Howard Massey, author of The Great British Recording Studios, sat down for an interview with on the Producer Crosstalk segment of Music Connection to discuss his career from a musician to now an author. The Great British Recording Studios tells the story of the iconic British facilities where many of the most important recordings of all time were made. Check out the excerpt below.
Engineer, music journalist and newly minted novelist Howard Massey came to the business as many do: as a musician. After a move to London and an inked publishing deal, he logged hours at Pathway Studios. When the engineer there told him he was leaving, he asked Massey to fill the vacancy. As his repertoire broadened, he found that he was something of an expert on the Yamaha DX7 synthesizer. So good, in fact, that a friend suggested he write a book on it. He’s since scribed Behind the Glass and co-authored Geoff Emerick’s 2006 acclaimed Here, There, and Everywhere. Recently he has branched into fiction.
Howard Massey’s career has been shaped by a series of “left turns,” as he calls them. “I started out wanting to be a rock & roll star,” the writer explains. “I discovered that I had good ears. When I returned to New York, I was offered a job at Electric Lady Studios and when the [Yamaha] DX7 came out, I got one of the early ones. I found that no one really knew how to use it, including the people at Yamaha, surprisingly. So I locked myself in a room and learned to program it. A friend said I should teach other people. Later, someone else suggested I write a book.” In 1986, The Complete DX7 was published and his literary career thereby drew its first breaths.
With such a level of studio acquaintance––37 featured in Behind the Glass––Massey has thoughts on what signifies a space with staying power. “If people are flocking to book a studio, there’s something they’re doing right,” he observes. “Of course these days any studio that’s still in business, by definition, is successful because everything’s changed dramatically. Clients demanded more and record companies insisted on lower hourly rates. Studios got caught in the cash crunch. Of the 36 discussed in my book The Great British Recording Studios, only three are still in business.
“People today don’t feel the need to go into a professional studio,” he continues. “That’s a bit misguided. There are few artists in history who’ve had the ability to produce themselves well and view their work objectively. You can probably count [them] on one hand. If nothing else, having an objective third set of ears is invaluable. These days everybody thinks they can be a musician, songwriter, engineer and producer wrapped into one. It’s not that easy to be good at different things. I’m not saying nobody can do it. I’m saying few can. It’s hard to master several crafts at the same time and exceptionally hard to be objective about your work.”
Read the full interview here.
Carrie Fisher, best known for for her iconic role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars saga, has died. Below is an excerpt from Star Wars FAQ (Mark Clark) and how Carrie was chosen for the role.
Even before George Lucas had completed his Star Wars screenplay he was faced with finding actors to portray his still-evolving characters. Auditions began in late August 1975, while Lucas was finishing the fourth draft of the script. While not quite as excruciating a process as writing the films (see Chapter 4), casting soon became another protracted ordeal – both Lucas and for the actors under consideration for major roles.
Lucas wanted to hire young, unknown performers for the picture’s leading roles, as he had for American Graffiti. This was in part a cost-containment strategy, but he also believed that actors not already associated with other characters would be more effective in the fantasy context of Star Wars. It was one thing to ask viewers to accept Wookiees, lightsabers, and the Force, but something else again to ask viewers to accept someone like, say, Ron Howard as Luke Skywalker. To assist with the talent search, Lucas again relied on casting director Fred Roos, who had served marvelously on Graffiti. At the beginning of the process, Lucas, Roos, and several assistants worked twelve hour days, seeing as many as 250 actors per day. After three grueling weeks of this, to save time and money, Lucas joined forces with another young director, Brian De Palma, who was looking for a group of young unknowns to star in his film Carrie (1976). Lucas and De Palma took the unusual step of hosting joint auditions. Hundreds more actors were invited to come in and try out for both films. Lucas’ demeanor during the process was so low-key that some of the would-be cast member mistook him for De Palma’s assistant.
