Grammy award winning producer Guy Massey and Manic Street Preachers producer, Dave Eringa have just been in New Zealand to conduct a masterclass, teaching aspiring producers some valuable lessons. They speak with Wallace about their work, including re-mastering the entire back catalogue of The Beatles.
The first New Zealand Music Producer Series was held in Roundhead Studios in Auckland at the end of January, hosted by NZ producer and Music Managers Forum mentor Greg Haver. Tasked with producing two songs by Auckland group Racing, Massey and Eringa worked on arranging, recording and mastering with the band, while teaching up-and-coming local producers.
"It was the full process, as a spectator sport" says Eringa. "The job is taking a song and making it a record. And whatever that entails. Some bands have the complete vision, and some don't really know what they want and it's down to you to present a vision."
What's In a Room?
Dave Eringa began his career as the 'tea-boy' at Powerplant Studios in North London, before moving onto Konk Studios, owned by The Kinks' Ray Davies.Here he began a long-term working relationship with the Manic Street Preachers as engineer, producer and musician.
He says that studios can bring out different things in musicians. "A room like Abbey Road, studio two especially, it changes how they approach what they're doing, they want to play better, because of the history of a room. So there's a psychological aspect."
He describes Abbey Road studios as "like the Tardis, it's enormous."
Eringa adds "It's absolutely the best recording room in London, and probably the world. I spent years chasing that 'Strawberry Fields' cello sound, and then when we finally got to do a string section in Abbey Road studio two, you just pushed up the mics and it's there immediately. It's extraordinary."
Massey also works at a studio steeped in history, Rockfield, a working farm in Wales with a barn that has hosted sessions from the likes of Queen, Black Sabbath, Echo and The Bunnymen, Stone Roses and Oasis.
"Really, the thing there is that you're out in the country. There's no distractions, there's nothing to do except just make a record. That focuses a band really really well. And that history really plays into it. You get ideas there that you might not get somewhere else."
Working With Oasis
Massey worked as an assistant engineer on Oasis' third album Be Here Now in 1997. "I was pretty green, and it definitely opened my eyes to recording techniques and also.. rock n roll.
"They'd just had an enormous record, and they couldn't walk down the street without getting mobbed. It was a really mad time for them, and they came to Abbey Rd obviously because they were heavily influenced by The Beatles. It took a while to set them up. When they got there, Noel [Gallagher] brought all his gear, and we set everything up in a huge semi-circle. There must have been 20 guitar amps. He was a collector, for sure."
On Flying Nun
Eringa: "A record's about more than just the recording quality, it's about the way it communicates an emotion and a feeling. If you were to record one of those great '80s indie records like, really big sounding, they'd be crap.
I think we've lost that with recording technology, everyone's got access to any sound in the world, and those ramshackle independent records that had so much soul and so much humanity about them. I rue the loss of them - when was the last time you heard a record that was a little bit out of time, or a little bit out of tune?"
Remastering The Beatles
Massey worked on remastering the entire catalogue of The Beatles, which he won a Music Producers Guild Best Engineer award in 2009 for.
Though the job had been done before, in 1987, Massey says "the technology had vastly improved. We used different convertors, different tape machines, and it just sounded better immediately. I've always been a Beatles fan, and even over the four years that I was working on that - I'm still a Beatles fan."
Massey: "I think you need to realise that it can be really hard work. It's a calling, rather than a job. It can be very anti-social, in terms of friends and family, and you really have to want it."
Eringa: "With this game there is no substitute for just doing it. Get your mates' bands together, buys few microphones, a little desk, a few mic pre-amps, and just do it."