THE FORMER FUGEE TALKS HIP HOP, HAITI, AND HOPE BUTCH VIG THE BEACH BOYS
THE FEELING JENNIE ABRAHAMSON
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08 S O N I C V I S TA I N S I G HT S Our friends in Ibiza look into the evolution of musicianship... Could turntables really be overtaking guitars?
10 S W I V E L O N THI S Grammy-winning producer, Jordan Young, speaks out about the changing studio scene in New York City.
12 FEELING GOOD UK pop act, The Feeling, give an insight into life on the road, and reveal how being tech-savvy pays dividends.
16 R O A D B LO G Jerry Gilbert discusses the rise and fall of disco, and remembers how close he was to getting ‘that interview’.
18 S TU F F : E V O L U TI ON B E C O M E S R E V O L U TI O N Henry Kavanagh looks at the popularity of film music, and reveals why scores are no longer just classical affairs.
20 B U TC H V I G : B E HI N D THE MU S IC Twenty years after Kurt Cobain’s tragic passing, Butch Vig recalls those famous Nirvana studio sessions, and talks Foos, Pumpkins, and Garbage.
23 A N E W YO R K S TATE O F MIND Paris-born Michael Malih tells us why it makes sense for European producers and songwriters to head Stateside.
24 WOU LDN’T IT BE NICE Jeffrey Foskett may never have been a Beach Boy if he hadn’t picked up a very expensive dinner tab in the late ‘70s.
26 C OVE R STO RY IN T H E M OM E N T Pras Michel co-founded The Fugees in the mid-90s; his love for music and film has led to a life of politics and social responsibility.
FR EE S PIRIT Quirky Swedish artist, Jennie Abrahamson, tells us about the vision for her latest album, and her recent tour with Peter Gabriel.
32 [RF] S PACE COWBOY Jamiroquai’s guitarist, Rob Harris, says to succeed in the biz today, you must turn your hand to production, and keep playing live.
34 I N J OHN SH E T RUST S John Clark III proves that men can indeed multi-task. Ciara’s FOH guy and production manager shares some touring tips.
36 S WINGING IN ST YLE Robbie Williams performs in the heart of the Austrian Alps, with a little help from Nexo’s impressive STM modular PA system.
38 E S PA ÑOL SENS ACIÓ N Javier Isequilla knows what it takes to keep Spain’s most popular musical fun, fresh, and state of the art.
40 J AI LHOUSE ROCK We head to a Danish prison (seriously) to chat to Big Mick Hughes, Metallica’s FOH stalwart, about his 30 years in the game.
CO U PLE ON A MISSION
C AN ADIAN G O L D
GRUMPY OLD ROADIE
Fusing music, wine, and sport, one cool Canadian couple have transformed a once struggling Olympic team into world beaters.
Two of Canada’s finest recording artists share musical tales, and talk passionately about their country’s evolving music scene.
Robert remembers the 1970s, when the industry was young, fun, and not run by money-pinching businessmen.
FROM THE EDITOR
Killing Me Softly (with red wine)... Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the third best place in the world (after Twickenham Stadium and the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin). We are currently wine tasting in Provence with two of Canada’s all-time music greats: Jim Cuddy, of Blue Rodeo; and Barney Bentall, who was once hailed as ‘the Canadian Bruce Springsteen’. The talented pair kindly agreed to delve into their memory banks to provide us with not only some spine-tingling tales, but also open our eyes to the musical work that’s being done in conjunction with Canadian Olympians through the superb Gold Medal Plates. Our Headliner is Pras Michel, co-founder of ‘90s hip hop sensation, The Fugees, whose musical journey so far has been somewhat jaw-dropping. After landing two Grammys and a plentitude more musical accolades in his early career, his focus turned to social responsibility. In recent years, he has made a series of well-respected and challenging documentaries including his latest film, Sweet Mickey For President, which demonstrates the true power that music can have over a nation. Pras instigated and then drove an uber-successful 2010 electoral campaign which would see his good friend, fellow musician, and fellow Haitian, Michel Martelly, take over the country’s Presidency. We also head into the studio with legendary producer, Butch Vig, the man behind Nirvana’s seminal album, Nevermind, and long-time drummer in US rock band, Garbage; and we quiz Ivor Novello Award-winning UK pop act, The Feeling, about their latest record, and their plans for their upcoming UK tour. So as we pop the cork off yet another fine bottle of red, we invite you to do the same, before flicking through our fun, fickle, flirty, and at times even fiery 52 pages... PAUL WATSON, EDITOR
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JORDAN YOUNG PAUL MAC
LOUIS HENRY SARMIENTO II
ROBERT THE ROADIE
JONATHAN TESSIER HENRY KAVANAGH
WEBSITE: www.headlinermagazine.net Printed by DesignPrint Ltd. www.designprint.co.uk. Design by Eimear O’Connor. Published by Outlay Media Ltd. Registered in England & Wales No. 08781494
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SONIC VISTA INSIGHTS With the advent of the Internet and the growing phenomenon of Electronic Dance Music (EDM), it seems like the millennial generation has decided to switch from guitar lessons to DJ turntable tutorials...
WORDS L.HENRY SARMIENTO II AND JONATHAN TESSIER
any online speculators are convinced that the soundtrack of this new generation lies in DAW manipulation and metronomic sounding rhythms. Farewell to the hours spent bleeding over a guitar string, getting cramps from a piano chord, or blisters from smashing a snare drum! Adieux to the golden age of rock and roll, and leave way to the gilded era of ‘glorified button pushers’ – ironically, a term coined by Deadmau5, number five in the Forbes Highest Paid DJs list with a 2013 capital of $21 million. But we are not here today to take part in this endless battle of ‘who’s better than who’. We believe in two types of music: good music and bad music, whatever the genre may be. If the coffee place is good, than we’ll have espressos, lattes, and cappuccinos, and we’ll still be satisfied. But if the place serves an appalling cup of joe, we won’t even have the mineral water! So let’s not waste another minute, and dive into the very
interesting subject that we’ve had the pleasure of researching for you today: the evolution of musicianship. The three most sold instruments in the world are pianos, guitars, and drum sets. Singing is also extremely popular, as vocal lessons come in second position to the most taught music craft in the world, but let’s focus on instruments in this paragraph. The modern piano was first conceived in 17th century Italy by Bartolomeo Cristofori, a string instrument specialist and official employee of the Grand Prince of Tuscany, who guarded the royal music instruments. Secondly, we have guitars, whose ancestors created the first modern version in Spain during the 13th century. However, the instrument has roots that can be traced back to 3,300 years ago, where carvings of chordophones could be found on historic monumental walls in Upper-Mesopotamia (today’s Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon). Third on our top selling instrument list is the modern drum kit: a percussive ensemble that
was born in the 1920s vaudeville era, and put together for space optimisation because theatre owners demanded that fewer percussionists covered more percussion parts in order to save money. Through the decades of popular music, instrument sales have always been driven by the success of musical artists. From the big band era in the ‘30s to Rockabilly in the ‘50s, from The Rolling Stones to Michael Jackson, or from Nirvana to Taylor Swift, it seems like for a long time, pop music was always linked to some form of musicianship - i.e performing an instrument (including singing) live on a stage. But many have come to fear that with the democratisation of home recording studios and the overly marketed EDM movement, this generation of young music enthusiasts are putting aside their practice time on an instrument in order to become better audio engineers and sound designers. Along with the rise of celebrity DJs, there’s a sort of feeling over the Internet that
“ALONG WITH THE RISE OF CELEBRITY DJS, THERE’S A SORT OF FEELING OVER THE INTERNET THAT WE MIGHT BE NOTICING A CHANGE OF STATE IN INSTRUMENTALISM AND LIVE PERFORMANCES...”
we might be noticing a change of state in instrumentalism and live performances. This uneasy sentiment felt by the music trade industry is legitimate: Guitar Center, America’s largest chain of instrument stores, has revealed difficulty maintaining a positive margin this year. Maybe that’s why they opened a Serato Digital Music Experience wing in one of their bigger stores in Brooklyn, New York, to focus more on electronic music gear than actual instruments? In general, the evidence is here to justify their worries, but all is definitely not lost. Sure, one can venture out, expressing radical statements like, ‘rock and roll is dead’, ‘hip hop is passé’, or ‘dance music is losing its legitimacy to EDM’, but evidence shows that this backward thinking is ludicrous. Last year, rock bands like 30 Seconds To Mars enjoyed a string of sold-out tours worldwide. Adele only officially released two albums and they both went multi-platinum, with 21 even reaching diamond sales figures! Jack White got a Grammy in 2013, and Imagine Dragons received one this year as well. According to Forbes wealth magazine, the highest paid musicians of 2013 were: Madonna ($125m), Lady Gaga ($80m), Bon Jovi ($79m), Toby Keith ($65m), Coldplay ($64m), and Bruce Springsteen ($62m). These amazing artists are singers, pianists, guitarists, drummers, and most importantly, performers - and they’re all doing just fine. Furthermore, to widen the scope of comparison, performing indie artists are also getting financially rewarded, and handsomely too: TuneCore’s Dave Days collects six figures each year; Christian hip hop artist, Lecrae, made half-a-million
dollars from selling 53,052 albums, 315,583 tracks; and comedian songwriter, Liam Sullivan, earned $558,195 just through digital sales. This exludes royalty revenues coming from streaming services as well as other monetary sources like sponsorship, endorsements, live performances, or merchandise sales - which also have become critical components of the business. ReverbNation, which is a digital music management and networking website, is now housing over 3.54 million musicians, venues and industry professionals. Last year, 2.5 million guitar units were sold in the US, and China remains the number one importer of pianos in the world (having bought 3.6 billion dollars worth of pianos in the last year as well). So have no fear, by the time some DJs find out where the middle C is on their keyboard, the art of musicianship will have time to come back and dominate modern music culture once again! All in all, in order to close the curtains on this topic with an inspiring note, this year, the publisher of Music Trade Magazine, Paul Majeski, said the following: “I know people are wondering about whether guitars will find a place in an increasingly digital world. I would say, fear not. The guitar will remain at the centre of our musical culture. Silicon chips and software can provide texture and background, and they alter how we capture and share music, but there is still nothing that compares to a human finger controlling a vibrating string.” www.sonicvistastudios.com
DEFINITIONS MUSICIAN: A person who is talented in making music or performing music creatively, or one who composes, conducts, or performs music. Musicians specialise in any style, and some musicians play in a variety of different styles. Examples of a musician’s possible skills include performing, orchestrating, arranging, composing, and singing. MUSICIANSHIP: Artistry in performing music. INSTRUMENTALIST: A player of a musical instrument. MILLENIALS: Population born between 1980 and 2000. Sometimes referred to in the media as ‘Generation Y’; millennials are the children of the post-WWII baby boomer generation.
Swivel - ON THIS-
WHEN I GRADUATED
from college in Orlando (shout to Full Sail!), I had a very important decision to make: which city was I going to move to? I wanted to work with all of my favourite artists; I wanted to win Grammys; I wanted to help influence culture. Gone were the days of the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync, who got their start in Orlando. It was 2005, and I had only a few options: New York, Los Angeles, and to a lesser extent, Atlanta and Miami, which both had a pretty healthy urban music scene. But for me, it was really a decision between New York and LA. LA had the great weather, but I’m from Toronto! I can handle any weather New York can throw at me. Plus, I had always wanted to live in NYC. It really came down to the music. New York was still the mecca of hip hop (and in many ways still is), and that’s what I wanted to be around. So, in August 2005, I made the move, got myself set up in a little studio apartment in Chelsea, and started my career. At that time, New York had already begun to witness some changes in the music industry. Just a few months before I made it to the city, The Hit Factory closed its doors for good - one of the most iconic studios of its time, which I regretfully never got to experience. It closed down to make way for condos, something which I’ve seen and experienced first hand multiple times over the last few years. Technology was now progressing fast, which created a multitude of problems for studios. Album sales were declining, and most attribute this to the availability of mp3s and file sharing services. The labels started to tighten their belts, and the first people to take the hit are the studios, engineers, and producers. First, the food budgets go; next, the car services; and eventually, the labels force everyone to drop their rates. Slowly, this becomes a major problem. At the same time, the artists themselves start to see the label asking for more from them. Labels can’t stay afloat (or rather, appease shareholders) if their revenues are down, so executives start asking how they can increase those revenues. Along comes the 360 deal. Now, labels want a piece of an artist’s touring, merchandise, endorsements, and any other ancillary business. Of course, this is all while cutting recording budgets and forcing everyone to adapt. The artist starts seeing the label cutting into their pockets, so how do they fix
this? Well, they build their own studio at home. This cuts down on their recording expenses, so maybe, just maybe, they’ll see some royalties after they’ve recouped their recording and marketing expenses. I’m not going to get into the intricacies of an artist deal, but the simple description is, the artist gets paid last, after every expense has been returned to the label. The point is, all of this is bad news for the recording studios. But wait - there’s another major
“STUDIOS BEGAN TO CLOSE; ONE BY ONE, I WATCHED THEM ALL GO - CASUALTIES OF AN ECONOMIC WAR...” problem for the studios. Rents. I’m not sure how many of our readers are in New York or have lived in New York, but if you have, you’d know, this city ain’t cheap! Rents, which are already some of the highest in the country, go up and up at a steady pace; a pace of about 2-3% each year. When you own a large recording studio with upwards of 50,000 square feet of space, even a few percent makes a major difference on your overhead costs. It’s hard paying off the loan for the one million dollar console while your rents are up, revenues are down, and utility charges are through the roof! Studios began to close; one by one, I watched them all go - casualties of an economic war, squeezed from both sides until they couldn’t breathe any longer: Sony; Mirror Image; Sound On Sound; Chung King; and recently even KMA (a relatively new studio, and one of my favourites). I’m sure I’m missing a few, too. So what happens next? Well, now the talent still living in New York begins to face the same problems the studio faced: rising rents, paired with lower income. Die hard New Yorkers start to rationalise the idea of moving; they’re getting squeezed so tight that eventually Los Angeles looks mighty appealing with its great weather, cheaper rent, and abundance of studios; one by one, talent started to leave. I’ve seen the vast majority of my closest friends pack up for sunny California;
producers, songwriters, A&Rs, artists, managers, publishers - you name it. Everyone in every aspect of this business has thought about moving, and nine years after I first moved to NYC, a significant portion have. I have to be honest, I’ve thought about it more than once, but I’m still holding on for dear life. I love New York, and everything about the city; I feel at home here, and I’m not ready to give that up. Despite all the problems artists face living in New York, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I have been actively working on ways to improve not only the recording scene here, but the art scene as a whole; it’s been a long process of discovery, but there’s a solution to every problem, and if everything lines up accordingly, I’ll share more about the project in the coming months through this column. One thing is for certain, though: for the time being, New York will still be a major part of the music business. Most of the record labels still have their offices here, which means the talent will always have to make their way back. Now, New York needs to give them a reason to stay.
