MICHAEL PRICE: A HYBRID MASTERCLASS Emmy Award-winning composer and pianist, Michael Price, is a very busy man. Perhaps best known for scoring the formidable BBC series, Sherlock, he is also very accomplished in the world of film, and has a couple of cracking albums under his belt, released on Erased Tapes, one of Britain’s coolest niche record labels. Currently, Price is working on a new album, film, TV show, and some library work. Incredibly, he finds time to sit down with Headliner to talk music making, buying cassette decks for a fiver, and how every facet of his work requires a slightly different workflow. Words Paul Watson
ITH SO MUCH GOING ON IN HIS MUSICAL world right now, I’m not entirely sure where to start with this interview. We decide the new album is as good a place as any, which he is doing for Erased Tapes Records. “We are at a pre-mix stage with that; we have been around six different venues doing location recording throughout the summer, and now it’s all back on my desk, and we’re starting to process them in lots of different ways, making tape loops, using all the outboard stuff that I’ve got here, and sculpting what are existing location classical recordings that started out super-clean, and trying to draw out the best ways to tell the stories in each of these six different pieces,” opens Price. So how does he approach that from a technical standpoint? “Well, technically, that is done by trying to find some way of transforming what’s there, and often that can be trying to use the material itself to generate new sounds rather than adding stuff on top. Sometimes that’s in the box, everything from Paulstretch to changing the sampling rate without changing the time bay, so you’re speeding up and slowing down, yet keeping quite a natural sound to it.” Sometimes this is being done in the digital domain, sometimes it’s analogue: “I have been printing things back
out onto a whole range of different tape machines that we’ve got here, and then manipulating them - actually physically, on tape - and getting into these kinds of processing,” Price says. “The joys of it are that we’re buying cassette machines on eBay for a fiver! [laughs] We’re using broken bits of junk, and just getting them well enough to play through and out of the far side, because there is something about that kind of physical process; all the choices you make are crucial.” Sounds like great fun! “[smiles] For a film score - a quite expensive sounding film score – we once printed quite a lot of the synth sounds to cassette, pulled all the tape out, scrunched it up, and then wound it back in with a pencil, then played that back out again. That kind of distortion, that wow and flutter; no plugin is going to get close, as it’s a physical process.” Fascinating stuff. The album, Price tells me, will be mixed by the new year, and will hopefully see the light of day in mid-2018. We’ll look forward to that.
Scoring films is a very different art, of course. With this in mind, I ask Price if he works from a specific template, and whether there are any constants within his workflow that he can share with us. “Yes, absolutely,” he says, adding that he