Nevertheless Lucas had definite ideas about what he wanted and placed a premium on chemistry between his leads. During callbacks (without De Palma), he screen-tested actors as ensembles to see how various would-be Leias, Lukes, and Hanes worked in concert with one another. Early on, Lucas wanted to hire legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune to play Ben Kenobi, but Mifune declined. “If I’d gotten Mifune, I would’ve used a Japanese princess, and then I would have probably cast a black Han Solo,” said Lucas in J. W. Rinzler’s The Making of Star Wars. One of the trios in contention for the leading roles featured newcomer Will Seltzer as Luke, former Penthouse centerfold Terri Nunn as Leia, and a young Christopher Walken as Han.
Jodie Foster was given serious consideration as Princess Leia. She was screen-tested, but not hired because she was only thirteen years old at the time, and casting a minor would introduce restrictions on the shooting schedule. (De Palma declined to cast her in Carrie for the same reason.) Other performers in the running for major roles included John Travolta, Am Irving (both eventually hired for Carrie), Nick Nole, Tommy Lee Jones, and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs (later “Boom Boom” Washington on Welcome Back Kotter) – a potential Hans Solo. Ultimately, of course, Lucas settled on Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carri Fisher for leads; a pair of distinguished British actors for key supporting parts; and four performers with specialized talents (and physiques) for the remainder of the primary cast.
None of their lives would ever be the same.
Roos also suggested that Lucas consider Carrie Fisher for the role of Princess Leia. Fisher, born October 21, 1956, in Beverly Hills, was Hollywood royalty herself – the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds. Her parents divorced when Fisher was two (Eddie left Debbie to marry Elizabeth Taylor). Fisher appeared alongside her mother in the promotional short “A Visit with Debbie Reynolds” (1959) and in the TV movie Debbie Reynolds and the Sound of Children (1969). Beginning at age twelve, she worked in her mother’s Las Vegas revue, and at sixteen she and her mother appeared together in the Broadway revival of the musical Irene (1972). Prior to Star Wars, Fisher had made just a single screen appearance, but it was an unforgettable one – as Lorna, a precocious teenager who beds Warren Beatty (minutes before her mother does the same) in director Hal Ashby’s sex farce Shampoo (1975). Lucas liked that Fisher could believably play a bossy, intimidating, character yet still seem warm and likable. Despite concerns over the actress’ weight, he cast her as Leia, paying her $750 per week. With Star Wars, Fisher would finally step out of her mother’s shadow.
Star Wars FAQ tells a story as thrilling and action-packed as the movies themselves, with bold characters facing apparently insurmountable odds, full of frantic chases, narrow escapes, daring victories, and tragic setbacks, culminating in an unlikely triumph that changed the course of the galaxy – or at least of Hollywood.
Graham Greene, author of The Graham Greene Film Reader: Reviews, Essays, Interviews, & Film Stories, shared his Knight Without Armour review with On Channel. Check out an excerpt below.
by Graham Greene
One had thought it was good-bye to M. Feyder when he entered the gates of the Denham studios: one began to write the obituary of the director of Thérèse Raquin and La Kermesse Héroïque. The news that Mr. (‘Hungarian’) Biro and Mr. (‘Naughty’) Wimperis were responsible for the scenario and dialogue: the sight of Miss Dietrich floodlit before well-advertised crowds at first nights: a New York premiere—followed by months of silence: rumours of gigantic expenditure—some put it over £300,000: all prepared us for the traditional Denham mouse.