g n i l e e F d o o G WORDS PAUL WATSON | PHOTOGRAPHS TOM SHAXSON
years after their debut album, 12 Stops And Home, The Feeling are going stronger than ever. Technologically, this BRIT-nominated five-piece have always had their finger on the pulse, and they’re always reinventing their sound. As they head into their second decade in the music biz, these knob-tweaking, faderriding, 30-somethings have a new-look team in tow, and are about to start work on album number five, before entering into a busy summer festival season. An exhausted Headliner editor bends their ears over a lot of coffee in rural Hertfordshire, England... It’s 10am on a Friday. I’m already three Americanos deep, sitting in St. Albans’ Bakehouse Cafe, fresh off a long TransAtlantic flight. Fresh is the wrong word. It was a total dog of a flight, and I’m barely awake, but the caffeine kick is right on schedule, as I spot drummer, Paul Stewart, and guitarist, Kevin Jeremiah, waltz through the door. When I first saw The Feeling play, eight years ago, it was immediately evident that
there was no weak link. All of them are practically session musicians, and frontman, Dan Gillespie-Sells, is one of the finest and indeed underrated songwriters the UK has to offer. I order a round of Cappuccinos (why not mix it up?), and begin to quiz Jeremiah about his rock solid production techniques. “It goes with the territory these days,” he
“ N O W, W E ’ V E G O T S O M E T H I N G T H A T S O U N D S G R E A T, I S O N LY S L I G H T LY W I D E R T H A N A P E R S O N , A N D I S T O T A L LY V E R S A T I L E ; THE SD9 HAS BEEN BRILLIANT FOR US.” says, almost bashfully. I should point out that Jeremiah is at the hub of everything audio for The Feeling in the studio. “Today, bands have to be able to engineer, and because I have a bit of a knack with the recording side of it, it kind of just falls under my remit. I don’t mind, though – it’s fun... Most of the time!” He makes a good point – and Stewart’s no slouch in the studio, either, though he admits he’s ‘no Kev’ at the console. He does have his own soundproofed drum room at home,
though - complete with a full Pro Tools rig, a selection of high-end mics, and some API preamps. There are no airs or graces about these lads, either; when not on the road or in the studio, you’ll find them in pubs and clubs, playing in friends’ bands for no fee, as they’re all about the music. That said, free time seems hard to come by right now... “Yeah, we’re pretty damn busy, that’s for sure... I think this will be my first free weekend until [pauses to check iPhone diary] ... Christ, October!” Stewart beams, eyes wide open. “We head into the studio on Monday, for about a month, and we’ll see how we get on from there.” M A KIN G MUSIC The Feeling will record their fifth album at Gillespie-Sells’ home studio in London. The writing process, as ever, will stem from the lead singer’s ideas, and the band will then cultivate them into true Feeling ‘anthems’. That’s about right, isn’t it? “[smiles] Every record we’ve made has a slightly different take on it to the last, but because we’ve been playing together for so many years now, we gel very easily,” says Stewart. “This album is a bit ‘70s rock, really – a bit Talking Heads, I suppose; and we’ve created some nice interesting grooves rather than going for bog standard stuff on many of the tracks.” “Every album, we’ll make mistakes,” adds Jeremiah, openly. “But what’s nice now is, we’ve teamed up with [the band] The Magic Numbers, which means we can share their great big Neve console. It sounds utterly incredible, so that’s making a huge difference to our sound and our workflow.” What also makes a difference, he says, is their Genelec monitoring setup: “We’ve got the big ones and the medium sized ones [pauses to think]... I’m not sure on the models, but they’re both by Genelec! Then in my studio, I’ve got the Genelec GLM [loudspeaker control system], which is amazing; it self-calibrates the speakers with the room, which means I always know exactly what I’m hearing. “Because the first album was mixed on Genelecs, we decided to stick with them, and we have a pair of them each at home, to provide that perfect reference point when we need to listen to or approve certain tracks when we’re not all together.” T H E C R EW, THEY A R E A-CH ANG I N’ The Feeling have just finished the latter stage of their UK tour, where they were joined by new and improved personnel: Jon Lewis, Sean Busby-Little, and Danny van de Werf (FOH, monitors, and lighting director, respectively)... And they’re going great guns.
“We were keen to get a new crew onboard that were fresh, full of ideas, and ready to get out into the touring world. We wanted to catch them on their first tour out, so to speak; and although Jon [Lewis] has done a lot of festival stuff before, his desire was to get on the road with bands, so that’s starting now,” Stewart explains. “Danny [van de Werf] is another one; we did a gig at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, and he was the house lighting guy. We were astounded at how good he was, and how he somehow seemed to know the songs... It turns out he had grabbed a set list, gone back and listened to our album at home, then made some notes, so he knew where
“ T HE FAC T I S, WE C O U LDN’T DO T HI S AT AL L I F I T WA S N’T FO R T HE T EC HN O L O GY...”
“Both engineers are always asking us if we want to try different mic placements, and things like that, which also makes a huge difference,” says Jeremiah. “It actually rubs off on us, too, and makes us want to get things sounding better all the time.” According to Busby-Little, it works both ways, which is also refreshing to hear: “It’s important that everyone involved in the show realises the limitations of everyone else’s job. That understanding makes things a lot easier, and ultimately results in a better show for all concerned, including the most important people – the ones paying for all the tickets.”
stuff was. Also, he is a musician, which is key; with certain people we’d worked with before, you’d say something like, ‘in the middle-eight, there’s a two-bar tag, and we’re going to do a quick breakdown, so do something there’... And if you’re not a musician, you won’t have a clue what we’re talking about! We asked Danny to do our UK tour and he has been there for all our shows since then. Lighting is increasingly important in our shows, we’re finding – and Danny adds a real edge.” When The Feeling decided to do the tour with a bus and trailer, they had to calculate how much space they had available versus how much gear they could take; and much of
the room is taken up right away by the band’s upright piano. Enter Lewis and Busby-Little, two DiGiCo SD9s, and an SD-Rack. “Jon and Sean went for the SD9s, a) because they’re bloody good desks; and b) because they’re tiny! The footprint is actually a major benefit to us, and you can also use them on festivals, too, whereas in the old days, there’d normally be this huge house desk and the engineer would say, ‘well, there’s no room for anything else’. “Now, we’ve got something that sounds great, is only slightly wider than a person, and is totally versatile; the SD9 has been brilliant for us.”
LO O KI NG BAC K It was while playing a show at Mayfair Arts Club that Stewart first met Jon Lewis, and he was ‘blown away’ by his multi-tasking: “He was mixing in-ears from the side of the stage, and also doing FOH, going back and forth like a yo-yo – it’s that kind of intuitive mixing that I love! Then, I noticed that every member of the band was panned exactly as they were standing in front of me, so in my in-ears, I had the perfect spread. Some guys wait to be told, but he has that thing about him. Sean is the same, as is Duncan [Wilde, second monitor engineer]. They are all capable of doing subtle things that you happen to want, without stepping over the mark and being ridiculous.” I’ve gone from exhausted to wired. Before I collapse, I ask the pair if The Feeling would have made it if they were starting out today... “I don’t know... I remember when we recorded our first album, we borrowed a load of equipment and computers to do it ourselves, and personally, I thought, ‘great, we have a deal now, so we don’t have to worry about the engineering and stuff ’... But what did I know?” shrugs Jeremiah, with a smile. “The budgets were falling hard, and even the availability of studios was in massive decline, so sadly, that never happened... I’d have loved to be in a band when people did sell 20 million records, and the only way you could record was in the studio... I guess that’s the blessing and the curse of today’s industry though, isn’t it?” Stewart pauses for thought, points out that it’s nearly time for the pubs to open, stretches his arms out, and concludes: “The fact is, we couldn’t do this at all if it wasn’t for the technology - and, of course, Kev’s operational skills. What we can do now is make a record for the cost of getting to the studio every day, and that’s it. That beats throwing £1,500 a day at Olympic Studios...” www.thefeeling.com www.digico.biz www.genelec.com
A WRONG OK TURN ON THE ASTRAL PLAIN?
, so now I'm getting rumbled, it's time to exit the rock world and disappear through another wormhole. By 1976 (the hottest summer of the last century), a fork in the road was appearing, and after two years spent in the wilderness of the record industry (largely doing pointless grunt work), I was ready to return to the fourth estate and re-engage with some big bad journalism. My once sideways disposition had been overturned into something pointing horribly backward, and a return to my old crapulous lifestyle was overdue.
“So you’re on speed dial with Bruce Springsteen (Headliner #3)? Are we supposed to believe that, or any of these bullshit road tales from a time before I was born?” “Of course not, you fool. Mobile phones weren’t invented in 1974, and I can’t be responsible for your accident of birth. Of course none of the stories are true, that’s the whole point.”
WORDS JERRY GILBERT
By '76, two nascent music forms were emerging: punk and disco. So, left or right? This fork represented the biggest dilemma since the time I was driving the French wine trail in the backwaters of the Maconnais and was confronted with a village signpost, pointing Pouilly to the left, and the small commune of Fuissé to the right. Now that’s a fork of biblical proportions to the bibulous drinker. In both instances, I opted for the latter, setting up an office between Kensal Rise and Ladbroke Grove to start Disco International. I still couldn’t escape the rock world though, as the landlord behind the ‘to let’ ad I’d answered in Record Retailer for a couple of rooms turned out to have been taken by my good old Guildford RGS school chum, Graham Lawson — now managing Tangerine Dream’s Klaus Schulze and Stomu Yamash’ta’s Red Buddha Theatre. Clearly there were no hard feelings about the war residing here in Fernhead Road. Picture the miasma in the searing heat and anomie of W9. Dope (well, stale bong) on the first floor; feline urine from the residential top floor (cats’ piss to you and me); a laundromat on terra firma; driving artificial heat up through the building to add to the solar heat; and if that cocktail of odours didn’t stimulate the olfactories, there was a doner kebab takeaway pitched right next door. We decided to replace one cauldron for another by visiting the 1978 Billboard Disco Forum in New York, the first time I’d been to the Big Apple in four years. Freddy Laker’s ‘Skytrain’ £49 Trans-
Atlantic special had arrived late the previous year, revolutionising Trans-Atlantic air travel, and as a self-funded start up, it’s not like the magazine had scads of wedge to burn... So this would do nicely. It was also a time when Schlitz was still the de facto American beer. Disco Forum was the precursor of today’s Winter Music Conference, spinning round the hub of the Americana and Hilton Hotels in Midtown. I couldn’t wait to strut the camino real of Sixth Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) where hot new dance labels like TK, Casablanca, and Salsoul — and the new generation of Dance Pools — staged their own private parties within the hotels. My travelling wingman was Neil Rice, then of Optikinetics and a pioneer of liquid / oil wheel projection. When we hit Kenny’s Castaways in the Village, we were amazed to find Bridget St. John, one of the muses of that psychedelic era, waiting a table. It was like walking back in time; weird doesn’t begin to describe it — but it felt like the karma before the coming storm. Although maybe ‘farce’ is a better word to describe it. Signing in for the Forum’s opening keynote and inaugural lunch the next day, things were spiraling towards Pete Tong in record time. In the wake of Saturday Night Fever, which had kick started this new genre, special guest Robin Gibb no-showed, and his younger sibling understudy, Andy, couldn’t be woken from his slumbers. Instead we had Mayor, Ed Koch, declaring ‘Disco Week’ in his ailing New York, pledging that ‘disco’, like some superhero, would fly in to save the city’s bankrupt economy. Anyway, we intended to make the best of it. At the invitation of Capitol Records, we bellied up to the man holding the guest list at Leviticus to see A Taste of Honey, who were chart topping with Boogie Oogie Oogie, in front of VIPs like EWF’s Maurice White. What the PR lady at Capitol neglected to say was that we would be the only white faces in the line. (“You have to be on the guest list,” said the man holding the guest list in near disbelief). But he needn’t have worried, as we all played nicely together. It was a great time to be immersed in the emerging club scene of which Leviticus was one. Other cool places included The Loft, Ice Palace, Infinity, Xenon — and even Studer 54, if you were happy braving the
"I PICKED UP A SECOND OMINOUS MESSAGE… AGAIN FROM JOHN LENNON, S AY I N G H E H A D CALLED IN MY ABSENCE."
line (and with the ignominy of being refused entry). The real highlight though, was seeing the legend that was Larry Levan (with his signature Thorens turntables and Bozak mixer) at the exclusively gay and nonalcoholic Paradise Garage. While the late Richard Long was busy redefining aural excellence at 54, Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell were the handmaidens to outrageous lighting and hedonism. I tell you, the power of some of those laser systems would have zapped your retina all the way up to Harlem. Dance Beats were coming in, Tom Lewis had produced the Disco Bible (later renamed Disco Beats), and with it, the term BPM was born. Paradise Garage introduced me to big sound systems, and when I consider how Long’s DNA became hosted in Steve Dash’s later Phazon system (eg. at Cream in Liverpool, England), and his legacy carried on by people like Gary Stewart, I felt fortunate to have been there at the inception. Again, it got me thinking about cool sound system names. Stan Miller’s Altec-based Stanley Screamer, as used on Pink Floyd’s The Wall tour in 1980, would be up there, along with The Flying Forest and Voice of the Theatre. Why couldn’t Bill Hanley have called his Woodstock sound system 'Hanley’s Howler' or 'Woodstock Wavefront' instead of its inventor just being known, rather passively, as the ‘Father of
Festival Sound’? Even the Grateful Dead had their own personal ‘Wall of Sound’. My favourite name, though, was Cerwin Vega’s Junior Earthquake, which is inspired on any level with its immediate implication that it is the satanic spawn of Armageddon itself. The majestic LE36J Earthquake deluxe subwoofer had kick-started ‘sensurround’ sound in the nation’s cinemas in 1974. The ‘pool parties’ at Disco Forum were also the first time I had come face to face with May Pang, John Lennon’s muse. I had always blamed her single-handedly for scuppering my Lennon interview six years earlier. How so? Well, I had been in the Big Apple for Thanksgiving Weekend in ’71, and checked in at the St. Moritz. A telegram, sent by Lennon himself, no less, told me to wait in my room for a phone call. An interview had been suggested (though not promised or confirmed) by Leslie Perrin, his London-based PR manager. But when it came, the call was not from Lennon, but May — saying that he and Yoko had decided to skip to the Hamptons for the weekend. Instead, I took the fallback option of sitting in on a recording session with BB King and (I think) the Electric Flag horn section at the Hit Factory. I then rode in BB’s limo back to Kennedy Airport where he graciously granted an interview. Returning to Manhattan (and I know you know where this is going), I picked up a second ominous
message… Again from John Lennon, saying he had called in my absence. The main chance had just been marmelised, and the fateful telegram framed on my mantelpiece. Anyways, four years is a long time to hold grudges, and May seemed to have happily migrated, like many of that era, into the bosom of disco and artist relations. But the Disco Forum had already peaked — while the club scene was still emerging in the UK, Billboard had over-heated the local market. The '70s were appropriately book-ended by Billboard triumphantly declaring that ‘Disco is Dead’, killing the beast it had created, and overnight, all these poor saps who gasped and gushed to Donna Summer’s Love to Love You Baby were cheerfully burning their disco records on command. Even the ‘d’ word itself was excised, redacted and confined to the archives of oblivion, replaced in the lexicon of right-on words by ‘dance’. Back in London, and a year before the Disco Forum, I had checked out a band at Wardour Street’s punk temple, The Vortex, as a guest of DJM Records. Joining a sparse audience and receiving gobbets of greenish spit from a band onstage I’d never heard of before or since (called Rikki & The Last Days of Earth), maybe, after all, I hadn’t taken a wrong turn on the astral plain (as Warren Zevon would have it).
