Babysitting

When the lead singer arrives dressed to kill.

When the lead singer arrives dressed to kill.

Whenever anyone used to ask me what I did, I used to say professional babysitter. It’s not been far off the truth sometimes. I think part of this job is looking after people. Sometimes it will be the artists, the producer, assistant, sometimes the studio owner and sometimes your own ass. In what other job would your drunken client steal a case of beer, trip over the mantle of the doorway, and face-plant into the studio floor knocking himself out cold? Of course, this guy chose to rob the store directly opposite the studio, so I had to hastily return the beer and make apologetic noises to the irate Indian shopkeeper who was on the phone to the police. If nothing else, this job will help you develop your people and/or zoo keeping skills. You may have to try to rescue hapless kids transporting gear across a road which happens to be in use mid-marathon. That was good. A teetering bass stack weaving it's way through a torrent of half delirious runners is a sight to behold. City marathons, really...why is that a good idea? We have rock & roll to make, and you are in the way!

There are also really serious things that happen. The longer and more weird the session, and the more remote the studio, the weirder it gets. I remember once recording in a remote farmhouse in Wales. About 4 hours after we arrived the police showed as the sub post office got robbed shortly after our arrival; "we'd heard strangers had arrived" ...it wasn't us, but we were viewed with deep suspicion after that and had lots of mystery visitors. I'm glad the cops didn't come back as the band had discovered mother nature had decided to place us in a field full of magic mushrooms, and things didn't get any less weird that week. My former recording school lecturer that I'd become friends with would march in every twenty minutes or so and say ”eat these” handing out a dose of freshly picked magic mushrooms. It turned into some kind of lord of the flies sh*t. Thankfully, the album turned out great and I got my first co-production credit.

Famous people tend to be like normal people, only less so. I recorded a record with a famous band who I loved, but it was miserable. The singer was no longer into it, didn't want to come to the studio, and seemed to only communicate via his wife, who also seemed pretty hostile towards the band in general. The rest of the band were feeling as if it was game over, and their mortgages, lives and so on were on the line so that felt like one long counseling session. The singer DID show up after a number of false starts (dressed as a WW1 fighter pilot no less - see pic!) and we got on great, which didn't seem to sit well with the other main musical force of the band who wasn't really allowed in the room when we were recording. Pretty quickly I got the singer to engage in the game of "what would this guy do" - loosely speaking develop an alter ego freeing yourself from your own constraints, then performing as THAT guy. For me it was the best part of the process, actually fun. So, we managed to wrap it up pretty quick, then they left, got someone else to mix it (badly, in my opinion) and I never spoke to them again.

That's another thing; the anxiety at the end of a project. There is relief, sure, as by the end you're tired and have usually had enough (easily fixed by taking a few days break, but you never do!) but there's also a sense of loss as you have been with people 24/7 become close and now...nothing. I'd hold all this stuff inside me and assume it was my malfunction, but I remember sitting at an airport about to fly home with the producer I was working with and saw the effect having a simple conversation with the lady at the check in desk affected him. It seems even two weeks with a lack of feminine energy can mess with your head.

It could have been worse. There is a tale of Julian Cope tripping on LSD and chasing his band across the fields with a loaded shotgun - which the studio owner gave him. He was a client and friend at that point, so I asked him whether it was true, and he told me "Adam - never confirm or deny anything anyone says about you" so can't comment on whether or not that happened. I also asked the studio owner from the apocryphal tale himself as I worked there quite a lot...and he ALSO evaded the topic. So yes, it probably did. I know for sure a few cars were left upside down in ditches during the odd recording session at that place, and yes - at least one singer died on the way to the studio on my watch. I have spent a lot of hours in the studio surrounded by the weirdness. Sometimes it's fun, sometimes it's hell. As long as it leads to people making some good music, it's possibly worthwhile. It's also one of the reasons I prefer to mix, rather than produce these days!