1 Giant Leap

Duncan Bridgeman • Travels With A Laptop Studio

Published in SOS February 2003
Bookmark and Share

People + Opinion : Artists / Engineers / Producers / Programmers

Home studio photos: Richard Ecclestone

1 Giant Leap recording a splendidly named Indian drummer in Rajsthan. "That sums up the whole project, really; Mr Hairy Ears with his Sony headphones on, Jamie thinking about the next move, and me going 'Oh my God, is it recording, is the level OK...?'"

Many people love the idea of laptop recording, but few have put it into practice like 1 Giant Leap. Their acclaimed album and DVD project was recorded on an Apple Powerbook during a six-month journey round the world — with a little help from some friends...


Matt Bell

In early 1999, I took a phone call at the Sound On Sound office and had my first encounter with someone calling himself Duncan Bridgeman. Brimming with nervous energy, the caller introduced himself as a producer and asked if I would be interested in a feature on recording with a laptop. I was intrigued; at the time, plenty of people were talking about dispensing with desktop computers and using laptops to liberate their studios and make themselves mobile — but few people had actually attempted it. I asked what he had in mind, and he explained that he was taking a friend and embarking on a round-the-world trip, from the jungles of Africa to the streets of New York by way of India and Australasia, and planning to record any musicians he could find on the way into his Apple Powerbook, using it as a fully fledged multitrack recording studio. His intention thereby, he claimed, was to create a CD, DVD, and documentary film, all three of which would provide a snapshot of mankind at the turn of the new Millennium, and form a vast multimedia project designed to, as he put it, "celebrate the unity and the diversity of humanity".

Everything fell into place. Duncan Bridgeman was clearly completely mad. Adopting the soothing tone I reserve for putting unhinged authors of wildly impractical articles on the backmost of burners, I asked a few polite questions, listened carefully, and suggested (not untruthfully) that we couldn't actually do very much at that point, and that such a feature would at least have to wait until after he'd collected his raw audio material and returned from his trip. I then drew the conversation to a close in a friendly fashion and rang off, commenting to my colleagues in the SOS office that I expected the entire project to have trouble getting out of NW10, let alone as far as the North-West Frontier Province.

Two years later, by complete coincidence, I ran into Duncan in person in a London studio while interviewing somebody else. But by then, I knew exactly who he was. He was half of the creative force behind 1 Giant Leap, the project he had described to me, and which he and his creative partner Jamie Catto had subsequently made a reality. At the time, it was already making waves in the press worldwide, having secured the participation of a bewildering variety of famous and not-so-famous people from all over the planet, including philosophers, authors, actors, businessmen, scientists, and, of course, musicians, from the completely unknown to the likes of Michael Stipe, Robbie Williams and Neneh Cherry.

Now, another year later, the project has spawned a Top 10 UK hit single, a worldwide presentational tour, numerous musical concerts, and, of course, the promised CD, DVD and documentary. And what results! The antithesis of modern albums that entertain for as long as their hit single is playing and then go into a sharp decline, the 1 Giant Leap CD is, in 2003, that rarest of commodities: a record of astounding ambition, artistry and depth, but one which is also tremendously engaging, and rewards repeated plays with something new to commend it each time. It's not short of some fine tunes, either. Almost unbelievably, the DVD, which contains both the music and films, is even better.

If I wore a hat, I would take it off to Duncan Bridgeman; if I had any Dijon mustard handy, I would eat my words. The very least I could do was interview him for a feature in SOS. After all, that was what he had rung up for in the first place.

  Have Laptop, Will Travel: 1 Giant Leap's Portable Studio Setup  
  The initial work on 1 Giant Leap's tracks was done on Eilean Shona off Scotland in Emagic's Logic Audio running on Duncan's 400MHz G3 Powerbook laptop. A variety of hardware was used, including an Emu sampler and numerous synths, such as a Roland JV2080 and JD800, a Korg Prophecy, Wavestation and Wavestation AD, and an Oberheim Matrix 1000, as well as guitars and basses. These were all recorded into the laptop as audio before Duncan and Jamie left the UK.

