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Mike Stock: The Future Of British Pop

Opinion | Music Production (Production Lines)
Published August 1994

Mike Stock, once one third of production giants Stock, Aitken and Waterman, ponders the future of British pop...

People who control the music business have never taken dance music seriously. But what we are now seeing is a change in the way this music is created and exploited; record companies have opened both their cheque books and departments dedicated to exploiting this area of music. However, they do not create music any more, nor do they look for new artists to develop — they merely license the latest hot tracks from the continent, assault the dance charts and hope for a pop cross‑over. It doesn't surprise me that records like 'Doop' by Doop were so successful, but will they ever have another hit? It would seem that this doesn't really matter. The record company is already purchasing its next release from somewhere else, and the producer/artist has already changed his name and act and is busy trawling the dance floor for inspiration to produce his next 'one‑off'.

This is not where I come from — I'm involved in dance music to develop new long‑term acts, because I think it is the only area of popular music that is pushing out the boundaries of what is possible. Today's dance music is much more technically complex than it has ever been. It has also become incredibly creative and inventive, as a result of experimentation with new sounds and new technology. Of course, record companies may only see it as a way of making money, but I see it as a much broader venture than that — and one that has continued to develop over the last ten years.

If it were left to the A&R departments we would never find anything new. I'm not knocking the musical and lyrical skills of people like Phil Collins and Sting, but the type of music they are making could have been made at any point in the last 30 years. None of them are doing anything revolutionary or original, and the majority of today's record buyers don't find them exciting any more; they know what to expect from them. Of course dance music is itself not new, but at least the things that people are producing now within the dance sphere are new and exciting.

I am setting up a studio for dance‑based music because I take it very seriously. I believe it isn't possible to make truly great records in a bedroom, although it is possible to do much of the development and experimentation in that kind of environment. If you want that record to reach as many people as possible, and cross over into the mainstream pop charts, you do need a properly‑equipped recording studio. For example, Matt Aitken and I recently co‑produced a remake of the Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand hit 'No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)' with Kym Mazelle and Jocelyn Brown. That record has crossed over from the clubs to the pop charts. Now obviously, we needed a fully‑equipped professional studio for that, because we used real players and real singers, with not a sample in sight.

As a producer, I don't sample other people's work — I prefer to be more original, and create new drum sounds and bass lines using the skills of an engineer. When other people use sampled drum loops and bass lines, they are using the work of other musicians who have had to go into a studio and record them at some point. I think the original creators should be credited for their work. If we are to continue creating music that is new and exciting, we should not be stealing something from someone else, to the point where we ourselves lose the skill and talent needed to actually create original music.

Contemporary dance music is at the cutting edge of modern music. Dance music is the only area in which, to me, things are constantly changing and challenging. Moreover, I disagree with the idea popular among the major record labels, that dance artists are incapable of combining dance floor hits with long‑term careers and healthy album sales. It's just that up to now the major record labels have failed to achieve this. It is largely left up to the independents to carry the flag for dance pop, and I am quite happy to be in there marching with them.

Producer and songwriter Mike Stock achieved fame, fortune, and a place in the record books as one of the hugely successful Stock, Aitken and Waterman writing and production team. To date he has worked on over 100 Top 40 records, making him the most successful record producer of all time. Stock is now going it alone, and is in the process of building his own state‑of‑the‑art recording studio in London. He is also running a number of record labels from the studio complex including Love This Records and his Ding‑Dong label, which recently signed a non‑exclusive label deal with Arista/Bell.