On a muggy summer’s afternoon in Willesden Green, Miloco sat down for a fascinating hour’s worth of chitter-chat with legendary record producers and mix engineers, Flood and Alan Moulder and conversed on Assault and Battery recording studios, the studio facility they run in partnership with Miloco. We are now proud to produce this: the Flood and Alan Moulder Producer Interview instalment of our ongoing series of exchanges with some of the industry’s very best music producers. We also got the chance to discuss their hugely successful careers and their views and ideas on a new era for the music industry…
MILC: So how are you both? You’ve been kept pretty busy this summer so far…
Alan: Good, thanks
Flood: yep Fantastic, very busy.
MILC: The studio’s looking great so many congratulations on the whole job. Has it all gone as smoothly as you’d hoped?
Flood: I’d say it’s probably gone more smoothly. One of the major things we’ve enjoyed working with Miloco, is the setting up, doing all the preparation and installing, and just all the admin side of things has gone absolutely brilliantly. I mean everything was turned around in, what, three weeks was it? And even getting the desk over and sorting all that out. So that for us has been one of the major pluses with working with a professional body of people.
MILC: The atmosphere upstairs is quite spectacular, with a very dark vibey theme. What was the inspiration behind the theme, and more so was it a theme which you picked out to inspire you creatively?
Alan: Well I think so. To be honest I don’t think we’re quite finished with the themeing yet. I feel there’s more to come! But we like the space, and we’ve had our eye on it ever since we’ve been down here, and we obviously knew the guys, Barney and Mark, who owned it before, so as soon as we found out it was available we became very interested.
Flood: And over the years, between myself and Alan, we’ve amassed very different bits of backline, mics and all sorts of weird bits of tackle, which are very representative of our own personalities. And so one of the things that we want from the studio, is to have somewhere that has a very appealing atmosphere to it, and one that’s not corporate or bland.
Alan: Yeah we did find that we seemed to moan about how you’d go to every studio and they’d all look and sound a bit the same. So that’s why we wanted something a bit different.
MILC: Was it part of the vision to make the artists feel really at home by surrounding them in such a rare quantity of backline gear?
Alan: Very much so. That was one of the most foremost thoughts. Flood had a place in Kilburn, The Bedroom, which had an atmosphere to it that all the artists really seemed to like. It wasn’t corporate, but it was light and homely. That’s why it was called The Bedroom. So that was something that was very successful, and so we thought we should bring a bit of that in to this.
Flood: But also for producers and engineers, who can walk in and see straight away all the staples that you would expect, are there. So it’s there to cater for both engineers and producers, and artists, when you find that most studios are normally designed to cater only for professional engineers and producers, and not so much for artists.
MILC: Do you think a large choice of backline is something artists are looking for more and more at studios?
Alan: I don’t think they’re particularly looking for it, I think if it’s there it’s great. But a lot of the time it might not be used – they might have their own stuff they want to use. It’s just useful so that if they want to try something else, it’s there.
Flood: It just gives people a range of different things to experiment with, as if you go somewhere else, a more conventional place, it’s just not there. So a lot of artists find that appealing, even if it distracts them from the job in hand!
MILC: So people will probably spend a lot of time experimenting with pretty much any thing up there that they can get their hands on…
Flood: Well we’ve only been doing one session, but having said that they have already started playing around with lots of different things and setting up two side rooms, so one room does all the keyboard stuff, and the other room they’ve been banging out b-sides in.
MILC: About the synths. A lot of the focus on the Miloco website regarding the collection are the 2 very rare Roland System 700 Modular Systems. Only 40 were ever produced…
Flood: yeah when I read that I was intrigued. I never knew that!
… well we’re intrigued to know how you managed to get your hands on two of them!
Flood: Well there was a period of time when I was looking to buy a small modular system.
Flood: Well, smallish then, compared to some of the enormous ones. And the guy who invented the old Wasp synth was selling his 700 for relatively cheap. So I bought it. And then about 4 years later, maybe 3, another one came up and at the same time so did the Moog modular. And they made me an offer, which was considerably more than what I paid for the first lot, but it still seemed good because it meant I could keep one in situ, and the other one I travelled with a lot. They don’t like travelling too much so I just flight-cased one of them up to travel with. That was part of the reasoning. The other part was just, “well why not?” I could afford it at the time, and its better to have them in use than just have them sat around doing nothing.
