Notes From The Deadline

TV Music From The Inside

Published in SOS November 2012
Bookmark and Share

The viewing public never get to see — or hear — the messy side of TV production. But that's where the fun is.

Paul Farrer

"Mind if we try one more take? I just want to see if it stacks better with a different preamp.”"Mind if we try one more take? I just want to see if it stacks better with a different preamp.”

Anyone who thinks that TV is a glamorous business has obviously never been inside the Top Gear production office. It's basically three large portable cabins of the kind you might find on a building site, wheeled into position by the side of a race-track, gaffer-taped together, covered in mud and filled with dead coffee cups, scraps of paper, exhaust pipes, camera equipment and fluorescent safety jackets (largely unused). In a corner of one of the rooms, I have set up a tiny, improvised recording system based around my MacBook Air and a Korg Nano keyboard. My entire studio is balancing precariously on a desk that has two missing legs, the majority of its support coming from an upturned engine block with a damp phonebook on top.

A Bad Time To Crash

Joining me in my embarrassingly under-specified, scruffy shithole is former Guns n' Roses guitarist Slash, who, after screaming round the racetrack in the Reasonably Priced Car, is due to perform a version of the Top Gear theme music I've produced whilst balancing 30 feet above the audience on the back of a destroyed Toyota Hilux tilted at 45 degrees. What could possibly go wrong?

Slash asks for a bit more drums, but I'm struggling to adjust the overall sound of the mix to make sure there'll still be enough room for his live lead guitar part, because there are a few other environmental issues to deal with. It appears that a Ferrari 456 is having its engine revved to destruction immediately outside my window, producers with clipboards are rushing all over the place, doors are slamming, a helicopter is landing nearby and it's so cold I can't feel my toes any more.

About 350 million people around the world watch Top Gear each week and we've got less than 15 minutes to finish the track, get it mixed and over to the sound department on a USB stick before the cameras roll. A perfect time, then, you might think, to see OS X's Multi-coloured Spinning Beach Ball of Death hover ominously over Logic's Arrange page. A perfect moment to wonder if I've been saving the song file as often as I normally would if I didn't have to worry about the smell of petrol wafting dangerously in from outside. A perfect time to consider just how much of a total fucking plum I'd feel turning to the man voted the World's Greatest Living Guitarist™ and saying "Oh look! My computer's done a boo-boo!”

Keep The Adrenalin Flowing

These are the moments that make you realise that the glamour actually comes from the times of crisis. The most exciting aspect of this job is the last-minute panic and theatrical scramble to get everything to the stage on time and make it all seem effortless. To see the professionalism and creativity of a well-oiled production team in action is nothing short of awesome. And a crashed laptop is hardly likely to faze a man who, after years of hard living, was once given six days to live by his doctors.

Whoever said that telly music isn't exactly rock & roll?    

June 2016
On sale now at main newsagents and bookstores (or buy direct from the SOS Web Shop)
SOS current Print Magazine: click here for FULL Contents list
Click image for June 2016


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