Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hello Highly Respected Blogreader,

You haven't heard from me for some time. That's partly because i was doing what i am supposed to be doing, and that's making records. The other reason for not posting anything is because i didn't feel like it. But now that i find myself lying on a couch trying to recover from the mandatory fall-fever, i felt i could spent my time better on writing something more substantial than the abstract four-letter words in Wordfeud.

Quick update: you might already know that Gram and Jenny Lane have released their albums successfully. Kapabel's Avonduren record is finished and will be released during Noorderslag. Bombay Show Pig has occupied the studio to record their debut album. No tents, just mattresses and sleepingbags.  In december we'll cross the pond to mix this record with Brooklyn based mixer Eli Janney. Did i mention Noorderslag?

Now that we got that out of the way, i thought this would be a nice occasion to explain to you what a producer does. I know many of you readers are musicians yourselves and might have had to deal with one;  even then it's not always clear what the role of a music producer is or can be.
Hence the word 'music' here; some people think that the role of a music producer is similar to that of a producer of films. Although there certainly are mutualities between the two, the image that comes to mind when talking about filmproducers is $$$. But let's not get into comparing the two, i'm stuck already. I'll just talk about what i know.

First off: i'm privileged to have my own studio. I fell in love with knobs, faders and meters at an early age, so over the course of 20 years i've invested my modest income in gear. Ever since i was old enough to have my own stand at Koninginnedag, i was selling junk in order to finance another second hand casettedeck. A mere 20 years later, when Kyte asked me if i wanted a space in his music community Kytopia, my collected gear finally got a home.

Second off: i have no education in music whatsoever. I did the application for Music Technology (HKU) twice, but got rejected, twice. I'm a less than mediocre drummer, can't play any other instrument and i cannot read sheet music. My dad plays the cello so bad that he got banished to the smallest of towns in Belgium, Teuven, so there's no DNA to support me in my musical development.
How did i end up here, working with great artists and musicians? That's a question to which the answer remains a mystery, and i will not try to solve it. I'm just grateful.

Back to the program. A band wants to make a record. With or without the help of skilled songwriters they have written a bunch of good songs, which they've played a bunch of times in a bunch of local bars.
The band is ambitious: they want to give up everything, yes everything, in order to make it successful. Their eagerness is not out of place: a booking agent, label and publisher are interested. The demos recorded in the rehearsal room sound promising, but lack quality.
Who you gonna call? Producerman!

I choose to work with bands that can check all boxes above. To start with. Most important: the SONGS. If your songs are not good enough, there's no way a production can make up for it. The process will become very dreadful, up to the point to where i would want to kill myself. Second most important criterion, but this actually goes hand in hand with the first one: the personal connection i have with the music. If the music in it's roughest form can move me, i want to be a part of it. This is very personal. This is what makes a producer unique. I might love a song, whereas another producer could hate it.

I listen to the songs. A couple of times, but not too many. I might visit the rehearsal space and listen to the band playing the songs. If i feel something ain't right in the structure of a song, we'll try various options.  Leave out some bars in the verse, extend the bridge, chop the song in half because it feels too long, whatever. It's all intuitive. There are no rules, it about gut feeling.

My gut feeling tells me this blogpost is going the direction of "The Definitive Guide To Producing A Band" - and that's bad. Fever is manifesting itself. I'll be back tomorrow, promise.

S.

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