The G3 400 laptop running Logic Audio also formed the heart of the 1 Giant Leap portable setup. Two AKG C1000 condenser mics, and Shure SM57 and 58 dynamics, plugged into a compact Roland VM3100 digital mixer, the stereo digital output of which plugged into a Digigram VXPocket PCMCIA soundcard in the G3 Mac (the VXPocket was, for a while, the only PCMCIA I/O card suitable for use with laptops). "I only had a stereo input to the computer, and it meant I had to balance all the mics quite carefully in the mixer, but it wasn't much of a problem, as it was only at the beginning that we attempted to record groups of people — we soon realised that it wasn't really practical."

For monitoring, Duncan took five pairs of Sony headphones, and a Yamaha DJX keyboard with built-in speakers, which he'd had modified. "Whenever I put a jack into it, it killed the internal sounds, and whatever I put in came out of the speakers. So I used the keyboard for monitoring. I'd come straight out of the laptop, into the DJX, and then I'd have my headphones in the back of the DJX. My contributors would all be listening to headphones, and I'd play them a bit of whatever music I had at that moment. I could juggle the mix and control what they had to react to; sometimes I'd only give them one thing, if I particularly wanted them to listen to that."

The Yamaha DJX also doubled as a table, onto which Duncan usually put the G3 laptop. "I had it all worked out. I had a guitar with me in a flightcase, so I could sit on that, and get my legs under the DJX, which had a metal panel on top with velcro for the laptop to sit on so that it wouldn't fall off... the Roland mixer was down at my side, and in the metal box that I took, there was a MIDI interface, so I could play MIDI in from the DJX into Logic, and a half-rack Roland JV1010. There were no proper virtual instruments then, you see, so the JV1010 was my main synth for composing on the road.

"I had 12V battery belts, with 12 elements, like cameramen wear, and I fed that into the metal box. That powered the DJX, the laptop, the mixer, and the JV1010. The power requirements weren't too bad — I could work for about five or six hours before the belt pack was exhausted."

The visual side comprised two cameras (operated by 1 Giant Leap's cameraman Ben Cole and Jamie's girlfriend Jessica Howie), a tripod, and a circular blue screen, so the background could be replaced later at the video-editing stage.

"And that was it! Oh no, it wasn't — there was also a mic stand. That was a bastard to carry around..."

 

Beginnings

Like many complex achievements, 1 Giant Leap began as a simple idea — in this case a straight musical collaboration. Duncan and Jamie both have successful histories in the music business behind them, Duncan as a pop producer in the late '80s and early '90s, and Jamie as the art director of the thinking clubber's crossover act Faithless. One day, they got talking about how the modern record business was obsessed with dividing music into categories, and began considering what they could do to blur the boundaries. They held a shared admiration for such '80s cross-cultural works as Peter Gabriel's world-music project Passion and Brian Eno and David Byrne's My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, and decided to undertake something similar, but with a twist made possible by recent technological developments. These albums had introduced world music performers like Baaba Maal and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to the West, but why, in this age of ostensibly portable recording equipment, could Duncan and Jamie not go to record their favourite performers in their home environment? They could, of course — but they were determined to make a properly collaborative, interactive project, and that meant taking a multitrack recording environment with them.

Speaking at his home studio in North London, Duncan explains why: "When we said we were taking a laptop to record to, nearly everyone said we were mad. 'It'll crash,' they said, or 'Take a DAT as backup,' or even, 'Just take a DAT, and forget the computer!' But I thought that if I did that, it would make the trip redundant. The whole point was that I had a multitrack studio with me, and that I could retake things, and the players could hear their contributions in the context of the backing tracks. The tracks also built up as we travelled around, so when we were in Bombay recording a tabla player, he would be hearing the drummers that we'd already recorded in Senegal, say, and reacting to them. That could make him play something that he's never played before.

Duncan Bridgeman at his home studio.

"I also wanted to be able to listen, add and make alterations to tracks on the move if I needed to, by comping and editing. Basically, what we wanted was to take the studio out of a little room in London and put it into the world."

Duncan and Jamie put together some sample-based demos with which to present their case, and these came to the attention of Palm Pictures MD and former owner of Island Records Chris Blackwell, who was so impressed that he came up with an astoundingly generous deal.