EVOLUTION BECOMES REVOLUTION What would a film be without music? For the most part, not much... At least that’s what Henry Kavanagh says. He gives us an insight into the growing popularity and indeed importance of music in film over the last 10 years...
FILMS HAVE BEEN FILLING OUR screens worldwide for over a century. They entertain us, they challenge us, they make us cry, but above all, they make us think... Think in the sense that we will always continue to debate and argue what truly makes them great. It could be that the camera work is groundbreaking, the story is ingenious, or perhaps the acting is sublime; but one central part of a great film’s success is often the soundtrack. Throughout its history, film music has achieved a ton of breakthroughs, but from the year 2000 to the present, why has it been the case that people listen to it more often than they did in the past? Why is it that the occasional track by Hans Zimmer or Thomas Newman scores up to 10 million views on YouTube? It may not seem like a lot of views by many people, given the standard that YouTube has set since its inception, but for one song of a film’s soundtrack, its pretty significant; and it gives the very clear sign that people are indeed listening to a film’s score more than they have done in the past. Back in a time when the Internet and social media were only thoughts, not realities, it was hard to come by even the rarest of film soundtracks due to low-scale distribution. These days, with copyright laws being more fair and just than they were before (and with no usual trouble from government agencies), streaming sites such as YouTube and Daily Motion, or music marketplaces like iTunes and Zune will usually, in the end, deliver the goods when it comes to hunting down that magical musical moment that you so
desperately crave. As an example, a friend of mine said that in 1975, when the film Barry Lyndon was released, he tried to acquire the specific musical arrangements of Schubert and Handel that were used in the film, but no store could find them. Fast forward 40 years, and he’s managed to find the very specific versions he wanted to listen to via YouTube. Most of the increased popularity for music in film comes from exposure to the Internet that’s a no brainer - but at the end of the day, it all comes down to taste. For a long time, most of the music employed in film had its roots based in classical compositions, but since the occurrence of technical breakthroughs from the late 1980s to the start of the new millennium, composers like Zimmer and Newman entered the unconventional route of breaking away from using mainly classical pieces, and incorporated electronic instruments as experiments. These devices used in films such as Crimson Tide and American Beauty hit off very well with audiences in their initial release, and have gone on to do very well on Internet sales and views. For example, Dead Already by Newman from American Beauty (truly one of the greatest films ever made), has 1.5 million views on YouTube; and Zimmer’s Time from Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece, Inception, has more than 6.5 million views. Electronic scores gained a great deal of momentum during the early part of the 2000s; that was until audiences became enchanted with scores from films such as The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Gladiator, and The Passion of the Christ, all of which had a great
triumphant and epic feel to them. This was a great period for composer, James Newton Howard, whose scores have gone on to be very popular online. His use of woodwind, drums, and sometimes electronic music, have gone on to define what audiences generally want from a film score in any genre, from the horror of The Village to the epic King Kong or in quiet dramas such as Michael Clayton. In recent years, nearly all genres of film music have been accepted by audiences, critics included. And look at the winners of the Academy Award for Best Original Score: in recent years, they have been unbelievably diverse. The first winner in this present decade was The Social Network, which had a mainly electronic and bass-led score; and the next two winners, The Artist, and Life of Pi, employed mainly classical elements in their respective scores. All of these have also scored phenomenally well with listeners on the Internet. No-one can determine exactly why today’s film soundtracks are becoming as popular as albums, but if you have, like me, seen a ton of films, there’s bound to be a couple that stick out in the memory; and it’s more than likely that the musical accompaniment had more than a hand in making them so special. It’s as if a hand has come out from the screen to help you escape reality, and invited you on an incredible journey or adventure. So don’t just watch, but listen – really listen... And enjoy the everlasting sound of wonder and excitement that is music in film.
BEHIND THE MUSIC
It’s crazy to think that this year marks the 20th Anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s passing – a true gamechanger in our industry, and a man who, in many ways, revolutionised music, and inadvertently spawned a whole new scene. Nevermind is a seminal record, and its success was the catalyst for record labels’ mission impossible, ‘the search for the next Nirvana’. Though he might not have known it at the time, those 16 days recording Nevermind would change Butch Vig’s career forever, paving the way for a truly remarkable musical journey, and a bunch of hit records with The Smashing Pumpkins, The Foo Fighters, and Vig’s own band, Garbage, which has sold more than 17 million records over the last two decades. This legend of the game reveals some of his trade secrets, and shares some fond, unforgettable memories... WORDS PAUL WATSON
“EVERYONE THINKS NIRVANA HAD A SLACKER MENTALITY, BUT THAT’S NOT TRUE AT ALL...”
Your career speaks for itself, but first up, how did it all begin for you? Well, I played in bands in high school in a small town in Wisconsin, and then I went to University in Madison. I started getting into the local music scene, and joined a band, which was sort of a power pop, new wave band called Spooner; and Duke [Erikson] from Garbage was the guitarist and lead singer at the time. I also got a degree in film, and ended up doing a lot of music for film; a lot of synth and abstract music, and that’s where I kind of got the recording bug. When I started Spooner with Duke, we were into our music and wanted to record, but we didn’t have any money, so we started going into some really funky demo studios - four-track and eight-track studios - and I just took an interest in the recording. I eventually got a four-track and put it in my apartment, and ended up doing sessions with Steve Marker,
just for fun; and when we graduated from college, I was still playing in a band, but I decided to invest with Steve, and we rented this space on the east side of Madison, and that’s when we started Smart Studios in 1983. We each saved up about two grand, bought an eight-track, got a bunch of used gear, and moved into this funky warehouse and started recording punk rock bands [smiles]. And with no formal training, right? I’d taken four semesters of electronic music, but that was really learning how to use Moogs and ARP 2600 synthesisers. I learned how to do field recording, going out into the real world and recording sound, and taking it back and manipulating it, like abstract film sound music. I found that really exciting, and I still love weird noises and odd things, which I try to squeeze into Garbage songs all the time. How did you make a name for yourself in the early days? It was around ‘89/’90 that I started to get noticed for my production work, in particularly by a band called Killdozer; they’re an acquired taste, but [Smashing Pumpkins frontman] Billy Corgan heard them and loved them, and called me; and then [Nirvana’s label] Sub Pop heard them, so they sent Nirvana to my studio. Really, Killdozer opened up all those doors for me, and of course Nirvana and The Pumpkins changed everything, and that allowed me to pick and choose my projects. That was around ‘91 and ‘92, and I was unbelievably busy. At that point, when Nirvana and The Pumpkins had been successful, I had probably done 1,000 records, working for indie labels, doing singles, demos, all sorts. I was kind of bored of guitar, bass, and drums, and I’d heard the Public Enemy records, and really loved the way that they were using samplers, so I bought an Akai S1000 sampler, started screwing around with that, and came up with the idea of using that on remixes. This led to me remixing for Beck, U2, Depeche Mode, and Nine Inch Nails; I would erase everything on the tape except for the vocals, and record all the music, and a lot of it was going through the sampler, so I could manipulate it. That was how the idea to form Garbage came about. I remember watching you trigger samples back in 1999 at a Garbage show at UCSD... I was in the mosh pit! [laughs] That’s cool, man! Yeah, I mean, it was just a cool way to do things; you could move things around, filter things, cut things up, run things backwards, and it sort of frees you up, you know? At the time, I was working on analogue tape, and there are certain limitations when you’re recording
"I STILL LOVE WEIRD NOISES AND ODD THINGS...” with that, so the sampler made everything feel free. Garbage was really one of the first bands that embraced using the technology that way; the first record was still done with tape, but we had a couple of samplers, an Akai S1000 and a Kurzweil K2500, and a lot of things went through those; we used beats, hip hop, electronica, fuzzy guitars, weird noises, pop melodies - a lot of electronic stuff and programming. I bet that surprised a lot of people... It did.. When the first Garbage record came out, because my name was attached to it, a lot of people expected it to sound like Nirvana or The Pumpkins - grunge or alternative rock; and I think they were shocked at how different it sounded. One of the reasons that we were able to find such success was finding Shirley Manson. She is an incredible singer and a great frontperson; she has become the face of Garbage, and rightfully so, because she is amazing. Garbage was really a reaction to all of the bands after Nirvana. The record companies signed 1,000 bands that they were hoping would sell records like Nirvana, and I felt I had to do something that made things more interesting for me again, hence the samplers. That’s why I started Garbage, which is all about writing pop songs. We love using the studio as a canvas and as a tool, and it’s liberating for me. If you listen to our body of work, a lot of our songs sound completely different, and the glue that holds us together is Shirley’s singing; luckily, she’s got a very strong presence, and that really allows us to
do what we do. How would a record like Nevermind have sounded if you had the technology available to you then, that you do now? [smiles] You know what? The recording of Nevermind was actually really easy; we did the whole record in 16 days. They had rehearsed so much; they were super tight, and they wanted to sound good. Everyone thinks Nirvana had a slacker mentality, but that’s not true at all – they wanted to make a great sounding record, and once Dave Grohl joined the band, they were just rock solid tight. The record went pretty fast; I would be in around noon, and they would come in at 2pm, with everything ready to go. We would record, track a song, do a few overdubs, then take a dinner break; and then we’d work until 9pm, they’d go party, and I’d do a clean-up and maybe a vocal comp. Records nowadays can take several months, depending on who you’re working with. Was a lot of the record done live? It was all tracked live, and then I would go back, usually after we did a take, if Krist [Novoselic, bassist] missed a bass note or something, we’d punch it in and fix it; and then I’d usually get Kurt to double-track some of his guitars, and sometimes I’d go back and re-record his main guitar, or drop in a solo. In Smells Like Teen Spirit, I dropped in some little breaks and stuff. We only did rough vocals in Studio A [of LA’s Sound City Studios], and then the last three days, we went into Studio B and set up vocal mics.
“WAVES PLUGINS ARE JUST SO MUSICAL..” Kurt sang all his lead vocals there, except for maybe a couple, which we kept live, and Dave [Grohl] sang some harmonies. Something In The Way was the only song on the record that was overdubbed start to end; we started with Kurt’s guitar and vocal, then we’d add stuff on top of that. The album was very traditionally recorded, and every process that I’d done for the 10 years leading up to that was very au naturel; I’d get a band in the studio, tune their instruments, put good microphones in front of them, and make sure I got a good performance. What do you like to use for vocals? On the first couple of Garbage records, I used my vintage ELAM 250 mic, which is from 1959; I think it came from RCA studios in New York, and rumour has it that Elvis and Frank Sinatra used it at some point, which is pretty cool. It sounds great. Sometimes I would go through an API preamp, sometimes a Neve preamp; and then we put in a Trident A Range that we had. A lot of times, Shirley’s vocal would go through that. I used to use a Summit TLA 100 compressor – in fact, I’m actually looking at it right now in my home studio. I love that compressor! I also used it on Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl. I like to hit the vocal pretty hard. Do you mix exclusively in the box, today? For the most part. Usually, everything ends up in Pro Tools, although we do also work with half-inch analogue tape. With the Foo Fighters, the whole of their last record was an analogue process, but I am not really that elitist about either; they both have great pluses and do great things, and there are also limitations to both. Young bands would love to record on tape, but it’s expensive, and they have no budgets at all, these days; and with tape, you have to play really good, as you can’t cut and paste or quantise it; you can’t move things around or put it on a grid. As a musician, it’s a challenge, and that’s what I learned when I grew up, that performance was absolutely king.
Has modern technology had a detrimental affect on some of today’s guitar bands? Well, a lot of bands are certainly smart to it; they know they can come in and get it close, then fix it, and make it perfect. When I hear a band on the radio that sounds really good, then I go and see them live, and they’re really sloppy, that bums me out a little bit. You know they’ve been manipulated in the studio. The great thing about digital technology though, is people use it to do really cool things that you can’t do in a live environment. Every record does not need to sound au naturel, like a live band set up in a room. I mean, EDM artists, electronic bands, hip hop artists, even a lot of pop artists – they don’t care about a real drum kit; it’s a complete blend, and there are all sorts of different styles. You need digital technology to do that, and couldn’t necessarily recreate that live. You use a lot of plugins today; how much has that changed the game for you? Plugins are leaps above what they were 10 years ago. People didn’t like the sound of plugins back then, and they had a point, as digital did not sound good. They’d use hardware, like an 1176, instead. Waves in particular uses a lot more sophisticated technology now to model the instruments, so when you pull up the plugin, a lot of them sound exactly the same as the hardware units. Technology is continually getting better and better, and it’s now higher resolution, so there’s less digital distortion and phasing going on; to me, Waves plugins are so musical, and the whole digital realm is now much more musical, too. What are your go-tos? Well, let me pull up a session right now... [pauses] OK, I love that new Waves ADT Double Tracking plugin; I think that’s really cool, and I use it on guitars and vocals, and it sounds pretty awesome. I also like the API compressor too, and the 550A and 550B EQs, which are both really good, and sound a lot like the API, which I love. I am always
using the Waves CLA-76 compressor, and the C4 compressor; and I am a huge fan of the Renaissance AXX, especially on guitars – it’s great on electrics, but it’s absolutely phenomenal on acoustics; it’s a really nice, idiot-proof compressor – so straightforward to use. Also, something I call up all the time, especially when Shirley is doing her vocal in the studio, is the Waves RVOX. It works so good. For a fast compressor, you literally just put it on, and pull the threshold down, so it’s kicking down 4 or 5dB, and the peaks are 6dB, and it helps it sit right in the track. Again, it’s just really, really musical, as is all of the Waves kit. You wear two hats, really – producer and artist... Which one do you prefer? Well, in Garbage, I get to be a songwriter, a musician, and a producer... And a drummer, a guitar player, an arranger, and a bandmate! [laughs] With the Foo Fighters, it’s my job to really focus on being a producer. It’s their music, their album and their vision; and it’s a completely different sort of head space, you know? When I’m working with Garbage, • it’s all about artistically whatever direction I or the band feel like going in, but I have to remember as a producer, whether it’s the Foos or someone else, it’s all about trying to understand the band and what they are trying to accomplish. Many producers, especially pop producers, manufacture the artist, come up with the songs, and give them direction; they can become Svengalis – they control everything. I mean, that goes back to the bands of the ‘50s and ‘60s - they were pop machines, back then! That still happens today, but I have a tendency to work with bands that are self-contained and have their own vision, so I just help them get there. What drives you the most? To me, the most exciting point is when the song is not necessarily finished, but when it’s kind of coming to completion. When the first lead vocal is done, I usually make a rough mix and burn a CD, then play it in the car over and over again - maybe 50 times over two or three days. At this point, I’m crazy in love with it, whether it’s Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins, or Garbage, it still happens all the time; and this is well before the record is done. That early state when a song becomes real - where it comes into its own being, and exists. In your head, you also start imagining what you can do with it, and what you’re going to add. When a song starts to fall into place, that’s my moment... And long may that continue! www.foofighters.com www.nirvana.com www.smashingpumpkinsnexux.com www.waves.com
arisian songwriter, engineer, and producer, Michael Malih, upped sticks for a move stateside in 2009, a time when many European artists were doing the same due to the growing popularity of US music culture that side of the atlantic. Since making the move, he has worked on an array of major records, from classical, to electronic, to pop (including a huge Madonna record), most of which simply wouldn’t have been possible without crossing the pond... What is it about the US that continues to draw European artists? I think there are a few reasons why more producers, songwriters, DJs, and musicians are leaving Europe for a life in America, actually. Some want to live the American dream; some feel much closer to US culture than European; and sometimes it’s simply because in the US, the industry is more ‘open’. By that, I mean they give you more chance to define your music. In Paris, you worked in electronic music almost exclusively, yet that’s all changed since you moved to New York... Yes. When I was in France, I was working with the biggest French electronic acts, and also some pop acts. I wasn’t that successful, to be honest; I was upcoming, and not so renowned, but I was already visiting America frequently to see my family, or go to the Winter Music Conference in Miami. I was young, but I had already noticed that when I played my music to people in the US, the reaction was way more encouraging.
