Control, Chaos, Power, and Play: Interview with Dr Bill Bruford

One of the aims of recording popular music over the years has been to capture “lightning in a bottle.” It’s a phrase that so eloquently illustrates the paradoxical nature of reconciling control and chaos in popular-music making. Ever since “Rock ‘n’ Roll” records first hit the airwaves in the mid 1950s there has been an ongoing power struggle between those that would have popular music more controlled and those that would have it more chaotic. In fact, it’s a balance that needs to be negotiated each and every time popular musicians and technicians attempt to work together (either explicitly or tacitly – and nowhere less than in the recording studio).

Interview With Tony Swain

Tony Swain is a record producer, composer, session musician and A&R consultant. He has been active in the industry for over thirty years. He achieved significant success during the 1980s in a production and song-writing partnership with Steve Jolley, working with acts such as Imagination, Spandau Ballet and Alison Moyet. Their work has subsequently appeared (as direct samples or close emulations of key elements) in records by Mariah Carey, PM Dawn, Boards of Canada, 88 keys (featuring Kanye West) and The Pharcyde. Swain then went on to solo production work as well as A&R consultancy, eventually becoming Head of International A&R for the Universal Music Group. He has been nominated for Ivor Novello song writing and BPI production awards, was awarded a BPI technical excellence award and has also seen his work as executive producer (for Michael McDonald’s Motown recordings) nominated for a Grammy award. This interview took place in 2013, thirty years since the release of the albums True by Spandau Ballet and Night Dubbing by Imagination, which epitomise the contribution made by Tony Swain and Steve Jolley to pop and dance music production in that era.

Interview with Ken Scott

Ken Scott is a legendary producer and engineer, having worked with the likes of The Beatles, Elton John, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Procul Harum, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Duran Duran, Supertramp and Level 42, among many others. His production credits include some of the most influential albums ever made, including David Bowie’s Hunky Dory, Aladdin Sane and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, and Supertramp’s Crime of The Century and Crisis? What Crisis? In the following interview, Scott discusses these records and some of his more recent work.

Interview with Dave Fisher

Dave Fisher has worked at the BBC and The University of Surrey. At the latter he was Director of the renowned Tonmeister course in Music and Sound Recording from 1983 until his retirement, as Emeritus Professor of Sound Recording, in 2011. During that time he undertook a wide range of lecturing duties, including teaching recording techniques to students in each year of their course. This interview, which took place in the Audio Lab at the University of York in January 2012, was undertaken as part of the ‘Is Recording Engineering?’ project, supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Interview with Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle is a Juno Award winner and Grammy nominee. He has worked with the likes of Hall & Oates, Anne Murray, The Chieftans, Glenn Gould, Kiss, Sinead O’ Conor and Van Morrison, to name only a few.

Interview with Ben Fowler

Ben Fowler is a Grammy-winning producer/engineer in Nashville Tennessee. After receiving a degree in music from Ball State University, he began working as an engineer at New York City’s legendary Power Station (now Avatar studios). Earlier in his career Fowler worked on a session with Eric Clapton which yielded 3 studio albums. Since then he has worked with artists such as Michael McDonald, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Meatloaf, and Bad Company. More recently, he has worked with contemporary artists such as LeAnn Rimes, Rascal Flatts and Paul Brandt for an impressive 8-album run. Whether producing or engineering, Fowler believes that interpersonal skills are an often overlooked key to a successful career. In the following interview he explains how his approach hinges on bringing the best out of album contributors by keeping morale high during sessions. Central to Ben Fowler’s approach as an engineer is to favour the creative over the technical. He views his craft as an endeavour which is primarily artistic. As an extension of this Fowler is less concerned with how equipment is intended to be used, and more concerned with the resulting sound.

Interview with Steve Marcantonio

Steve Marcantonio is an audio engineer who works in Nashville, Tennessee. Since starting his career at The Record Plant in 1978, Syebe has since worked on projects including John Lennon, Brooks & Dunn, Reba McEntire, Kenny Chesney, Gretchen Wilson, Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood, Vince Gill, Paul Brandt, and the Blues Brothers, among others. Currently, Steve is the Studio Manager/Chief Engineer at Sound Emporium studios in Nashville.

Interview with Nick Blagona

Nick Blagona is an extraordinary engineer/producer with an impressive list of credits. If it were the practice of the music industry to mention the technicians who worked recording sessions in the 1960s, his list of credits would be even longer. In the following interview, Nick provides insight into a life dedicated to music and technology. Onwards, from his first four-track analog tape session with Tom Jones, to when he assumed ownership, and took over the role of chief engineer, at Le Studio in Quebec, Nick’s career has evolved alongside the technological changes of the recording industry. Throughout this interview, Nick unpacks an implicit understanding of sound engineering and music production garnered from professional experiences in Britain, Canada, and the United States. His stories reveal how a natural affinity with sound and music has allowed him to make great recordings by adapting engineering/production processes in response to the demands of artistic diversity, communication media, and industrial change. He describes insight gained from producers Tom Dowd, Phil Ramone and Roy Thomas Baker, and from working with the likes of Deep Purple, Nazareth, Cat Stevens, The Bee Gees, and The Police.