But—astonishingly—a first-class thriller has emerged, beautifully directed, with spare and convincing dialogue and a nearly watertight scenario (only marred by a bath and a bathe in the Naughty Wimperis vein). The story, of course, is melodrama, but melodrama of the most engaging kind, the heroic wish-fulfillment dream of adolescence all the world over—rescues, escapes, discarnate embraces. A young Englishman, who translated novels for a Russian publisher in pre-war St. Petersburg is ordered by the police to leave the country because of an indiscreet magazine-article. Instead he joins the British Secret Service, takes on with beard and passport a Revolutionary personality and is condemned to Siberia after a bomb outrage of which, naturally, he is innocent. From this point his second personality has complete control: as an Englishman he is dead. War is followed by Revolution and he becomes automatically and will-lessly a hero of the New Russia, a Commissar. He is entrusted with the job of taking an important prisoner, a Countess, to Petrograd. He lets her escape, she is recaptured, he saves her again: White prisoners fall to Red machine-guns and Red prisoners to White and White to Red again, a kaleidoscope of murder: we get the impression, so difficult to convey on the screen, of almost interminable time and almost illimitable distance, of an escape along the huge corridors of a prison an Asiatic empire wide. Mr. Robert Donat as the stubbornly chivalrous Englishman deserves more than the passing tribute we accord to a director’s dummy. Mr. Donat is the best film actor—at any rate in star parts—we possess: he is convincing, his voice has a pleasant roughness, and his range is far greater than that of his chief rival for film honours, Mr. Laurence Olivier. Mr. Olivier’s burnt-out features, his breaking voice requires the emotional situation all the time; he wants all Blackfriars to rant in: he must have his drowned Ophelia, his skull and sword-play. Mr. Donat is sensible, authentic, slow; emotion when it comes has the effect of surprise, like plebeian poetry.
Read the entire excerpt here.
Led Zeppelin – who hasn’t heard of them, one of the legendary giants of the Hard Rock genre? Many stories, myths and legends have been told of the band’s history. Probably one of the most featured bands and most written about bands ever!
Music journalist and award-nominated author Marc Roberty sat down with Mark Dean of Spill Magazine to discuss his latest book, Led Zeppelin: Day by Day , along with his writing career.
What would make this book different from other Led Zeppelin books? Roberty discussed the balance he found in creating a book that not only reached fans that had never read a Led Zeppelin book, but for the hard core fans as well. There was a lot of information released in previous books which would seem difficult to create new content, but he was able to add new information that had not been released in addition to correcting incorrect information.
The interview went on to discuss Roberty’s journey in writing this book and others.
My forte is more in the research,and finding stuff that people possibly have not known before. That is really what I enjoy doing. I have done a lot of research of music, films. I try and find old footage or old studio material that to all intents and purposes has disappeared. I try and track things down. That is probably my forte: really to try and get to the bottom of things. Follow the story through to its ending. Sometimes the search carries on. That I do find enjoyable.
Led Zeppelin: Day by Day includes details of all the concerts why band performed with known set lists in addition to reviews of significant hows throughout their career. Recording sessions for each album and session work by individual members are listed chronologically. There are also quotes from recording engineers and staff to give further insight into what it was like to be in the studio with the group.
Mark Roberty has written for the Guitarist, Rolling Stone, Financial Times, and others. In addition to his latest work about Led Zeppelin he has written several books about Eric Clapton along with co-authored the autobiography of Bobby Whitlock.
Learn more by reading the full interview here.
On August 19th 1971, Led Zeppelin played in Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. This was Led Zeppelin’s 7th US Tour and would be best remembered for what Peter Grant did during the concert. Marc Roberty has covered everything about that tour date and more in his book, Led Zeppelin: Day by Day. Take a peek inside the book and learn what Peter Grant did in the excerpt below!
SEVENTH US TOUR
19 AUGUST 1971–17 SEPTEMBER 1971
19 August 1971, Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver, British
Columbia, Canada (8:30 p.m.)
Setlist not known but would probably have consisted of the following: Immigrant Song / Heartbreaker / Since I’ve Been Loving You / Out On The Tiles Intro / Black Dog / Dazed And Confused / Stairway To Heaven / Celebration Day / That’s The Way / What Is And What Should Never Be / Moby Dick / Whole Lotta Love (including Boogie Chillun’, My Baby Left Me, Mess O’ Blues, You Shook Me) / Communication Breakdown / Organ Solo / Thank You
This show is best remembered as the one where Peter Grant smashed up a Canadian official’s noise measuring equipment thinking it was a bootlegger taping the show. The New Musical Express in England reported, “Led Zeppelin cause plenty of action in the
audience as well as on stage! Zeppelin is in the middle of an American tour. Last weekend in Vancouver the band played in a hockey arena which houses over 13,000 people but it wasn’t enough and nearly 3,000 didn’t get in. Inevitably the police clashed with the punters outside. During the show a group of government scientists were checking sound levels but their equipment was mistaken for bootlegging gear. Their equipment was summarily destroyed. The local police are looking for the band’s manager for questioning.”
