I’ve never really liked recording. Most of the studio sessions I’ve done have been to make demos to present to promoters to try and get them to book bands I’ve been in. I’ve been fiercely realistic. We need a documentation of our live work. If we can’t do it live we don’t put it on the record.
Once the current Deep Cabaret line-up came together I began to think again. The sound we make is so special. As one of our fans posted after a recent gig “sounds merged, collided and found voice with depth, simplicity & beauty.” What might happen if we made a recording with someone who really got that sound and knew how to use a studio as an instrument to enhance it?
We produced a short-list of dream producers. Not that we really knew them. But we knew people who might know people who knew them. They were all names working several levels above where we were. Premiership to our National League. I doubted any would even respond. But most of them did. Two were actually keen to work with us. We wound up having to choose between them! They had very different backgrounds, but both had so much to offer. Unbearable, but once we knew we’d get Arts Council England funding it was all suddenly very real. We chose.
I’d met Justin Adams years ago when he ran a guitar workshop I attended at WOMAD. The riff that underpins ‘Matchless’ is pretty much taken directly from that. The first time the band met him was when he came up to More Music in Morecambe to do a pre-studio session with us.
“You’re a live band. You know about performing” he said after we’d played him some of the songs, “I see my job as helping to produce a version of what you do that people will be happy to listen to at home, in the car, over and over” (Or words to that effect, don’t quote me quoting him!). Which precisely expressed what we all wanted. I felt in safe hands, even allowing myself to think I might be able to enjoy the process.
He liked most of what we played him but not The Blue. Probably my own favourite. We deferred. “Play it again and let’s see what I can suggest then”. He stopped us after the intro which was a chance for me to go into my sub-operatic, chazan-enhanced, ‘big’ voice.
“Why are you doing that?”
He’d warned me his approach to the vocals would be to back off, draw the listener in.
“It doesn’t seem to fit with what happens next”.
Hmm. He was right. I was doing it because I enjoyed doing it. Indulging myself. It didn’t have much to do with the feel or meaning of the rest of the song. We tried leaving it out. Immediate improvement.
Then he turned his attention to the rest of the band.........
- Steve Lewis