Long time coming
Galliano, Adam Moseley
Adam Mosley chats about producing The Plot Thickens
Galliano's album The Plot Thickens was this year's surprise mainstream hit, with an infectious energy that is at once funky and mellow. But the Galliano way is not easy, and before producer Adam Moseley worked with them, he made sure to get in tune with their ethos. Peter Turberfield and Sue Sillitoe meet the ex-tea boy who became Galliano's chief cook and vibe controller...
Producer Adam Moseley isn't surprised it has taken three albums to break Galliano into the mainstream pop charts. Like most people who are involved at the cutting edge of the music business, he knows that if you want success you have to forget the accountant mentality, keep the faith, and give your protégés a chance to develop.
But the crossover success of Galliano, from underground Acid Jazz merchants to Tesco's checkout sales browser, isn't just down to their commitment - or even the commitment of the people at record label Talkin' Loud who have supported them. It has as much to do with the huge following they've built up from the electrifying energy of their live performances. It was this element more than anything else that Moseley wanted to capture when he agreed to produce The Plot Thickens.
Adam Moseley has been involved in record production since 1978 when he joined the old Trident studios - not by the orthodox route of a tape op, but as a builder and chef! At the time they were enlarging their control room downstairs, and basically they wanted someone who was as handy with plasterboard as they were with pastry. It took Adam three months to be promoted:
"I think I must be one of the few people who has had the dubious honour of working their way up to tea boy!"
Twelve months later, Moseley had climbed the ladder to the position of engineer, working with producers like Mike Stone, Steve Taylor, and Rupert Hine on big US rock projects for bands like Kiss and Rush. But the prestige of Trident's clients began to slip, and before long it became a treadmill of EuroDisco music, originating mostly from France. Eventually, in the early 1980's Adam went to the US for six months, before returning to Trident when it changed hands. One of the new owners was Stephen Stewart Short, and he wanted to bring back the Trident vibe, discipline and skills. Adam explains:
"Trident in the 1970's had been like the army - an horrific experience, but if you survived it you did very well in the long run. I was retained to get Trident 2 up and running, and I did that with an excellent crew that included Alan Moulder, Flood, Mark Stent and Al Clay, all of whom are now doing excellent pioneering work that is moving music forward".
Production-wise, Moseley's first success was with the Blow Monkeys. He has since gone on to produce and mix a whole host of artists including Roxette, Richard Marx, Maxi Priest, U Nation, Wet Wet Wet and Bill Bruford, who involved him in seven albums in total.
From teaboy to producer, Moseley is now considered to be one of the UK's most prominent young producers, so it was no surprise - given the diversity of his production skills - that he was offered the Galliano project at the end of last year.
Adam and the band agreed the results they wanted to achieve, and then set about finding the right studio for the project. In the end it came down to three, all of them London-based. First there was Konk in Tottenham, which was chosen because Moseley liked the sound of the old Neve desk and the ambience of the room. Then there was The Church in Crouch End, which was used half way through the project to mix two of the tracks. And finally there was Mayfair in Primrose Hill, which was chosen as much for the location as it was for its equipment. Primrose Hill had a special significance for the band!
"For all of us it was very important to have all the sounds coming from members of the band. I wanted to capture Galliano live, because that's how they have built up their following. They've devoted a lot of time to extensive touring throughout the UK and Europe, so it was imperative that we retained that live feel, even though this was a studio album. But I also wanted to give them enough space to experiment and do all the things one would normally do in a studio. In the end I can say that practically everything on tape is live and it is Galliano".
All the drums were done as live takes, with the first take generally played very simply and without any frills, as though it were a loop. He explains: "The first takes were more for the groove factor, although we did keep in mind a kind of loop attitude. When that first take was down, I transferred all the kick and snare audio drums into MIDI using Akai ME35 triggers, and then I fired up new sounds on the kick and snare, to make the sound more like sampled or programmed drams with the groove behind. Where we had gaps that we wanted to drop in a different beat of another sound, we would specifically make loops and drop them in - just as you might apply a loop with a different sound that you'd found on an old record - very trashy, very compressed, whatever.
"It was all based on live performance. We'd play the track, take a stereo or mono mix of drums, treat it up and then Push (the rhythm section) would play in specific places. Sometimes we even sampled those parts, and rearranged them so at the end of the day we had the best of everything - we had all the modern sound to the loops and beats and sampled sounds, but everything was actually played. I think there was only one song where we used loops, but still put live drums over them".
