It started in Decca’s West Hampstead Studios in London, after Ewan MaColl and Peggy Seeger introduced us (The Druids) to producer Kevin Daly. In those days, multi-track tape recorders were very new and we recorded on a 16 track Scully machine – one of the first in the country. It was all very new and wonderful – while we recorded our folk music in Studio 3, Jacques Loussier was recording his particular brand of jazz in Studio 2 and Marmalade were ligging around Studio 1 (never once saw a red light on to indicate recording in progress!).
I learned the recording trade by osmosis. Kevin Daly taught me lots about producing. Iain Churches showed me how to mix and what noise reduction was (and in those days Dolby type devices were called ‘sound stretchers’. I spent a year working part time on the ‘Redcoats’ project with the Band of The Scots Guards and Major ‘Tiny’ Howe showed me what being a musical director was all about.
Brian Horsfall of Tradition Records, amongst other things taught me about graphic equalisers – a turning point in my understanding of sound.
I first saw the legendary Bill Leader hunched over a Ferrograph tape recorder in the News House pub, home of Nottingham Traditional Music Club, when Roger Watson and Colin Cater recorded an album that never saw the light of day. He taught me a whole load more over the years and was eventually to help me to a job at Salford University where I taught recording. Ralph Jordan of the BBC helped through the interview, lending me his training notes which I read several times over while sitting in a Broadstairs cafe watching the sea.
Starting my own record company, Festival Records with Ken Wood, moved me forward, especially when I had to supervise a vinyl cut for the first time. Regular exposure to recording studios allowed me to keep up with the march of technology up to the point where my recording studio is now my Mac Powerbook laptop plugged into a Digidesign Digi 002 Rack with various bits of racked up outboard gear – have studio, will travel.
My latest piece of gear, though, is the most mind blowing bit of technology! It’s a stereo recorder the size of a packet of cigarettes which, with the addition of a couple of microphones, will record 24 bit 96 kHz digital sound on to a compact flash memory card, the sort used for cameras. Different choices of sample rate, format and compression allow it to record at lesser quality for longer – ie. mp3 28kbit for several days! It’s a far cry from Bill Leader and his Ferrograph!
I’ve now done as much film sound than music recording but the skills and equipment bleed across from one discipline to the other.
This is a list of the recordings I can remember contributing to in some large or small way. There are others but not everything stays in the memory, especially when there are great new projects queuing up to be tackled!