Double bassist, producer , educator, composer
Born in Dublin, he has recorded on over 3000 album tracks with such artists as Sinead O’Connor, Natacha Atlas, Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright. A Realworld artist with production credits on Dub Collosus and Syriana albums.
1. How did you start producing and what gave you the motivation to stay with it?
I was lucky enough to meet a man called Richard Newman in the 1980s and during the course of a session he was producing for his brother in law signed to BMG he got called away. He asked me to step in and my first production was in Milo Studios in London with Alan Ainsworth and Neil Huxtable amongst others on the session. Needless to say I enjoyed it and got the bug.
2. What other producers, songwriters and/or artists do you see as your primary inspirations?
I was very lucky to work with George Martin as a session player and later took over production with one of his prominent EMI artists. George was the man who wrote the book. I also have worked with Marius DeVries whose work I admire greatly. Working with Dubulah for nearly 25 years also moulded my production techniques.
3. How do you approach the sensitive task of discussing changes and rearrangements with artists?
I approach this as I would approach any professional engagement. Artists who are inflexible dont last long. The fact that an artist has come to work with me is due to a mutual respect. Arrangement is my forte, usually I present alternative ideas before any decisions are made.
4. What is the one thing every song must have for it to be solid?
GROOVE….. it has to have pulse and move air There is an over reliance on quantize, the greatest recordings were never recorded to click!
5. Can you describe, briefly, how to work on a musical project?
Lots of preproduction ! I expect the artists to have their ideas in place so that there is a foundation for our production. The job of the producer is as a facilitator, a guide . Vastly changed from the dictatorial roles of the 60s, 70s and 80s where record labels laid down the law.
6. What is the first thing you listen for when listening to a new recording?
Style and authenticity……. regardless of how simple or complex the recording , it must have a clear vision thats evident to the listener.
7. Do you have a favourite musical project that you've worked on?
Many…… I dont work on anything I dont like….life is too short
8. How did you build contacts and/or clients?
I have the happy knack of often being in the right place at the right time. Having said that I have a good rapport with people and often I come in as a session bassist and leave as the producer.
9. Is there an artist you want to work with that you have not yet had the opportunity to work with?
Many…. I find working with younger artists more exciting. Having worked with many established artists I find that they often work to formula. Younger artists are often more open.
10. Do you have advice for young people who want to become a music producer?
Yes, learn to read and write music . Learn as much about old fashioned arrangement as possible and dont think that you have to have the latest gadgets ….. The Beatles never used more than an 8 track tape machine.
11. What do you like to do for fun outside of working on music?
I have a large potager that produces most of our vegetables, its organic.
12. If there was one word you could use to explain your experience so far while working as a music producer, what would it be?
13. How important is pre-production for you?
The most important aspect now. Gone are the days of big budgets where you could spend months at a time in studio. Preproduction is the way to keep a project in budget and vibrant. Bad preproduction can kill a project or make it hard work.
14. How do you usually prepare for your studio work?
I spend a lot of time talking through the project and making notes. Dubulah and I would spend 3 months talking and writing the story before we would start an album. The record labels would be unprepared for the barrage of questions and ideas we would bring to the table….. in the end this preparation paid off.
15. Have you ever embarrassed yourself? If so, how did you overcome the incident?
All the time….. too many times to mention. Humour is the only solution.
16. There are times in a career when life isn’t going your way, how do you keep your mind on your work without losing focus?
Stay busy doing many things…. super focus leads to disappearing up your arse, keep your options open and keep those plates spinning.
17. Have there ever been a time where you haven’t gotten your work done on time? If so, how did you deal with it?
Never, I’m a virgo. I’m never late.
18. What goals did you have set before you started your career?
None, career paths are for bankers. As an artist you have to take all the opportunities that are offered to you. The phone rings and we say yes!!
19. Could you tell me how you usually start working, mixing the vocals?
I leave vocals to last. The canvas must be prepared for the vocals to sit on.
20. A Schmitt said that “A producer should have a great knowledge of music. He's got to know what the artist wants. He's the guy that captures what the artist is trying to do and comes up with the ideas, and maybe helps with the songs. They got to have a great knowledge of music. Hopefully, they should have some knowledge of the equipment that we're using, and be able to be a psychologist in a sense, to be able to handle difficult artists. Some artists can be very temperamental and he has got to know how to handle them. Other artists need to be encouraged to get the best from them. So, a good producer has all those qualities.” So, let’s now enter the shoes of the producer... What should a good producer have?
A good producer knows when the artist has delivered an honest performance or fully exhausted their ideas. I dont believe in driving people into the ground. If someone gets temperamental they’re shown the door. Encouraging artists is easy, just use a simple psychology, be strong and reasonable.