Graham Reid | | 5 min read
When trying to explain to radio listeners recently just who Trevor Rekkie is and why he's so important, it quickly became clear that he was too big a subject to encapsulate with any economy.
He has record labels (Pagan and Antennae) which were launching pads for Bic Runga, Greg Johnson, the Warratahs and many others; he is a musican (Car Crash Set's elelctronica to playing guitar on albums for artists on his labels); he has helmed his own groups on the cusp of jazz, ambient and electronica (Cosa Nostra, Trip to the Moon) and . . .
He has been a longtime contributor to New Zealand Musician, done numerous and very wonderful (and somewhat elsewhere) radio programmes and . . .
And with longtime compadre Tom Ludvigson he has co-produced their new Trip to the Moon album A Traveller's Tale (reviewed very favourably here) so we thought it timely to toss him our Famous Elsewhere Producer Questionnaire . . .
The song where you really first heard the production was . . .
To be honest I never really heard any production as such because I never really knew what the producer meant or did. I kind of just listened to the music and if I liked it then I admired the ‘production’. It wasn’t until I started reading overseas mags like NME et al. I started to comprehend that the producer was a contributor of sorts. So I guess it was probably the Beatles and ‘All You Need is Love’ cos I had read about Sir George Martin’s contribution - however, that was well in retrospect. "Tomorrow Never Knows" off Revolver is genius as well.
Ever bought an album for the producer rather than the artist? If so which?
Once again, it was after the event, but I think Brian Eno was the first producer that I comprehended was making something different. The album was Music For Airports (1978) which I was turned onto by an English musician who raved about the ‘production’ when I was living in London. I was always a Roxy Music fan and liked the Eno solo albums and the Fripp and Eno album ‘No Pussyfooting’ (73) but Airports was when I realized that Eno was so much more than a non-musician. My English musician friend kind of explained to me why it was a work of genius. I agreed but it was ages before I understood what he was talking about.
The one producer you will always listen to, even if they disappointed you previously, is?
Eno and (in retrospect) Brian Wilson. Good Vibrations thru to Caroline No are master-pieces. I didn’t know that til later tho’.
As producers: George Martin or Joe Meek; Phil Spector or Rick Rubin; Quincy Jones or Dr Dre; Brian Eno or Nigel Godrich?
Pretty much all of them and for many different reasons cos they are all such different sorts of producers. George Martin was deservedly called the 5th Beatle. And the band trusted him. I made a program for RNZ about Joe Meek and researching him realized what he accomplished was technically pushing boundaries. Spector had a vision but terrible people skills so probably him the least. Rick Rubin for pretty much re inventing Johnny Cash in such a way that demonstrated he could be brilliant and minimalist and had a vision that he could translate to the artist. Dre is fascinating because his musical palette was (is) so extraordinary wide and transcends so many musical ethnicities and styles.
The three songs (yours, or by others) you would love everyone to hear because they so well produced are . . .
The original Dr Who theme by Delia Derbyshire, Javier Limón who produced the Anoushka Shankar album Traveller and Bert Berns for ‘Piece of my Heart’ (the Erma Franklin version) and his work with Garnett Mimms .. "Teo" Macero who did most of the crucial Miles Davis stuff (especially Bitches Brew) was no slouch either but when the talent is that good its hard to determine what he ‘produced’. Working with Glyn Tucker Jnr back in the Mandrill days was when I could actually apply and contribute something, albeit informed by something I had heard elsewhere else by someone else.
The recording studio you'd most like to visit just to get the vibe would be . . .?
Have to be (predictably) Abbey Road – but I haven't been to Memphis yet …
The best book on music or musicians you have read is . . .
NZ music includes Simon Grigg’s ‘How Bizarre - Pauly Fuemana and the Song That Stormed the World’ and Chris Bourke’s ‘Blue Smoke’… internationally I devour music biographies. But I think Robert Gordon’s book ‘Can't Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters’ is fabulous …
If you could co-produce with anyone it would be . . .
Well, it depends on who the artist would be - but once again I think Eno cos I think he’s lateral, intellectual, articulate and a calming influence and has so many great one liners. I love the advice of ‘“Go to an extreme and then retreat to a more useful position”
The last CD or vinyl album you bought was . . . (And your most recent downloads include . . .)
The last CD I bought (acquired) was The Calais Sessions which was recorded in the Calais Refugee Camp (called The Jungle) cos I’m interviewing the woman who curated the album. It was made in the Camp and reminds us of what matters … humanity, dignity and a place to call home. The last download was a track called ‘Imtidad’ by Moroccan Oud virtuoso Driss El Maloumi. I love oud music. Once again, both of these are work related acquisitions.
One song, royalties for life, never have to work again. The song by anyone, yourself included, which wouldn't embarrass you would be . . .
Difficult cos the reality is very few songwriters can achieve that but I certainly admire what Daniel Miller achieved with the comparatively miniscule revenue stream he earned from Warm Leatherette (recorded as The Normal)…
Analogue or digital; vinyl, CD or streaming?
I don't own a modern phone but for work and practicality I’m afraid most of my acquisitions are via I-Tunes. My CD player and stereo system no longer function and I live in front of my lap top with headphones which would explain my tinnitus and anti social demeanor.
Production on a daily basis: What's the ratio of inspiration/perspiration?
As Paul Kelly once told me inspiration only comes when you shut out the world and toss your ‘creative’ line into the pool. Sometimes you will get nothing and sometimes you will pull in a big one, but you gotta throw your line into the pool. Most of my inspiration comes thru collaboration and/ or herb and noodling around on a 12 string acoustic open tuned to Dm.
Ever woken up hearing the sound of a song fully-formed in your head? If so which one?
No – I’m not that good.
And finally, what do you as a producer bring to an artist which you believe can be your unique contribution?
Basically, in the production work I am involved with it’s usually determining what isn’t working. So it’s a kind of an editing process and just stripping stuff away, usually after I’ve insisted that we put it in.
Its like that famous Oscar Wilde quote ; I spent all morning putting in a comma and all afternoon taking it out… but of late (over the last couple of years) I’ve subscribed to the Ornette Coleman theory where he said “The sound is the freedom. The chord don't mean nothing’. That really resonates for a lot of the stuff I’ve recorded with Tom in Trip To The Moon and also the Cosa albums.