How did you get started as a producer?
I was born one.
Who were your inspirations?
Toni Visconti, David Bowie (The Producer), Steve Lillywhite, Eno
You're obviously in fairly high demand as a producer. What do you think people expect when they choose you to do an album?
I would assume they had heard some of my work, so they know what they are getting into. For the most part I think they expect me to get the best out of their performance, and represent their current songs in a way that will hopefully get through to people out there in big wide world, I think they also expect me to add a certain amount of the unexpected Audio madness.
How would you define the role of a producer from your experience?
The guy how comes in with a fresh perspective on the artists material, listens to the artists ideas in direction, helps to arrange the songs in a more focused way, captures the best performance the artist is capable off at that time in their life (without using outside musicians as replacements) Represent the sum of our combined talents in the most interesting, and original way possible on a CD, for the "kids on the street" to enjoy, All of the while keeping those who pay the bills: The record company Smiling. In short: Supreme Juggler of the Arts and commerce! \
When you begin work on an album do you decide up front what tracks you are going to do and work to a game plan or just start recording and see how it takes shape?
Most off the time, I try and go into the (sometimes expensive) Recording Studio having selected the songs and having rearranged them with the band in a cheaper Rehearsal Studio. Sometimes If the Band is more established and can afford to take risks, we will go in deliberately unprepared, and let the inspiration flow... Some of the most interesting LP's I have made were done this may i.e: Red Sails, Flowers of romance, Half of the Swing, Some off Semisonic and GVSB
When tracking, do you adopt the role of vibe master?
Very much so. I am mere entertainment for the Musician!
How do you get the best results out of musicians?
By making sure they stay focused, un-stressed, and give them a lot of encouragement. It also helps to give them great sounds that inspire great playing, and make sure their Headphones sound good, Another thing I think is important is to get any Ego problems out in the open and deal with them, rather than let them fester.
After years of working on other people's stuff do you have any aspirations
to release something of your own or have you already?
I have already: Fuzz Face EP with Jim Moginie, recorded in his basement, released by the only record company with guts: John O'donnell's Mumur.
Have you done any/many projects where artists bring in things they have recorded on home systems which made it to the final mix? If so who and what?
Yes, Quite often a band will have done a demo at home using cheap equipment, and due to the relaxed circumstances they will have captured a unique performance, or through lack of knowledge of recording they will accidentally record an instrument in a strange way that sounds really cool and hard to re-create, i.e: they might record the drums in their bathroom. Or inadvertently distorted the bass guitar with their portastudio. One that stands out in my mind was a Vocal performance by Nick Disbray from Big Pig. He had recorded it on his cassette at 4 am just after writing the song. He sang it very softly because he didn't want to wake up his flatmates, The result was Angelic but eerie.
To what extent do you get involved in rearranging songs prior to or after recording?
I get very involved, The more you can do to get prepared before going into the proper studio the better. I usually get sent the bands demos, and once we have decided we will work together. I will listen to their songs over and over again and try and work out the most concise way of getting the point through, They are usually too long or meander a bit so I will work out ways of chopping out bits that are boring without loosing all the good bits, basically I write down my ideas or some times do trial edits. I Then go into rehearsal with the band and try them out. We only use the rearrangements if we all agree its an improvement. I am always aware That I am messing with their Art so it is a sensitive procedure that needs a lot of care.
When mixing do you have a preferred procedure that ensures the best result?
Yes, If I'm mixing it myself, I like to be awake! And mix in a studio that works and has good monitoring! Mixing is all about focus, it is the last stage of the "Creative process" and can some times make all the difference. If someone else is mixing for me, I just make sure I explain all my Ideas and the bands thoughts as clearly as possible.
I know this may be difficult to answer in anything less than a whole book but how do you get instruments and vocals separated in the mix?
The short answer is to make sure you EQ the instruments in a way that gives the Vocal it's own "Frequency" space. Also, The vocal is usually panned centre, so you can make space for it by keeping your Guitars, and Keyboards, etc, panned wider Left or right
Do you carry around a rack of gear that you use on everything you record? Yes If so, what's in it?
I don't "carry" as much as most other Producer/Engineer, because I travel internationally so much. I have a black "Batman" like suitcase full of unusual stuff that is hard to find, or rent elsewhere, like": MXR flangers, A Modified Distortion Boxes (Sans Amp) Multi Amp Distribution switchers, Modified AKAI MPC 60 SRC Synchronizer. I could go on and on, But basically, most thing are rentable especially in America, so I only travel with the oddball stuff.
Do you have a home studio?
NO, I have successfully avoided that temptation.
At the risk of playing favourites, which bands/recording projects stand out in your memory?
Silverchair, Midnight Oil.
Probably because I've done more than two LP's with both these bands, There is a good artistic chemistry there, and we are all good friends.
Any particularly hilarious anecdotes?
With Silverchair I would need about six pages... Ben mooned the Sydney philharmonic orchestra, you can imagine the rest...
Is there a song or album where you really thought you got it all right from a production view point?
Yes, the first LP I Officially Produced: 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 by Midnight Oil.
Do you listen to music you have recorded in the past or do you hear it enough during the actual recording?
When I've just finished an album I usually don't listen to it for a few months because, especially if it has taken a long time to make. I do get a big kick out of hearing songs I've produced on the Radio. I usually start to evaluate whether I think it works, once it comes out and I hear public reaction, and I don't mean record sales! For instance I did an album with Girls against Boys recently which is extremely successful, but it did not sell.
If you do listen to your earlier recordings do you cringe?
I sometimes will listen to an LP I did say 8 years ago, and often be surprised by It. Fashion, Trends and peer pressure can so often influence "Your Art". And pop music does goes in cycles, so it can be very amusing. .
Do any of them truly stand the test of time in your opinion? (You can say all of them if you like)
I find that the LP's that I have made with artists who ware very definite about their direction, always stand the test of time, I have been very luck to work with many of these bands. "The pleasure of your company" by Models for instance was very early 80's Sounding, yet it sounds really cool today.
Has your style changed over the years? How?
I think my style has remained the same, But I notice a difference in the way I get there. When I started It was all based on gut instinct, then in the late 80's I had a more knowledge about record making and over thought things a bit. I think a lot of people did over produce in the late 80's, due to the new possibilities opened up with the invention of "DIGITAL" and sampling.
What young producers around at the moment do you think do great stuff?