Phil Da Costa: Young Musicians V Old Record Producers (Ageism In The Music Industry)

Interview | Music Production (Production Lines)

Published in SOS August 1995
Bookmark and Share

People + Opinion : Artists / Engineers / Producers / Programmers

Why do mainstream record producers regard young remixers with such suspicion, and why do thrusting young remixers regard producers as such boring old farts? Engineer/producer Phil Da Costa thinks the answer lies in the different approaches to making records held by producers and DJ/remixers alike.

 

Years ago, kids became interested in making music by picking up an instrument and learning how to play it. Not only were they learning the rudiments of melody, chord structure and composition, but through playing with other musicians, they were learning how to be musicians themselves. They would form bands, play gigs, and maybe even get as far as a record deal, all from the initial desire to play an instrument.

Today's kids, however, have a choice. They can either learn to play an instrument, or with a relatively small outlay they can buy a computer, some sequencing software and a sampler, and learn how to create tracks. By experimenting on computers and DJ decks, they are certainly making music, but they are not learning how to be musicians in the traditional sense, and as a result their compositions can appear to lack a certain musicality.

Maybe a traditional grounding is not needed to make computer-generated dance music, and if dance producers and remixers are creating music that the public enjoys listening to and wants to buy, who has the right to criticise? One thing that should be considered though, is that there is still a definite role for older producers in the dance market, because their experience is invaluable when it comes to recording 'live' instruments.

There is a definite skill involved when working with singers and instrumentalists. A good producer has to act as an interface between the artist and the tape recorder, and coax/encourage/drag a great performance from that artist. Many of the younger producers who started out at DJs and remixers don't have a strong background in production. They haven't worked their way up through the ranks of tea-boy, tape-op, assistant engineer and so on, in a studio where they can learn by watching more experienced people at work. As a result, their general production skills are not as finely tuned as they might be.

Getting a good vocal from an artist is something that really has to be learned through experience, so it's no surprise that when a remixer from a club background is asked to produce a vocalist, they often come unstuck -- not because they don't have the talent, but because they have never had the opportunity to learn the relevant skills, and have no experience of this type of recording. Also, in many dance tracks and remixes, vocals are often so oversimplified that they sometimes become nothing more than a repetitive phrase or riff. When a track is remixed, the remixer may change the whole backing track, restructure the vocals, alter the tempo, and even change the key, resulting in the vocals becoming so divorced from the music that the two elements are no longer dependent on each other.

If you want to create a cross-over hit, you often need a more emotionally stimulating vocal and lyric as well as a great backing track. Record companies now recognise this, and tend to employ separate producers and remixers. They get the more experienced producer to record a good vocal track and then rely on the DJ/remixer, who usually understands the current dance floor trends, to come up with the backing track to launch the record via the clubs into the charts.

There is no moral to all this, but there is a conclusion -- a little more understanding and teamwork -- something that was advocated by many producers and remixers at the RePro Remixing seminar, held last year. In theory this is a great idea, but in practice the more 'traditional' producer and the remixer/DJ have too little in common for it to work successfully. For the time being at least, dance music will continue to be split between two people in two different studios, producing music in totally different ways, but who are both ultimately working towards the same basic goal -- a hit record.

Most recently, Phil Da Costa has been concentrating on his production, remixing, and songwriting career. He has produced singles by Ipso Facto (Debut/Skratch), Jenny Jay (indisc/Arcade) and remixes for Imagination (Berwick St), Conrad (indisc/Arcade) and Jannicke (MD Records, Norway). Latest productions include two tracks on the new Jaki Graham album Real Life (Avex/Pulse 8) and five tracks on the Technoclassix album (Avex). Comfortable working in any style of music as an engineer, producer or remixer, Phil is busy with his latest project -- his own 24-track pre-production studio.

Similar articles

Scott Jacoby: Producing Ronnie Spector

Video Feature

Thumbnail for article: Scott Jacoby: Producing Ronnie Spector

This month's in-depth video interview features Grammy-winning producer Scott Jacoby. He welcomes us into his own Eusonia studios in New York to show how he created a ‘60s-inspired track for the former Ronnettes lead singer.

Thank you to all our readers over the last 30 years...

You are in good company!

Thumbnail for article: Thank you to all our readers over the last 30 years...

“I admire Sound On Sound as the survivor amongst the professional media"...

Rupert Neve: The SOS Interview (Video)

Video Feature

Thumbnail for article: Rupert Neve: The SOS Interview (Video)

In this month's video interview  we meet a living legend of the audio industry, Mr Rupert Neve himself. Over 25 minutes, we talk transformers, software modelling, and get the story of how he created the world's first high-Q equaliser.

75 Years Of The Shure Unidyne 55

One Direction

Thumbnail for article: 75 Years Of The Shure Unidyne 55

In 1939, Shure revolutionised the music industry with a microphone so successful that it is still in production today!

Inside Track: James Taylor's Before This World

Secrets Of The Mix Engineers: Dave O’Donnell

Thumbnail for article: Inside Track: James Taylor's Before This World

The art of music production lies in serving the song — and working with James Taylor, Dave O’Donnell felt that modern production trends would hinder his aim of capturing emotive performances.

John Chowning

Pioneer Of Electronic Music & Digital Synthesis

Thumbnail for article: John Chowning

A visionary in the field of electronic music, John Chowning invented FM synthesis and set up CCMRA, one of the world’s most influential research centres.

Richard King: How To Record Acoustic Ensembles

Recording Yo-Yo Ma

Thumbnail for article: Richard King: How To Record Acoustic Ensembles

Engineer Richard King has brought the art of ensemble recording to new heights in both classical and folk/pop spheres.

