Cameo - In the Night
featuring Miles Davis
Merv: Co-wrote, programming and keyboard's
This track represents a high point in Cameo's long and funky recording history.
Miles plays with his characteristic soul-full charm, he sounds very comfortable and at home in this ultra funky setting.
Any fan of Jazz-Funk will be impressed by this meeting of two worlds, and Miles Davis enthusiasts will not be disappointed by the masters minimal approach.
Machismo isn't a bad album; a few of the tunes are excellent, including "Skin I'm In" (a poignant commentary on racism), the rock-influenced "Promiscuous," and the jazz-minded "In the Night" (which features the late jazz trumpet innovator Miles Davis).
In the Night on Cameo's
In the Night on Miles Davis's
Warner Years 1986 - 1991
Electronic - Twisted Tenderness
Better...and Twisted By Steven Dowling
For the mixing of the album, co-producer Arthur Baker had an ace up his sleeve in former New Order collaborator/mixer Merv de Peyer.
"Merv was important because we felt that he was so inventive with technology that we would have been foolish to restrict him creatively and we let him just do his thing and 95 per cent of the things he did were kept in," says Johnny Marr.
Electronic, if not exactly rejuvenated, are rewired, recharged and, really quite good again.
Twisted Tenderness is an occasionally valuable marriage of contemporary technology and classic pop sensibilities. It might be simplistic to attribute the former to Bernard Sumner and the latter to Marr, but whatever the dynamic of the relationship, the proof is in tunes like 'Vivid', a classically sourpussed Sumner melody hitched to state of the art sounds.
Electronic lives up to their name with some classic alternative styling in the vein of Depeche Mode with a heavy emphasis on the electronic sound. Solid vocals carry the day here, making this CD a pleasure for even those who normally would not listen to electronic music.
Tenderness found Marr and Sumner developing an edgier, less lightweight sound, resulting in an album that easily rivaled their debut
COUCHFIRE: THE MAGAZINE
Merv de Peyer the piano playing digital media lover...
“She went into the bathroom, fixed, OD-ed, collapsed on the floor with foaming of the mouth nearly dead, and was taken DIRECTLY from my session to rehab *manic laughter*.”
— on the Queen of Funk
“For instance, there was this one A&R guy, who was very proudly telling me how he spent a weekend – he went from New York to London – first class on British Airways, with the sole purpose of banging his counterpart’s assistant in London”
— On A&R People
Growing up and early life
Basically I grew up until 18 in England and my father was a very famous clarinettist. He was the number one clarinettist in the world - Gervase de Peyer – virtuoso. He was a household name. Going into the music business was like going into the family business, it was an absolute no-no. So, I avoided it until I was 16. Then I started playing the piano – when I was 16.
When I was growing up there were people like Daniel Barenboim, Pinchas Zukerman hanging around the house… Alfred Brendel. Some of the greatest classical musicians of the last 50 years. And they all shared one thing together – which was that classical music was God. Music is a very deadly serious subject.
So for a kid it was too daunting and too much, but it got me in the end. I started playing the piano, but after a couple of years I was still hopeless. But I went to Berklee College of Music for a seven week summer course - Berklee in Boston. I moved to the States at the age of 18. I didn’t expect to, I basically went there for 7 weeks and ended up staying 22 years *laughter*.
Berklee College of Music
Walking into Berklee College of Music was a religious experience, because you have a lot of young people who are deadly serious about what they’re doing - except it’s not classical music - it’s jazz, it’s improvising, it’s making up your own notes, which was the big difference. It was a fantastic environment, very competitive, a lot of brilliant young players.
I came along and pretty much worked 23 hours a day for 4 years, which made up for a lot of wasted time… well not wasted time, but a lot of ‘time’. I acquired a pretty formidable technique in that period. And then I moved to New York - the day I graduated *laughter*.
