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Adam Whittaker. Part 3

Publicat in: 10.07.2011, 07:00AM
Autor: Richard Constantinidi
Comentarii: 0
Vizualizari: 1799
Etichete: Amy Winehouse, Dance Music, Julian Cope, Kate Nash, Mark Ronson, Starsailor, The Damned, The Rakes, The Xcerts
Adam Whittaker. Part 3 Starting his career in the US on guitar, Adam Whittaker moved back home (Reading, England) and took the seat on the other side of the glass, producing groundbreaking UK indie artists and bigger mainstream acts, such as Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen, Julian Cope, The Damned, etc.

We’ve spoken in Cluj March 13th, 2010, as he was visiting local heroes, Grimus, to assess their Live potential.

This is the last part of the 3 part interview. Here we’ll be talking about what it actually takes to be a successful Producer …and of course, how he discovered Grimus.

CZB: Can you tell me about your plans to work with a well-known classic band this year?

Adam Whittaker: OOOhhh… That’s a problem question. I’ve worked with quite a few artists, such as a classic punk band that recorded a couple of albums and I’ve also worked with other people from some older, bigger bands.

That’s the kind of project that I don’t know if it’s going to happen or not.

They released a few successful albums in the early seventies … They might want to comeback but I don’t know if it’s going to happen yet.

CZB: Have you produced a track for one of the UK Eurovision contenders?

Adam Whittaker: No. It didn’t happen.

CZB: You’re happy with playing guitar on recording sessions for other bands without being credited on the album cover? Does that come from being so passionate about the music, or from the thought of … hey, I can do this better than that guy!

Adam Whittaker: If you want to be really good at your job as a producer, you have to kind of learn that your aspirations as a musician are secondary to those of the people whose records you are making. And at the end of the day you have to remember that it’s their record. It’s not your record. It is in a sense and you have massive responsibility for it and a love for it even but really, it’s their record. So, I don’t really want to get on records but I have done it because it needs to happen in circumstances that you’re not going to talk about. Maybe somebody’s having a difficult time with something or they don’t care … they don’t want to even finish … I have worked with the kind of people sometimes that didn’t want to finish their records.

CZB: I can’t believe that.

Adam Whittaker: I have been in situations with bands that have better things to do … things they enjoy doing more … so on some records I’ve finished the backing vocals, or I’ve finished the guitar on their records …and then they went home.

That’s not the kind of thing you advertise or talk about.

It’s about the level of respect you have for your artists and a certain code of honor. I am not going to say bad things about the artists I work with. It’s not constructive.

The persons making the records sometimes are very difficult, or emotional. They make mistakes. They say things they regret having said later … so there’s a certain amount of … ok, it happened, let’s forget about it.

CZB: So the idea behind the Producer is that he gives his input, his advice, to make the artists music sound better. Do the artists always walk into the studio understanding that?

Adam Whittaker: No. It takes a fair amount of Ego to survive the brutality through which artists have to go through in order to even get on the first rung of the ladder, meaning having to make it through rejection. I expect artists to have a certain amount of Ego, I expect to know a little about the artist or what they’re about. That’s good, usually in some respect. Sometimes what people will do is not accept criticism. That can be very difficult and I am willing to compromise. Hopefully, at the end of the day, they realize that they need a producer in some form on their record and then hopefully they realize that I’m there to be their friend to help them to see how some things need to be done to succeed.

That is my only interest.

  • I’m not interested in them not being successful.
  • I’m not there just for fun.

I’m there for positive input and to make them understand what to do.

CZB: What artists are you very proud of having worked with? I’ve read about these names on the internet but I want to have the names from you.

Adam Whittaker: Part of being a producer is being impartial. Most of things I’ve worked on recently have been very good. There may have been an exception. I like working with debut acts. The other people have not always been the most enjoyable experiences for me. I am still proud to have tried my best to do whatever was required of me. I am most proud when I’ve worked with new bands and helped them get them first on radio, to get that first single released, to get their first good reviews.

I am most proud of that because I can relate most to that, having been that guy myself, as a kid… because I know those people are the happiest when these things happen to them … that first recognition … you know, like actually, somebody else thinks we’re good and they’ve put it down here and more people can read about that! or I got heard on the radio! … I love it; that’s my favorite. So, I feel I like working more for the new bands.

CZB: Working with bigger bands for a certain period of time, you’ve had the problem with smaller bands not contacting you anymore, convinced that you were out of their league budget-wise?

Adam Whittaker: That’s absolutely crazy (laughs) and that goes to show you so much about people’s perception. I was working with lots of new bands and small bands and it was up to me to do the kind of things I was supposed to do, like getting their first radio and airplay. To me, that’s fantastic!

Then I got into the position that I could work with BIG, famous, well-known artists.

CZB: There’s a lot of pressure there…

Adam Whittaker: Yeah, I got physically sick. My expectations were so high. These guys are obviously Gods. They’re amazing. I’ve been seeing these people on MTV for the past few years, being successful and bla, bla, bla … and then they would go into the studio with exactly the same nature as a young band would.

CZB: Do you do the same things for the big bands that hired you to be their producer though?