21 August 1971, the Forum, Inglewood, Los Angeles, California
Setlist: Immigrant Song / Heartbreaker / Since I’ve Been Loving You / Out On The Tiles Intro / Black Dog / Dazed And Confused / Stairway To Heaven / That’s The Way / Going
To California / What Is And What Should Never Be / Whole Lotta Love (including Boogie Chillun’, I’m Moving On, That’s Alright Mama, Dr. Kitch, Mess O’ Blues, Got A Lot O’Livin’ To Do, Honey Bee, Sugar Mama Blues, Gee, Baby Ain’t I Good To You, Kind Hearted Woman Blues) / Weekend / Rock And Roll / Communication Breakdown / Organ Solo / Thank You
Once again, the band play amazingly for the Los Angeles crowd, which is rewarded with a lengthy version of “Whole Lotta Love” with many covers in the medley. The night ends with a beautiful “Thank You,” which sums up the band’s feeling toward the audience.
22 August 1971, the Forum, Inglewood, Los Angeles, California
Setlist: Walk Don’t Run / Immigrant Song / Heartbreaker / Since I’ve Been Loving You / Out On The Tiles Intro / Black Dog / Dazed And Confused / Stairway To Heaven / Celebration
Day / That’s The Way / What Is And What Should Never Be / Moby Dick / Whole Lotta Love (including Boogie Chillun’, My Baby Left Me, Mess O’ Blues, You Shook Me) / Communication Breakdown / Organ Solo / Thank You
Just when you think the previous night’s performance could not be bettered, Led Zeppelin put in another killer performance, opening up with a surprise cover of the Venture’s “Walk Don’t Run” hit single before pulverizing the crowd with “Immigrant Song.” Plant is not taking any chances with his voice, though, as he went all out at the previous show and has to warn the audience that “tonight my voice is really fucked, so I don’t think we’re gonna do much harmonizing. But we’re gonna try—so, vibe on!” It was true that at some points his voice sounded a little worn, particularly on “Stairway To Heaven,” but to be honest this was in no way going to ruin what was otherwise an impeccable and dynamic concert.
Authors of Twin Peaks FAQ, David Bushman and Arthur Smith, have written a jam packed book full of facts for both veterans and new comers of the show Twin Peaks. With Twin Peaks return to television slowly approaching, now is the perfect time to catch up on all things Twin Peaks related with Twin Peaks FAQ. Courtesy of io9 Gizmodo, below are some facts that diehards of the show may not have been aware of, such as…
1) The Twin Peaks actually have names
According to a Lynch-drawn map, they are White Tail Mountain and Blue Pine Mountain—though the actual peaks glimpsed in the show comprise Mount Si in North Bend, Washington, where many of the exteriors were filmed.
2) Twin Peaks, Washington was almost Twin Peaks, North Dakota
Lynch and his Twin Peaks co-creator, Mark Frost, first intended their mystery to unfold amid the isolation of the Great Plains, but abandoned that idea after realizing evergreen forests would offer a more mysterious visual backdrop than barren prairies.
3) David Patrick Kelly (Jerry Horne) played Luther in The Warriors
How have I never noticed this before?
4) The part of Josie Packard was originally conceived for a different foreign actress
And one who’d worked with David Lynch and Kyle MacLachlan before: Isabella Rossellini. Joan Chen ended up playing the femme fatale role instead. (Page 83)
5) David Lynch never liked Windom Earle
Agent Cooper’s former partner arrives in town late in Season Two, and he was modeled by Arthur Conan Doyle fan Mark Frost after Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis, Professor Moriarty. But Lynch “reportedly found the character unsubtle and uninteresting,” and rewrote a lot of the finale to replace Earle with Bob in the final clash with Cooper.