Manhattan in the 80s
I was very impractical in terms of what I thought it would take to make it as a jazz player. You want to do jazz, you want to learn from the best and keep improving - you go to New York. It’s the only place. I mean LA, arguably, had a good jazz scene, but it was a completely different flavour comparatively to New York. And also Manhattan at that time was FANTASTIC. Just a brilliant place to be. Art coming through EVERYWHERE.
The early 80s there was an explosion of visual art as well. When I arrived there there were 22 jazz clubs that you could go to, many of them open to 6 in the morning. Not regulated. So I got a solo piano gig that finished at 11, go home, have a nap, change and then go out to 6 o’clock in the morning. Every week there was a bunch of the greats playing at a different locations. Sometimes you’d sit in with people - it was this thriving community of (semi starving) artists.
One of the things I did regularly was go to the Village Vanguard, the world’s greatest jazz club, where people like Sonny Rollins played. You know, all sorts of people… like Keith Jarrett. All the heavy-heavy weights go there to play and also to record albums, live albums. I was very young and very wet behind the ears, I was like 22 – 23. But I was a young 23 *laughter* - in some respects – I mean I had a lot of street smarts… but anyway. The owners of the Vanguard got to know a few of us, who were just dead enthusiastic. We would just sit in the stairwell and listen. When you come to The Village Vanguard, there’s a stairwell and then the club’s in the basement. So you couldn’t see anything, but you could still hear everything. They used to just let us do it, because they knew we were jazz enthusiasts – wannabe jazz players. And sometimes if I went by there later, they would just let me in. Wasn’t busy, you know.
I saw all the jazz greats playing at the time. And then other clubs would have nights where you can just sit in. You would join in the jam sessions as much as you could. It was very competitive. Jazz is super-competitive, all the good players, the young ones, they were like tennis players, they all want to win. It’s not just a matter of sounding good and playing well – it’s the matter of winning. There’s a lot of technical virtuosos. And ultimately it’s what gives jazz a bad name – that kind of attitude, because it’s just… Maybe that competitive spirit was great in the times of Byrd and Charlie Parker, but at that time it was a bit outdated. Also you were hearing a lot of people just showing off their techniques they practiced at home. You know.
Route to producing
So eventually I got my first synthesiser and started getting away from jazz. There’s a thing about making a living. Because in New York there was so many clubs and so many things going on, a lot of musicians could survive as being musicians. You didn’t have to take teaching jobs, didn’t have to work in a supermarket. So I got a synthesiser and joined 5 local, New York rock bands *laughter*. You know, that’s kind of what I grew up with, you could say it was inevitable that I went into more commercial music.
I played with bands and people like John McCurry of Cyndi Lauper, who were then just starting out. The players in those bands were FANTASTIC, but the point really was, that at that time in the music business the bands sometimes had development deals with labels. Sometimes they had publishing deals, so even if they didn’t have fully fledged records, there would be a trickle of money somewhere – and they could afford to pay 30 bucks per rehearsal. So you joined 5 bands with the knowledge that they aren’t going to gig very much – but they rehearse a lot. So each week you’d have like 14 rehearsals, and you’re making pretty decent money out of it.
But then T.M. Stevens, who was a virtuoso bass player, actually ended up playing with the Pretenders. It’s this black guy, FANTASTIC bass player, he told me once *makes a T. M. Stevens impressions* ‘Nah kid, you need to make up your mind. What do you want? You wanna be a road hog, or a studio hound?’ *laughter*. What he meant was that you probably won’t get the chance to do both, because it’s two separate groups of people. All the contacts you make are relevant to a specific road. The studio had a lot more appeal to me, you’re working on records that will live on, and you’re doing something new every day. You’re not playing the same set every night…
So I became a producer. However, let me explain – the word ‘producing’ is a very grey area to start with. I don’t like it very much, especially today, because everybody with a laptop now thinks they’re a producer. Although even back then I found it a fairly laughable term. Basically, the more synthesisers I bought, the more people employed me to just do my thing. That’s really what happened in the beginning of my studio career. You didn’t have to read any music. You’d come in and people would say – ‘come up with something’. Or they’d play you something off the record and they’d say – ‘We want something like this. Come up with a sound’. It’s like assembling a classical piece of music in a way.