Adam Whittaker: No, because you tend to end up in that situation. You tend not to be that person that should be wanted (laughs) because if you’re an emerging guy, it’s either they want you because you’re doing something special or different… or the label can’t afford Rick Rubin or some great guy who’s expected to take a bit of a long shot … and most others just don’t give a shit; they don’t care … by the time you get to that level … it’s their day job by then and they have enough knowledge about themselves to be fine with the amount of work they’re dedicating to each project they’re hired for.

Anyway, that particular period, when I went to work with a lot of really big people in a really short amount of time … I’d actually taken a step back, because, you know, I was working in isolation on all these indie bands, pushing really hard to get these gigs. There were two gigs that I was in the running for, competing…

CZB: When you say “gig”, what does that mean for you as a producer?

Adam Whittaker: A paying job. A gig is a job.

I had gotten to the point that I was really in the running for a really good album project and I would be competing against people that were far more successful than me and in that particular period I was potentially doing some awesome, awesome things … and I was beating out very successful people in the field. And there were a couple of possible gigs where I had gotten to that stage where there was a final decision to be made between two producers, and I had already done away with other people – and just didn’t get the job … and that was very frustrating.

I went into an A&R meeting at a record label after not getting a project that I really, really wanted to do and we’re having a chat and the A&R manager is weighing me and he says: yeah, this is so and so, and I really wanted you to get the job … and I’m not saying who it is … and he puts on the track that so-and-so has done and we’re standing in this office listening to this song play and he’s just told me that the producer is that guy and I’m in the office going like, yeah, it’s really good. It’s really good.

You know what?

I did that! They were playing a song thinking it was someone else’s production, when all the time it was really my production … and I didn’t get the gig.

At that point I was really frustrated, so I sat back and I started doing some engineering for some other producers who were more successful than me and I thought, you know what?

Let’s take a step back and let’s learn from some other people. Let’s see, in those circumstances why I didn’t cross the line, apart from the fact that I just didn’t get the gigs. Maybe you’re missing something; let’s find out.

CZB: And was that OK for you; was that constructive?

Adam Whittaker: It was very constructive

CZB: So, it was just the way things were supposed to happen?

Adam Whittaker: (laughs) No! I didn’t get the gig! (laughs) It was constructive because it burned my beliefs. It actually lifted my confidence. I worked with huge, really successful guys that have sold millions and millions of records and I’ve worked with them, and I’m sitting there going: I’m at least as good as you.

My job on that particular day was to do the best that I could do for the role I’d been hired to do and I wasn’t fresh about it. If someone hired me to mix, I’ll put my mixing hat on and I’ll do my best job to mix the record for them. In producing, I’ll take out my producing hat. If another producer would ask me to come in and record a day for them, I’m happy to go in and record with them…

CZB: So, you’re in Cluj and you came to see Grimus.

Adam Whittaker: Yeah!

CZB: Why? How many years has it taken for you to get to Cluj?

Adam Whittaker: OK. If you want an honest answer, it’s taken me about six years to get to Cluj because a good friend of mine came here many years ago. He’s a technology guy and he found that people here are very well educated, speak very good English … and he said to me that there is a lot of talent in this country. He said that the culture is very different and difficult to deal with, but that at the end of the day the people here are fantastic and that they have great talent and he said I should come out here and check it out.

A long, long time, I didn’t.

Eventually, I’d expanded my brain and I finally said, why not? Maybe, let’s start looking further up field there. I was looking towards Romania on the map and I said, yeah, I’ve got a friend in Romania … I could go and stay with my friend over the weekend and I could go out to the pubs and clubs and see what different bands are playing.

He kept going on about how good talent is here.

I started doing some research and there were a lot of bands I didn’t think were that great… because of that typical Eastern European heavy rock element … and completely by fluke, I’d been scanning the internet, looking for good Romanian bands … this is the truth, the honest truth … I came across Grimus, I saw they were from Cluj and I thought, ah, yeah, it’s that place, listened to it and I was hooked. I thought it was fucking fantastic, and we went from there.

I contacted them through MySpace and they probably thought I was some random idiot on the internet; they didn’t bother to get back to me. I said that maybe they were gone somewhere or forgot to get back to me … they ignored me for ages. I remembered them and contacted them again. Finally they realized (happily) that I was telling the truth… this guy … he’s done all this stuff … and oh fuck, that’s us he’s contacting!

… And then the first song came back to them and it sounded like a proper record … not that it wasn’t good before. The guy that worked on it before had done a great job but it was possible to take it up to a higher level…

After the show, I managed to fit in two more questions.

CZB: What was your impression of Nimrod, the sound engineer Grimus works with in Cluj?

Adam Whittaker: Nimrod - has the best name ever, and did a fine job of the live sound. Actually, the production value of the show was very high, from sound to lighting, the posters, to Florin’s projections and everyone
involved did an excellent job, especially for a show in such a small venue. This is very important for the future as the live arena is growing and shows like this are the main difference between “real” live music and the mimed
pop we have to endure.

CZB: What is your general impression of the band not that you’ve seen them play live? what they could improve on or what you enjoyed most.

Adam Whittaker: The Grimus show was all I could have hoped for. It’s remarkable to see a small band play a twenty song set of developed songs to a high standard in a small venue like that.
I watched the crowd when not scribbling notes in my book, and it was a good indicator of what the people there thought. The trick is now finding a way to make it better known, and take it to the mainstream.

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