I'd like to know what it was like to work on these two classic (and sadly overlooked) rock records with a band who were developing at a dizzying pace. They are two of the most singular sounding works I've ever heard and obviously a huge influence on what people like Radiohead are doing now 30 years later yet I don't know much about how they were achieved.
Any memories/insights you can share on your involvement and the band's creative process?
Great album titles !
I'd already done the first album Life in a Day which had a few classic tracks on but when it came out the band didn't like what they had done and decided to change direction and be darker, more harder edged, less poppy, more dramatic and take a strong european influence having played there and listened to Iggy/Bowie, Kraftwerk, La Dusseldof, Neu, Conny Plank productions etc We were well into disco and Chic and Suicide/Alan Vega and everyone wore black clothes and even dyed our hair black for the full euro look.
Real to Real was all recorded and mixed in 5 weeks at Rockfield using both studios. They had about half the songs (Premonition, Factory, Call your Name, Changeling and the rest were kind of written in studio. We were searching for sounds and they came from anywhere..guitar or Mick's keyboards. We often miked up the corridor that runs side of Coach House studio at Rockfield and leave door to studio open. It gave a good natural eq-able short reverb for drums and guitars and claps. Jim was writing all the time, trying lyrics and different approaches to singing. He was quite different on early records to how he sings now. The record was all mixed at Rockfield in one stint and quickly mastered and put out.
Quite soon after we were back at Rockfield, this time at a house which is now Monow Valley studio but at that time was a bed and breakfast with a big rehearsal room so I used Rolling Stones mobile truck that I had used for many records including BeBop Deluxe in South of France and Simple Minds first album done at Farmyard in Amersham and later Stone Roses second album. Truck was great and now sadly missed. Helios desk and 3M machines and every Shure and Neuman mic available. Klark Technic monitors! and a window to look out (Manor/Island mobiles never had windows at first) Empires and Dance was great record to make. Derek was there with the bass lines which really formed the backbone to Minds music right up to time he left and very often his line was first idea written. Spent lot of time working on guitar sounds to sound like keyboards and keyboards to sound like guitars. Technology a bit primitve at time as no one was midi conversant and yet we did great tracks with arpeggiator on Roland Jupiter and Korg MS20. Lot of time doing handclaps and getting right tone and reverb space and size, weird ringing snare drums. And to top it all The Skids were in other studio at Rockfield so there was a lot of messing around and food fights and buckets of water on top of doors etc. Then Iggy moved in other studio to do Party record (for Arista, same label as Minds). Barry Andrews from XTC was keyboards and Glen Matlock bass. James Williamson from Stooges producing and David Bowie pays a visit. The Minds are in there doing handclaps and backing vocals... a good night and Bowie was dressed all in red. Next day James Williamson is off home after some scene with Iggy and I'm asked to take on producing Iggy as well seeing as I was at same studio. Like can I do Iggy in the morning and start Minds after dinner? OK ! I'll try. So did this for few nights and got totally exhausted and just carried on with Minds. Pat Moran salvaged the Iggy record and it was one of first 48 tracks records done at Rockfield with two Studer A800 miraculously held in sync. Thank you Otto! Simple Minds just used 24 track and Empires and Dance mixed at Rockfield and Townhouse 2. all mastered by Chris Blair at Abbey Road.
What else? My tape op/assistant on Stones Truck was Mariella Frostup, if any of you out there know who she is...oh yes!
I dont know if I really answered your question on creative process, but enough for now!
This is very cool to read. 'Real to Real Cacophony' really is an overlooked shining moment for that band. It wasn't too long ago that I dug that record out for the first time in many years and was sort of blown away by how innovative and "now" the sound and feel of the record is. I think it is a highly unique and singular post-punk classic - and has a certain timeless quality that can be found in the best music of that era.