New York STATE OF MIND And the US has opened many more doors for you since... Absolutely, and my work is now much more versatile. I do everything from electronic, to classical, to pop; I’ve also done classical scores for movies, and a lot of electronic music for guys like Ron Carroll. I also work a lot with Defected Records, which is an amazing British label; and I am now working on many pop ballads for a variety of artists. I’m not the easiest producer to define, I guess, but electronic was huge in both France and the UK much earlier than here in America, and there was already a crossover happening with pop music, whereas in the US, it was still all about hip hop. It was in 2008 when dance music really came back to America for good. What does it take to succeed in the US music industry as a European? What it’s really all about is understanding American pop culture. You have to learn, and if you really want to make a go of it in the US, you have to be very curious, and listen to a lot of music, to understand what an American likes; that’s all the way from Motown, to the country folk scene, and everything in between... It really is a totally different culture. It’s also so much more efficient; I mean, when I got out here, I was immediately in work, and then I very quickly secured a publishing deal. Things definitely work differently out here. So it’s the different mentality that appeals? It really is, and in America, that’s really an underlying business mentality. Although it’s difficult to explain, it’s just much more
open, business wise. People just seem to try more, and not only in music, that’s in every business. In my opinion, they have a way better business sense than Europeans. Years ago, America imposed a trend on the music world; it was always, ‘oh, it’s from the US, so it must be great’, but that’s changed now. The trend now is to use European people to add their touch to the American scene; they now hire European musicians and producers capable of producing these amazing sounds. If you look at some of these incredible underground genres such as deep house, which are growing a lot in Europe, especially in England, some of these tracks are hitting number one in the charts, which is amazing. Now, I don’t think America is quite ready for that yet, but with the European influence, it won’t be long before it is. How much of your work is remote? Well, as well as New York, I also work out of LA, London, and Paris - it all depends on the session; but yes, like most producers in the world now, I work mainly from home. Many talented European artists continue to dream about America, and if you can be here, fantastic; but even now, you can be based in Paris or London and also be extremely successful in America, thanks to the remote way we can work now. The key is, you must respect and consume the culture. Understand it, and find a way to mix your sound, with your own vision of the music, and make that work with the popular culture. This is what Dr Luke and William Orbit have done; Orbit in particular really found the solution.
Be Nice “THE GREAT THING ABOUT JH AUDIO IS, THEY ACTUALLY LISTEN TO YOU; THEY CHANGE AND MODIFY THE KIT TO FIT ARTISTS’ INDIVIDUAL REQUIREMENTS.”
It was after watching The Beatles on Ed Sullivan when just eight-years-old, that Jeffrey Foskett knew he wanted to play the guitar. Once his parents bought him his first axe, he began teaching himself the songs of the fab four and The Beach Boys, the latter of which, he ended up joining, thanks to a little divine intervention... That was 1979, and he’s been a Beach Boy ever since, which proves that, just like that mad professor, Dr. Emmett Brown, so confidently claimed in the 1980s hit movie, Back To The Future, ‘if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything...’ How did you become a Beach Boy? [smiles] As a kid, I couldn’t make up my mind up as to which band I liked better – The Beatles, or The Beach Boys. I have two older brothers, one liked one better than the other, and vice versa, so I listened to both a lot. Then, when I was in college at the University of California, Michael Love, the lead singer of The Beach Boys, came into the restaurant where my band was performing one night. I went and introduced myself to him, and told him we were playing in the back room. In those days, everyone smoked cigs and drank with the band, but he said, ‘you know, I don’t smoke or drink alcohol, so I probably won’t stop back, but nice meeting you’. Not the best of pitches, then... [laughs] Right! So anyway, at the time, the restaurant was gracious enough to run a tab for me, so I didn’t have to pay for things right away. I decided to buy Michael’s meal, which was very expensive to me back then; and he actually came back to say thank you, and ended up staying for an entire set. He really liked what he heard and said he’d have his manager call me sometime in the week; and to my surprise, he did have him call me, and we started touring, backing Michael as a solo artist, as he’d just released his first solo album. Then he asked me to
come to Europe with The Beach Boys, and he hired me on the spot! A worthy investment, then! Talking of investments, you’re renowned for your guitar collection, aren’t you? [laughs] It really was! And yeah, I am definitely a collector... The first guitar I ever bought was a Silvertone, made by Sears and Roebuck; it was a three-quarter size acoustic. Then my first electric guitar was a Gibson 335 copy made by Aria. My guitar collection has changed over the years dramatically, but I used to be one of the world’s premiere Rickenbacker collectors; ironically, they became too valuable, so I sold them because I was offered ridiculous amounts of money for them! I also have a big 335 and 355 Gibson collection, and Gibson are nice enough to customise models for me when I need them to, which is great. I also have a really great relationship with Epiphone, and play the Sheraton model exclusively. I have many of those; six- and 12-strings, and they don’t officially make the 12-string... I’m the only one that has them, in fact. Tell me about your relationship with Brian Wilson... What’s it like working with one of your heroes? Brian is incredible. I just left him, and rejoined The Beach Boys this past week, in fact. I was originally with them in the late ‘70s and throughout the ‘80s, then with Brian throughout his solo career for the past 16 years until January of this year. I just finished my first three shows back with The Beach Boys this past weekend, which were great. Brian is most certainly a hero, but all of the guys in The Beach Boys are heroes to me; they were the group I learned pretty much everything from. That’s quite a career path... I suppose it is, yeah. I’ve also been lucky enough to have worked with Sir Paul [McCartney] and Ringo [Starr], and I’ve produced a couple of cool albums, too. I just helped Christopher Cross with a record, and I did Mickey Dolan’s first solo record, then I worked with Mark Lindsay [of Paul Revere & The Raiders]. I then did some projects with some major bands including America and Chicago... So quite a few, really... What about up on stage – you must have seen some big changes in terms of kit... Oh, the biggest by far was switching to in-ear monitors. It is literally night and day what you get out of a floor tub and an in-ear monitor – especially as a singer, because you can save
so the last record I mixed, I did so using headphones alone. I used a combination of three different sets as I wanted to get three different things out of them: the old school Yamaha NS10Ms; a pair of Grados; and my JH Audios in-ears. I then cut the CD, went out into the car, and played it. How did it sound? Honestly? Excellent! It was a great mix using the three different headphone sets, and the clarity I was getting out of the JH kit was stunning. I can’t say enough about their products, which is probably why I have several different sets!
your voice when you hear it so clearly in your ears, rather than the bin on the floor, which can be brutal. All of The Beach Boys are on JH Audio IEMs. Personally, I feel that JH are that cut above the rest, probably because of the feedback that different artists have given them over the years. I beta test some of the products for the guys, and I think what they like about me is, I don’t just say, ‘these rock!’ I try to offer constructive feedback: perhaps a frequency isn’t sitting quite right here or there, or whatever. The great thing about JH Audio is, they actually listen to you; they change and modify kit to fit artists’ individual requirements - and that’s from Van Halen to... well, me! Van Halen is one of the heaviest and loudest bands, and we are one of the most intricate vocal bands, and you can pick the monitor that suits you the best. They even make the consumer line, so if you only want to listen to your iPod or your stereo system, then they have those as well. You guys are using the JH13s on tour... That’s right. And because of that, we have no need for amplifiers on stage; they’re all facing backwards off the back of the stage, so everything – and I mean everything – is in your ears. It’s the perfect scenario, because you get exactly what you want to hear, and only what you want to hear. If you want something louder, just ask the monitor man. It is literally the best of all worlds. You even used them in the studio, right? Well, this is really interesting... I’d heard that Santana mixed his mega record, Supernatural, on headphones, and I was very curious as to how that process would work,
Is touring with The Beach Boys much different now than it was in the ‘70s? Well, this last few days has been a little different from normal - it was shows at three different cities that really aren’t that close together, and none of them had airports! [laughs] It was go to bed for five hours, get up, get on the bus for five hours, get to the hotel, sleep for five hours... And then play the show! Typically though, a day would be, we’d get up, already in the city we were due to perform at, we’d then do a soundcheck, play the gig, then drive at night – that kind of thing. Typical road life is good, because after a gig, you’re wired anyway, and you can stay up for two or three hours; by that time, you’re at the hotel, ready for sleep, and it works out quite well. In Europe, it’s a little different, as you’re mostly flying to destinations - separate countries – but in the US, it’s pretty typical. Brian’s band is a lot bigger than The Beach Boys’ band, and he and I used to travel alone together; I was the only other guy on his bus, so we did whatever we wanted to do, really. A lot of times, Brian and I would fly private jet, and do different things versus the other guys in his band. Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when I was in the Beach Boys, we had our own jet, so a typical day back then would be to stay for 10 nights in one hotel and then fly in and out of that city. Touring has become much different lately, and in this version of The Beach Boys, it’s pretty much what Brian and I would do: play the gig, get to the next city, get a full night’s sleep, get up, soundcheck, and do the gig...Then do it all over again!
MOMENT At just 15-years-old, Pras Michel introduced his school friend, Lauren Hill, to his cousin, Wyclef Jean, and the trio began playing music together. They became The Fugees, one of the world’s biggest and most vocal bands, offering a repertoire of deeply political songs in a bid to give hope to their poverty-stricken, corrupt homeland, Haiti. Two Grammys, and a bunch of other accolades later, Pras is still singing the same song, but with even greater authority. His latest documentary film, Sweet Mickey For President, is the ultimate example of his philanthropy and loyalty towards social responsibility, telling the story of how his drive and belief helped his charismatic friend, musician, and fellow Haitian, Michel Martelly, achieve the seemingly impossible by becoming the President of Haiti. Much like Pras himself, the film is an inspiration, and restores your faith in human nature. It also shows the true power of music on arguably the most powerful of all stages...
WORDS PAUL WATSON | PHOTOGRAPHS BEN COOK Pras met Michel Martelly for the first time in 1994, at a show in Miami. At the time, The Fugees “weren’t the Fugee Fugees”, he says, but Martelly was proud that there was a Haitian-American band on the rise. For those that don’t know of Michel Martelly the artist, he is a huge name in Haiti, and has been for a couple of decades and more. Sure, his wild performances on stage often saw him drop his pants, slap on a diaper or two, and there was a lot of provocative dancing... But behind the music was a man who cared deeply about his country and its people; he was always sending out some kind of social or political message – sometimes hidden, sometimes not so much. For Pras, since the days of The Fugees, the dream had always been to generate hope and belief in the people of Haiti. It was in 1997, a year after the band’s second and breakthrough album, The Score, that The Fugees got the chance to play in Haiti for the first time; it was a huge outdoor concert, which Martelly himself attended. “That’s when I really got to know Michel properly, I guess, and it’s where it all started for us as a band,” Pras recalls. “Then, years later, when the 2010 earthquake hit Haiti and caused such terrible devastation, I
wanted to do something about it. I’d already made a couple of documentaries about social issues in the US and in Africa, and I wanted to do a film over in Haiti – I just needed to do something to help the cause.” The previous films Pras refers to are the internationally acclaimed Skid Row Los Angeles (2007), where he went undercover as a homeless guy in LA for nine days; and Paper Dreams (2009), where he visited Somalia in a bid to expose the country’s rife piracy issues (the latter is still unfinished due to political issues, and in the filming process, Pras’ ship was actually taken hostage by pirates). Through Sweet Mickey, has Pras taken his philanthropy to a new level? “Well, if you go back even to my early Fugees days, when we did our debut album, Ghetto Supastar [in 1998], even though that was a pop record, there was always an element of politics to the songs,” Pras reveals. “Since then, I have always tried to do what I do best in some sort of art form, and I’m very socially conscious; whatever I do, there has to be a social element in the backdrop. If you look at Sweet Mickey, it’s a movie, but the backdrop is entertaining at the same time. Although it’s a documentary, we tried to make
“YOU HAVE GOT TO BELIEVE IN SOMETHING, AND IF YOU HAVE GOOD INTENTIONS THEN YOU CAN BRING DOWN A MOUNTAIN.”
“I SEE MYSELF AS A SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS CRUSADER.”
it feel like a movie, you know? And I have to give credit to my director, Ben Patterson, for that, who I think has done a brilliant job. “It’s funny... The other day, I was reading an article by an actor who was at Cannes [Film Festival, France], and he said something that I have always believed in: ‘film is the director’s medium, period.’ And that’s so right. Actors? Sure, we do what we do, but directors capture the brilliance in any film.”
VISIONARY Pras’ initial vision for the film was to look at the devastation caused by the 2010 earthquake, and although he had no idea what was going to transpire from this emotional visit to his homeland, what evolved was seriously ground breaking. “Everything was totally natural; as it was
happening, it was being captured. What we soon realised though, was that the earthquake was ‘a moment’ that we couldn’t possibly recapture, but the energy and the fear was still prevalent, which provided an opportunity for us to do something different,” Pras recalls. “When I thought about everything that had happened, and saw the turmoil that Haiti was in, I decided to call Michel [Martelly], and I told him he should run for President. For me, Michel’s story is about understanding the timing of history. We have seen it from the existence of mankind: in WWII, when Germany was pounding on different European countries like England, it was Churchill’s ‘moment’. If that hadn’t happened, maybe he wouldn’t have been as popular as he is today, right? “So now look at Haiti: it had just come off this insane earthquake, the most shocking
of natural disasters that killed more people than at any given time in modern history (approx. 300,000). The feeling within the Haitian people helped Michel propel to that level; if that [earthquake] didn’t happen, most people that had never really heard of Haiti, wouldn’t have heard of Haiti, and I genuinely don’t believe that Michel would have become President.” Although he’s not a religious man, Pras oozes spirit. He often refers to ‘moments’ in his life, and he is as keen to create new ones as he is to remember those that he treasures. “After all, when you have defining moments,” he says, “things happen that wouldn’t normally happen.” “This occurs when a cultural society is going through a breaking point; we’ve seen that happen right here in the US, almost 10 years ago, with Barack Obama. I mean, if Al Gore had become President, and not George Bush, I don’t believe that Obama would be President today,” Pras adds, candidly. He has a point. “It took everything that happened under George Bush’s watch; the wake of war, which a lot of people in the US were opposed to, is what I believe led to the victory for Obama. When people are complacent, that’s fine, but at that time, people were ready for a change in America, just like they were in Haiti. I think with Michel, that’s what led to people following him. It’s this whole, ‘give the guy a chance’ mentality that’s helped him get to where he is at.” I ask Pras how often he is in touch with Michel, who is now three years into his five-year term, and whether he thinks he is enjoying the challenge. Perhaps I worded that wrong... “I don’t know if he’s enjoying the challenge, but he’s ticking along,” Pras replies, adding that corruption has been imbedded in that world for, ‘like... ever’. “But you see, it comes with the territory. If this guy was to totally eradicate corruption in one year and change the Haitian economy in some way, rising them to the top economy in the world, then forget the Nobel Prize, this guy would be an actual Saint! [laughs]. Things are not easy, that’s for sure. Some Haitians will say there’s been way better progress than they’re used to since Michel took over, and of course some will say he isn’t good enough. “What you have to remember is, the whole world is going through a shift, and that’s not a secret, especially after the global
“I REMEMBER FEELING CHILLS AFTER LAUREN HILL SANG KILLING ME SOFTLY – I WAS LIKE, 'WOW, THIS IS INCREDIBLE!'” recession we’ve had. The world is no longer isolated; now, we’re all interconnected and affected by each other’s decisions, to a certain extent. At the end of the day, the movie we were making was really about hope; you have got to believe in something, and if you have good intentions, then you can bring down a mountain. That’s what it is, you know?”