I used to enjoy that there was a whole team. I like the atmosphere there in the studio – the assistant engineer, engineer and producer etc. Eventually I had a whole recording studio full of gear – all portable. I had 32 channel analogue console that was flight-cased. I could literally move into the drum booth of a major studio, set-up and pre-produce entire records.
As a producer you have to be a bit of an all-around guy. Allot of the time your coming up with all the idea’s. You’re not getting any credit for that, however you are getting a very decent daily fee. But of course the attraction of producing and writing is that you have a vested interest if the thing does make it big. You’re going to carry on earning.
Merv with Rayford Griffin, on tour with Cameo
Merv mixing Babylon Zoo
Merv on hits
The hits are elusive man. You can basically hit your head and have amnesia – and that’s when you come up with a hit *laughs*. There really is no formula for it. And that was part of my problem as a producer that I hated people who said ‘I know how a hit record sounds like, I CAN MAKE YOU A HIT RECORD.’ One does not know what a hit record sounds like - Only after the fact *laughter*.
You can hear a record that’s not a hit and say ‘that sounds like a hit’, because it wasn’t released yet. I’ve heard a few songs that are just destined to be a hit though... because they’re just so STRONG, you know, SO COMMERCIAL. They are very few and far between those songs. Maybe one out of every ten thousand. I used to say to people ‘I understand all the elements that need to be in a hit record and I know what I’m doing. I can do it in budget. I can do it on time. I can do it with different artists. I can get a great vocal from them. I can get produce them. But I can’t guarantee it’s going to be a hit record’.
As a matter of fact I tweeted that about Michael Illitch, one of the wealthiest people in the world at that point. His son wanted to be a rockstar - they had a lot of money and I was hot at that point – so they got the hottest people they could get to work on the record. That was a funny story, because he (Michael) was used to certainty. In his business he required 98% assurance that he's going to make money before he even spent a dime. So basically he was printing money.
One day while working on the record I was invited to dinner by Mr Illitch himself, and I had enough savvy to know that he wanted something from me. He's a billionaire and has 50 other people grovelling to him around the dinner table. He asked me what I thought of his son's chances of success, and I said to him ‘you can get the best producers, the best songwriters, your son can sing really well, and la-la-la-la, but you cannot guarantee it's going to be a hit record'. And that's when he told me about franchising, about 98% assurance of making money. And you see, this explained a lot to me.
On Franchising in the Music Industry
The music business has always been traditionally completely filled, from top to bottom, with complete bozzers *laughter * in terms of the business side of it, right? Of course you get exceptions from it, like Mr Peter Ruppert, who is very savvy and great help to have around, someone who can help a lot. However most of the people in the music business; it's all front, without any substance at all. Especially in the business side. And this explained why, because basically... Okay, the very cleverly brilliant business people understand Michael Illitch's formula of franchising.
That's what they all want, a way of making money that's assured. That's when they feel like they are... that's when they're riffing, you know what I mean? That's when they get that warm feeling in the pit of their stomach. They're having an effect. They're creating something. So those that go off into the music business, because they're enamored with the idea of being around the stars, or whatever it is. The cleverest ones soon realise, that there is no way to apply the same formula to the music business – so they pull out. They go out and do other businesses, leaving the B, arguably C, arguably D, arguably E rate business people in the music business, who basically aren’t smart enough to get out. They're not on the front-end of the business – they're on the shit end of the business. The only reason to be in the music business is if you're creating something. Just like these smart business people go off to be smart business people somewhere else, because there's no way they can impose they're wealth on the music business.