MILC: What is it about these original synths that set them apart from their soft synth competitors?
Flood: It’s a different animal. The soft synths really have their own place. I think it’s a bit foolish to try and judge them as the same thing, or even as one being a facsimile, they’re very different things. I mean the thing about old synths is that they’re so tactile. You operate them in a completely different way, and they’ve all got their own sound, just as much as if you’ve got half a dozen guitars in a room – they all sound different.
Alan: I think also with soft synths you’re likely to go through the pre-sets and tweak them from there. Whereas having the old thing there you’ve got to build it from scratch. So as Flood says, they sound slightly different obviously, but it’s the way you approach using them that makes a lot of the difference.
Flood: A lot of people for instance use all of the synths more as modular filters and processors, and don’t even bother with the oscillators, because you’ve got ring mod, filtering, reverb, phase, delay, you name it. You know, shove a Moog filter in front of a person who knows about it, sweep it through X, Y and Z and they’ll cream themselves on the spot. So you don’t have to use all the oscillators you know. As Al said, it’s just a different way of working.
MILC: So in that sense it’s a lot more creative…
Flood: Well I suppose it means that you have to be creative, because it’s a bit like starting from a blank canvas. Whereas with the soft synth, it’s a bit like saying somebody’s done the line-drawing, and it’s how you tweak that. But with say the Moog modular, there really isn’t going to be any sound coming out of that unless you know what you’re doing, and you know how to patch it up and just go for it. But then that might lead you down a path you’ve never been down before.
MILC: Are there any tried-and-tested combinations of guitars, pedals and amps up there which you personally like enough to keep going back to, because you know how good the sound will be?
Flood: Not really, no. I would say though that the Audio Kitchen amp, which people won’t know about, but you’ve got to listen to it to believe it. It’s just like the best sounding amp I’ve heard in years.
Alan: Yeah, it’s this bespoke amp, made by this company Audio Kitchen. Tiny 7 watt amp, but for driven, clean and clear sounds, I’ve never come across anything like it…
MILC: So how about everything in the control room then. You’ve obviously got a massive selection of outboard in there as well, with all of the mic amps particularly standing out. What are your particular preferences with the mic amps at the moment?
Alan: I think I love those Helios the most
Flood: Yeah, they’re my favourites as well
Alan: We’re still looking to add to the mic amps though really.
Flood: Yeah in an ideal world. But what have we got up there at the moment? Summits, TLA, Focusrites
Flood: Yeah Tridents, Helios.. So what we now want to add is probably API’s – either 1073s or 1066s. Maybe even the digital versions – but yeah its something we’re looking at adding to…
MILC: You’ve of course put a Neve VR60 up there now as well. What was behind choosing a Neve for the room?
Alan: The price. The price probably did it for me!!
Flood: Ha ha ha ha!!!
Alan: Ok but seriously. I suppose we were looking for something different. We’ve got an SSL down here, and Neves are good tracking boards, and, well it’s true. It was good value for money! It’s a big board!
Flood: We looked at vintage consoles, and basically for three times the amount of money, you get half the amount of channels, and all the other crap that goes with it. We wanted to make it something where there was a huge degree of flexibility. To have 60 channels ready to go, and you don’t have to go, “oh god is that not working today? I’ve only got 30 channels to do a full live band and orchestra this afternoon…” Yes you get the sound, but with the right mic amps you can get that flavour if you want from desks that aren’t vintage. And as we said we’re adding to the mic amps…
Alan: We originally thought we were going to get a vintage board. But looking into it, 1) it was cost prohibitive, because if we got the board we wouldn’t have been able to get all the other things we did, and 2) we’d both been using vintage desks elsewhere and had been having numerous nightmares with them going wrong. So in the end we just thought sod that! It’s also not what we’re about. Some people are prepared to pay over the odds for stuff, because of the name and all the emotional attachment to it that people put on. But we’re not like that, we just judge everything on what it is. And as Flood said, you get the best of both worlds with the Neve.