SOCIAL CRUSADER Pras’ humility is staggering. He seems to genuinely believe that to live the life he has, he has been blessed, and all he wants to do is help people, period. I ask him about his charity work. As expected, it’s extensive, and, of course, non-exclusive. “I see myself as a socially conscious crusader. I don’t endorse one particular organisation; it’s whatever touches me at that time,” states Pras, very matter of fact. “For example, I’m an advocate of Paul Haggis’s charity, which does a lot for Haiti he’s the guy who directed the film, Crash; he’s a great guy, and a great director. I also support Ben Stiller, who’s a good friend of mine, as he has raised money for Haiti, too. Then I’ll just support any other organisations that need my help. “Homelessness is another one - you know, I did my [Skid Row] documentary on that, and it’s a serious social issue. Another thing that really worries me and gets to me is this whole human trafficking thing... [long pause] This whole professional assault on women, man... I don’t know, it really bothers me, you know? So I’ve been getting into helping that, too. Like I say, I lend my hand wherever I can.” That’s an understatement if ever I’ve heard one. Humility aside though, I feel Pras must have felt some level of personal satisfaction when Martelly won the race for Presidency... Just a little? “[smiles] It felt good to give opportunity to people who normally wouldn’t have any say or hope,” he says, in typical Pras fashion. “Listen, we’re all complaining, but when you think about people like you and I, the situation we’re in, compared to what people have gone through, that’s how we get caught up in our bubble. That’s when you see people really have nothing; and the desire in the world to just believe in something... That’s powerful. And for me, to be able to help give them that little soul plate that tomorrow can, and will be better; well, that’s my disposition.”
Pras is also extremely eco-driven. In recent years, he has emceed at various ‘green’ events, showing his support for the international effort at reducing global warming; and he was recently pictured riding a Citi Bike in New York, raising further eco-awareness. “When Wyclef and I first started to sing together, we always wanted to do something to give back to our people – that was The Fugees from the start. The whole essence and core of what The Fugees were about was, ‘let’s do something to make Haitians proud’,” Pras explains, passionately. “I often sit back and think how lucky I have been to live such an incredible life through first, my band mates, and then the people who supported us. I can’t help but want to live in a place where everyone can live as one; I know it’s not possible, but as long as I’m doing what I’m doing, I need to give back. It’s in my DNA to want to see people happy, and see people have a moment of peace, or a moment of hope. “Can you imagine how Haitians felt, the moment people knew Michel Martelly was going to win, and that life was about to get that little bit better? It’s the same with Obama, when people realised he was going to be the first African-American President; or the moment when WWII ended, how people must have felt at that point? It’s moments, man! People will tell you that, because they always have a special day.”
MUSIC MAN Although Pras has a seemingly endless string of projects going on, music is clearly where the heart is, and that doesn’t look like changing anytime soon: “I know my life will always revolve around music. When The Fugees came to an end, we all did individual things; I’ve actually been working on a new music project for the last couple of years, and it’s finally coming to completion. You guys [in the UK] are going to love it; England is in our top five biggest markets in the world, so I will always have an affinity with you Brits. “In fact, the first place we ever played in Europe was in England. This was before the first album; it was kind of critically successful, but not commercially, but you guys embraced us from day one, whether it was 100 people in a club, or a sell-out gig at Wembley, and that has always been at the back of my mind, and in my heart.”
“We now have British groups doing a lot of stuff out here, much like you guys do with American artists in the UK. Look at One Direction, Adele... [pauses] I am so in love with Adele; I remember when her first album came out, I was thinking, ‘this girl is just incredible’, you know? And she proved to the world that she was and is. Everything is a lot more international now, which is great.” I feel it’s fitting to ask Pras if he has one defining ‘moment’ in his career to date. My question is greeted with laughter and a long ‘whooooaaaaaaaa!’ He chuckles, then replies: “I’ve had some really great ones, and so many! Most people will say they can’t remember, but I have got a ton, from meeting Princess Diana, to Obama, to doing Ghetto Supastar on the MTV Europe Awards. These are just coming off the top of my head, man! [laughs] I remember feeling chills after Lauren Hill sang Killing Me Softly – I was like, ‘Wow, this is incredible!’ “Honestly, I could die today, and I could say I’ve had the best life. Life is about trials; have I had some hard times in my life? Yes. But when I look at the incredible things that have happened, they far outweigh the bad, so I’m grateful for that. And that’s what keeps me going.” It’s amazing to think that at just 41, Pras has already had 25 years experience in the music industry. Will there ever be another Fugees collaboration, or is that one step too far? “I know that my moments with the Fugees were able to lead me to what I am today; that was a chapter in my life, and I feel great about it. When we were apart, we were all in our own zone, but whenever we come together, we fall back into that euphoric state. A couple of years ago, I jumped on stage with Lauren Hill, and the crowd went crazy... I remember we both couldn’t stop smiling,” he says, with a hint of reflection. “If you think about it, that’s human nature, and really, you can’t resist it... But I still feel that the best of me is just around the corner. I have to slowly bring myself back into the world. I’ve got the film coming out, I have the new music thing coming out also, and that’s what’s driving me right now. You know what, I feel like the stars are beginning to line up for me. [smiles]” www.thefugees.com
Swedish songstress, Jennie Abrahamson, is a tremendously talented artist. She’s also a bit of an eco warrior (or should that be warrioress?) Her focus is on planet Earth, the people she loves, and everything musical... And she’s ‘a bit spacey’, too...
WORDS PAUL WATSON | PHOTOGRAPHS PAULINA PERSSON Tell me about your love of music.. You know, recently, I actually thought music wasn’t fun for me anymore, and I honestly wasn’t sure it was what I should be doing. When I released my last album, it was a very hectic period. I was doing a lot of administrative work and very little music. It was just work, email, computers, organising... I’m quite skilled at that, and a certain part of me enjoys it, but most of me wants to be creative, and when you only sit answering emails, you kind of lose what you’re doing. I’d been touring on my own for quite a while, but mostly organising everything for the releases, because I have quite a big part in the [record] label work. Everything kind of came into place when I went on tour [for the third time] with Peter Gabriel recently; I found the love for music again, and everything felt right.
I realised that aside from music, I’ve never wanted anything else from my life. What’s the Swedish music scene like? Touring as a musician in Sweden is a very social thing, and the crew is always very integrated in the band. You’ll never see a crew go in their own bus or their own car; it’s very much a team thing. When I tour, I always make sure I have great people around me, though I have also done a lot of solo touring, which can be lonely; the older you get, the more you question if it’s a good idea, not being with the ones you love, and travelling alone. The plus side is, I do enjoy being in new cities, and not having anyone to care about, heading out with my camera and taking photos... I covered Way Out West festival in Gothenburg last year, and the crew were
very relaxed and organised... Is this a Swedish thing? [laughs] I think it probably is! I was discussing crew with somebody the other day, actually, and I was told that crew in the UK are pretty badly paid, and when they come to Sweden and work, they think, ‘wow!’ Wages are much higher here, and on a lot of occasions, the crew are actually better paid than the musicians. If you want the best people, you have to pay up! And crew work hard around the world, so I think they should all be paid well, personally. Are you tech-savvy, or is it all about the performing for you? I love just having a solo concert with me and a grand piano; when you have your voice and piano in a wedge, it’s a very simple way of playing. When I play with the band, we
tend to make things a little more difficult for ourselves! I’m not much of a tech geek, but I learn the tools that I have to, because it makes stuff easier; but Johannes Bergland, who I have a studio with, and have been working with for a very long time - he has a solution to everything. We have had this place for 10 years, and we’ve just renovated it. We have a small control room and a rehearsal space attached to the control room, and then a big storage area, as I have a lot of gear. I never want to sell stuff, ever! I’m moving into a little writing space this week, which will be really cool, and I won’t have much gear there, so it’s just going to be me, my Genelec speakers, and my computer, and we’ll see what happens... What do you like about Genelec monitors? I have the 2080s, and I love that you always get a very honest and straight sound out of them. We had the larger Genelec speakers as reference in the big studio, and we mixed the last album on those, in a room that wasn’t particularly well built, yet it still worked out, so that says a lot. For me, I find that the Genelecs do exactly what I want them to; they’re everything you could possibly want from a speaker, as they reflect what’s been recorded in a truthful way. Also, I love Genelec’s take on sustainability, which perhaps isn’t so well documented. They really think about the environment and the future, and everything is built in Finland in this tiny warehouse by a lake, which is just great. Everything by Genelec can be recycled, and they want to have as little negative impact on the planet as possible. I’ve actually heard that the first hour of their big meetings is always about the environment; many companies would be promoting the shit out of this, as it’s a selling thing, but that’s not the Genelec way. Everything is locally made, and they care about every aspect of their speakers; and they take good care of their personnel, too: they put gymnastics on three times a day for the people in the warehouse! That to me is sooo cool! It’s also a big issue for me, the environment, as I care about these things in my daily life, and it’s been hard bringing that into the music business. When you print an album, maybe you want to use paper that you can recycle, but it’s much more difficult to get your electronics to be eco-friendly. Your latest album, Gemini Gemini, has some lovely melodies, and a few political undertones... Thank you. It’s not as melancholic as some of the stuff I wrote when I was 20! [laughs] I always need to take time out to write songs, maybe three months, going to the studio every day. I always collect ideas, and write down bits and pieces, but generally as an artist, you have a feeling, and you know when you have enough in
your head to sit down and write. The latest album, all the songs are connected to the duality of man, and our inner twin. Most people think that they have a certain association within them; maybe they have one part of them that they display, and one part that they keep on the inside. Like the inner twin, that’s where the Gemini Gemini comes from, and I am a Gemini, as I was born in May. So that’s the general theme of the album, and then it comes down to love songs and relationships, and the denial of what we’re doing with the planet. So yeah, in many ways it’s a political album, but it’s also about what’s going on with man and woman... What’s been your perfect musical moment to date? Touring with Peter Gabriel has been a definite high point in my career, and that first tour with him was a total life-changer, so that’s definitely up there. But also, I really enjoy the small things, like when you get something to work in the studio for you, or a great moment with your band in rehearsals. Sometimes, just playing a gig at a club when everything’s aligned is absolute perfection...
"THE GENELECS DO EXACTLY WHAT I WANT THEM TO; THEY'RE EVERYTHING YOU COULD POSSIBLY WANT FROM A SPEAKER, AS THEY REFLECT WHAT'S BEEN RECORDED IN A TRUTHFUL WAY."
E C A P S Y O B COW
For the last 16 years, Rob Harris has been strumming and stomping his wah pedal for British funk and acid jazz band, Jamiroquai. Furthermore, he’s found time to forge working relationships with a number of major players in the industry, from Gary Numan, to Deep Purple, to Beverley Knight; and he’s a dab hand at production, too. Although he works mainly in the box, Harris is all about live performance, and ‘finding that groove’. As he rightly says, ‘if you can play, you should play’...
How do you separate your musician hat with your producer’s one... Or do you? Producing records is something I do out of necessity really; these days you have to do more than one thing. If you’re writing with artists, you end up producing the tracks, and that can lead to the label saying, ‘well, we want you to produce this artist’s album then’. Often, you can be doing a demo, and it can become a finished article. With record labels today, time is of the essence, so they’ll often want you to polish something off so it can be released. I have a nice studio at home, and I’ve learned over the years how to make records, because you need to in today’s industry. Also, technology allows you to do it, now; I’ve made tracks that have been released on major labels, in hotel rooms! It’s not ideal, but it’s possible, and when you see how quick they demand these things nowadays, you don’t have an option. There isn’t always the budget to go into Metropolis to spend two weeks on a track. In the early Jamiroquai days, the studios you recorded in must have been great... It’s funny... I’ve done records these days where I’ve needed permission to use a studio: ‘can we actually record real drums; is that OK?’ [laughs] I must say though, I have been to some studios like Olympic and was never really that pleased with the results. I know the sound I want, and the studio wasn’t always the best place to get it. For example, I love ‘70s sounding drums, and for that, you need a dead room, which I have
at my house. If I need a bigger sound, I can go to a bigger space and get that, or create it artificially with reverbs or reamping stuff. I like the idea of setting up and finding places to record, and doing it in unusual spots, and I do think the large-scale studio environment is a little bit stifling at times. What I love is having people playing in a room together; it always sounds best. So live is where the magic lies? Yes. Some A&R men will always say, ‘does it need it? the samples sound fine.’ But I think people are interested in hearing people play; all the classic records that people go back to and love, involve human beings. It’s the way it moves that people like. Look at [Daft Punk’s] Get Lucky from last year; yes, they looped things and messed about a bit with it, but it’s just two guys playing music in a room; and even kids pick up on it. I’ll play a regular pop record like Labrinth to my kids, which they love, but whenever I stick on The Police, my seven-year-old goes bananas! It’s because it’s more dynamic. The band might be raising their game on the second chorus, playing live, and that’s the beauty of the performance, whereas on newer, less dynamic material, I know what’s coming almost: here comes that chorus again, same tempo, and maybe it’ll be a little bigger, but that’s it. It’s different; the things in these live tracks just make you more excited.
I’m guessing there’s a lot of live performance on your records? Oh yeah. On the last Jamiroquai album, a lot of the songs are live takes. Being a 42-year-old man, that’s what I enjoy the most... playing! I actually feel a little disconnected from newer records, as I don’t hear human beings on them. What’s your core studio setup? I have the new Pro Tools HDX rig - that’s 10 and 11; and I have a drum room with a kit miked up constantly, and amps all over the place. I’m a bit of a hardware freak. I have an API summing mixer that I use, so I do break out of the box, though most of my mixing and level rides are in the the box. I have Distressors, an 1176, the Slate Dragon compressors, and loads of different flavours of preamps, as I like to chop and change. I recently got the Altec 1567 valve mixer, and often, after something’s been recorded, I’ll send it through that, and then print it back into my session. I find when I record at a higher sample rate, I do less to the tracks inside the box; they sound as I want them to sound, so there’s less tone-shaping to do. For years now, I’ve also used sE Electronics’ RF Pro [reflection filter] on a lot of stuff; we used one in the studio with Jay on the last album. I use it when I’m working with an artist that wants to throw things down quicker, where I prefer to be in the room with the singer, so we can communicate.