"Chris asked us what we wanted to do, and we said we'd stolen loads of stuff to make the demos, from the TV, from CDs, and from old cassettes, and we'd like to make field trips. We had no idea of making a film at that stage, we just wanted to replace the samples with real performances. That dictated the places we wanted to go to, because we wanted to replace specific samples from specific places. We had specific countries, specific types of music and even specific musicians in mind.

"Then he said 'If you're going, make a film of it,' because Jamie had made a couple of pop videos for Faithless. But neither of us had really had any experience of film-making before. Our next question was, 'What's the budget?' And he just said, 'Well, I've never done anything like this before... let me know when you need money!' He basically trusted us, and gave us the opportunity to go anywhere we wanted. So of course, we agreed — and then we went away wondering what we were actually going to do, and how!"

In one night of frantic brainstorming, the pair came up with the concept of a 12-chapter film, in which each chapter would explore a fundamental theme of human existence, and would be accompanied by the collaborative music of the original concept. The visual content of each film would be created in a similar collaborative way, by finding interesting people to talk to on their travels and filming them discussing their opinions on the 12 main themes of the project. "We like talking about life, so we thought that as we travelled, we'd have that conversation with all the people we met. The intention wasn't to provide any answers, just to give opinions an outlet." In a further extension of the original musical concept, the pair decided to seek out some of their personal heroes to interview for the project, such as Kurt Vonnegut, Dennis Hopper, Brian Eno and Anita Roddick.

Planning & Preparation

Despite having the financial backing of Palm Pictures, the project called for a vast amount of preparation. Duncan and Jamie spent many months pulling every string they could to contact the artists and celebrities they wished to collaborate with, in a bid to persuade them to take part. They also had to design a completely portable audio-visual setup to take with them (see the Have Laptop, Will Travel box for more information on the gear choices they made), and create a feasible round-the-world itinerary.

The Mahotella Queens singing 'All Alone'.

Their planning paid off. Once they'd become practised at it, they eventually got the process of collaboration off to a fine art. "We could be totally guerrilla about it. We could turn up in someone's house, be ready to record in about 10 minutes, and we were often gone inside an hour, or two hours at the most. That meant it wasn't a heavy time commitment for people. And if they weren't happy with what they'd done, they just didn't sign the release form."

Rather than riskily leave inspiration to chance while they were travelling, Duncan and Jamie also pre-prepared some basic music, Duncan holing himself up for two months on a remote Scottish island, Eilean Shona, to write. Between 15 and 20 sample-, synth- and guitar-based tracks for the project resulted, stored in Emagic's Logic Audio on Duncan's G3 Powerbook, and ensuring that when the trip began, the musicians they encountered would have some music (and, perhaps more significantly, a constant tempo) to work to. "We had to have something strict enough to give us musical security, but flexible enough to allow us leeway to add collaborators. So a lot of the tracks were harmonically simple, to give the other musicians a bit of scope. The strict tempo could be seen as a bit of a restriction, but it was also a blessing, as it meant not only that collaborations added at different times stayed in time, but it also made it easier for me to take vocals off certain tracks and use them in others if I wanted to.

"When we were planning our trip, we started in Senegal, because we had wanted to work with Baaba Maal, and he was on Palm Pictures, so it seemed like a sensible thing to do. We made up the rest of the trip by working out all the places we wanted to go to and then putting them together in a sensible order.

"In the end, we nailed down only about 10 percent of the people we worked with before we left. In a lot of the places, we didn't really know anybody; we just knew we wanted music from a particular region or a particular country. So in those places, rather than try to arrange everything session by session ourselves, we managed to set up at least one person in every country who was on our wavelength, and who could meet us at the airport with a van and a list of potential people to see. Then we just crammed in as many things as we could. In most countries, that worked. Thank heavens for email, because virtually everyone has it, and we were still able to organise things that way while travelling."

  The New 1 Giant Leap Portable Setup  
  The portable setup served 1 Giant Leap well in the field, but on his return to the UK, Duncan knew it was time to upgrade. "I knew I had to get something edited fast, and by the time I got back, the G3 laptop was starting to look a bit old, so I got a G4 500MHz dual-processor Mac — they came out at just the right time, and made a phenomenal difference. Luckily, Emagic were really together and brought out dual-processor support for Logic just as the Macs came out.