Flood: It’s getting vintage though. I’d say it’s a vintage Neve board. ’91 or something…
MILC: And Alan, you already knew this particular desk having worked on it for a Monster Magnet album…
Alan: Yeah I’d mixed Dopes To Infinity on it and I thought it sounded great.
MILC: Did that go a long way in persuading you that this was the desk for the room?
Alan: Well. I know there are lots of different opinions to this argument and debate, but we think that all boards sound different. Every board has its own individual characteristic sound. So it’s reassuring to have worked on a console before you bought it and liked the sound you got from it. Flood did a blind test on numerous boards… what were they again?
Flood: It was 2 VRs, 2 APIs and 2 SSLs, and basically what I did for one Pumpkins album was we put 2 tunes on multi-track, and I went to the studios that I was checking out to see where I wanted to mix it, or should I say where Alan was going to mix it, and basically they all had the same tape machine, which was an 820. And so what I did was I put all the faders in a straight line, and then just recorded that straight onto a DAT, and then try and get a balance in the room, and then put that on the DAT as well. We then went back to HQ and had a listen. So theoretically, outside of wiring, the only difference between each room was the sound of the board, and I mean it was like night and day, night and day! There was one room where everyone complained about the bottom end which sounded really weird in the room, and we’d actually tracked in that room beforehand, and it was fine. But all they’d done is changed the board, and when we’d got the mix tests back, that particular room was so bass light, really bass light. It was just like “whhaaaat???” And the differences between the 2 E4000 SSL consoles – they just sounded totally different, totally different.
MILC: You must have been extremely surprised by that…
Flood: I was! That was the thing. But then if you think about it they are all hand built, I mean I know a lot of it is just production line. So somebody’s got to actually install it and put all the wiring in and the rest, and somebody might have a bad day and get one of the major buses down a bit, you know…
MILC: So you’ve mentioned your plans to expand on the mic amp selection, but is there anything else you are thinking of adding to the studio in terms of equipment? It must be hard to imagine there’s anything missing!
Flood: We’re sort of looking at a few other staples, like a couple of other reverbs maybe. We tend to base everything on our own tastes, and we really like Eventide stuff a lot, and there’s loads of Eventides up there, but there isn’t a 224 or a 480, so that’s the next thing we’ll probably go for. But as you go along you might see something and think, “well I quite fancy that…”
MILC: The huge presence of Flood’s analogue gear at the studio offers a dream scenario for producers and engineers whose preferences steer towards classic vintage gear. In contrast, Alan, we hear you are always very keen to keep up-to-date with the latest tools, mac specs and so on. Bearing in mind the ever-growing shift towards digital methods in recording studios, do you think Assault & Battery 2 will too become increasingly digitaly orientated, or will you endeavor to maintain a healthy balance between digital and analogue options?
Alan: I think it is pretty digitally-orientated. The idea there is to have the best of both worlds. My view is that both are good, and its undeniable that tape has a place, and I really love the sound of tape. So the idea is just to keep them both. We like the idea of just being able to decide, “right today I want to use tape”, ‘cos you think it might be the best for the project, or that you are just bored, and you need something for a change. But everything will be available to you so you can choose.
Flood: It’s the flexibility. There’s loads and loads of plug-ins, samplers etc so the digital stuff is just as up-to-speed as the analogue.
Alan: And that will be stuff that we add to as well just as much as analogue. We have plenty of stuff we’ve got our eye on that we want to experiment with, so that will definitely progress as well.
Flood: I think it would be foolish to say that one way is better or worse than the other. There’s good things from both. It’s down to you and how you want to mix and match, or just exclusively do one thing or the other…
MILC: Of course another clear-cut attribute which the studio possesses, and which the vast majority of other tracking rooms in London don’t, is the sheer amount of space spread across the huge live area, and the two very large isolation booths. Drawing from your experiences, what will bands, producers and engineers get most out of working in such an unusually expansive and spacious environment?
