- On 12 August 2010
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SUPERMAN MEETS SUPERTRAMP
JOE CHICCARELLI: Let's talk a little bit about Supertramp. How did you get involved with them?
KEN SCOTT: I was originally contacted by A&M Records to do a mix on a track called "Land Ho" at the height of the Bowie stuff. I did it, A&M loved it, but the band was iffy about it and I don't think it was ever actually released. But A&M said, `Look, we'd like you to do an album with them.' I said, `Fine, send me demos,' and the demos were utter crap. It was like I'd get five seconds of a chorus and then it would go to another section, then it would stop and then I'd get the ending of another song, there was . . . it was completely random. I said, `This is ridiculous.' Jack Nelson, this American guy Trident brought in to manage the producers, said, `You know what? A&M are into this band, we should do it.' I said, `It's crap, I don't want to do it.' This carried on for a couple of weeks, finally, they were doing a showcase somewhere and Jack said, `Let's go along and see them and that will be our final yes or no.' I said, `Fine.' So we went down and this time was a complete turnaround. He said, `Oh, no, you were right, don't do them, they're crap.' I said, `Are you kidding? I've got to do this record. They're amazing."
The sessions started off at Trident and we put down tracks and we would take forever, I mean sometimes it took a day-and-a-half to get the snare drum down but I was looking for something and I knew what I wanted and it just took that long to get the sound that I wanted.
And then, after a week or so, we get a phone call from the A&R guy saying that Jerry Moss is in town and he wants to come by and hear some stuff. Oh, no, we're nowhere near far enough along. It was my first experience with an A&R man, not to mention the owner of the label, having not dealt with a record company at all with Bowie.
JC: So in all those records, there was no A&R involvement?
KS: Nothing! It was David, Ronno, and myself. None. We even knew what the single was. The only time was with Ziggy, where there was no single, so we had to go back in and do "Starman." Well, we kind of knew that up front, but we pushed it, but, no, absolutely, I never saw anyone from RCA.
JC: Do you think it had anything to do with there being so many great records released then?
KS: Yeah, artists did what they were meant to do: CREATE. So with Supertramp here's Jerry coming in. This was going to be my first experience dealing with a record company. I was petrified. I didn't know what to expect. He sat down, we played him some of the tracks that we had and they were bare minimum, and he got up at the end, and he said, `Thank you,' and left. We thought, `Oh, crap, that's it, it's all over.' We sort of ended the session there because we thought it's pointless to go on, he's just going to say forget it. We heard back from the A&R guy next day, `Jerry loved it, you have as much time as you want, anything you want, you got it.' So, six months later we finished the album. But that was what I'd learned from the Beatles to the nth degree, and David as well: Try everything.
I mean there were lots of tricks on those records. I was determined not to use typical percussion, for instance, as opposed to like maracas or tambourine, we had drum brushes shaking in front of the mics. You hear the wind and you get the same impression as maracas, but you just haven't heard it before. There's a musical saw on one of the numbers, and all of the sound effects. None of them were stock. We went out and recorded all of them specifically. We knew exactly what we wanted sound effect-wise: to go do it for real.
JC: The dynamics in those records are just so dramatic and that would have been in the mixing process then, no automation on the console, correct?
KS: No, once again, it was all in the mixing. Even though there were a bunch of us there at these sessions. All of the band was there `hands on' at the mixes. We all knew what it had to sound like so there were no arguments about, `Ah, the drums should be up front, the drum or the bass should be up. . . .' We knew what it had to be, so we were working as an ensemble and it was all done in mixing.
JC: Okay. I have to ask about the bass sound because it always sounded so forward and so punchy.
KS: Again, a very simple chain, probably just a DI and a UREI 1176. It's the player — that's his tone.
JC: Okay, so Ken what you're saying is that in most of these cases it's about Great Musicianship coupled with Great Production. It's Chemistry and Kismet, not trade secrets?
KS: Look, great musicians truly make my job easy. I would encourage all of us to encourage the talent in the artists and players. That's where the classics come from.