"I used a Yamaha 01V desk, but just to control the outputs to my speakers — apart from that, I had no outboard gear at all. My synth parts were all already recorded as audio, and there was no need for processing outboard, because that was all done in the computer, mainly with a lot of native Logic plug-ins, because you can use lots of them without eating up your computer's DSP. There was also the inevitable Auto-Tune plug-in, which was invaluable on ethnic flutes and the like. When you've been to Thailand, you really need Auto-Tune!

"I've still got the Dual 500 here in my studio, but now, I'm doing almost everything in my Titanium G4 laptop. I've got a Gigabyte of RAM and a 48GB drive, and I'm really enjoying using Logic and nothing else. A couple of years ago, I had this program to do one thing, and this to do another, and now Logic's much more all-encompassing, with the synths and samplers built in. As a former AkaI S-series sampler user, it's a joy that EXS24 saves its samples with your song. I still can't believe that; I keep expecting the bass to be missing or something."

Given the strides in technology since his first trip, I assume Duncan would do things rather differently now, but it seems I'm mistaken. "Well, I could take a multi-channel input to the computer, but as I said, I didn't record more than one person at a time very often anyway. And I think I'd still take the Roland JV1010 over a software synth. The JV is a real workhorse, which is something that I don't think there's a virtual instrument equivalent of yet; they're all specifically targeted, like the B4 at Hammond users. Personally, I think Roland should bring out a PCI or PCMCIA card with a JD800, a D50 and a JV2080 on it, and maybe even an optional hardware controller like their little grooveboxes. I hope their engineers are on that right now!

"The one bit of kit I really need is the Apogee MiniMe. At last, a battery-operated mic preamp with a compressor! It's amazing how many people have made one without a compressor.

"Finally, I'd take a new mic stand of my own design. It's three-legged, and made of lightweight aluminium, but has a bag hanging underneath. Then, wherever you are, you fill the bag with rocks, soil or sand, and you've got a stable stand."

 

A Rather Large Field Recording Trip

Beginning in October 1999, Duncan and Jamie set off on their six-month trip. They took in Senegal, Ghana, South Africa, Uganda, India, Nepal, Sikkim, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and the USA, nearly always heading East, and returned to London in March 2000. This only gave them about a week to 10 days in each place. "It was pretty high-pressure stuff. You know, you arrive in say, Ghana, and in the six or seven days you're there, you need to find something worth recording! In most places, though, we found something that was worth it, as well as plenty that wasn't.

"The first track me and Jamie had done together, 'This Is What Comes Through To Us', had this sampled chant on it that I'd had on a DAT for years. I didn't know anything else about it. But when we got to Senegal and played the track to Baaba Maal, with the sample in it, he said 'Oh, that's Fulani singing,' which is his tribe. He took us to them, and we got to replace the sample with singing from the right tribe.

Maori singer Whiri Mako Black.

"We went to a hut, we didn't know what was going on, it was 40 degrees, and it started filling up with people who were all wearing the same sort of clothes. I said to Jamie, 'I think something's about to happen — I'd better get the mics set up!' So we slapped up some mics, got the cameras going, and they were off. There's this tradition all over Africa but especially in Senegal of drum calls, where you sing and play the rhythm. I only had five sets of headphones — one for me, and then I just had to hand the other four out to whoever I thought were the most important rhythm makers. I was in a little room next door setting the recording levels as best I could, because I could only record into the laptop in stereo. I had to make mixing decisions there and then, and I wasn't sure what I was hearing through the headphones and what was in the room — and I was right by a djembe player making the racket from hell! Unfortunately, the only compressor I had was on my little Roland VM3100 digital mixer, and it's very basic. I just had to do it and hope that it was OK."

Recording the South African female trio the Mahotella Queens in Johannesburg made such an impact on Duncan that they ended up singing on three tracks, including the truly spine-tingling vocal break in what is perhaps the album's most effective track, 'All Alone'. "At first, I added them to a very upbeat track, 'Ma' Africa'. But that went off so well that I played them 'All Alone' as an afterthought. 'All Alone' was written to accompany our film about death, and the Queens used to be led by a man who performed with them, who had died about two months before we got there. We explained that this was our film about what death means, and thought that it would be good to have something uplifting in the middle to show that death can be a beginning, as well as an end. They started singing a vocal break over a groove immediately. About three days later I was listening to it back in my hotel room, and I added the descending bass line and chords to fit around the chant.