Alan: Let’s face it, I think it’s always a good thing to have a bit of room. You’ll be surprised how quickly it all gets taken up, you know, if the room’s there you’ll use it. We’re trying to set up the main playing room so that if you didn’t want to, you don’t have to keep going back into the control room. We’re going to try and have it so we have the monitoring in the playing room so everyone can almost stay in there. We want to make a really nice atmosphere in that playing room, so that bands feel comfortable in there to hang out, and not just to play. So we want as much comfort in there as in the control room.
MILC: Well in terms of London, there really aren’t many that size. So do you think a lot of artists who aren’t used to that much space might find it refreshing and beneficial in a creative sense?
Flood: Well there aren’t many these days, no. I guess it’s down to how they use it though really. You can end up in an enormous room like that, but block it off down to a tiny little bit, if that’s what you desire. But at least you’ve got the option. The problem with a lot of places now is that you just don’t have the option to have that size.
Alan: But having said that we’ve both been saying that it would be interesting to use the bottom-end booth, and stick the whole band in there, to see what it sounded like just in that little room. It’s a deader room, so that could be another option. Ok, you could say “for this song lets have a more claustrophobic sound” and put everyone in. Because you can fit a whole band in that booth, and can record like that, with all the spill really tight. But then for the next song, you might want a liver drum sound so put it in the main live room. So yeah, it’s the choice.
MILC: Besides comparing it to London studios, we should obviously note that you’ve both worked in studios all around the world. We were wandering if you’d seen anywhere in particular that had a direct influence on what your vision was for Assault & Battery 2. Did you see anywhere where you thought, “this is a great idea, we should do this back home…” ?
Flood: Its probably more, “this is not what we want”.
Alan: Yeah it’s probably more the negative.
Flood: ‘Cos that’s the thing, you go around somewhere and it’s a great place but you can never mimic that because it is individual. But you can easily go around to places and go “umph, I’m not having that in my place”.
MILC: We’d love to take this opportunity to ask you both about your hugely-successful careers in the recording industry, particularly regarding the many times you have collaborated to work together. We understand that one of the first times your paths crossed was on a The Jesus and Mary Chain session…
Alan: No I don’t think it was the first time, but probably one of the earlier ones we did
Flood: Basically myself and Alan were both employed as engineers at Trident. When did you start?
Alan: I started in ’84, and you were like the chief engineer then, and I was an assistant. So I used to assist Flood a fair bit, but when Jesus and Mary Chain came, that was just one that I demanded!
Flood: That’s right, ha ha! And then I think possibly the first full on one that we did together, was Alan’s wife’s solo record
Alan: That’s right.
MILC: And that was the first co-production credit was it?
Flood: Well Alan was producing it, and then he asked if I could mix it. I always remember it because Alan had generally been assisting me up until then. This was the first time I saw the other side of Alan, and he got fairly ‘amped up’ about a few things. I thought “Whaattt? Where did that one come from??” Ha ha! But I think that was the first true thing that we did.
MILC: Did you ever think back then, that in 2008 you’d both have your own studio?
Flood: Probably not!!
Alan: Well probably not, but we probably wouldn’t have been surprised either. Because we have talked about this for, well, even when we were at Trident. So it is something we’ve always talked about, but as you say, would we have envisaged this? Probably no.
Flood: I think it’s more to do with the fact that neither of us actually wanted to run a studio. The idea of being in a creative environment with lots of different people around was something that always really appealed. But hopefully we’re not now like the big bad bosses!
Alan: Yeah, to be honest, I don’t think either one of us actually wanted to own a studio!! But then you get caught up in it. Once you’ve got all this gear, then where the hell are you going to put it?
MILC: You’ve obviously had a lot of success together with your many collaborations. What is it that makes it such a creative force between the two of you?
Flood: Well, it’s because we’re great. Ha ha ha!!
Alan: There’s that, but we kind of like arguing about stuff.
Alan: But it’s never taken personally, and it’s always for the greater good of the end project. It’s always a very positive discussion.