The drum sound was worked out at various stages in the recording process, and in order to get the live loops how he wanted, Moseley used a Korg A2 which is a device he loves.
'It's excellent. There are so many variations to what you can do with it. You can take the percussion and build it up in any way that you want. We built up a composite groove using congas, bongos, and other percussion across seven or eight tracks and then sampled it off, put it through the A2 and effected it up, through a wah setting or a distortion setting, and finally put it all back in so that we were creating something that was new and sounded fresh, but was still Galliano and still live".
After an intensive period of pre-production, Adam Moseley took a month off from the project to quickly produce another album, leaving the band to finish off writing a number of songs and get the final package together. He returned to the project at the beginning of December and started rehearsals - initially working on two songs that he wanted to get down before Christmas. These tracks were 'Long Time Gone' (the first single) and 'Twyford Down' which was the second. It was a tight schedule.
"I think I must be one of the few people who has had the dubious honour of working their way up to tea boy!"
"We worked there for about two and half months, and at one point during that period we had two studios going - Konk and The Church - because I wanted to do some more work on the Twyford Down and Long Time Gone mixes. So I went up the road to The Church, and did the album and seven inch mixes of those two tracks, while the band stayed at Konk to work on new ideas."
"Essentially those two songs were almost completed in the ten days run up to Christmas. We started a mix of Twyford Down on Christmas Eve, and we left the studio on Christmas day. We worked on Christmas day, which is a first and last, as far as I'm concerned! It was ridiculous, but that was just the way it was. We had Boxing day off and went straight back to rehearsals at John Henry the day after Boxing Day, working all the way through to New Year's Eve. On January 2 we were back at Konk, which was convenient for everyone because the band are, for the most part, North London-based. Konk was chosen partly for the room and the desk, but also because it was a studio we all knew - the band had demoed there - and I had just done an interim album there, so it was a good place to kick off because everyone felt comfortable. I wanted the old sound of the room and the Neve. With all the technology I was going to apply to the album, it was essential to retain a lot of that old warmth and vibe.
By the time Moseley had reached the mixing stage on the first batch of songs, it became apparent that some sorting out was needed. At that point there were 15 or 16 tracks in production, so a shortlist of ten was drawn up, and they were the ones that he concentrated on finishing. The mixes were being done at Konk, but to keep the band occupied Moseley got them to bring their own recording gear into the studio, and to set it up in the overdub booth so that they could continue writing and working on new ideas. After a couple of months at Konk and a week at The Church, Moseley and the band all felt that it was time for a change of scene.
"We had pretty much done Tottenham", he laughs, "We had been there through the winter and it was getting a bit grim. Even though the band are very health-conscious and had their own caterers, we'd exhausted all the local takeaways and wanted to move on". So they packed up and went to Mayfair.
"Primrose Hill had a very special meaning for the band - that's where the video for 'Long Time Gone' was shot, and there is a lot of old Druid and spiritual significance in the area because it is a park with strong natural energy lines. Everyone was very happy to move, because it is also such a great area in which to work".
Mayfair's SSL room was initially booked for two weeks, but the band ended up staying a month and then, after a short break, they went back again to finish a few more tracks.
"While we were at Mayfair we quickly set up the band's own studio in the overdub booth, just as we had done at Konk. That was the first thing we did when we moved in, so that they could immediately start work on a couple of new songs that had evolved during the recording of the album.
"By that stage we had finalised the album tracks, but as the album progressed we realised there were some songs we wanted more of, and others we had too many of, to achieve a better balance. Also, there were new songs coming through all the time, which is always the way when you put all that energy into an album, and focus on it and rehearse it and go into great depth over what you want to achieve with each song. Everyone involved was suddenly putting a lot of energy into it, and ideas started to fly around to such an extent that new songs began to come through. As a producer I've found that you can always count on two or three good contenders that you didn't have when you started, and because they've been influenced by all of the other songs, they contribute to the overall direction in which you are working.
"We very much wanted to get some of these new songs down, and we recorded two exclusively at Mayfair from start to finish using the demo ideas that had come from our time at Konk. The band worked on them while I mixed, so it was all very fruitful - a good creative environment".
