Title: Sounding off
Author: Ian Peel
Source: Sound on Sound
Publish date: August 2004

Original publication


"The producers that I have respect for are the last of a disappearing breed. Theyíre disappearing! I feel that music is suffering because of it. I laugh when I see these people that call themselves producers ó these bloody glorified remixers that have just remixed two records that happen to be a hit, and they think they can call themselves producers. I just think, well, youíre talented, yes, but you are not a producer ó not in my eyes.

"A producer is a multi-faceted individual. A producer is somebody who understands music theory, so he can communicate and converse with other musicians. A producer is somebody who knows what it is to write a song, the process involved in writing a song. A producer is also somebody who can play an instrument, and has worked on many diverse types of records.

"A producer can take the artistís vision and realise it, and make it coherent and understandable to the masses. As simple as that sounds, that is probably the most difficult thing. Youíve got to use your expertise and the way that you listen to music, but youíve got to keep your personal agenda out, and at the same time, you have to be creative. Youíve also got to remember that itís the artistís record ó youíve got to be able to realise the dream of that artist, help them. But that becomes extremely difficult when theyíre singers and songwriters, because that generally means theyíve got a personal attachment to the stuff. If I was just a singer, youíd wheel me in and Iíd just sing the songs youíd already written and then Iíd leave you and youíd go and produce the record. But if Iím writing it, that generally means that itís quite personal, so I can be quite precious about it. Youíve got to be able to deal with all the different musicians, all their different egos and their temperaments. Youíve got to know when to push all of us when weíre not being pushed enough, and when not to push.

"For example, when you work with Trevor Horn, as an artist, he makes you feel like you are the only person that exists in the world. He makes you feel like he is your biggest fan. He makes you feel like he is a fan of everything you do, even if he isnít! He makes you feel that way because he realises the importance of nurturing or cultivating an idea that youíre trying to express. He might not even understand it at the time, but that doesnít mean itís not worth pursuing. And thatís why weíve done four albums together, even though heís never made more than two albums with anyone else. Heís brilliant.

"Iíve often been asked why I continue to make records with him. I have actually tried other producers, all good people, but they donít bring out what Trevor brings out in me.

"I could never be a producer because I donít have one of the most important qualities: the focus. The fucking focus. The ability to stay in the studio hours after everyone has gone home, figure it out and bear the responsibility. And make that record the best you can make it. For example, Trevor will try to make something work, as far as the orchestration is concerned, but if itís getting in the way, if heís distracted by something and he canít bury it or make it mix, heíll axe it. Itís out. And he takes care and pays attention to my vocal track, so that when a person is listening to the record, they have all these things, all this depth going on around it, but they never lose sight of what theyíre buying the record for, which is the vocal. Very difficult to do. I have so much respect for him. Even for things like Tatu. I just love it that he can do something like that, and suddenly everyone remembers that he can make records. You see, when you donít have a hit record or when youíre not in the public eye for a while, people think youíve forgotten how to make records or write songs. But you donít produce 90125 or Lexicon Of Love and then suddenly lose that ability.

"I think that Trevor is the last of that disappearing breed. There are certain producers that are the flavour of the moment, and everything they do with every artist sounds like them. And to me, thatís not a producer ó thatís an artist. I listen to certain tracks and I donít want to hear the production first, or the identity of the producer ó I want to hear the artist first. Trevor once told me, ĎIf I make you sound good, then Iíve done my jobí. That is a real producer."