Flood: We can clear a room…
Alan: We see eye to eye on everything, but we obviously have different things going on where we might look at things differently, but it’s all for the greater good.
Flood: And also we know how to work each other’s positives and negatives. We know where one person is stronger in an area than the other. So we just naturally do that. But it varies from project to project. You couldn’t say entirely that either one of us does exactly this or that on every record…
Alan: … yeah it does vary. But we know each other so well that we don’t have to worry about certain things.
MILC: Do you approach each record with the purpose of leaving a Flood / Alan Moulder “stamp” on it?
Flood: Absolutely never.
MILC: So you come to everything with a very open-mind?
Flood: Yes. That is the only way to work.
MILC: Certainly, many of the Miloco engineers have commented on just how much attention to detail there is on your records, which in a way defines them. But you never think to leave any trademark production bits to your work…?
Flood: No I just don’t think that’s the way to approach a record. Certainly the detail, that’s part of the thing that makes our “sound” so to speak, but it’s not from a premeditated point of view, it’s just that that is what we consider as the work that needs to be done. That’s what makes a record sound really good, the attention to detail. It’s very easy to record a good song in quite a good way, and it will go out and be a hit. But we like it to be something that’s a good song that’s recorded well, and absolutely everything has been paid attention to.
Alan: And then hopefully the more you play it the more it unfolds, and generally that also comes from the band as well. And certainly we’re looking more into developing the band’s sound rather than our own…
Flood: We’re probably the worst judges of knowing what our sound is, but there is definitely no premeditation about doing it. We are there, that’s what comes out, and we run with it.
MILC: Clearly these levels of detail and the way you both seem bring the best out of artists takes time, do you feel that having your own studio is essential to allow this natural development ?
Alan: Well I think you have less time these days, because of budgets. So having your own studio might give you a bit of flexibility. But it’s also quite good to have the pressure on sometimes…
Flood: … yeah. I think it’s probably more useful for the second half of making a record. Because if you go to a mix room that you know inside-out and back-to-front, or go to a room that you really know the sound of, like say if you were doing overdubbing, you’ve got an agenda of things you need to do, and if you’re not worrying about what gear is there or how the room sounds, and it just feels like home, that speeds up the operation. So upstairs, you know what gear you have got and what is achievable. From that point of view, having your own space is very useful, particularly as Al says, there is half the amount of time nowadays to do records.
Alan: And there’s also the fact that you probably won’t have to hire gear in, because most of the stuff you want should be there.
MILC: So how might your working relationship have developed itself, over the years? Would their be noticeable differences say between how you approached Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness as co-producers, to how you took on Sam’s Town ?
Alan: Well I don’t know. Ha! I was pretty happy with both of them really!!
Flood: I think the only major difference between those two particularly, was that in the first half of Melon Collie due to circumstance, we were leap-frogging. So I would be there for 3 weeks, and then Al would come in for 3 weeks, then I’d be back for the next 3 weeks and so on. But that was really the only difference, I mean doing The Killers, we were both there all the time.
Alan: But I guess you take every album as something for the moment. You probably try and approach every album slightly differently just to keep it interesting. I guess we probably would approach Melon Collie differently now, but I’m glad we didn’t…
Flood: Exactly, it was of the time. And that’s the thing which is probably the greatest use of our experience. Whatever the project, you tailor your services to that project given how much time, how much money, what the band want, where you are going to do it, etc etc.
MILC: How might your roles or responsibilities as producers be different according to the band? You did a lot of work with U2 in the mid-nineties, by which time they’d already had 15 year’s experience of recording albums, and in comparison The Killers were only on their second album when you did Sam’s Town. How might you adapt techniques to get the most out of bands depending on what stage of their careers they are in? Are there a lot of differences between bands with completely varying amounts of experience?
Alan: Definitely you do notice, but that also varies from band to band. With The Killers, although it was their second album, the way the first album had been recorded, well a lot of it was demos, so they only had to go and re-record half of it or even just five tracks of it again. So it’s almost like this (Sam’s Town) was their first album in the way that we all did it from start to finish. But it differs from band to band…
Flood: I think this goes back to the previous question. Basically you have to tailor your services to the job in hand. So there is no hard and fast rule, you just go with the flow…
MILC: So how might the future look for the Flood & Alan Moulder partnership? Now you have this incredible tracking studio together, and of course you both have one of the best mixing rooms in the world downstairs, can we expect many more collaborations to come?