Merv with Bo Diddley on "The Legends of
Rock & Roll tour in Australia
Merv with Jimmy Ridao (Waitresses Guitarist)
Why the Music Industry failed
So it wasn't just mp3 and downloading that destroyed the music business. It was an absolute and complete disregard for any kind of decency *laughter *. Filled to the gills with bullshitters, with people who said 'I can make a hit record!', 'I know how a hit record sounds like!'. The minute I hear that coming out of someone's mouth, I no longer want to listen to one more word they say. They have already proven the fact that they're idiots, and that's that. But you see, those people have managed to get jobs, and the people they managed to get the jobs from – they're also idiots *laughter * - so when they are told 'I know what a hit record sounds like!' - they believe it! *laughter *.
Most of the time, if you're a producer, or whoever, you're dealing with A&R people. And they are the worst of all... Yeah, they're the worst of all. It's just all front. And they totally abused their position at every chance they got. I was married to an A&R person, so I know, intimately, behind closed doors, how they think. And it was just revolting! For instance, there was this one A&R guy, who was very proudly telling me how he spent a weekend – he went from New York to London – first class on British Airways, with the sole purpose of banging his counterpart’s assistant in London. So whoever worked in the office in London, his assistant was hot, so he went over there, first-class, and had a suite at some hotel. And then 'ha-ha, ha-ha, it's all going to be charged back to this artist'. I thought, you know how many records to you have to sell to pay for a round trip and suite in a 5-star hotel. That's a lot of records... When you sit down and think about the maths, back then, of how many records you have to sell for it to be a significant amount of money... Man, that's a lot of records!
That's why there was always a big focus on the singles. The focus on it is that the earning of a single, next to that of an album cut is just a world apart. If you get a hit single in North America - you get multiple plays on hundreds of stations a day. Every time you check your bank account, you are going to see a significant rise, as long it's a hit. It's quite incredible! I mean it's still going, even in this country [the UK], though the amount of money isn't as significant. That's the money end of the business. And that's why everybody wants to go over there, because if you get a hit in the USA, you're going to make really decent money. If you get a hit here, especially now, it's like 'who the hell cares?!'. You know, what do you get – five grand? *laughs *. You know, you don't get very much money.
On tour with Larry Blackmon and Cameo
Merv in the "You Make Me Work Hard" Cameo video
On celebrity clients
[You've got some interesting studio stories too, Cameo, Miles Davis?]
Yeah, I worked with a number of notable people. I guess one of my best memories working with Eddie Murphy – that was quite something. It was just before he did 'Coming to America'. I guess some people thought he was on the decline at that point. He was huge at that point, really. I actually wrote a track that he co-wrote – two songs on the 'So Happy' album. When I was with Cameo, me and Larry Blackmon, we produced a third song for that record.
We worked with him for a month in LA. I forgot the name of the studio. That was a pretty heavy experience, because every day he would come in – he was very professional when he turned up – but he also couldn't stop being funny *laughter*. So basically him and his uncle who was managing him at the time – they used to ad-lip in the control room. I had to learn on how to focus my mind, come up with parts for the records. At the same time, the control room is literally filled with 20 people having stitches the whole time. Eddie Murphy - to see unplugged version of what they do was just incredible. So I used to wake-up in the morning and my stomach muscles would hurt so much I couldn't sit up.
I guess another story was the Queen of Funk. For a long time, she was one of those people – I just thought she had the best ever voice. In my humble opinion anyway. At least from what I like to listen to. So when I got to work with her I was over the moon. And I had written this song in 5-4, most songs are written in 4-4, so it's unusual. Led Zeppelin did a few songs in 5-4, Pink Floyd - it's a very cool sounding time signature. So we started off, recording my song ‘Without a Care’.