"After that, I wanted to work with them again, but we only had two days left in South Africa, so we ended up going to their house to record the third track, 'Daphne', which was really special. I sat there in the living room, on their settee, playing the track to them on guitar while they wrote vocal chants. Then I set up the laptop, trailed a mic across, and they sang away. Job done! That experience was really what the whole project was about.

"The only reason we went to Uganda was that I'd heard that they have these people called the Earth Drummers, and we didn't even know what they were; all we knew was that they would dig a pit in the earth and play drums. We just said, 'OK, we'll go and find out.' It turned out to be a huge marimba. The pit is a couple of feet wide and about 20 feet long; they put slats all the way along it and about six of them bash it, and the whole village sings. We had these Sony clip mics we were using for interviews, and I dropped one at each end of the marimba pit. I got so much bass end from them, I had to roll a lot off at the mix later. I only really realised when I got home and put it up on the big speakers!"

The biggest coincidence of the entire trip came in Jaipur, India, and again underlined just how spontaneous the mobile recording process could be. Jamie and Duncan were having lunch in their hotel when they spotted Indian singer Asha Bhosle (immortalised in Cornershop's 'Brimful Of Asha') on the other side of the restaurant. It was too good an opportunity to miss.

"We went over with the laptop and explained that we were making a film, told her about us, and she said 'Well, let me finish my lunch and I'll come out and do something.' We set up in the garden outside, put some flowers around the computer and put the mic under a nice tree, and sat there wondering if she was going to come. After dinner, she came out, we put some headphones on her, and she did her part. It took 20 minutes."

Not all of 1 Giant Leap's collaborators, of course, are so well known. The female Maori singer Whiri Mako Black was a complete unknown internationally before appearing on the record, but Jamie insisted that they include her after her haunting voice helped him through a painful experience.

French doudouk player extraordinaire Levon Minassien.

"When we were in New Zealand, Jamie had a big Maori tattoo done on his back, which was very painful. He said the only thing that got him through it was this recording of a woman they were playing in the shop. It turned out that this was Whiri Mako Black. We'd never heard of her, and it took ages to track her down — she was working in a factory."

Duncan felt that they lacked a suitable track for Whiri to contribute to, but the ever-flexible laptop came to the rescue again. Composing a new track from a guitar idea he'd had for a while, he recorded it at the same speed and in the same key as another track, 'Bushes', onto which they'd already recorded the vocals of Baaba Maal. "I thought we were going to put Whiri Mako Black on the beginning of the 'Bushes' track, which I thought needed something. So it was originally a new part for the 'Bushes' track. And some of the parts that were on the 'Bushes' track, some recordings of Turkish percussion that we'd made before we left London, I just pasted them on to the new section to give me something to play to Whiri Mako Black that night..."

After the vocal session, Duncan added a keyboard melody idea from the Roland JV1010 he was carrying around. When he and Jamie eventually returned to London, they decided to replace the synth with something much more distinctive. "One of the instruments that me and Jamie really love is the doudouk, which is an Armenian oboe made from apricot wood, with a single reed. It's got an eerie sound, half-string, half-vocal, half-pipe... you don't really know what it is when you hear it. It was used on the first track on Peter Gabriel's Passion — that was the first time I heard it. It's something you don't hear enough of — a very emotional instrument."

Eventually, the musical piece, with a distinctive double doudouk part replacing Duncan's synth lines, became a track in its own right. It was named 'Ta Moko' after the Maori word for tattoo.

  Recording 'The Way You Dream'  
  From the moment Duncan and Jamie knew that they had a chance of getting Michael Stipe of REM to contribute vocals to the project, they earmarked a particular track for his use. "We knew that that was perfect for him. 'C' and 'G', 'C' and 'G', 'C' and 'G'... it was perfect for his voice. It was a backing track that I'd done up in Scotland, with sampled tabla, and me playing guitar. I put it together as a long piece, far too long... I wasn't really sure what was going to happen with it. And then, at certain moments, we would just wheel that out and get people like Pops Mohamed to add things like kora [West African harp — Ed] to it.