Flood: I suspect that in the next six months or so there might be a few things where I’m recording them, and Al might end up mixing them. There might be one thing, if they ever get back to me, but yeah there might be a possible one…
Alan: Yeah it will be very handy, certainly how Flood works, in that you’ll be recording in one room, and the mixing can be going on downstairs. So we can really keep things moving and ticking over. It’s handy being in the same building.
Flood: Mmmm. It’s down to my bad time management, that I have to run four studios at once in order to get the thing finished!
Alan: But that’s the great thing about this place, even if this mix room (Assault & Battery 1) is busy, or whatever – it’s like what we’re planning to do in September – Flood’s going to be recording in Assault & Battery 2, and then mixing in Alpha Centauri (an SSL mix room located in the same building run in partnership with Miloco).
MILC: Are you looking to be based at Battery as much as possible, or will you be still looking at places elsewhere?
Flood: Basically the idea is to do as much stuff here as possible. Certainly from my point of view, although I’m going to probably be in the States a lot during the Autumn…
Alan: It’s harder when you’re producing and recording to dictate, because there are always certain factors that the band might want. The band might well want to record in their hometown if they’ve been touring for two years, and stuff like that.
Flood: Yep. But you know there’s a large family of people who are all clubbing together – The Miloco group are one, there’s my management company who look after quite a few people, as another, and so there should be a lot of people who all come through the building…
MILC: Flood you’ve obviously been in there straight away with The Hours. How’s the early band feedback been?
Flood: Good. Funnily enough they knew the building before when it was the old Battery studio, and they, as they put it, “used to live here with Joe Strummer” – they worked on a lot of Joe Strummer records, so they know Barney the maintenance guy, and everyone else. But they’ve been really positive with the feedback. They’re saying the building has kept the great vibe but everything’s been brought up to speed. They like the studio so much so that they’ve said they want to do the whole record in there, so…
MILC: We’d like to ask you how you compare today’s industry with the one which you came into. Should we be worried about a potentially declining industry, or be looking to embrace new opportunities which the modern era might be presenting?
Alan: We should be looking to embrace new opportunities. People are listening to more music than they ever did, and the music industry is an outdated industry and it needs re-modeling. It needs a right kick up the arse…
Flood: We are here to re-embrace new technology, new ideas and move forward in an honest, positive, creative manner.
MILC: So has the big money culture which surrounded the industry in the 70s and 80s, built an ill-prepared model which has essentially caused this decline in the business?
Flood: Well not exactly no, because the thing is record companies have always existed to make money, and just because at the time there were people putting a lot of money into artists, everyone believes that it was a great golden age. But it wasn’t.
Alan: And people were buying a hell of a lot more records, and the labels weren’t as saturated. To hear music you had to own it, whereas now you can hear it anywhere without paying.
Flood: So really, the only industry which has really suffered is the recording industry: engineers, producers and studios. And so one of the things that we are trying to do is to have an infrastructure so that people can still make music. As to how it’s distributed, how it’s heard how it’s sold, that’s out of our hands immediately. But we still want to provide a facility where people can be creative and make music…
Alan: … and use old, good gear. Use tape machines if they want to. We’ve got to hang on to stuff. If studios are going down it’s even more important that we can provide somewhere to get a good quality recording.
MILC: Can things change? Is there another way to get people buying records again?
Alan: Well if I knew that… ha ha ha!!