Queen of Funk
She basically ran the session. The track was done, she comes in, she sits on a stool in the vocal booth and she just dictates to the engineer – 'okay, drop me in for this line, that line, go back to here' – you know, nobody has to produce The Queen of Funk she's a completely self-producing singer. Maybe if it was someone who she totally respected – then MAYBE she'd listen to what you have to say. She's a super nice person, sweet, lovely lady. Anyway! She got through a third of the song, she's doing all these 7 part harmonies – it's just fantastic watching her work – hearing The Queen of Funk. We were all getting more and more excited, and then she says – 'okay, okay, I'm going to go to the bathroom'. She steps away, goes to the bathroom. We start to chat with each other, time goes by. 30 minutes goes by and I was the first one to ask 'where's...?'. Another HOUR went by before a very sheepish assistant comes into the room and says that she's left. And that's all we're told at this moment – that she's left. And that we all had to leave and that the tapes are being confiscated, or at least taken into possession by the label.
And it was the next day that I found out from a few different sources what actually happened. She went into the bathroom, fixed, OD-ed, collapsed on the floor with foaming of the mouth nearly dead, and was taken DIRECTLY from my session to rehab *manic laughter*. So I never got to hear what she did either, because they wouldn't let a half-finished track out, that's for damn sure. That was another real lost opportunity, even though I got to work with the Queen of Funk and understand the process that she goes through in terms of the layering, harmonies – so I did learn a huge amount from it.
As I did from working with all of the really big people that I worked for. The really big ones, the ones who weren't making their first record – you know, they were really big for a reason. Most of the great artists – they know what they're f∂@king doing *laughs *. At least the ones I worked with. The ones that are super talented – are super talented. The rest are just the the rest, that's about it.
On Miles Davis
[You didn't tell me about Miles Davis]
Well Miles Davis, he's the greatest ever. That was the pinnacle of my whole career – working with Miles. I say working WITH Miles kind of loosely really. Basically the story behind that was that I’d been in Cameo for a while and I’d done 'Word Up' album. I was now associate producing the “Machismo' album, which was the follow-up to ‘Word Up’. I went to my studio apartment in 46 Street in New York and I wanted to place some songs to the record. So I sat down with all the Cameo sounds and studio gear and I just came up with a couple of tracks that I just thought would be really good for Cameo. Larry (Blackmon) heard this one track and he played it for Miles and Miles loved it. Basically Miles then came in, he recorded 8 tracks – I wasn’t invited into the control room for the recording. I did get to meet him though. He basically didn't have much interest in me to be honest, although it was a big honour for me. I was literally shaking at the knees. It's basically this guy - he has completely changed music. Well at least the music I like. Not once, not twice, but THREE times. Sort of like the Picasso of the music world - and questionably one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. So it was just a great honour.
But then, afterwards, when Miles left, there were 8 tracks of Miles Davis – and I was the only guy left that understood jazz. So I went in and assembled Miles's lead track out of these 8 tracks – I made a composite. Which you do with EVERYBODY. I don't care who the artist is. If it's a studio orientated date, there is only one or two artist out there who will do it in one take. All I'll say about that is that there were a few things on Miles's track that he certainly wouldn't want featured on the record. So I assembled the best bits of it. Well, listen, it was AMAZING. You push up a fader and there's Miles Davis playing a song that you wrote! Nah! Pull the fader down, push the next one up!
It was a heady experience. That particular track had a lot of critical acclaim. You know, Cameo were so big commercially that die hard jazz people were never going to like that record. It was one of those honourable moments though. What I say about working with Miles, is that I kind of snuck through the back-door – meaning I didn't rise through the jazz ranks, becoming noticed by other people first, then Miles Davis. I came in through a very commercial orientated vehicle. But who cares?! *laughter*. I got the track to prove it! And that's a thrill! Very little can compare to the feeling of listening to a song that you've written when someone so influential is playing it. I really cannot think of anybody I worked with that can compare.
*Laughs * He really looked like an alien, like from the movie 'Alien'. The shape of his head, just black, black, black, there is no grey in his complexion at all. He was an extraordinarily looking character. All the years of doing heroin, you know, it gives you this 'sucked in' look. It's extraordinary. Anything he said – could change careers. The best thing, I think, I ever read in an interview with him, was he told the interviewer talking about how he knows whether people can play. He said something like 'I don't have to hear them play, I just have to see them pick up their instrument'.
