Since opening the doors to Astar Studios in Manchester back in 2008 I have been fortunate enough to work with some of the most talented musicians that Manchester/Europe has to offer and I would like to share with you here in part 1 of this blog some of the great experiences I have had. Part 2 will include behind the scene like stories and Part 3 will be about the new and up and coming talent from Manchester I am currently working with at Astar.
Having been in a successful Manchester based pop/rock band from the age of 16 I was already fortunate to have witnessed at first hand many talented musicians but working with them as a producer, is a completely different thing entirely.
I never believe the role of a producer is to dictate, but more to allow musicians to express themselves creatively and then after to offer guidance and reassurance that what they are playing is right for the track, whilst also suggesting my own ideas. Many people are scared to work with a producer but just ask Paul McCartney where the Beatles would have been without the inspiration and creativity of George Martin. Only recently I had to explain to a Manchester based artist this very point. He told me he knew all the parts he wanted to be played in his head. I said this is fine but let others also feel they have the freedom to suggest ideas as for me this is what will 100% get the best ending result. Sometimes it can be a big mistake to be too precious about your song.
Manchester is a great city for music. Some people still believe London is the place to be which I can understand with most labels being based down there but for its history and buzz Manchester can rival anywhere. Manchester has produced the likes of The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Oasis, Joy Division and now carries on that tradition with up and coming acts like Blossoms from the Greater Manchester area.
As an artist myself I have been extremely lucky to have toured with lead singer of the Stone Roses, Ian Brown, during his solo career. Suited and booted on entry to the venue yet changed into casual clothes for the gig, relatable to what the paying public could afford, he certainly knew his market. Ian would never also leave the sound check until he was entirely happy no matter how long it took. Ian was great to the band, very approachable and even came stage side to listen to our set. I recall one specific gig when we were supporting him at a venue in Newcastle. The gig was in an old academy holding around 4-5 thousand and had a sprung dance floor. My band played our set but when Ian went on, the crowd naturally went crazy. After only 2 songs in 2 people in the crowd started fighting. Ian stopped his song halfway through and said no-one f***** fights at my gigs and got them thrown out. The song restarted and the crowd commenced jumping up and down. All of a sudden, the dance floor began to collapse, and the venue had to be evacuated. Luckily no-one was hurt. So off we ventured to the bar upstairs. I expected to maybe see an angry Ian, but he definitely saw the crazy side that this could only happen at one of his shows. Top guy, Top Manchester legend.
Having been on the other side of the glass as a performer I feel this has benefited me as a Producer allowing me to empathize with all artists that come though my door. It also allows me to draw on my own experiences both good and bad to try and help steer them in the right direction after making the record. Being multi-instrumental helps me to assist with creativity and to come up with parts and play them back to the artist for them to then record themselves, if they like them. I never force an idea upon an artist, it’s always a joint decision on what works best for the track. I think this is a big reason for why I really get on well as a producer with all clients.
So, onto some of brilliant Manchester musicians I have been fortunate to work, tour or perform with whom include:
Steve White (Drums) – The Style Council, The Who, Oasis
Damon Minchella (Bass) – Ocean Colour Scene
Neil Fairclough (Bass) – Queen and Adam Lambert
Simon Goulding (Bass) – The Bee Gees, The Temptations, Sir Tim Rice
Simon Moore (Drums) – Ian Brown, Ruby Turner, Jocelyn Brown
Steve Power (Keys) – Gary Barlow, Rick Astley, Neil Diamond, Boy George
Lea Mullen (Percussion) – George Michael, Paul Heaton, Happy Mondays
Bryan Hargreaves (Drums) – Bryan May, John Legend, M People
Jonny Thomson – Il Divo, Michael Ball
Aziz Ibrahim (Guitar) – Ian Brown, The Stone Roses
Peter Hook (Bass) – Joy Division, New Order
Toured with Ian Brown
Shows with the likes of Madonna
The talent to come from Manchester is special. This is just part 1 and next I will be telling some short stories about the individual musicians themselves when I worked with them. I will also be telling stories and keeping you up to date with some of the exciting new talent I have been working with recently including both bands and solo artists who are the future of the music industry.
For now, if you are a label or solo artist or band signed or unsigned THINK MANCHESTER THINK ASTAR
0161 280 0908