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Australian singer/musician/composer, Tony King answers the following question...

Tony King

January 2011

The Question:
 What is the role of the record producer?

by Tony King share this - email, favourites, social bookmarks and more

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 studio.
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 ecosystem.

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 mating.
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 out.

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 drum.
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 right!!!!!"

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 goodwill.

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 sticky carpet.

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 the tracks.

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 producers role.

© 2011 Tony King

Have Your Say
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Spot on!

Posted by Rob Hirst on Friday 1 April 2011

Spot on! 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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