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“I LIKE THE IDEA OF SETTING UP AND FINDING PLACES TO RECORD, AND DOING IT IN UNUSUAL SPOTS...”
You’ve recently been testing out sE’s new RF Space reflection filter, too... Yeah, and that’s a great bit of kit. They’ve made some major alterations, and all for the better. For a start, it’s a lot more sturdy, and it feels a little lighter, too; the latches and locking mechanisms are far easier to manage for me, so that’s a good thing. Also, it’s thicker, so it absorbs more. As soon as I got the RF Space, I began using it to track acoustic guitar parts for a new project of mine, Trioniq, which is myself, Paul Turner [of Jamiroquai], and Ivan van Hetten, who is a phenomenal trumpeter and keyboard extraordinaire. We’ve been recording some new tracks at my place, and the idea is, we play live takes, keep the warts and all, and put them out there as and when we’re feeling it. Ash Soan is involved, plus a few singers; and it’s mostly one-takers! It’s more about the spirit of playing together in the room, so it’s cool to keep those little mistakes. If you can play, you can play records don’t have to be perfect, they just have to sound good. I’m now using RF Space on all of my vocal and percussion tracking duties, both at my place, and at other locations. I find myself having to travel to people’s houses sometimes to record them, and the RF Space ensures I’m capturing a good performance in less than ideal acoustic spaces. It’s a great tool. How do you set it up? I have a dead overhead space in my room
that I’ve treated so the ceiling is nonreflective; that’s where a singer would normally go, but I’m actually cool if the singer wants to sit with me and use RF
Space there and then. It’s also especially good on acoustic guitars; if I want an open sound on the acoustic, I’ll go into my drum room, but always with the RF filter with me. I work quickly, so I am not a complete audiophile engineer looking for a pristine sound; it’s really about what sits on the track best. I have some acoustic treatment like diffusers and bass traps, but I’m not working in an acoustically designed room it’s a converted garage, and RF Space works great in that situation.
“I’M NOW USING RF SPACE ON ALL OF MY VOCAL AND PERCUSSION TRACKING DUTIES, BOTH AT MY PLACE, AND OUT AT OTHER LOCATIONS...”
What advice can you give any upcoming
artists on how best to make a living in this industry today? There is so much diverse music coming out, as people have the ability to record whatever they want, and put their music out there, which is a good thing. The reason Jamiroquai has been going 20 years is because it’s a good band; I grew up with good music, and am lucky enough to have been playing good music. When music has movement and space to breathe, you want to hear it more; and hopefully, people are rising up to it. Creatively, this industry’s in great shape. www.jamiroquai.com www.seelectronics.com
sE'S NEW RF SPACE
IN JOHN SHE TRUSTS John Clark III’s career took a real spike in the mid 1980s. He ditched his dump truck, became a roadie for a string of club bands, and got his first break behind the console after the sound engineer at his local club offered him his white gloves for the night. Now, he is riding the faders and heading up production for renowned US artist, Ciara... You got the bug from mixing in clubs, but how did you move into the pro tour scene? I got hooked up with a production group based out of Phoenix, Arizona, working a gig with Kanye West before he made the big time. He liked me, and we worked together for about five years; from there, it kind of went crazy – it was a time when all the work was coming in, and it was a great stepping stone period for me. Currently you’re multi-tasking, which isn’t easy for any man! You’re working at FOH and as production manager for Ciara... How do you fuse those two roles? [laughs] Yeah, I’m looking after her, pretty much! I take care of the band, make sure my technical crew have got what they need, and I also interface between the stage manager and our crew, and stuff like that. I’ve been with Ciara for two years now. It’s really about building a great relationship with the artist, as you need a very high degree of trust. She sees me in her dressing room, handing her a microphone, and her in-ear pack, and the next thing you know, I’m saying to her, ‘OK, walk to the stage slowly ‘cos I’ve got to cut through the crowd’, and she just laughs. She finds that funny, this big giant guy running over everybody out there! It does become kind of tedious and difficult sometimes, because if there is a problem on stage, I’m taking care of it, so I have to rely temporarily on the house guy, who might be a company guy, or whoever brought in the PA, to at least make sure all the channels are working, and give me a start, just in case I have to run out at the last minute. That’s when it gets stressful!
What’s going on up there, gear-wise? We’ve used a variety of headset mics over the last couple of years on Ciara, some of which are better than others, but that type of mic normally works best for her shows. Then we use a Lectrosonics Venue receiver system with the VRT receiver modules, and the SMQV belt pack transmitter. That system is totally rock solid. What’s also very convenient is that the [Lectrosonics] HQ happens to be in my home town, so that’s pretty cool! I’m very happy with the products, as they’re so reliable and easy to use. Also, we have no RF issues, as it’s all in my pelican case with the headset. We also have the HH handheld with the HHC cardioid condenser capsule for Ciara, for when she’s not on her headset.
“I LOVE THE CONVENIENCE OF NOT HAVING THE WIRES, AND THAT WE GET THE SAME – PERHAPS BETTER – SOUND QUALITY WITHOUT THE WIRE.”
“IT’S REALLY ABOUT BUILDING A GREAT RELATIONSHIP WITH THE ARTIST, AS YOU NEED A VERY HIGH DEGREE OF TRUST...”
How do you build a trust with an artist as a production manager? Well, what happened with Ciara was, in the [backing] track days, there wasn’t really much to do, so there was a lot of time available to take care of what she needed, and to answer her questions - making sure she felt comfortable with her stage setup and the way her gear sounded. Making the production calls was just something else that the team needed me to do at the time, and it organically grew into this engineering, production management type of role. She is always keen to have the same crew with her all of the time - she doesn’t really like fill-ins, so the trust developed over time. Then management made a change, and upgraded me to production manager and FOH. How has the role of production manager changed compared to when you started out, and what are the key things you have to remember from a production point of view in today’s game? First, stand your ground, and try not to let too many substitutions occur with stage setup. I realise being flexible is part of the job, but some things just can’t happen; you might not be able to have enough room for all the risers, and so on. But you must look after the artist first, and everyone else is second. The technology has also changed a lot - while the digital consoles are convenient,
not everyone has the same desk available, and as we’re not carrying a console or sound system on this tour, you have to think outside the box now and again. Most of the time it’s fine, but sometimes we have to make some miracles occur when the technology at the venue is limited. You also have to look after your crew so that they look after you. We have a small crew, and I have a Pro Tools operator who helps me with the stage management, and then I have a monitor engineer that does the same thing. Between the three of us, we have the ground covered for the most part. It’s quite a lot to have on your shoulders for a small team... It is, but you know, if you keep it all nice and simple, the whole process becomes much smoother. I chuckle to myself now and then, because many guys see that I’ve got my sound up by the time we’re halfway through the first song, and they’re all, ‘wow, how do you do that?’ The answer to that is simple: I’m approaching 30 years behind a desk! It’s not that I toot my own horn and say, ‘wow I must be really good at front-of-house’, but because of the way we work it, I can just walk out there and go. That’s taken time to perfect. What kind of venues are you playing? It’s anything from 1,000-seat venues to large clubs, and we’re playing lots of festivals. Also, we do a bunch of corporate events - about
70% of our work is now corporate, actually. The fact that we are the entertainment for large corporations is what’s taken us overseas. These kind of shows range from 500 to 10,000 people, which is mind boggling to me. Sometimes I’m like, ‘oh, the public’s here’, and they’re all, ‘nope, just the company’. It’s incredible, really, the size of some of these corporate event; it’s more like playing a festival! Is there one bit of kit that makes your life that bit easier on the road? [pauses] The wireless stuff. The fact that wireless is now where it needed to be is a great breakthrough. I love the convenience of not having the wires, and that we get the same – perhaps better – sound quality without the wire. I also like the universal use of being able to use it anywhere in the world. With the frequency crackdown, and the FCC selling off all the frequencies, pretty much, I’m now genuinely excited about the future of wireless, and the direction it’s going. Karl [Winkler] showed be a glimpse of some of the digital systems Lectrosonics are currently working on, and it’s amazing. They’re totally on the cutting edge, which is fantastic. www.lectrosonics.com www.onlyciara.com/ccmag
SWINGING IN STYLE The legendary Top of the Mountain concert in Austria’s picturesque alpine resort of Ischgl just celebrated its 20th Anniversary, with global superstar, Robbie Williams, taking to the stage with his big band, and performing the whole of his recent Swinging Both Ways album...
“WE EXPERIENCED SOME OF THE MOST PRONOUNCED CLIMATIC EFFECTS I HAVE EVER HEARD...”
Top of the Mountain is an annual concert that takes place at the end of each ski season at this snow-covered Austrian location; and it’s a teeth-chattering, dizzy experience when you’re 2,300-metres up... The first artist to perform here was Elton John, back in 1995, and since then, a string of headline acts have gone on to belt it out from this now world-renowned Idalp show stage in the heart of the Tyrol Alps, including The Killers, Alicia Keys, Katy Perry, Deep Purple, Alanis Morissette, and Kylie Minogue. In addition to Robbie, there was another, perhaps less obvious star of the show, also dressed in black, though without the bow tie: Nexo’s STM modular line array PA system, which had to tackle not only the largest ever audience to grace the Silvretta Arena (30,000), but the snow... All of the kit at the show was brought in via snow gondola, with snowploughs handling the on-site transport, and helicopters flying the crew members in and out. The Nexo system’s ability to be broken down into smaller elements turned out to be a real lifesaver, and what it was firing out, audio-wise, wasn’t half bad, either. I’ve heard STM deliver the goods on several occasions, in various configurations, and in some extremely varied locations, though never with snow as the major absorbent..! Nexo’s technical sound advisor, Val Gilbert, likens the experience to listening to giant studio monitors: “We experienced some of the most pronounced climatic effects I have ever heard,”
he explains. “Cold air on the ground, warm air above the crowd’s head, and cold air from falling snow and fog above created a layer of warm air exactly at the height of the FOH position, driving mid and high frequencies straight into the tent. This made it difficult for [FOH engineer] Simon Hodge to mix in a predictable way, however, the sound was solid, and coverage and throw were both excellent.” Austria’s Fantasy Event Engineering provided all the technical kit, working closely with German rental company, acoustic NETWORK, to provide 15 sets of STM M46 Main, B112 Bass, and S112 Sub units per side, which generated an 80-metre coverage. The S112s were supplemented with two stacks per side of four CD18 cardioid sub bass units; and two delay towers of 10+2 GEO T cabinets provided additional coverage [135 metres in total]. Additionally, eight GEO S12s were used for the venue’s VIP area, along with four PS15s for the frontfills. Post-event, it was compliments all round for STM. Both Hodge and Britannia Row’s system engineer, Josh Lloyd (who tours with Robbie) want to spend time with the system in more ‘hospitable’ conditions; and Lloyd thought it sounded great, considering the extremely difficult listening environment they were working in. The icing on the cake, though, came from the event’s technical director, Hannes Knapp, who has already chosen to book STM in for next year’s Top of the Mountain show. Word on the slopes is, it was best sounding show in the event’s history. www.fantasy-veranstaltungstechnik.at www.nexo.fr
ESPAÑOL SENSACIÓN Hoy no me Puedo Levantar (or ‘Today I can not get up’) is the most successful musical in Spain, and is based on songs by the popular spanish band, Mecano. It is a reflection of the La Movida Madrileña countercultural momevent which took place in Madrid in the early ‘80s, and one of Mecano’s band members, Nacho Cano, helped put it all together. For the last eight years, Javier Isequilla has been in charge of sound design and mixing, and in that period, the production has gone from strength to strength...
How did you get into the music biz, and how long have you been working in audio? I’m from a very small town, and since I was a child, I have always been related to the world of music. I got into choral singing first, and then played in rock bands, which is really where I started to take an interest in the technical side. I studied electronics, then got into telecommunications engineering, and in 1994 I moved to Madrid to study at a private audio school (CES) as I was ready to dive into the world of live sound! Have you mainly worked monitors? Actually, no; most of my work has been as a FOH engineer, not so much as a monitor guy. At the start of my career, I did a lot of TV work and live concerts, but what I liked doing most is what I have spent the last 15 years working in: musical theatre. When working in this part of the industry, it’s very fulfilling, and you get to reap the benefits, as every day in theatre is a learning day! That’s also especially true in today’s industry, as technology makes each day different to the previous. The show you’re currently involved in, Hoy no me Puedo Levantar, is the most popular in Spain... Yes it is. I have been sound designer and engineer for about eight years now, here in Madrid. The show also toured in Spain, and
was then exported to Mexico, where I also held the role of sound designer. The show has really evolved; it’s far more spectacular than the original, visually; and we also incorporate video mapping, so technologically, it’s much more complete. You recently changed your monitoring setup. How has that improved workflow? Dramatically. When I first started working on the production, we were using very basic 16-channel mixers, and we had very little flexibility, not to mention the fact that the audio quality was so poor. It was an easy enough system to assemble, especially on tour, but after a while, the musicians did not like it, simply because of the audio quality. So, two years ago at the PLASA show [in London], we saw the myMix system for the first time. The guys explained the system’s impressive capacity, and I listened to it, and immediately liked what I heard. I got in contact with the [myMix] distributor in Spain, and told him I wanted to try it. At that time, we were already working on the new production of Hoy no me Puedo Levantar. We did a test in the theatre with the musicians from the show, and they absolutely loved it, so I decided to include them in the new production. What drew you in to the myMix system? What I instantly liked about myMix was its capacity for growth, and the ability to send
different mixes between different myMix units. Also, to have remote control over the myMix is a great asset, and for this production in particular, myMix was a perfect fit, because each mixer has two input mics, which we use for communication between musicians, like talkback. What’s also very interesting is the possibility of having replacement musicians rehearsing while the show is running; they can connect their instrument inputs into another myMix unit, and play along to the live mix. Then there’s the ability to record, which is, of course, another great feature. One of my only fears was that the headset connection was weak, but after nine months of everyday use, myMix hasn’t given me a single problem. How many musicians are using myMix, and how is the system configured? We have seven myMix units in total. There are five musicians located in an orchestra pit, so each of them has a myMix unit, then there’s another myMix for talkback, and a spare. It’s configured for an IEX-16L-A system, which is receiving 16 signals from a DiGiCo SDRack, through the Toslink format. We’ve got a DiGiCo SD10 at FOH, and we’re running 16 channels, incorporating drums, bass, guitars, keys, vocals, and a click; and the network distribution system is a Cisco SF302-08MP. What is your golden rule when mixing musical theatre? Well, on all 12 of the theatre productions I’ve worked on to date, it’s always been a case of getting across the emotions that the
actors create, as accurately as possible. To convey those feelings is totally key, and then to accompany that with quality effects or music, to recreate each scene with sound; if you manage that, mixing theatre will always be a very satisfying experience. www.hoynomepuedolevantar.com www.mymixaudio.com www.digico.biz
“WHAT I INSTANTLY LIKED ABOUT MYMIX WAS ITS CAPACITY FOR GROWTH, AND THE ABILITY TO SEND DIFFERENT MIXES BETWEEN DIFFERENT MYMIX UNITS.”