On Michael Brecker
One of the other people I worked with was Michael Brecker. Over the last 20 years, he died about 5 years ago, he was arguably the second best jazz sax player ever, the best pop player, whatever you want. Who was it, James Taylor? He had him on million dollar a year retainer. That's even if he wasn't touring. He was THE session guy in New York. The top guy of all the instruments. And I got to work with him on Cameo, and a few other artists. So I got to see how it works. You learn an attitude from those people. Like here is the greatest saxophonist, everybody agrees. He comes in – and no attitude at all. Lovely guy. What is going to make this guy happy on the session? It's if he thinks that you're happy. That's what will make him happy. He will play in a way that he finds offensive to himself, if that's what you want. Obviously, within limits. So his professional attitude was absolutely immaculate. Friendly, open, yet he's the ultimate guy.
As a studio guy a lot of people would employ him for jingles, music for advertising, because of time constraints. He did an immense amount. You'd hire him because he really would do it in one take. And the next guy down would take ten. And you don't have the extra 25 minutes. Everything's happening like this *snap snap snap *. They would earn their money by how quick and solid they were – the top guys. The first time I worked with him, he basically was telling the engineer how to set up the mics to get the best sound. So now I have like the best technique for mic-ing a tenor saxophone from the top guy whose sound everybody wants. And those kind of experiences add up. If you're alert, you're looking to learn, you learn tricks from those people.
In reflection upon himself
Eventually, I learned a hell of a lot of tricks. And I was one of the only people who could play to a virtuoso standard, but also could work the computers to a high standard. So basically what was left? Producing - it's a lot of work, you have to sit there and baby everybody. You have to deal with all the idiot label people. What's really enjoyable about producing is mixing – that was always the thing. See, because I was a keyboard player and a programmer in New York - I would pre-produce everything immaculately, put it all on tape and literally all I had to do is push the faders to zero. That was my viewpoint of where the mix should be. So a lot of the times I would feel that the mixers would fuck up my records. Mess it up. It wouldn't be as good as I wanted it to be. But there was a real resistance via the record companies to give me the chance to actually physically mix – because I wasn't an engineer. You get typecast. I was typecast as keyboard player – producer.
It wasn't until working with Arthur Baker – he is a dance music producer and he's really worth looking up if you're interested in music history. He was the first guy to use this little sampler and sample a bit of vocal and use it in a dance track. He basically invented some of the dialogue that is used commonly, even today. Dance music wouldn't be the same without Arthur Baker – he's legendary in the dance music circles. A lot of the newer guys might not respect him as much as the last generation. Either way he was a workhorse as a producer. He constantly had projects to work on. If you were his programmer and his keyboard player, you would, just through him as one client, make a very good living. Actually better living than if I was trying to produce artists myself. And also better quality of projects, because he was getting the best projects, the best remixes. Also most of the time it was remixes, which meant you wouldn't just mix the record, you would come up with your own stuff, which is ultimately even more fun.
Most importantly he was a hands-off producer - he'll come in and he'll paint a few broad strokes. Then you had to get inside of his head and work out what does Arthur Baker want? What does an Arthur Baker record sound like? You had to gravitate towards those kinds of things and if you did it right then he would give you even more responsibility. So he was the one that let me mix major label stuff. It was mainly because he couldn't get this guy Mark Plotty, who I know very well. He used to work with David Bowie for years, he's a brilliant mixer. Mark was my biggest influence. He had those big, explosive sounding mixes. So at first I would aspire to that level.