"What I really wanted, though, was to replace the sampled tabla with a real one playing the same part. We tried several players when we got to India, but none of them were quite right, until we met one in the desert in Rajsthan; he was really good. We also recorded a flute there for the middle section, from a guy who was sitting in a tree watching us record the tabla player.

"When we met Asha Bhosle by chance in Jaipur after that, we didn't have anything for her to sing on, because we didn't know we were going to meet her! But the track with the tabla was still loaded up in the computer, so I played it to her. She liked it and started to sing, and it sounded fantastic, so we did a couple of takes."

When they recorded in New Zealand, Duncan and Jamie also tried Whiri Mako Black, the vocalist used on 'Ta Moko' out on this track, and added putorino, a Maori noseflute. But despite all the preparation, things did not initially augur well when they reached the USA and flew to Athens, Georgia for the long-awaited date with REM's lead vocalist. Duncan, for the only time on the entire trip, was ill with a cold, and when they convened in Stipe's writing shed in his garden, they found the vocalist had few lyrics prepared.

"It's less hard when you're doing something with someone who's not that good, maybe, and you're just hoping that you'll get something you could use, but when, you know, you turn up at Michael Stipe's house, you really want something good... you don't want to leave with nothing!

"We'd written some lyrics to give to people to sing, including some where, as a writing exercise, we said 'Let's each write a totally personal verse.' Michael took the first three lines of the verse that Jamie had written about himself, and that gave him something to work from, which he then added to. Then I played him back what we'd recorded with Asha Bhosle, and he started to sing over the top.

"A lot of people have commented that it doesn't sound much like Michael Stipe singing when he starts up on this track, and there's a reason for that — he's singing it how Jamie used to sing it. Then later, he goes up, and starts singing like Michael Stipe. So people have now heard him in a register that he doesn't naturally go to. And I'd say that for almost everybody involved in this project. When you hear Baaba Maal, because he's singing to the kind of music he wouldn't normally sing to, he's in a context that he's never been in before, so he's doing something different to anything he's done before."

 

Post-Production

If Duncan had found the process of recording in the field occasionally stressful, things got much worse when he and Jamie returned to the UK. "Until then, we were just coping with the challenges of recording all the film and music. Then we had to start making something out of it. First, we had to log all the recordings. I waded through all the audio, and Jamie did the video. He found that we had over 300 hours, or more than 12 days of it — it took about six weeks! But our planning paid off again. We had those 12 themes, which we kept in mind as we were going through it: God, Money, Sex, Death, Inspiration... and anything relating to those themes in the footage or interviews was logged and stored under that heading."

The project now entered a frenetic phase, with work proceeding on the video editing, Duncan working on mixing the audio tracks for both the CD and the DVD, the latter in both stereo and 5.1 surround. And the pair were still recording, adding the contributions of a number of UK artists to the heap of material, notably Eddi Reader, Horace Andy and Robbie Williams. The laptop continued to be the main recorder, and desktop Macs were used to edit the video, the pair putting their feet down and insisting that there was nothing an expensive Avid video workstation could offer that dual-processor Macs and copies of Final Cut Pro could not. And although IDG Studios is credited on the sleeve of the CD, it turns out Duncan merely rented a room there. "I'm very proud that it wasn't mixed on a mixing desk. It was mixed without a mixer — just with a Mac and a mouse."

When it came to editing the video, there was one main problem. On the CD, Duncan had layered performances over one another via the marvels of multitrack recording, creating a convincing illusion that the music was all played at once. But during its musical sections, how was a DVD to show all the musicians playing on screen at once?

"Our editing assistants would say, 'Somehow, we've got to get four musicians on screen at this point — what do you reckon?' We were quite nervous, because we didn't want it to look like a documentary, and we didn't want it to look like a pop video; we wanted something in between." The chosen split-screen solution, curiously, is one of the DVD's most attractive features, because it makes the musical sections kaleidoscopic — there's so much going on visually that it's impossible to take it all in the first time you watch it, meaning that there will always be something that you haven't noticed before each time you play it. And if you only know the 1 Giant Leap CD, the DVD is a musical treat, allowing you to see exactly who played on what.