JAILHOUSE ROCK WORDS PAUL WATSON
The last time I saw Big Mick Hughes was in Sofia, Bulgaria, at Sonisphere, four years ago. I was certain that our next meeting would be on less hostile turf, however I was mistaken. Mick and I, for one night only, have become temporary inmates of Horsens Prison in Denmark. Thankfully, the facility hasn’t been active since 2006, and no-one has been executed here (I think) since 1892. This is the location for another Sonisphere, a brand which has really evolved over the last few years. Metallica are in town, and the heavy metal titans are joined by their friends, Slayer, Mastodon, Ghost, and Gojira. This might get loud... When Horsens Statsfængsel (or Horsens State Prison) first opened its doors back in 1853, it was apparently dedicated to those that were to serve the longest of sentences... And I can believe it! 160 years on, it is still a seriously intimidating property, to say the least! Even scanning the surrounding area, I find myself looking over my shoulder... And that’s not because of the thousands of
make-up-clad 40-somethings in Metallica T-shirts slugging cans of Tuborg, shouting in foreign tongue around me... Despite how disconcerting some of these Sonisphereesque concert-goers may appear, really, this is one of the friendliest fan bases you’ll find on the festival circuit. I learned this first-hand at Sonisphere Knebworth a few years back. These guys are proper music lovers. Talking of which... I arrive at the Metallica bus, and am greeted by Big Mick, who is somewhat of a mixing guru. He’s been behind the console for Metallica for the past 30 years, and still recalls that day in November 1994 when a then Mini Mick, first met the band when they were just a bunch of enthusiastic 21-year-old kids. “In those days, they played their own music just because they liked how they sounded,” says Mick, making himself comfortable in the corner of the tour bus. “Thing is, everyone else agreed with them!” Essentially, the last three decades have been a whirlwind for Big Mick; he’s seen the band grow up around him, raise families of their own (which still feels strange to him), and musically, they’ve evolved into quite the experts... Though he still never quite knows what’s coming next. “I couldn’t tell you for the life of me what their next album’s going to sound like,” he chuckles, shaking his head. “They’re always
changing things up, and that’s a good thing; I also think the work the guys did with [producer] Bob Rock really helped mature them, musically; they learned an awful lot from Bob, and that put them in great stead early on.”
AMPLIFIED (KIND OF)
Like many engineers, Big Mick was always an advocate of analogue consoles, until he famously made the big switch to digital. Recently, he was faced with a similar technological conundrum, which led to a major transition for Metallica on stage: “When we were about to do a gig in Antarctica, we realised that as our guitar setups were so huge, they wouldn’t be viable for transportation in those conditions,” he explains. “We were then introduced to this system called Fractal... I’d never heard of these bits of kit, but when I realised what they were, I had major reservations....[clenches fist, growls, then laughs]. Basically, it’s a rack unit – a computer. You play all your guitar sounds in analogue, and it makes an algorithm, then recreates those sounds digitally for you. Now, bear in mind these guitar sounds are what we’ve honed and made great together over 30 years! [laughs] Anyway, the band worked a lot on this, because you have to if you want to make it work – and remarkably, I have to say, the recreation is pretty much bang on perfect. I was astounded.” So good, in fact, that today, Metallica have no amplifiers on stage whatsoever. Big Mick even toyed with the idea of no cabinets, too, but that was a bridge too far...
“Bear in mind this is the band that have wedges and in-ears... They don’t like not having anything, so they were never really going to be satisfied with no guitar cabinets up there,” he says, explaining that signal is now sent digitally from the Fractal units to a bunch of stage monitors as well as several guitar cabs. “Practically, it’s a bit like working with a really smart DI, but the technology inside the Fractal system is pretty mindblowing. It makes the stage sound cleaner, though not that clean, of course [smiles]; with most bands, when a guitar solo’s
“THE DPA 4099S WERE BRIGHTER, AND MORE OPEN SOUNDING IN THE HIGH END, SO I WAS LIKE, ‘OK, NOW I GET IT’…” coming up, the rest of the band back off – with Metallica, that’s an invite to get louder!”
According to Big Mick, whenever he’s been to see bands, he’s felt that things have been missing in the mix, and from his early days, he swore he wouldn’t be ‘one of those guys’. “I get that overheads are difficult with hard, heavy music on stage, as it brings out a lot of the background noise, and it’s difficult to get the cymbals to be happening - but I didn’t ever want that,” he insists. “With Metallica, I’ve always strived to bring things out of the
mix that you wouldn’t normally hear with a band like this, and that’s what makes the difference; I wanted to hear the cymbals, and make sure the toms were really audible.” Miking the drum kit is something Big Mick has worked hard on over the years, to ensure he gets exactly the right tonality, and a solid stereo image. It was after discovering a Zildjan ZMC1 some 20 years ago (a little rack unit with a mic attached that he used to clip on the cymbal stand underneath the cymbal), when he had his real ‘lightbulb’ moment. “I loved the idea of miking individual cymbals, but it was very poorly executed using the ZMC1, as the box sat under the bell of every cymbal, and they all sounded like gongs!” he recalls, with a smile. “I knew I had enough desk channels to put a real mic on each one, so I thought I’d nick the idea and give it a whirl! Also, because we had a double drum kit setup, when the stage and the drum riser was built up, the cymbals were only an inch away from the mic, so that was another reason to mic them from underneath.” After a brief stint using Shure mics, Mick turned to Audio-Technica, which became his microphone of choice for many years. Although still a fan of the brand, during the recording of Metallica’s 3D film last year, Through The Never, he was thrown another technology curve ball, which made him change suits, so to speak. “When we went in to do the movie, all of a sudden we had this recording posse around, and everyone was paying a lot of attention to the inputs. We’re running at 96kHz now,
"WITH MOST BANDS, WHEN A GUITAR SOLO'S COMING UP, THE REST OF THE BAND BACK OFF… WITH METALLICA, THAT'S AN INVITE TO GET LOUDER!"
seemingly screaming bloody murder – is a phenomenally run, and meticulous operation. For two hours plus, Big Mick and co. once again entertained a raucous, yet respectful crowd, and gave them another night to remember... And in his 30th year, too. Will he ever hang up his white gloves? Personally, I don’t think he’s going anywhere, anytime soon... www.metallica.com www.dpamicrophones.com www.fractalaudio.com
so it’s all crisp and nice, and the engineers commented that they thought that the mics that I had on the cymbals didn’t seem to be bright enough, as there wasn’t quite enough high-end on them,” Mick explains. “They were looking for a little more fidelity than we would be in a typical live situation, and although I don’t want to weld people with 12k, if you have a lot of those frequencies in something, you can’t hear them at the desk, but everybody by the PA is being punished! It’s unnecessary to excite too much of the super highs. “I hadn’t realised that the mics we’d been using were a bit duller, as I just brightened them up as I needed to, but for the studio guys, they want to capture all this air and stuff, so they wanted to replace the overheads and the tom tom mics with DPA d:vote 4099s. I thought, ‘yeah, why not?’ And I have to admit, the 4099s were brighter, and certainly more open sounding in the high end, so I was like, ‘OK, now I get it’. Because PA systems have moved on so much, you really hear the difference when you’re dealing with more fidelity. So, we made the switch, and I haven’t gone back. I’ve got 4099s on the cymbals and the toms.” According to Big Mick, the DPA 4099 provides a bit more of a ‘breathy’ sound, and is a little more ‘in its own dimension’: “With the 4099, you have a little more spectrum to play with; we now have six on the overheads that span all around the kit, and because they’re on goosenecks, I am able to point them where I want them, to create a nice stereo image, with the china cymbals in the middle. No longer are we positioned under the bell! This means we can move out towards the edge of the cymbal, 90-degrees off where Lars [Ulrich, drummer] hits them, because the swing of the cymbal is less. If you
think about it, when the mic is positioned directly under where he will hit it, the cymbal will move towards the microphone, because it tips; but if you swing it 90-degrees, the cymbal is pivoting about one axis, whereas here, using the DPAs, it stays the same. You want a bit of stick noise, of course, for that bit of attack, and then you just clip them on, nice and easy. “With the toms, the goosenecks come in handy, too; I come over the rim, avoiding the very edge, and point it to where the stick hits the tom, which gives you more attack. I also do some ‘look ahead gating’. I have piezo triggers to each tom tom; they plug into the key input of a gate, and they open the gate. I don’t do it with volume, I do it with vibration; I delay every channel by 2.5ms in order that I can have the trigger signal come through and open the gate ahead of the tom tom sound coming through the gate. That gives you the full envelope, and with it, a lot of attack.”
After a phenomenal meal in catering (they even had an ice cream maker!), I make my way slowly back towards the crowds. Slayer have finished their set, and Metallica are up next for the headline slot. Big Mick graciously invited me to FOH position for the show, but after queuing for 20 minutes or so just to get a view, swaying from side to side, and moving all of a metre, I knew I would require the skills of Moses himself to part this sea of people. The sound was belting, and the crowd were buzzing. I may not have felt the real thump from the relative comfort of the grassy knoll, a couple of metres above the masses, but I’m not sure I could have survived if I was right in the mix! To think, what could be mistaken for organised chaos band members going loopy, an audience
MASTER OF WEDGES •
Adam Correia is second monitor engineer for Metallica, and to say he has multi-tasking down to a fine art form is an understatement... He looks after guitarist, Kirk Hammett, and bassist, Robert Trujillo: “I’m basically chasing their guitars, and putting them in the wedges; everywhere they run, I’m changing mixes as they go... And sometimes, it all moves that little bit too quick...! There are 13 wedge positions, each with their own mix, and they’re constantly changing. It’s not as loud as it used to be up there, but the feel is important for the band. I’ve got kick, snare, and James’s guitar and vocal. If Robert walks up to a mix, I put the bass in; and if Kirk walks up, I put his guitar in... And if James decides to walk up, I’ll take it out again... You always have to watch James! I’m also punching background vocals in, so it can be pretty stressful up there, especially as there are 12 vocal mics that are open that they can go to at any time; it’s like a free for all, so there’s a lot of button pressing during the show!”
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COUPLE ON A
MI S S IO N Through a unique fusion of music, sport, fine dining, and plenty of wine, Canadian businessman, Stephen Leckie, and partner, Karen Blair, have helped transform Canada from a struggling sporting nation into one of the world’s leading Olympic forces. As a result, Canadian culture has never been stronger, and the future looks very, very bright. Headliner gets an exclusive insight into Leckie and Blair’s inspirational brainchild, Gold Medal Plates...
WORDS PAUL WATSON PHOTOGRAPHS KELLY NEIL Stephen Leckie came from a background of hotel management, and worked a lot in boutique hotels, based in the UK and British Columbia in Canada. After that, he went into event management in Toronto; this was around 1998. “I was working with a lot of the top-end chefs, wine collectors, and musicians in Toronto, putting together a number of really cool events; the key focus was always to drink a lot of red wines,” Leckie smiles, adding that standard protocol would often be to buy a whole cellar full, and then turn it into a fundraiser. “We’d have access to some really amazing Burgundies, Bordeauxs, and Super Tuscans, and we would get musicians to come along, too. We worked with [Canadian broadcaster] CTV, to put together a programme called Famous Plates, which involved creating dishes that were inspired by Canadian celebrities, and from that, we ended up with the concept of Gold Medal Plates, to support our struggling Canadian athletes that were seriously underfunded.” In 2003, when Canada won the right to host the Vancouver Olympics, Blair and Leckie presented to the Canadian Olympic Committee, suggesting that instead of just doing a one-off fundraiser, ‘why not do it in multiple cities?’ They ran a prototype in 2004 in five cities, then when they launched Gold Medal Plates in 2006, they were up to six cities; since then, that number has doubled. “There are thousands of people that have rallied around this particular cause,
and they all play a part in raising funds for athletes, while getting to know them and having fun,” adds Karen Blair. “The real fruits of our labour happened in Beijing in 2008, which was one of our best Summer Olympics ever, and then in at the 2010 Winter Olympics, Canada became the number one Gold Medal country in the world, and they recognised the fact that this program we had been funding was having a great impact on the success of the athletes. We are just a piece of the puzzle, but this is where our focus is.”
CULTURE CLUB According to Leckie, a major part of Gold Medal Plates’ success has been down to the increased power and drive of today’s Canadian culture: “Around the early 2000s, our chefs were being recognised by their name, not just restaurant, in small Canadian communities; our goal was to have chefs competing, so Canadians got to know them. Then, thanks to Jim Cuddy’s influence, we’ve been able to bring in loads of musicians to the programme, and this has led to a great rise in the Canadian music scene, like the Olympic team. At one time, the only way Canadian athletes could survive was through their families supporting them, and small insular fundraisers where all the families get together. The goal for us was to get them on the main stage with Canada’s top chefs and musicians, and that’s where they belong.”
“YOU HAVE GOT TO BELIEVE IN SOMETHING, AND IF YOU HAVE GOOD INTENTIONS THEN YOU CAN BRING DOWN A MOUNTAIN.”
One defining moment for Leckie occurred in 2010, when the Canadian mens hockey team beat the US in overtime to secure the country’s 14th Gold. This was the moment that Canada laid claim to the highest ever Winter Olympics Gold Medal count. “An hour after, there was this flurry of emails from people who, through supporting Gold Medal Plates, knew that in a small way, they’d had a hand in this particular success,” Leckie recalls. “It really affected me... After that, Canada had more world swagger and national pride than ever before, and they’ve kept that. Canadians used to be considered polite, and humility was something where they would take a step back - but now they’re up there. We’re very proud on a world stage, and this program has had a piece of that; our tag line is: ‘celebrating Canadian excellence’.”
RAISING THE BAR And credit where credit’s due: Leckie and Blair have raised 8.2 million dollars since 2006, which is a phenomenal achievement. Additionally, they have raised a further three million dollars for the young upcoming Olympians, as Blair explains: “This is a separate program called the Future Olympian Fund, where 50 families in Canada have come together, and have written cheques of 25,000 dollars each for four years. For that, they get tax receipts, and get to go to the Rio Games. These funds support kids who are now between eight and 12-years-old. After 2010, the funding taps just turned off in Canada, so our goal was to work to ensure that in 10 years time, we still had a strong Olympic program. We didn’t want it just to be a spike, which is what happened in Australia after Sydney.” I ask the pair whether there is an end goal of sorts for Gold Medal Plates.
“All of our gang who work together as a team, such as Jim Cuddy, Barney Bentall, our head chefs, and our wineries, are all in until after the Rio Games; I’m booking another three years in France, Italy, South Africa, Scotland, and New Zealand in the summer,” Leckie explains. “I really want to see it hit the 20 million dollar mark; and it could easily continue to run as we get old and grey, as it has momentum, and is a well respected and great marriage between communities and leadership. It’s interspersed; funds are going into national centres for athletes and communities, so it’s a great mix. And I don’t think the Olympics will go away, somehow...” Blair points out that because Gold Medal Plates has largely been a word of mouth program, it’s taken time to get to where it’s at; but now, as it’s so strong and so national, these trips overseas play a very important and unique role: “We’ve got 85 Canadians on this trip, and there is a a commonality; they meet and get to know each other, and the vision is celebrating being Canadian. Around 600 people this year alone have been on Gold Medal Plates trips so far. These fellow Canadians are part of a community of success, and have great experiences at our event; spending a week with our very top musicians and Olympians has been a key underpinning – and who would guess that cycling was so hot for people in their 50s and 60s? But people go crazy for it! That’s really beautiful.”