Interview with Wendy Page

Interview conducted July 6, 2004. Originally published at How long have you been producing? I’ve been producing for ten years. How did you get started as a producer? I was in a band in the U.K. called Skin Games. We produced our own tracks and co-produced songs with other producers. We felt we had […]

Interview with Jack Richardson

Jack Richardson remains one of the most celebrated producers in Canadian history. His work with The Guess Who in the 1960s and 1970s resulted in the best-selling single of 1970, namely, The Guess Who’s “American Woman,” which outsold releases by the likes of The Beatles at the time. His credits also include Bob Seger’s Night Moves, Alice Cooper’s Love It To Death, Muscle of Love and Killer, Kim Mitchell’s eponymous debut, Max Webster’s Universal Juveniles, Poco’s A Good Feelin’ To Know & Crazy Eyes, and Badfinger’s Say No More, among others. He also dedicated an enormous amount of time and effort to music production & engineering pedagogy, having played a crucial role in the establishment of Fanshawe College’s celebrated Music Industry Arts program in London, Ontario. We caught up with Jack at his home in London last November. Jack recently passed away, in early May of 2011. As far as the author is aware, this was his final interview.

Interview with Peter Collins

Interview conducted April 16, 2004. Originally published at What do you look for when you are evaluating a potential project? I guess I look for an element of originality, whether I think it offers something that is not already out there, something that’s going to be fun to record. That’s a pretty broad brief. […]

Interview with Linda Perry

Interview conducted July 31, 2004. Originally published at What do you look for when evaluating a potential project? I need to have a connection with the artist, a feeling in my heart that our collaboration will be special. It is the artist that inspires the creativity, so it is very important to have a […]

Interview with Lauren Christy of The Matrix

Interview conducted June 14, 2004. Originally published at Did you expect to become a producer? No, not at all. Being an artist, all I knew was that I was incredibly interested in it. Apart from the songwriting, which is a whole different thing, the way the finished product would sound…it could so easily go […]

Interview with June Millington

This interview was conducted at the University of Western Ontario, where June Millington was artist-in-residence. The conversation was largely unstructured, but revolved around determining June’s personal approach to production, and examining her career as an influential musician, songwriter and recordist. Along the way, June discussed encounters with Skunk Baxter, John Lennon, Todd Rundgren, Geoff Emerick, Barbara Streisand, and a host of other respected musicians and recordists. This discussion took place in February of 2011.

Interview with Bill Laswell

Interview conducted July 26, 2004. Originally published at You’ve had a really interesting career. You swing in and out of the mainstream working with big artists and then some more unusual things. I guess I never really cut anybody loose. A lot of the things are improvised from what people call avant-garde music or […]

Interview with Josh Leo

Josh Leo is a lauded producer, session guitarist, and songwriter based in Nashville, TN. Of the 21 albums Leo has produced which have reached #1 on the charts, some highlights include Lynyrd Skynyrd, Alabama, Emerson Drive, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Bad Company. As a session musician, Josh’s first notable employers were Jimmy Buffet and Glenn Frey of the Eagles. In the years following his tenure with these renowned artists Josh was credited as a musician on over 150 albums. Leo is a skilled songwriter as well, with 6 songs ranking #1 on the charts.

Transcription of Producer and Engineer Wing Event

March 24, 2008 Baird Auditorium – Museum of Natural History Shannon Emamali:  Good evening, I am Shannon Emamali and I am the executive director of the Recording Academy’s Washington, DC Chapter.  Welcome to our first actual Producer and Engineers event we’ve had here for the Chapter.   We’ve had it in other cities but we actually […]

Stephen Street and the Art of Man-Management

Stephen Street began his career in music in the early 1980s at Islands Records’ Fallout Shelter Studio. From the mid 1980s onwards he worked with the Smiths, first as an engineer and later as producer. Since then his production credits have included Blur, The Cranberries and The Kaiser Chiefs.

Interview with Nile Rodgers

Nile Rodgers is a composer, arranger, guitarist and producer, and co-founding member of Chic. His production credits include Sister Sledge, David Bowie, Madonna, Diana Ross, Duran Duran and many more. In 1998, Rodgers founded the Sumthing Else Music Works label and Sumthing Distribution, focusing on the production and distribution of video game soundtracks.

Music Producers Guild Round Table

Haydn Bendall, Mick Glossop, Mike Howlett and Tony Platt, members of the UK Music Producers Guild, reflect on issues identified by Simon Frith in his editorial piece A Journal on the Art of Record Production.

Interview with Joe Boyd

Interview with legendary producer Joe Boyd.