place in your heart it has, but even some of the records that I just assisted on and watched the process of are still memorable. Baxter Dury’s last record, Prince Of Tears, was the first record I officially engineered. I love that record. More recently, I did a bit of work on a record for Palace, which was fun. They worked with Catherine and a few others, and it was one of the easiest recorded processes I’ve had. We got on well, it flowed and I would leave the studio in the best mood. There are some records that are among my favourites where the recording process was so hard and exhausting, but the Palace one was so different to that. “Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds last record (Who Built The Moon?) was definitely one of my favourites,” she adds. "I absolutely love that record; it sounds ridiculous and I had an amazing time working on it. David Holmes produced it and this guy called Emre Ramazanoglu was engineering and drumming on it. Noel played all the guitars, and quite a lot of it is sample-based. It was not Noel’s normal process – he relinquished quite a lot of control for that record and really trusted David. I was slightly nervous going into that album but it was so much fun to work on. "David blows my mind. He’s one of my favourite people to observe. He picks little samples out of the most obscure, weird stuff and you’re wondering how on earth he’s going to make something from it. I can’t foresee stuff like that. He just has an ear for the weirdest sounds and it always comes out sounding amazing.” With the clock running down on our time together, talk shi¤s to music and the records that have shaped her approach to her cra¤. “I know that some people talk about how when they were younger they would listen to songs and pick apart all the different instruments and parts, but I just liked songs as a whole,” she concludes. “When I was about 14 I watched a film about Joe Meek and that was one of the first things that got me interested in production, his process got me intrigued by the sound of music. And The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. I listened to that a million times. Some of the records that were made in the ‘70s and ‘80s blow my mind. I can’t imagine how you could make stuff that sounds like that even now, with all the resources we have, compared to what they had to work with. "More recently, I absolutely love the latest Arctic Monkeys album Tranquility Base Hotel And Casino. It took me a few listens to full get it but it just sounds so weird and amazing. James Ford is incredible. These days, all I do when I listen to a record is think about the sound and the production.” 

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22/02/2019 17:34

Profile for Future PLC

PSN Europe 84 - March 2019  

Dani Bennett Spragg - Meet this year's MPG Awards Breakthrough Engineer

PSN Europe 84 - March 2019  

Dani Bennett Spragg - Meet this year's MPG Awards Breakthrough Engineer