6) This is David Lynch’s favorite song
It’s “Song to the Siren,” by Tim Buckley. It’s mentioned by the authors because when Lynch was unable to secure the song’s use in Blue Velvet, he collaborated with composer Angelo Badalamenti on a different tune that’s sung by Julee Cruise in that movie. A few years later, Badalamenti penned Twin Peaks’ now-iconic themes, while Cruise popped up as the ethereal bar chanteuse at the Roadhouse.
Read all 11 facts over at io9 or by clicking HERE
Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers, author of The Complete Singer-Songwriter, offers some tips on how to keep your ideas flowing. Courtesy of SonicBids Blog we have a inside look at some of these tips. Read below for more!
Every songwriter needs a nudge sometimes to keep writing. There’s no better way to learn and grow creatively than by simply finishing songs, but that can be easier said than done. What do you do when inspiration is not sweeping you off your feet, and the song ideas that you come up with seem dull and hackneyed?
One approach used by many songwriting groups is to play different kinds of creative games that involve writing a song according to specific parameters and setting a deadline. Yes, this is a form of songwriting homework, but the process of writing to spec like this can be playful and fun. It’s a relief sometimes to be given direction rather than always having to find your own way, and it will lead you to very different songs than you would typically write. Here are a few types of games that can help keep the ideas and songs coming.
The simplest songwriting game is to start with a word or phrase and write a song that incorporates it – the word or phrase doesn’t have to be the title or even a central element; it just needs to appear somewhere in the lyrics. This is the game notably played by Jason Mraz and the email songwriting group led by Austin musician Bob Schneider. As Mraz told me, his hit duet “Lucky” with Colbie Caillat, for instance, started from the phrase “me talking to you” (the opening lines are “Can you hear me? I’m talking to you”). Everyone in the group takes a turn giving the prompt – which might be as simple as brown or as odd as the nonsense word gumanema.
It’s possible to play this game solo and choose words for yourself, maybe by randomly picking words from a book or introducing another element of chance, but it’s more interesting to do with a partner or group – input from others forces you out of your usual patterns of thinking.
Once I was booked for a songwriter showcase and given the task of writing/performing a song with the phrase “the shortest straw.” At first I was flummoxed – I couldn’t imagine what to do with those words. But before I even had a chance to think more about it, I found myself imagining a character who feels perennially shortchanged in life, and ad-libbing lyrics over an E minor groove. Even though “the shortest straw” is just a minor detail in the resulting song (titled “Prayer”), this assignment gave me the impetus and the deadline to finish what turned out to be a keeper.
When playing this game, I recommend using words for physical/tangible things, and it’s a bonus if they have multiple uses or meanings. For instance, in my songwriting group we’ve used key and ticket (resulting, for me, in the songs “I’ve Got It Here Somewhere” and “Closer”).
You can also use words that define a theme or concept but don’t have to appear in the song itself – the game could be to write about envy, winter, or working in a cubicle. Avoid cliché themes (the road, breakups, Saturday night), and pick something that points the lyrics in an unexpected direction.
2. Storytelling style
Another area to explore in songwriting games is the way the story is told. There are so many possibilities beyond the usual contemporary style of describing your own experiences in first person. Here are a few prompts you might use in a songwriting game:
- Write entirely in second person – not singing to you (as in “I want you”) but placing you at the center of the action, as in the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (“Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly…”).
- Write in third person (he/she), even if the story is autobiographical. Writing about your own experience in third person may help you feel free to tweak the details, like a fiction writer, in order to make a better story.
- Write in first person but make the story specifically and obviously not about you. Tell the story of someone from a different era, or living in a different kind of place, or older/younger than you are. Writing from the perspective of someone of the opposite sex is tricky but worth trying.
- Write in the voice of an unlikeable, unreliable, or otherwise flawed character. Two masters of this are Richard Thompson and Elvis Costello, who have brought us inside the heads of some downright scary narrators. Remember that it’s essential to empathize somehow with your character, however awful he or she may be, so that the listener can connect emotionally with the story.
Read the rest of the tips here!
Elliott Landy, author of The Band Photographs 1968-1969, was interviewed by Simon Harper of Clashmusic.com. They spoke about the photographs he took of The Band, his memories of their time together, and about some exclusive photos that will only be seen at an exhibition in London in Proud Camden from June 6th to July 24th. Read an excerpt of the interview below!
