Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Feb 18th 2010 4:44AM by Julian Marszalek
Of late, he's worked with former Smiths frontman Morrissey and, showing no signs of slowing down, has recently finished work on Australian singer Danielle Spencer's second album, 'Calling All Magicians'.
How do you define the role of the producer because there must be more to it than the popular conception of someone twiddling knobs?
Well, the person who sits behind the desk and twiddles the knobs is the engineer but there's no real clear definition of a producer because some producers have specialties and in my case, I'm a jack-of-all-trades! But some producers, for example, like Hugh Padgham [the Police and Genesis producer], comes from the engineering world so mostly Hugh will be twiddling knobs and offering some advice. Then people like [Beatles producer] George Martin -- who is my idol -- comes from a musical background though he leaves the engineering to someone else, namely Geoff Emerick.
So you find those two opposite ends of the spectrum. So not only do I twiddle the knobs but I'm also the guy who gives all the feedback, the vocal coach, the arbitrator, I step in and settle arguments, I create tension, I relieve tension; I work the way pretty much a film director works and I would say that's what a true record producer does; that's his main role in music -- it's actually a director.
How did a kid from Brooklyn get attracted to the production side of things?
Record production didn't have any allure yet until I heard Les Paul and Mary Ford and then you heard these ridiculous double-speed guitars and one woman tracking her voice eight times and then I knew there was an alchemy involved. And I said to myself, "I have to learn how to do those things."
You've just finished work on Danielle Spencer's second album, 'Calling All Magicians'. How do you choose which artists to work with?
I make up my mind in the first place that the material is well written and when you listen to a song on the radio you're not listening to the producer's compressor or kick drum sound, you're listening to the vocal and you're listening to the song and that's what sells the record. So as a producer, I make that my top priority and responsibility. So that's why I've loved working with Morrissey, David Bowie and Marc Bolan; they all had very unique voices. You could drop the needle on the record or the laser on the CD and go, "Oh, that's Morrissey" or "That's Bowie."
How did you discover her?
I heard these demos that she sent through and the first song on the demo was song called 'Just a Thought' and before the song ended, she got me. It's almost like she did this Gregorian chant in the background and these voices were kind of gothic but she spent as much time working on her backing vocals as she did on her lead vocal and the lead vocals are songs unto themselves. Like, the Beach Boys would do that. So it's the two things -- her voice and her writing drew me to her. And it was so enjoyable to work with her and such good material.
Do you view the accessibility of production tools such as Garageband as a threat or opportunity?
I see that as a threat to our culture. A lot of people can go to a music store and they can buy a computer with Garageband on it and they end up being deluded.
It's like saying, "If I had this piece of equipment then I'd sound like the Beatles." And I know people who have bought every single piece of equipment that the Beatles worked on and when they actually see it and use it, they say, "Oh, but there's nothing special about this."
I think this generation has learned the same lesson, that it's not the equipment that makes it, it's that you have to be a really creative person. Like I said, nobody ever cares about the kick drum sound or what mic you used on the guitar amp and if you want to sound like Eric Clapton you have to think like Eric Clapton. If you give Eric Clapton a £12 guitar, he will sound like Clapton.
Danielle Spencer's 'Calling All Magicians' is out now.