The period at Mayfair was meant to be spent finishing off the mixing, which is why Moseley chose an SSL room.
"I mix on Century 100 A speakers which I've used since about 1985. I use them in conjunction with NS10s, which I see as a necessary evil because they are an industry standard. That's what people generally listen to your work on, so in many ways you have to use them. When I'm mixing I stick with them until I'm about two thirds through the mix, and switch to NS10s to tart the sound up a bit. By that stage I've usually got the bottom end sorted out and I know what's happening".
Although the entire recording project was split between three studios, Moseley says that in terms of technology, nothing out of the ordinary was used. At Konk he relied on a lot of valve compression to create the right sound, but even that is not unusual for him because he always works that way.
"I love Focusrite EQs if they are available, because to me they have a slight colouring - it's a sort of graininess that I really like, especially when I'm doing vocals or backing vocals. I also like GMLs, although they are no more useful when you've got a problem and you need to play around with the EQ. If you have a difficult voice and you need to do some invisible work where you really don't want to hear any EQing, GMLs are fantastic; they're so transparent that you can really screw around with the sound without it showing.
"it's sad that in order to head upwards you sometimes have to hit rock bottom first"
"For Rob's vocals I used the LA3A. Rob's got a very low, slightly husky voice and the character of the LA3A was excellent - it really helped. Also Rob does the rapping and poetry in the band and the compression of the LA3A was excellent for that".
"Apart from the EQ, I always use Summit 100A limiters. It's an excellent limiter, as good as any Teletronics LA2A or Fairchild, because it is as warm as any of those but you have the added help of attack and release buttons. It's a very simple box and I've used it since I first heard about it.
The main device Moseley brought to the project was the Korg A2 - everything else was recorded as naturally as possible using a variety of different mics including a mix of new models and some older ones. On occasions, the drums were mic'd using a three mic set up, while at other times he set up a full compliment of mics. Adam outlined the arrangement:
"The three-mic setup was really exciting and some of the best drum sounds came from that because they had so much character - it was fantastic. But at other times we needed individual mics on things, and we used the usual techniques - nothing fancy".
All the compiling and the first running order was sorted out at Mayfair, then the editing and sequencing was completed at Chop 'Em Out. Townhouse was used for the final cut, although very little needed changing, thanks (according to Adam) to a combination of good studios and good mixing techniques using the Century monitors and the SSL desk".
The project was thoroughly enjoyable for Moseley, especially the part that was spent at Mayfair. There are a couple more tracks he and the band want to record together, for which they hope to go back to Mayfair. For the third single they may rework one of the songs on the album, plus there's a couple more B sides they want to record.
"Working with Galliano has been great because the music they are creating is so experimental and new. It was interesting and rewarding to make an album that had a lot of energy and wild performances involved in it, and I feel it all came together very well. If a record is fun to make, you can hear it in the finished product because you can tell the vibe was right. It really is all about capturing that feeling, and provided the sound is there it doesn't really matter what you do technically".
"For me, production is all about the exchange of ideas - taking the initial ideas, developing them a bit so that the band can re-assess what they want, and then helping them to achieve the right end result. With Galliano I felt I had a role to play in helping them get their music down on tape. I didn't want to get in the way of their spur-of-the-moment ideas. If you do enough research you can figure out what the band wants, and help them create the right vibe by choosing the right studios in order to make the whole project seem effortless".
Moseley feels that much of the success of the Galliano project comes down to the support the band received from Steve Baker at World Chief Management, and the backup they got from Gilles Peterson and Paul Martin at Talkin' Loud.
"A lot of talent doesn't get signed in the first place, and it is great that everyone believed in this band enough to let them keep going over three albums," he says. "There are very few labels that will stick with a band for that length of time, but if you want success that's what you have to do.
"From my point of view, it's really encouraging to see everyone pulling together as they have on this project. The fact that great talent isn't getting signed is not even down to poor A&R anymore, because even the A&R departments don't get the support they need to sign and develop new bands".
Moseley still sees hope for the future as those in the top jobs in the industry come to realise that developing new talent takes time.
"I have to be optimistic," he says, "it's sad that in order to head upwards you sometimes have to hit rockbottom first. Hopefully we have at least done that now, and we will start to see an improvement in the business of signing and nurturing British music".
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