Have you previously exhibited these photographs in London?
No I haven’t, actually. I made maybe two shows in London in the past, and maybe one or two were scattered throughout these shows, but no, in general it’s really, for most of them, the first time that they have been shown as fine art prints.
Apparently there will be some unseen photographs in this exhibition?
Yes. What I did for this is that I went through 12,000 negatives with my assistant – actually, she went through 12,000 and I went through about 1200 that she picked out – and then I just chose a whole lot of pictures that are just really nice and that had never seen the light of day before. I just picked out what I thought were the best photographs.
This exhibition and the popularity of your book is really a testament to the international and enduring appeal of The Band. I don’t suppose that when you were taking these pictures that you thought they would have this life of their own…
But did it feel special at all? Were you aware of what potential these guys had?
No I wasn’t, and that was part of the reason that I was able to photograph them as intimately as you describe and as the pictures show: because there was no ulterior motive or ulterior thought. It was only what was happening at that moment and how can I get the best picture of it. And nothing in my mind was impure – by ‘impure’ I mean having a second reason for doing something rather than the thing itself that you’re doing. The second reason for doing something would be because they’re gonna be worth money in the future, they’re gonna be famous in the future, and so on, so none of that was part of my mental space.
When you first started working with them, they were pretty much unknown to you, right?
They were unknown to everybody. I mean, they didn’t exist as an independent band. Well, actually they did; they were The Crackers, but nobody knew them, they had no album out, and I guess if you went to certain bars you may have seen them, but they really were unknown as a public entity.
How did it come about that you first shot them? You were accosted by their manager, Albert Grossman, I believe?
He had sourced some pictures I had taken of [his other client] Janis Joplin that were really, really nice photographs, and then when The Band – they didn’t have that name yet – were looking for a photographer, he came up to me one night in Club Generation, which is the space that later became Electric Ladyland, and he tapped me on the shoulder and waved for me to come to the back of the room with him into like a broom closet. I didn’t know if he was going to throw me out or what was going on, but he said to me, ‘Are you free next week to take a picture up in Canada?’ I said, ‘Yeah. Who’s it for?’ He said, ‘Well, they don’t really have a name yet, but if you’re interested you can go and meet some of them – they’d like to see your pictures.’ So, I went up to the studio in New York City where they were recording, and that was it. (Laughs)
Read the entire interview HERE!
Shelly Peiken, author of Confessions of a Serial Songwriter, was a guest contributor on Huffington Post Arts & Culture. She gave us all a look inside her newly released book with an excerpt titled “Suddenly”. Take a look down below and get your copy today!
SOMETIMES I HEAR Simon and Garfunkel singing, “Slow down you move too fast.” They’re in a little bubble following me around as I scurry about my day. They’re in my underwear drawer as I hurry to get dressed. They’re in my coffee cup as I grab it to go. Those two heavenly voices; they sing extra loud when I’m multitasking. And I usually am.
See, I get caught up with work. I don’t turn things down. I take a meeting and listen to lip service from the A&R exec who says he thinks my song is perfect, but I know he will ultimately use the one from a writer of whom he gets a piece. I get angry with myself when someone’s album is finished and I didn’t try hard enough to get a song on it. I go to a writing camp to try to raise my batting average, even though there’s a decent chance the artist we are rallying around may be dropped. I often have a choice to make: write yet another song or go to lunch with the girls. I usually write another song.
Recently, things changed. I had had a tiny bump on my breast for years. It was barely noticeable and I had been assured it was nothing and would never turn into something. I’d been so busy, that I barely noticed it was getting bigger. So I went to my doctor. The second he touched it he said, “I don’t like this”…and that’s when things suddenly started to seem surreal. I thought about how my life might slip away from me in the next few months. I’d have to put everything on hold at least until I could find out just how much life I had left. He didn’t waste any time. He made some appointments for later on in the day. It was a Friday. He didn’t want to “have to wait out the weekend” to see what “we were up against.” I liked how he said “we” even though it was actually just me!
Click here to read more!