Flood: I think there’s going to be a period of time where things are going to shift around. I was watching a really good documentary about six months ago called Pop Britannia, and it was describing the way that the early sixties were. And it was all about singles. Albums virtually didn’t exist. And there were people like Mickie Most, classic example – hear a band, record them, either sign them to his own label, or sign them onto another record company. And it would all be about one or two songs, it wouldn’t be about making albums. It was only in the back half of the sixties when albums became the main focus of the commercial world. And so what we are seeing now, I think, is almost identical to those times. You’ve got to try and be in a position where you are going to help artists come through. You’re not going to be recording albums all the time. Maybe you’ll record a body of work that will be released as EPs over a whole year, and then later it will be collected into an album and released with DVDs. It might just be that you just release a few singles with different people. But I think you’ll have to operate in a way that’s not being paid for by the record companies, but by doing it yourselves – maybe with publishing people, but maybe just with the bands themselves. Perhaps once in a blue moon you might be doing it with a record company. I mean with The Hours, essentially the company that I’ve been dealing with there is Damien Hirst, the artist. His company. There’s no record company in sight. In fact the last three things that I’ve done, even though they have been for record companies, I haven’t seen hide nor hair. I’ve just done it, finished the album, and it’s presented to the record company. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing, because if you are working with people with experience, and established artists and producers, everybody knows what’s required. You don’t want to make some kipper of an art project that’s going to be sold to a couple of people. Everybody wants to have their music heard by as many people as possible. And I hate wastage, I hate people throwing money away for no reason at all, and I just think that if people are sensible about it, you can be dealing with record companies maybe for 1 out of 3 projects, but for the other two it might be a mobile phone company, it might be city bankers! So I think that is the way it can change. The internet has completely changed the whole distribution, and people are buying only 2 or 3 tracks on the internet now, between far more artists than we’ve ever been used to. Or artists set up their own website and sell a quarter of the amount of records and making twice, if not three times as much money as they were making before.
MILC: So might “the album”, as a works in its entirety, become something we see less and less of if this new model becomes more prominent? Might we not see albums anymore?
Alan: No, I think we still will
Flood: Yeah I think so, it’s just going to go through a period of change.
Alan: People will always want to make albums. You’ll find bands that will always want to make albums as they’ll think it suits their music. You might however start getting bands who just make EPs. Maybe you’ll get bands who’ll do a special limited run of an album, that’s say on vinyl, or say comes with an amazing packaging, that people will pay considerably more for than they would for a normal album, because it’s something they want to own as they are fans, and it’s special to them. And they will pay more money for that.
MILC: I guess In Rainbows would be a good example of that…
Flood: Mmmm. I think Nine Inch Nails is a far better role model
Alan: Well yeah, I mean they did a run of 2500 special limited edition albums for 300 dollars each! And they all sold in a day!
Flood: But he also did it so that you could buy ‘x’ amount of tracks in different shapes or forms.
Alan: For example you could sample it for free, or buy the whole album for 5 dollars as an MP3. You could vary how you bought it, or whether you took a sample for nothing. But I think the way to get people buying again is to make them feel like they’re not being ripped off. For a while all the record companies were doing was getting a band, get one song but make an album, and then sell the album and there was only that one song on it. So people have felt robbed for a long time really.
Flood: Both myself and Alan have spent some time believing that an album is a body of work, so all the tracks have got to stand up on their own merits. Not all singles, but things that give the album depth. When I was a kid growing up, you’d have two sides to a record, and some albums I’d only ever listen to one side and love it, and then I’d grow to hate it, and flip over the other side and discover a whole new thing. But if you’ve got just 2 tracks frontloaded on a CD that’s 70 minutes worth of absolute dog shite, it’s no wonder that people are going, “I don’t want to part with 15, 16 quid for that.” Whereas when you’ve got it for 79p on iTunes, it’s like “thank you very much, that’s the only one I wanted anyway.” So hopefully with this setup involving a lot of people not in record companies, it can be moved along into a new phase. Of course we’re not totally sure yet what that might be, but hopefully it will be new and exciting and allow the artists and actual music to be a little bit more in control than they have been.
MILC: You’ve mentioned your concern with the “helping through” of new artists, but we’re sure, like us, that you are also eager to help the development of new Tape-Ops aspiring to become engineers. How do you think the roles of assistant engineers has changed since you both started out as Tape-Ops? Do you think the likes of your assistant Catherine, might be facing different challenges ahead of her coming into the modern-day music industry? What advice would you offer to aspiring studio professionals?
