Graham Reid | | 3 min read
Our variations on the Famous Elsewhere Questionnaire (songwriter, writer, filmmaker and so on) bring some interesting – and regrettably sometimes mundane – responses.
But it is a real pleasure to inaugurate a Famous Elsewhere Producer Questionnaire with New Zealander Pacific Heights (known to his family as Devin Abrams) not just because his new album The Stillness is such a gem, but because he has so many interesting things to say in his responses.
He spent a long time in Shapeshifter but The Stillness finds him in very different and highly enjoyable/rewarding territory.
Ladies and gentlemen we offer our debut Producer Questionnaire to Devin Abrams.
Read on . . .
The song where you really first heard the production was . . .
Human Nature from Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. Everything was just bliss when I first heard this. It wasn’t until many years later, when I started producing myself that I realised how amazing the production is on this song.
Ever bought an album for the producer rather than the artist? If so which?
Not intentionally. I always have bought music purely on how the finished product and all it all its parts sound – song writing first, then production, mix, master etc. etc.
The one producer you will always listen to, even if they disappointed you previously, is?
Quincy Jones. I don’t really think there is anyone who’s mastered the art of production as he has.
As producers: George Martin or Joe Meek; Phil Spector or Rick Rubin; Quincy Jones or Dr Dre; Brian Eno or Nigel Godrich?
Well unfortunately I think I answered part of this one with my previous question…. But from your list, George Martin, Rick Rubin, Quincy, Eno (This is really hard as I love Godrich but Eno has been of significant influence to me, not just for production but in how to think about music and art so I have to choose him)
The three songs (yours, or by others) you would love everyone to hear because they so well produced are . . .
Well I’ll be cheeky and put one of my songs on this list as I feel I really nailed it with the production and feel immensely proud of it is ‘Buried by Burden’ featuring Louis Baker. I’m most proud of the restraint and space this song holds. I still love Radiohead’s ‘Climbing Up the Walls’ from their ‘Ok Computer’ album. I remember thinking how fresh the vocal production was at the time, and to listen to it now and feel that it hasn’t dated at all is a testament to the experimentation they were applying at the time.
I also have to put Paul Simon’s ‘Diamond on the Soles Her Shoes’ in my top three.
The tones and instrument choices weren’t anything new, as the musicians from South Africa that featured on the album had been playing that style for a while, but the combination of Simon’s pop vocals and melodies, with his arrangement was a stroke of genius. Perfectly balanced and instantly makes you tick into a smile.
The recording studio you'd most like to visit just to get the vibe would be . . .?
I would love to visit Electric Lady Studios in New York. Some seriously deep music has been recorded there.
The best book on music or musicians you have read is . . .
I personally love ‘How Music Works’ by David Bryne. A must read in my opinion.
If you could co-produce with anyone it would be . . .
James Blake, this guy is on some other planet with his production.
The last CD or vinyl album you bought was . . . (And your most recent downloads include . . .)
Well James Blake of course, his new ‘Colour in Anything’ album which just came out.
One song, royalties for life, never have to work again. The song by anyone, yourself included, which wouldn't embarrass you would be . . .
‘I’m on Fire’ Bruce Springsteen. This is no one hit wonder song of course, and it wasn’t even his top charting song, but shoot this is one you could cruise through life off and die with dignity.
Analogue or digital; vinyl, CD or streaming?
Anything works for me, I like it all. First choice for listening where possible is vinyl. I have a mixture of analogue and digital equipment, but tend to lean on more digital/software-based tools these days.
Production on a daily basis: What's the ratio of inspiration/perspiration?
Produce everyday, even if only token. I have, if not learnt lessons off daily outputs, have at least kept my chops up for that moment of inspiration.
Ever woken up hearing the sound of a song fully formed in your head? If so which one?
I have, it is not released yet. At least I think I got close to producing/writing what I dreamed.
And finally, what do you as a producer bring to an artist which you believe can be your unique contribution?
I am emotionally driven music producer; constantly searching for music that has emotion as its foundation. While this isn’t probably that unique, I have felt that it has always lent itself to producing music that will hopefully be considered timeless as opposed to trendy.