HOMEGROWN TALENT I’ve been pondering this question for a good hour, and I choose to shoot: this Canadian wine... Is it actually any good? “[laughs] There are now over 1,000 wineries in Canada, so it’s a really booming industry. I’ve been involved in the wine
industry for more than 20 years now, and one unique thing about Gold Medal Plates is that it has become the largest exposé of Canadian wines in Canada,” Leckie assures me. “Around 80 wineries a year are involved in this program, so when a chef competes, he is attached to a winery. They are learning more about which wines fit, and we are now getting identity pockets of our own; for example, in France, if you grow champagne, the soil is of a certain nature; or in Burgundy, it’s the old sea bed soils that make the great wines. There are areas in Canada with very good Burgundy characteristics, and wine makers are now realising that they can make world class wines. Put a few Canadian wines in a tasting, and some will really stand out, I guarantee. “Next year, we have booked a five-star castle in northern Scotland; it’s where Jack Nicholson and Richard Branson go. It’s a 38-bedroom castle called Ackergill, and we’ll be adding Canada’s top chefs to the agenda for the first time. When they come, the people will get a chance to cook with the chefs, the chef community, the athletes, and the musicians, with a chance to really bond, in the castle and in the kitchen.” “It’s a new vision, and as far as recognition, the impact the artists have had on the success of the program has been huge. We have three or four musicians out in Tuscany right now, plus there’ll be a gang going to Scotland as well as South Africa; and their contribution and willingness to come on trips and perform freely has been a huge part of the success. Our Canadian artists are amazing people, and I completely salute them. My good friend, Jim Cuddy, has brought this program such a gift by having his friends get involved to share in this celebration of Canadian excellence.” www.goldmedalplates.com
CANADIAN In a world where record companies are fading fast, it speaks volumes that Canadian supergroup, Blue Rodeo, have been with the same label for 27 years. Headliner took a trip to the south of France to talk to the band’s frontman, Jim Cuddy, and fellow Canadian singer-songwriter Barney Bentall, about Canada’s evolving musical culture, as well as the pair’s work with Gold Medal Plates, an organisation which has helped pave a more fruitful path for Canadian Olympians. Blue Rodeo are now in their 30th year, and their musical journey began in the bars of Toronto; from there, they honed their craft, built a sizeable following, and began the evolution from bar band to one of Canada’s most loved country rock acts. The band have since sold millions of records, and were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame at the 41st Juno Awards in April, 2012. Jim Cuddy and co. entered the music industry at a time when record sales were in the many millions, which has helped the band to forge a super-healthy relationship with their label, Warner Bros. - something that is, sadly, almost unthinkable today. “Things have certainly changed over the years, and our record deals have changed, but we’re now looking at a lifetime deal with Warner [Canada], which is great,” Cuddy
explains, as I take in the glorious view from the idyllic ‘Halifax House’ setting in Provence. “A lot of big bands have parted with their back catalogue, but we have a partnership deal with our label, so we were able to turn our success into that deal, so to speak. I can understand why people don’t want to enter into big agreements now, as labels can’t deliver what they could 20 years ago, but both Barney [Bentall] and I came into the business in the era of the biggest record sales ever, in the late ‘80s, when records were selling 20-30 million in the States, so to have a relationship with a label in those days was a great advantage.” Bentall had a different musical pathway. His band, The Legendary Hearts, signed to CBS (which became Sony) in 1987, but got caught in the crossfire further down the line. “I had a wonderful relationship with CBS,
but my manager, who I should add, brought more records to CBS Canada than anybody else, tried to get a new President fired, and it didn’t work,” Bentall smiles, acknowledging that, ‘sometimes these things happen’. “After that, my incredibly supportive record label became actively unsupportive in an instant which, I have to say, was very unfortunate timing. I don’t lose a lot of sleep over that now, and I’ve taken various twists and turns in finding my musical route, but I’ve always continued to make music.”
LOOSE CHANGE The industry has turned on its head since, and these days, Bentall suggests, the smart move is to play more live shows, which keeps you closer to the money trail. “In today’s industry, you’re going to have to
“I CAN UNDERSTAND WHY PEOPLE DON’T WANT TO ENTER INTO BIG AGREEMENTS NOW, AS LABELS CAN’T DELIVER WHAT THEY COULD 20 YEARS AGO.” be on the road,” he admits. “ Making a record now, you have to be very careful of the cost, so you can make it pay for itself, whereas in our day, you could never crawl out of the dead pit with the record company, as you’d always have platinum and gold records...” “Yeah, but you didn’t want to,” adds Cuddy. “The more debt you could leave on the table, the better!” “[laughs] That’s true! But really, labels ran a very futile system, when you think about it, which ultimately facilitated their downfall in some ways.” So all things considered, how different is the process of recording an album today, compared to the heydays of the ‘80s? “For us, it’s been an evolution,” Cuddy insists. “Our very first record, we were guided and bossed around, and we learned that we never wanted to do that again. When it came to our second record, it was totally free-fall; the engineer and producer let us do anything we wanted. Then we made a record with Pete Anderson, which gave us an insight into how they do it in LA; and after that, we were the producers. “We knew by this time what we didn’t want on our records, and from then on, we moved around and collaborated with a number of engineers. By the time we got round to recording The Days In Between [in 2000] at Daniel Lanoi’s Kingsway Studio in New Orleans, we said to each other, ‘let’s stop borrowing someone else’s experience’, and we started doing it ourselves.” “We had money, so we knew we could build a studio, then rent it out very cheap. Toronto needed that, as it was starting to get to those days when bands that had been just under the level of making a living were starting to do other things. We knew they needed a place to make records cheaply, and that’s when we built [our studio] the Woodshed, which we’ve worked in and out of for many years. We accept that we work on a computer now instead of tape, but we still don’t really do anything that’s fundamentally different.”
N AT I O N A L T R E A S U R E S According to Bentall, Blue Rodeo is the reason that the Canadian music industry has created a culture of nurturing and supporting. “Jim and the guys have always worked that way, helping people that have been upcoming,” he says. “As a result, there are so many other bands that have had great success coming after them; when people need that
extra push, be it affordable recording time, or bringing them in to open shows for them on tour, Blue Rodeo have always done what they can to help, and that has changed our country’s music scene. “Both our sons are now touring and putting out records, and they’ve seen that support and nurturing first hand, which is just great. For my recording pathway, it was the exact same thing; my first producer was [Englishman] David Tickle, who was quite a character. He produced one of my favourite records, Naroda by Tom Cochran, and I really liked his production. He was a little wacky... He’d smoke copious amounts of pot, sit there under pyramids, and there were crystals everywhere, but actually, that was a good collaborative record! “Then Sony wanted us to use an American producer, so I went to LA, and that was a disaster. I spent the whole time trying to keep my band together - I wasn’t even thinking about recording. Whatever warning signals I would send to the record company at home, they’d just say, ‘tough it out’. They had too much money invested in that approach, so they couldn’t back out of it. From there, like Jim, we got engineers and did it ourselves, and I’ve done that ever since.” It was during the 1980s that Canada’s music industry was just finding its feet, Cuddy says, due to a serious lack of
confidence and belief in what ‘The Great White North’ could offer, musically. “Believe it or not, Canadians in the ‘80s were just starting to appreciate and buy the records of their own artists. Before that, it was pretty much only American and British artists that everyone loved,” Cuddy explains. “In the ‘80s, there was a big turnaround, but the Canadian industry still had this major insecurity; they couldn’t just say, ‘here is a Canadian record made by a Canadian producer and a Canadian band’, so they all tried to get famous friends from overseas to work on them. We soon realised that these producer ‘friends’ didn’t give a fuck about the band; they did a deal because of the money, and we all had that experience [Bentall nods in agreement]. It was just part of the growing up of the industry, and then there started to be some homegrown successes, and the myth about having to have an association with somebody more well known was shattered.”
A N O LY M P I C E F F O R T Discussion moves onto the night before, where we’d all been genuinely inspired listening to several medal-winning Canadian Olympians talking about their experiences, and also educated on Canada’s incredible journey from a struggling sporting nation to one of the world’s leading Olympic forces. This incredible achievement is in many ways
“I’VE ALWAYS LIKED THE CREWS; THEY’RE SUCH UNSUNG HEROES IN THE MUSIC BIZ.”
down to Stephen Leckie’s brainchild, Gold Medal Plates, a fantastic organisation which combines Canadian culture, music, and sportspersons, to raise millions of dollars for Canada’s Olympic team. “My experience [with Gold Medal Plates] started with I was playing some shows at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney,” says Cuddy. “This was the first time I’d met and got to know any Canadian Olympic athletes, and that was not a successful games for Canada. Many of the athletes were out very quickly, so when we were playing in the bar, they were all there. We started to hear some horror stories about the beach volleyball guys putting on exhibitions at schools for a quarter per head to raise money to get to the Olympics, and we were totally shocked - not only at how incredibly penny-pinching the freaking Canadian Olympic Committee was, but also at how brutal the media was. “I’d met Stephen Leckie and his wife at some charity wine auctions, and Stephen talked to me about how he had this company that was trying to raise money for Olympic athletes fusing fine wine, sport, and music. He asked if I would come and do a couple of songs, and I said I would. When I witnessed what it was like to try and get ahead as a Canadian Olympian, I was embarrassed, and it just went from there. Now, we’re fortunate enough to visit locations like this [pauses to take in the scenery momentarily], tasting great wines, cycling with the Olympians, meeting fellow Canadians who pay a lot of money to come on these trips, and playing music. It’s a truly fantastic organisation, and one we’re both proud to be a part of.” And for good reason. Leckie’s company has raised more than eight million Canadian Dollars since 2006 (turn to p.47 to read our
exclusive interview with him and his wife and business partner, Karen).
B A C K S TA G E B E A U T I E S Cuddy points out that Blue Rodeo’s success would not have been possible without all the guys that are busy working their magic behind the scenes; and in Canada, it’s Peter Hendrickson’s Tour Tech East that’s led the way in that world for the past 25 years. “Peter [Hendrickson] is THE guy,” Cuddy says. “There were years when Peter was the only guy on the east coast providing audio systems, and now his business is so much broader than that. I only met him when we played his famous party in February this past tour, but we have always known of him, and we’ve certainly been business partners... Although I do all the paying! But seriously, I wasn’t fully aware of his charity angle, and that all sprang from the party. The next day is a freaking write-off, by the way, but it’s the one all the crew guys look forward to.” Hendrikson’s parties are indeed famous. The event Cuddy refers to is held annually, at Tour Tech’s sizeable HQ in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and features a plentitude of live music (and alcohol!) It’s about giving something back to those backstage lifesavers. “I’ve always liked the crews; they’re such unsung heroes in the music biz,” adds Bentall. “I’ve never been able to understand when artists treat them with a certain amount of distain, because they work way harder than we do; and they deserve an annual blowout!” “Crew world, which is a world that Peter fosters, is a very secret society,” whispers Cuddy, smiling. “They have these very particular ways of acting with each other, and with bands; there are rigid principles, and we’ve learned over the years what not to cross. It’s interesting to see them all at the
party... Peter manages to cram all these bands in, and they’re drunk out of their minds. It’s a hell of a night!” As the sun sets, and the Châteauneuf-duPape begins to flow, I ask Cuddy to share his most pivotal musical memory to date with me. He removes his aviator Ray-Bans, takes a moment, and leans forwards: “Early on in our career, we played a show with Kris Kristofersson. We were in a bar that we could fill, and we were opening for him. We were known, but we hadn’t played outside of a bar. It was The Diamond Club and it had this little crow’s nest up there were all the celebrities were. When we were playing, Kris watched our whole show, and he was going crazy up there. Then, he came down, and we watched his show, and he couldn’t stop mentioning us; he sang us in his songs, he talked about us, and it basically changed us. First of all, you’re starting at the top of the heap with Kris; he is an absolute gentleman, and an unbelievably smart and charismatic guy. He came to our dressing room, and told us we were going to be around for a long time. “Years later, this is about five years ago from now, we did our summer show in Toronto, at the Amphitheatre. We do it every August, to about 10,000 people, and we had Kris come and open for us [pauses]... I should say play with us, because Kris doesn’t open for anybody! He came, played, and saved a few songs for us. The last song of the night was Knocking on Heaven’s Door, and he sang the first verse. At this stage, I’m over-smiling and over-hugging, and the crowd is going mental. He leans over to me during the song and says: ‘You know what, Jim... Sometimes the good guys win’. And I knew I’d just had my ‘moment’!” www.tourtecheast.com www.bluerodeo.com www.barneybentall.com www.goldmedalplates.com
HAVE I MENTIONED
that I’ve been doing this for 40 years? That’s a lifetime by my reckoning, and I’ve seen some stuff. When I first started this touring life, it was in its infancy; and the oldest person on the crew would have been about about 25. Sooo old! Everybody was doing it for fun, and Wembley Pool was the only arena. We used to travel in a car. One of us would drive, or if we did go out in the truck, we’d load out, normally with no local crew (or if there was, they’d all be drunk), and set off to the next gig. We’d arrive about five in the morning, get three or four hours kip in a dodgy b&b, where the sheets stank of stale smoke, then set off to the next student union event to do it all over again. Dodgy power, dodgy temporary stage (or no stage at all), a 500-yard load-in up a hill, a broken lift, no crew (still), no catering, no production manager... You get the picture. We all rented our three-tonners from Hav-A-Van in Rickmansworth [England], which was run by a lovely fella, Phil. Some big artists (and I’m talking real big, like Suzi Quatro and Mud type big!) actually toured with a pair of three-tonners! It was very rare to see an artic pulling a tour around the country. There just wasn’t any venues that you could load it all into. I mean, the Cleethorpes Pier Pavilion struggled to let the three-tonners run along it. It would have fallen into the sea long ago with an artic running over its boards! Then we’d sound check. The PA would buzz, the amps caught fire (really, but only once), and the lights would slowly drop down on the Superlifts that we were all so fucking proud of. Everything was analogue, and the lights didn’t move (except via Superlift deflation noted above). The show would start late, and we’d be out by three to do it all again. It was only the Floyd and Zeppelin type acts that toured on the grander scale, and even those guys were feeling their way. I was so jealous, though. There were no rules. There was no ‘pop code’. We made it up as we went along. Fast forward forty years…. But what did happen in the early-to-mid ‘70s was the establishment of industry icons that remain to this day. So many stalwarts of our industry started at the same time as me, and are still here now, albeit not loading trucks or reflating Superlifts. Nope, they’re running our industry now, and maybe, just maybe, it’s these same characters that are responsible today for the high ticket prices that are just so unaffordable to most ordinary people? An industry that started as a fun thing to do is now sadly managed by accountants and driven purely by profit and greed with the nett result of too few bums on seats. It’ll all end in tears. But I’ve been saying that for nigh on forty years, as well...
“AN INDUSTRY THAT STARTED AS A FUN THING TO DO IS NOW SADLY MANAGED BY ACCOUNTANTS AND DRIVEN PURELY BY PROFIT AND GREED.”
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