"It's so rare when you see a music film that the video of the performance shows the same performance that you're listening to. But in our case, we'd get that moment where Jamie would say 'That audio performance is four minutes 22 seconds into such-and-such video take,' and I'd drop the audio on top of the video and it would sync perfectly."

Two examples of the split-screen approach used on the 1 Giant Leap DVD to fit multiple musicians on screen.

A Second Giant Leap?

The finished 1 Giant Leap DVD was never intended to provide great answers to any deep questions, but it's thought-provoking, moving and thoroughly entertaining nevertheless. Duncan, however, was sometimes unconvinced of its merits while making it. "I would often say to Jamie, 'Hollywood spends a fortune in its films building up to that big emotional moment, where you're supposed to laugh or cry, depending on what it is — what's that going to be in our film?' But Jamie reckoned that because it was real people and real opinions, it would 'speak' to people. And he was right, although different people are moved to tears or laughter by different parts in the film. I certainly don't agree with the opinions of everyone in it, and in some parts, I think the people we filmed are talking complete nonsense, but even those bits touch some people. Every time someone new watches it, they find something different in it which moves them."

Looking back on the project, Duncan has few regrets, but one of them is that the audio album could not accommodate more material. "There are four tracks that are on the DVD that aren't on the CD. We originally wanted it to be a double album and double DVD. Anyway, what I'd like to do now is put out a special double album with everything on it, and that'll clear the decks of this project." More live gigs are scheduled, coupled with screenings of the DVD — at the time of writing, the 1GL live band have just played at the prestigious Purcell Rooms in London. Longer term, it seems 1 Giant Leap may be off on their travels again. Duncan is unequivocal. "There's never been a better time. It is incredible what power laptop users have now. I've got a Gigabyte of RAM, a 48GB hard drive, FireWire capabilities, USB capabilities..." he pauses and smiles. I'm really looking forward to the next trip, basically. I'd do it differently next time. I wouldn't worry like I worried.

"When we were making the film, we were really interested in the idea of where inspiration comes from, so we asked everyone. And more or less everyone said the same thing. You let go, and it will come to you. You're not thinking about it, and suddenly, you've done something incredible. Just keep your ears and your eyes open, and react when things happen!"

Similar articles

Robert Plant 'Angel Dance'

Inside Track | Secrets Of The Mix Engineers

Thumbnail for article: Robert Plant 'Angel Dance'

Thirty years after Led Zeppelin ended, Robert Plant has reached a second career high. His latest hit album was tracked and mixed by Mike Poole, using a mouth-watering selection of vintage equipment.

Nashville Guitars: Recording Today's Country Guitar Sounds

Interview | Engineers

Thumbnail for article: Nashville Guitars: Recording Today's Country Guitar Sounds

With country guitars, what you hear on the record is what was played in the studio. We asked Nashville's leading engineers how they capture those tones.

Mike Vernon: Producing British Blues

Interview | Producer

Thumbnail for article: Mike Vernon: Producing British Blues

Mike Vernon produced some of the greatest blues records of all time. A full decade after retiring, he's back in the studio with some of the British blues scene's brightest lights.

Happy Birthday Sound On Sound!

Milestones

Thumbnail for article: Happy Birthday	 Sound On Sound!

Some of the friends we've made over the years share their congratulations on our 25th birthday!

Labrinth: Producing Tinie Tempah

Interview | Music Production

Thumbnail for article: Labrinth: Producing Tinie Tempah

The man behind the biggest UK single of the year — 'Pass Out' by Tinie Tempah — is 21-year-old musical prodigy and maverick Labrinth.

Oval (aka Markus Popp): Recording Oh And O

Electronica Production

Thumbnail for article: Oval (aka Markus Popp): Recording Oh And O

One of electronicas most adventurous spirits, Markus Popp has returned with an album that sounds surprisingly... musical. But is everything as it seems?

Jon Burton: Mixing & Recording The Prodigy Live

Interview | Engineer

Thumbnail for article: Jon Burton: Mixing & Recording The Prodigy Live

As the Prodigy's chief live sound engineer, Jon Burton gets to unleash untold kilowatts of bass power on an unsuspecting world. He has also made multitrack recordings of every show on their 26-month world tour.