Throbbing Gristle ‘Hamburger Lady’

Classic Tracks

Thumbnail for article: Throbbing Gristle ‘Hamburger Lady’

Throbbing Gristle’s highly individualist approach to music extended as far as making their own instruments and, ultimately, their own genre.

Inside Track: Josh Groban’s album Stages

Secrets Of The Mix Engineers: Andy Selby & Bernie Herms

Thumbnail for article: Inside Track: Josh Groban’s album Stages

A combination of technical wizardry and old-school craft helped Bernie Herms and Andy Selby bring Josh Groban’s Broadway album to life.

Pete Keppler

Mixing Bowie, NIN & Katy Perry

Thumbnail for article: Pete Keppler

Pete Keppler’s career has seen him mix shows for some of the biggest artists in the world. We asked him how it all happened.

Slaves - Are You Satisfied?

Jolyon Thomas: Producing Are You Satisfied?

Thumbnail for article: Slaves - Are You Satisfied?

The success of Slaves’ debut album depended on producer Jolyon Thomas finding a way to bottle their raw live energy.

Vlado Meller

Mastering Engineer

Thumbnail for article: Vlado Meller

As one of the world’s leading mastering engineers, Vlado Meller has enjoyed great success — and his share of controversy.

‘Voodoo Ray’ by A Guy Called Gerald

Classic Tracks

Thumbnail for article: ‘Voodoo Ray’ by A Guy Called Gerald

Hailed as the first British acid house single, A Guy Called Gerald’s sublime ‘Voodoo Ray’ has since become a classic in its own right.

Faith No More

Bill Gould: Recording Sol Invictus

Thumbnail for article: Faith No More

Recording and producing your own music is always a challenge — especially if, like Faith No More, your previous albums have been done by the best in the business!

Inside Track: Alabama Shakes’ Sound & Color

Secrets Of The Mix Engineers: Shawn Everett

Thumbnail for article: Inside Track: Alabama Shakes’ Sound & Color

In the making of Alabama Shakes’ Sound & Color, producer Blake Mills and engineer Shawn Everett had almost unheard–of licence to experiment — and took full advantage.

Oasis & Britannia Row: Live At Knebworth

Super Sonics

Thumbnail for article: Oasis & Britannia Row: Live At Knebworth

Oasis’s 1996 gig at Knebworth marked the end of an era for point–source PA. We asked the people who made it happen what has changed since.

Scoring I Survived A Zombie Apocalypse

Andrew Barnabas & Paul Arnold

Thumbnail for article: Scoring I Survived A Zombie Apocalypse

How do you write music for a TV show you haven’t seen yet? It helps if you can draw on years of experience composing for video games...

Funkhaus Berlin Studio Tour

Video Feature

Thumbnail for article: Funkhaus Berlin Studio Tour

Built in the '50s as the broadcast headquarters for the GDR’s state radio, this complex is home to some of the world's most breathtaking recording studios. Watch our video tour...

Hot Chip

Alexis Taylor, Joe Goddard & Mark Ralph: Recording Why Make Sense?

Thumbnail for article: Hot Chip

Down in Hot Chip’s bunker-like basement studio HQ in Hoxton, the five members of the London band are coaxing strange sounds from an array of analogue synths.

Inside Track: Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly

Secrets Of The Mix Engineers: Derek Ali

Thumbnail for article: Inside Track: Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly

Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly is one of the most ambitious hip-hop albums of recent years. Derek Ali was Lamar’s right-hand man during its making.

Spacebomb

Matthew E White, Trey Pollard & Natalie Prass: Spacebomb Studios

Thumbnail for article: Spacebomb

Spacebomb Studios’ old-school production values and teamwork have made Richmond, Virginia one of the hottest recording locations in the USA.

Al Schmitt: Recording Bob Dylan's Shadows In The Night

Inside Track: Secrets Of A Mix Engineer

Thumbnail for article: Al Schmitt: Recording Bob Dylan's Shadows In The Night

Bob Dylan’s album of Sinatra covers is an unlikely triumph. So good, in fact, that it didn’t need mixing!

Jacquire King, Lowell Reynolds & James Bay: Recording Chaos And The Calm

Breaking Bay

Thumbnail for article: Jacquire King, Lowell Reynolds & James Bay: Recording Chaos And The Calm

Working with super–producer Jacquire King was a dream come true for James Bay. In a unique interview, King explains how he oversaw the recording of Bay’s hit debut album.

Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry & Daniel Boyle: Recording Back On The Controls

Back To The Ark

Thumbnail for article: Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry & Daniel Boyle: Recording Back On The Controls

Reggae fan Daniel Boyle painstakingly researched the equipment Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry used in his groundbreaking Black Ark studio — then made an album with the dub legend himself.

 

Home | Search | News | Current Issue | Tablet Mag | Articles | Forum | Blog | Subscribe | Shop | Readers Ads

Advertise | Information | Privacy Policy | Support | Login Help

 

Email: Contact SOS

Telephone: +44 (0)1954 789888

Fax: +44 (0)1954 789895

Registered Office: Media House, Trafalgar Way, Bar Hill, Cambridge, CB23 8SQ, United Kingdom.

Sound On Sound Ltd is registered in England and Wales.

Company number: 3015516 VAT number: GB 638 5307 26

           

We accept the following payment methods in our web Shop:


Pay by PayPal - fast and secure  VISA  MasterCard  Solo  Electron  Maestro (used to be Switch)  

All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2016. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents.
The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.

Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media