Alan: Yeah there is a difference because the industry’s changed. I don’t know if it’s more difficult to get a break or not, but I guess maybe with people cutting back on budgets you might have more chance getting to do the job as an assistant engineer…
Flood: I think the major difference from when we both trained and moved through the ranks is that there was none of this sort of specialization that goes on now. If you were an engineer on a record you would do it from start to finish, and that includes mixing. Whereas now it’s tending to be a little bit more specialized – you’ll have people who are great tracking engineers, you’ll have people who are great mixing engineers, you have people who are great at overdubbing and things like that. So in some respects it’s probably easier as you can specialize much more quickly, and thereby learn your particular field more quickly. I felt that I was fully trained after about eight to ten years as an engineer, but you just can’t have that length of time now.
Alan: Yeah, that’s definitely true
Flood: But I would say that the ability to operate on all levels would give one a greater depth in their career, so that you could, if needs be, specialize somewhere and then jump ship to doing something else.
Alan: I think when people come in they’ve got to be prepared to work really hard and realize as an assistant you’ve just got to try and make yourself as useful as you can possibly be. It can be a tense atmosphere with everything that’s going on, and you are the bottom of the rung. The more you can bring to the session with your energy and foresight, and attention, and hard work, obviously the better.
Flood: Yeah it’s funny, there’s lots of little things you can put down when you are assisting. For instance if you are habitually late, it’s of course a pain, but what it does is it unsettles the people you are working with. Because you are the first person who opens up, so they might be standing on the doorstep wandering what the hell’s going on. And that will stick with you throughout your career. Whereas if you’re there, and you’re upfront, and you’re on target and everything is dealt with, it makes people feel more settled. It’s just little things like that, that you don’t think about when you’re actually ‘Op-ing. It’s more like “oh my god I’m going to die if I have to be there by that time!!” But if you make the effort, it shows through.
Alan: It just give people more confidence.
Flood: Totally, and people will be more likely to forgive you for the odd mistake, because they’ll realize you’re dead-dog tired and that you’ve made the effort. And of course there’s initiative, and as Al said learning how to react in the session – when to say something, and when to say nothing. When to say, “anyone want a cup of tea?”, you know, because that’s the thing that will break the ice.
MILC: Thank you both for your time, we just have one last question. You’ve now joined allegiance with Miloco Studios in the operation of this very exciting studio. It would be foolish to finish off the interview without asking you about what you think Miloco will be able to bring to Assault & Battery 2?
Alan: Well I think they’ve already brought a lot to it. From setting up the studio through to everything else. There’s a lot of people with a lot of expertise down there. If there’s ever a problem or question we have, they seem to be able to bring someone in to look at it the next day. Their efficiency and order and infrastructure is remarkably well run and well thought out.
Flood: I think it’s a combination of about three things that we’ve talked about. The professionalism and attention to detail on things that normally people would not even worry about. Like with the maintenance, just being able to log your faults onto the site, it’s looked at, and then sometimes when I get into the studio the fault’s been fixed. That’s brilliant. That is absolutely brilliant. Secondly it’s the knowledge that like-minded people are trying to do something different in this sort of turbulent time, in a positive way – moving forward. And the third thing is that thing we’ve just been talking about – bringing people through. It’s something that me and Alan have talked about for years, and one of the reasons why we set up Assault & Battery in the first place was so that people could train. So what we know, we can pass onto people. There is nothing like learning in a working studio. When you are sat there in the hot seat, with a session that’s going pear-shaped, there is no substitute for experience.
Alan: I think Miloco are very like-minded to us, their attention to detail, technical professionalism, and the fact that they work bloody hard.
Flood: But it’s all to the common good. It’s not like we’ve set up a fascist dictatorship where everyone feels like their going down the mines when they come through here. This project is here so that people can come on, and that we can actually make a difference. And Miloco are perfect to do it with.
You can visit the official Assault & Battery webpages on the miloco site at https://milocostudios.com/studios/assault-&-battery-2/.
Flood and Alan Moulder were talking to Miloco in August 2008.