Silver Apples: Early Electronica

Interview | Band

Thumbnail for article: Silver Apples: Early Electronica

Silver Apples jammed with Jimi Hendrix, counted John Lennon as a fan, and produced extraordinary electronic music — with nothing but a drum kit and a pile of electrical junk.

Paul Worley: Producing Lady Antebellum

Interview | Producer

Thumbnail for article: Paul Worley: Producing Lady Antebellum

Nashville heavy-hitter Paul Worley was so impressed by Lady Antebellum that he gave up his high-profile job at Warner Bros to produce them. With Clarke Schleicher at the desk, the gamble paid off in style.

Devo | Mark Mothersbaugh

Four Decades Of De-evolution

Thumbnail for article: Devo | Mark Mothersbaugh

Pioneers of everything from circuit-bending to multimedia art, Devo have always belonged to the future.

MGMT

Andrew VanWyngarden & Ben Goldwasser: Recording Congratulations

Thumbnail for article: MGMT

MGMT could have followed up their smash hit debut album with more of the same. Instead, they headed straight into left field, with help from a legend of British psychedelia.

Faust: Hans Joachim Irmler

40 Years Of Krautrock

Thumbnail for article: Faust: Hans Joachim Irmler

In 1969, Faust used their massive record company advance to build a unique studio and a collection of weird, custom-made effects units. The same experimental spirit lives on in their new album, Faust Is Last.

Plan B

Producing The Defamation Of Strickland Banks

Thumbnail for article: Plan B

Plan B entered the public eye as a rapper, but its as a soul singer that he has conquered the charts. He and his production team revisit the tortuous story behind The Defamation Of Strickland Banks.

Secrets Of The Mix Engineers: David R Ferguson

Inside Track: Johnny Cash | American VI: Ain’t No Grave

Thumbnail for article: Secrets Of The Mix Engineers: David R Ferguson

Sometimes the simplest-sounding music takes the most work to get right, and so it was with Johnny Cashs posthumous hit album American VI: Aint No Grave. Engineer and mixer David R Ferguson was on hand at every stage of Rick Rubins production.

Porcupine Tree

Steven Wilson: Recording & Marketing Porcupine Tree

Thumbnail for article: Porcupine Tree

Every new Porcupine Tree album sells over a quarter of a million copies. And with founder Steven Wilson in control of everything from songwriting to shrink-wrapping, theres no middle man to take a cut. Read his valuable advice for SOS readers wishing to do likewise...

Phil Thornalley: Torn

From Rock Producer To Pop Songwriter

Thumbnail for article: Phil Thornalley: Torn

Phil Thornalley learned his trade as a rock engineer and producer in the 80s. Then he co-wrote a little-known song called Torn...

Ray Davies

Five Decades In The Studio

Thumbnail for article: Ray Davies

Legendary songwriter and Kinks frontman Ray Davies got his first taste of recording in 1964, and hes never looked back.

The Stargate Writing & Production Team

Mikkel Eriksen

Thumbnail for article: The Stargate Writing & Production Team

From humble beginnings in provincial Norway, the Stargate team have gone on to become one of Americas leading hit factories. Songwriter and producer Mikkel Eriksen explains how their hard work and talent brought success.

Dave Stewart: Creating A New Album From Archive Material

Time Trial: Bringing Multitracks and MIDI into the 21st Century

Thumbnail for article: Dave Stewart: Creating A New Album From Archive Material

Dave Stewarts career has spanned several generations of music technology (from National Health band in the 1970s to hits with partner Barbara Gaskin. For his latest project, he faced the challenge of bringing his old multitracks and MIDI sequences into the computer age.

Secrets Of The Mix Engineers: Humberto Gatica

Inside Track: Michael Bublé ‘You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You’

Thumbnail for article: Secrets Of The Mix Engineers: Humberto Gatica

In a rare interview, legendary engineer and producer Humberto Gatica explains how he and singer Michael Bublé breathed new life into big-band swing music — with stunning results.

 

Home | Search | News | Current Issue | Tablet Mag | Articles | Forum | 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

         

All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. 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