1.To begin with, when and how did you first come to work with the
My first Manics working experience (although I had met them first
in 1992, when they used to rehearse next to my demo studio in Cardiff)
was to play percussion on a few b-sides Alex Silva was producing in
about 1995, one of them being Dead Trees And Traffic Islands.
As far as recording, I did some demos for South Yorkshire Mass
Murderer, Youre Tender And Youre Tired
and Montana, which led onto me engineering some parts of
You Stole The Sun
and Im Not Working
2.Of all the arrangements and sounds that youve helped bring
to life over the years, which are you most proud of?
Probably Empty Souls, still sounds dreamy to me.
3.What are some of your favourite MSP guitar, bass and drum parts
+ vocal takes that youve captured on tape?
Bass A Song For Departure
Drums Heyday Of The Blood (Classic Mooro one take!)
Vocals Indian Summer
4.In relation to vocal takes, I recently interviewed Wayne Murray
and we were talking about how when Radiohead were recording OK Computer,
Thom Yorke wanted a different vocal approach and a different vocal sound
for every track on the album. Is this the same for James when he records
I have recorded vocals in lots of ways with James, often with
a fairly conventional mic and headphone set-up, but on Lifeblood
we did all vocals and backing vocals with James in the control room
with a Shure SM58, which is a standard live mic. He liked to sit on
the couch at the back of the room.
5.Which producers do you most admire, and are there any records that
you just love the overall atmosphere / sound of?
There is a pretty long list, but to name a few, Rich Costey, Eno,
Visconti and Fripp always loved Trevor Horn as he made me realise
how far the producer could colour a record. I have recently become very
attached to the sound of the Laura Marling albums and I always love
a good Sigur Rós record for atmosphere. I really love the atmosphere
on Emmylou Harris Wrecking Ball Album. I am also partial
to anything by Interpol and Mogwai Bowie will always be a massive
6.Do you have a typical working day in the studio / is there a set
order in which you record and lay down individual parts, and what does
There is never a typical day. Programming usually involves hours
of staring at computer screens trying to get synths to work!
7.Are there any songs that went beyond your collective expectations?
The Love Of Richard Nixon was meant to be a b-side
and ended up being lead single.
8.Which track caused the most discussion and debate amongst you all?
Probably 1985, they still never let me forget what
a mess I made of it when we were tracking in Ireland.
9.Has it always impressed you how James along with additional
help from Sean has been able to take Nickys words and interpret
them musically, while constantly striving to expand the groups
sonic palette and sound?
They do work in a way I have not seen from other artists. I always
loved Nicks cards, with the lyrics and press-cuttings on, that
he would give James, they were real works of art.
10.When producing, how important is the balance between unprocessed
rawness and studio polish to you?
It is totally down to the song, the beauty and curse of making
records is that there is no right or wrong way, it is down to personal
taste if the listener likes it or not, it is one big grey area.
11.Engineering is also an extremely important part of making a long
player, but for people who may not know how this works, as well as sound
balancing, could you give us a brief insight?
Well, I try to stay away from engineering as much as possible
these days as producing excites me more. Although I do try to keep my
hand in on the mixing desk as it is a useful skill to have.
12.Have you had many happy accidents in the studio in
terms of musical ideas / directions?
Lots of the keyboard sounds that were in fact guitars on Lifeblood.
I started doing multiple guitar pedal chains, which I now use a lot
in the studio on other records.
13.Whats the simplest recording and the most complex multi-tracked
recording the band has ever committed to tape + have you ever added
lots of embellishments to a song, only to eventually strip it back-to-basics
so that it resembles the original demo much more closely?
Simplest song recording There have been a lot of very simple
b-sides with just James on acoustic, maybe Didnt My Lord
Most complex song recording 1985
Back-to-basics (demo-like) recording Firefight
14.What are some of the most unusual instruments on a Manics record
that youve worked on?
There is nothing too out there on most of my recordings, but we
have used a Suzuki Omnichord on a lot of songs.
15.And whats the most unusual way that youve approached
making a song?
For me, the most unusual approaches were on the solo albums, when
Nick and James were outside of the band unit and were forced to look
at different ways of working.
16.Compared to previous LPs, Lifeblood was less about instinct and much
more about pursuing different approaches to songwriting and songcraft.
But looking back on this era now, what are your memories of how the
band coped at the time + do you think some music critics and fans overlook
just how accomplished and brave that album actually is?
Well, it was a departure and it really divides people, not least
the band. I am very proud of it, but it was not a commercial success
and that does colour how the record is seen by everyone involved. I
get emails on a regular basis from people who love the record and it
has secured me a lot of work over the years. It was a difficult time
for the band, but seeing them find their feet again with SATT and to
be involved with that record was pleasing. I really feel the solo albums
had a lot to do with the success of SATT, as it certainly gave Nick
and James an added desire to make a great MSP album.
17.What was it like working with James and Nicky as individual solo
artists was there less pressure involved as these records were
almost intended as low-key releases?
They were great fun. Nicks album just started as a 3 day,
2 song session and I think we ended up doing 25 songs over a year. It
was just mainly myself, Nick and Loz Willams and we would be home at
6pm, so they were lovely days. Apart from To See A Friend In Tears
which I produced, my role on James album was to play drums
I think Thats No Way To Tell A Lie is my best drumming
on record to date.
18.Of MSPs b-sides, are there any that you think should have been
album tracks, or perhaps any album tracks that you think of as great
It has to be Prologue To History. I always loved Dead
19.Are there any Manics records / songs that you would have liked
to have had the opportunity to work on and also, given the chance,
are there any tracks of yours that you would now like to modify?
I love the new Postcards album, but probably EMG. I would always
leave old songs alone, for the reason that you would always change something,
but not always for the better. I would always love to do more, but I
am proud to have been part of the story and made some good friends along
20.What has been the most valuable lesson that you have learnt from
producing, engineering and mixing?
Have a finished sonic vision for the song before you start, which
I learnt from James.
21.I know that you never approach sessions in the same way changing
personnel, location and techniques but have there been any particular
studios youve enjoyed working in, or any equipment / people you
have enjoyed working with?
I love York St and Neil Finns Roundhead studios in Auckland, Modern
World in Tetbury is my second home these days, and I have had some great
times at Faster/Stir/Famous (all the same place) in Cardiff. Big Noise,
my old studio was a special place too.
22.Of all the other artists / bands you have collaborated with, which
records are you most pleased with and whats next for you
is there anyone who you would still love to work with?
I am very proud of a lot of the work I have done in New Zealand,
Opshop, The Earlybirds, so many good bands. The Irish band Codes is
a great record, I am on album number five with The Afternoons which
is always a pleasure, but I am very happy with lots of things! My next
session is collaboration with the band Over The Atlantic and Ladyhawke.
My love would be to make a Sigur Rós or Mogwai record.
23.Which albums and songs do you think will define the Manic Street
Preachers legacy + what are some of your personal favourites?
I personally love EMG. Design
will always be
their anthem, but it is their body of work that will be the legacy and
set them apart as a truly great band.
24.Some final quickfire MSP questions, do you have a treasured recording
session, memory, gig, melody, chorus and lyric?
Session SATT sessions summer 2006
Memory The whole of the Greatest Hits Tour
Gig Glasgow 2002
Melody Little Baby Nothing
Lyric Too many good ones! At a push, Tolerate
25.Lastly, chips or cream buns?
Chips with lots of S&V.
A very special thanks to Greg for all of his time
My thinking is, lets not put so much on things
and make everything count a bit more.