Point of View
answers the following question...
What is the role of the record producer?
by Tony King
Much to his amplified annoyance, Tyron had been overlooked as
Producer of the Year for the 30th year on the trot. It also brought on a
fresh bout of eczema and made his temp secretary stay at a sheepish
distance from him with her iPod headphones in but no music playing.
He spoke with a Cockney world weary brogue that would have made him limp
if it had been a shoe.
He was a germophobe and vacuumed his secretary each morning.
Tryon was owner/producer of Shabby Road Studios.
He had persevered with the plural despite never having more than one
Tyron laboured under the huge delusion that his production philosophy
was very similar to that of David Attenborough. It consisted of "Non
interference" when working with "Talent". This would make sense when
you're dealing with a White Rhino that has to be kept in balance with
nature. You don't interfere because it skews the survival balance of the
Therefore real music could only evolve naturally if the producer watched
from the safe distance of his "Hide".
In reality Tyron was an OCD interfering dictator.
If he had been Attenborough he would have dressed up as a pantomime
Zebra and annoyed the Hyenas into swimming to a neighboring continent.
In reality he believed you have to interfere with bands early and often
because they have no idea what they are doing and will be extinct by the
end of the record if you don't interfere.
Some of them would want to kill each other.
All of them would end up wanting to kill Tyron.
He would often ask the band "What kind of record would you like to
make?" but would cut them off one word into their answer, shouting
"There's your first mistake!!! You have a preconceived concept, which is
the enemy of art!!!"
On the surface this sounded profound but in reality bands really liked
to have a role in their album and had an old fashioned desire for it to
reflect the essence of who they were.
This made Tyron apoplectic with rage and his ensuing rant was enough to
make bands lose their will to live and they gave up the fight to make
their own record.
They made Tyron's record.
All except a band called the Knee Tremblers who miraculously knew
exactly what they wanted. The album was done at the speed of a porcupine
Attenborough would have said "in a perfunctory manner"
The band could all play stupendously well and got their BAS done on
time. They quickly found a role for Tyron running errands and rang him
at the local café, where he had been relocated, whenever the soap ran
The Knee Tremblers ironically had actually embraced Tyron's own faux
policy of non interference and made a brilliant record while Tyron was
forced to console himself by putting his good ear against a vegemite
glass and pressing it to the mixing room door.
The band had changed the security access pin to the mixing room so all
Tyron heard until the record came back from mastering was a muffled kick
When perplexed passers boy saw Tyron with the glass to door, he would
feign an air of conspiratorial superiority and say something like "These
fuckers are making exactly the record I want, and they can't even see me
pulling the strings"
He would then mime a marionette puppeteer but would invariably trip over
the water cooler, his Keith Moon grin pulled half way on.
Despite his idiosyncratic approach, Tyron had many, many clients over
the years and arrived at what he called "The Golden Spake" for
production. Here are a few examples.
"You can never have too many takes"- He invariably took the last take of
a recording, put it through autotune and doubled it. He said that
getting a singer to sing the same word or even syllable for an hour
reproduced the truth found in a dying animal. "You can't fake that!"
"There's no quick way to it…it hurts! It has to! Or you're not doing it
Bands hardly ever ended up with the original singer by the end of his
productions. Often the singer ended up being the only player left
standing, most frequently a bass player, whom he discovered was
biologically closer to the truth of a dying animal than other musos.
Tyron's most annoying habit was saying to a band member whilst employing
a slowly wagging finger….
"I think I know where you're going with this"….and with an expression
that implied some kind of rare telepathic quasi religious moment, he
would then coax the instrument out of their hands and play/sing all the
parts himself, leaving the hapless band member having to steal his own
instrument back when Tyron went to the bathroom.
Another rule which was also written on the toilet wall.
"If the band knew what they wanted, they wouldn't need a producer"- This
was coded permission for Tyron to make whatever album he wanted, often
replacing all the musicians eventually. A death metal album would end up
a Celtic Ambient album, or visa versa.
Tyron's Bęte Noire was the "group mix".
Negotiations would frequently resemble those found in Gaza but with less
One particular occasion involved a Goth singer who had spent the week
buried in her Sylvia Plath poems while the rest of the band fought over
the border between good taste and commercial oblivion.
She put her book down and said something very, very quiet which nobody
could hear. Eventually the air-conditioning was turned off and she still
was inaudible. Finally the vintage S1100 sampler was even unplugged
which was known to make a slight hiss that annoyed some people with
canine hearing. Still couldn't hear her.
Ultimately she was mic'd up and they heard her say, ironically, that she
couldn't hear the vocals.
It turned out the channel had been muted from day one.
Tyron hated the conventional wisdom of making an artist feel comfortable
to get the best out of them.
He believed pain was weakness leaving our body.
When all the weakness was gone, you were ready to press the red light
and get the real band on tape.
This process often made Tyron look a lot like Dr Strangelove & his
experiments resembled those done by the Nazi's. This was all done with
equipment readily available in the studio.
He would turn headphones up instead of down when the singer complained
about the loud volume.
"Vot vaz I sinking?" (hissed through a malevolent grin).
"One step closer to a great album!!" as he goose-stepped around the
Most of Tyron's production tricks were in direct contravention of The
Geneva Conventions' four treaties and three additional protocols that
set the standard for the humanitarian treatment of victims of war.
Make no mistake, Tyron was at war with his bands.
He was completely perplexed by producers like Brian Eno and Daniel
Lanois, who had the ability to bring out the essence of any band, adding
a stack of their own creativity without a skerrick of their own
footprints in the sand.
Tyron was the "Bigfoot" of producers and along with the Great Wall of
China, his signature was the other man-made object visible from outer
space. Countless bands had taken to throwing hors d'oeuvres around
record launches upon discovering his writing credit at the front of all
Mr T was his own nickname for himself that was never embraced by others,
mostly because there was already a quite famous Mr T.
Upon finishing an album Mr T would send the whole band out to get the
celebratory ham and salad rolls. This would enable him to reverse all
the bands wishes and desires about the mix.
When they returned he would pounce on the juiciest less soggy looking
lunch and pronounce with chubby hubris,
"I believe that is the Producers Roll!!"
That would be the closest Mr T would ever get to understanding the
© 2011 Tony King
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Posted by Rob Hirst on Friday 1 April 2011
Not sure whether to laugh or cry as it reminds me of lots of producers I've worked with. Excellent writing.
Posted by Patrick Reilly on Wednesday 2 February 2011
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