Graham Reid | | 4 min read
That Jonathan Pearce of the Beths should be emerging as a fine producer will perhaps come as no surprise to those who know he was in Artisan Guns for three albums before the Beths – and they co-produced their albums, so he would have been watching and listening carefully.
He has also done mastering (for Paul Cathro of Ha the Unclear), recorded and mixed for the folk duo Great North (and recorded Dirty Pixels) and studied jazz at the School of Music at Auckland Uni where he met the other Beths (although he told the Listener's James Belfield that jazz studies gave them gave him a “very clear idea of what we didn't want to do”).
He studied piano but in the Beths he is their guitarist . . . and producer.
With their excellent new album Jump Rope Gazers doing the business everywhere and the band touring soon tour we thought it time to ask hm some producer-type questions . . .
The song where you really first heard the production was . .. .
I remember it being explained to me that the production on the Bowie Berlin records was great, or important or something. I didn’t like it in my teens (there’s all this stuff around the music?!). I got into The Beatles just a little after the Anthology book and extended materials came out. Being able to hear their early recordings, and then track how they developed, that showed me what ‘production’ was. The Love soundtrack came out, and you could hear the Eleanor Rigby strings in isolation, which was an ear opener after imagining what the elements of a production sound like in isolation for so long.
Ever bought an album for the producer rather than the artist? If so which?
Honestly no, I think there are different types of producer and I’m not really drawn to the ‘Auteurs’ of the craft. With the possible exception of Holland, Dozier and Holland, although I bought records because they were ‘Motown’, not because I wanted to hear the producer’s work particularly.
The one producer you will always listen to, even if they disappointed you previously, is?
Eric Valentine. I listen to and read about his outlook on music making, his advice, his techniques. He made records at a time where there was the expectation of sonic perfection, and the budget to back it up, but he went about fulfilling that in a really creative way. He made many records I don’t like! But some are gems which will always be an example to me.
As producers: George Martin or Joe Meek; Phil Spector or Rick Rubin; Quincy Jones or Dr Dre; Brian Eno or Nigel Godrich?
George Martin, Rick Rubin, Dr Dre, Nigel Godrich
The three songs (yours, or by others) you would love everyone to hear because they so well produced are . . .
Summer’s Cauldron - XTC (Todd Rundgren)
Better Get Hit In Your Soul - Charles Mingus (Teo Macero)
Define A Transparent Dream - Olivia Tremor Control (Robert Schneider)
The recording studio you'd most like to visit just to get the vibe would be . . .?
Gold Coast Recorders, Bridgeport CT. (now defunct)
The best book on music or musicians you have read is . . .
A Riot Of Our Own - Johnny Green
If you could co-produce with anyone it would be . . .
If the artist has a vision and motivation, I want to be co-producing with them.
The last CD or vinyl album you bought was . . . (And your most recent downloads include . . .)
Pickle Darling - Bigness, Richard Dawson - The Magic Bridge
One song, royalties for life, never have to work again. The song by anyone, yourself included, which wouldn't embarrass you would be . . .
Where You Lead - Carole King
Analogue or digital; vinyl, CD or streaming?
Doesn’t really matter, I don’t think any format or tech really gets between a great song and the listener! Personally I’m a digital recordist, and mostly consume music via streaming, though I do own a bit of vinyl.
Production on a daily basis: What's the ratio of inspiration/perspiration?
50/50 at it’s best. I try to be inspired while I perspire. I do perspire a lot. It cant always be 50/50.
Ever woken up hearing the sound of a song fully-formed in your head? If so which one?
I’m very into sleep as a problem solving technique. I have only once woken up with a song fully formed though. It is out there, but it’s not my best work. Private Universe covered by Artisan Guns. However I regularly have inspirations while dozing off (annoyingly easy to lose them!) or after “sleeping on it”.
And finally, what do you as a producer bring to an artist which you believe can be your unique contribution?
I think it depends on the needs of the artist. I aim to be a friend and support person. Someone an artist can trust, someone who thinks about their health and their feelings and their dreams. On an ongoing basis, I try to have the emotional maturity to match that goal, to be emotionally aware. I try to always be learning and I’m inspired by those who never grow up to get stuck in their ways.