The Producers Approach
Over the last couple of months, we’ve been looking at everything that goes into making a record, from top tips for new artists to the process itself. In our next series of blogs, we’re going to take a look at a part of the process which can sometimes be underestimated, that is, the value of the producer and their approach to making a record. We’ve been lucky enough to witness the work of some legendary producers in our time, who have worked with some huge stars and through all kinds of technological advances!
So, without further ado, let’s kick things off with a couple of our favourite producers, Al Schmitt and John Leckie, and their views on making a record…
Al Schmitt is an American producer with over 20 Grammy Awards under his belt, having worked with Paul McCartney, Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, and Neil Young, to name a few! He’s been in the game for over 60 years, and has seen how far technology has come! He describes himself as an analogue man at heart, but admits he couldn’t ignore the leaps in recording technology! To bridge the gap, he would record simultaneously on his computer and one a reel-to-reel tape until he couldn’t tell the difference between the two. He also agrees with the guys here at Gospel Oak, that there is no such thing as a perfect record: “As far as I’m concerned, I don’t think there is such a thing as a perfect sounding record!” Quote from the man himself: “As much as sound is important to me as an engineer, it is the performance and the feel that sell the record. I know a lot of bad-sounding records that were huge hits because they moved people emotionally, and some records that sounded perfect but didn’t sell shit. I still feel that people have trouble relating to things that are perfect.”
One of the best British producers of all time, John Leckie has worked at many prestigious studios including Abbey Road, with the Beatles, Stone Roses, Pink Floyd and Radiohead. He describes the advent of digital as a revolution, and has adapted and evolved his techniques to exploit trends in digital production. About his production values, John said: “I feel that my input as a producer can only work if the band’s music is already of a high standard before I step in. The bands I choose to work with are those who are halfway towards the sound that will happen on record because of their live work, and I think I contribute the other half in terms of communicating ideas for them to act upon or guiding them in that direction.” When talking about the making of radiohead’s album ‘The Bends,’ Leckie reinforces this attitude that the heavy work is in the artists hands: “It was recorded in a traditional manner with two guitars, bass and drums. The difference was that the band were good, played their instruments well and made a good sound – so my work was easy.”
Wow – as far as producers go, Al Schmitt and John Leckie are legends! These guys have such an impressive amount of knowledge and experience that we could write about them all day… Next time, we’ll be focusing on two more legendary producers – stay tuned!