On the English Music Scene
When I moved back to England we were going to make a partnership which unfortunately didn't work out. But I did get to mix some very big records, most notably with Jonny Marr and Bernard Sumner from New Order. They made a super-group called Electronic. The records like the Pet Shop Boys, you know, they would appear on it, basically the English pop royalty – these guys. Jonny Marr is thought to be the best English guitar player up there with someone like Eric Clapton. So I got to work with all of those guys on the Twisted Tenderness album. That was a fantastic project to work on, even though Arthur Baker had a nervous breakdown on the first week *laughter *. But that meant that I had to save the situation. Arthur brought me in to programme and do my thing and I hit it off with Jonny and Bernard big time!
Some people, some rockstars are working on being nice. It's almost a self-conscious niceness, but these guys are just nice. But they're also; both of them have been rockstars since before they were adults. You're seeing a very warped sense of reality when you're hanging out with someone like that. In some ways they appear like normal people, but again, since they were teenagers they couldn't go out on the street without being recognised. Everybody adores them. They always had a massive critical acclaim and huge success. So obviously that's going to affect how you are as a person. But they're both really funny and the relationship that they have with each other is even funnier.
They really are opposites and I don't know for the life of me why they started a group together, apart from the fact that they are good friends! So on that project you had to make Bernard happy, but you also had to make Jonny happy. You know... the record came out absolutely fantastic, and that's one of my best ever mixes, I think. Really hard hitting, good sounding stuff and great lyrics. Jonny Marr is a proper virtuoso guitar player - and I consider that I know what I'm talking about when I say that. He has those hands, hands of a classical player, and if you hear him with a 12-string guitar in his hands, he just produces this incredible sound out of a guitar and seemingly has limitless technique, even though he never-ever uses just for technique's sake. You really couldn't say anything bad about the guys playing, that's why even today he’s going from one super group to the next. He was in the Smiths and then The The, then la-la-la, he's been in like 8 huge bands.
He's the kind of person; when people ask him to play - they actually ask him to be in the band. I mean, he does sessions, but if he tours, you will have to give it up baby! And he'll want a proper share of everything... and rightly bloody so! Because a portion of the audience will come in just to see Jonny Marr play! He also adds a lot of legitimacy to any project that he's in.
On Change in Music
I've seen a lot of change in recent years. What happens a lot these days is that young bands are being directly matched with an advertiser. There's a lot of sponsorship taking place. It comes in at a very early stage in a band's career.
Back in the day, nobody would be seen dead working with these advertisers. The advertising business makes all the other businesses look nice. None of them are looking after you. The idea of no middle man has a detrimental effect on the artists. A lot of young artists need to be little business people now. You need to market yourself, look after your own business. Is that good? Is that what you're meant to be thinking about? Is that what Joni Mitchell thought when she wrote Blue? NO! Artists from the years gone by were writing about the things they felt. It's hard to do so in a world that's so commercialised.
We need to separate the commercial value of music to re-establish the idea of the middle man, the agent. I understand that everybody needs to be making money, but artists really need to focus on what they do best. The last manager I had was the biggest producer manager in England called Steve Budd. He had 50 producers on his rooster. The way things used to work in his world was - an A&R person would sign a band, then go to Steve Budd and say 'Steve, send us the resumes of 5 of your guys'. Then Steve would listen to the band, then decide which producer was best for the band, send the 5 resumes to the A&R person - and they would choose one. So who had the biggest effect on the choice? Steve Budd! Bands weren't so savvy and the A&R wouldn't know anything, so they needed someone like Steve Budd. Steve was very good at what he did, would always only suggest people who were abundantly qualified to produce this band. There's an example of the middle-man who added value and provided a link between the business side of things and the bands. The alternative is for bands to deal directly with advertisers. The bands shouldn't think about cornflakes when they are meant to make music.
When bands used to arrive in New York, they used to look for a lawyer before they would look for a bass player. I never really liked that, even though arguably the lawyers were so well connected, that they would hook you up with the right people. You go to a party in their house, get to talk everyone and advance your career that way.
On the Future of Music
Do you know what's missing from Rock n' Roll today? Self-abuse. Artists are eating health food and jogging for Christ's sake *manic laughter*. How much music is that? When they were all doing smack and LSD they were living on the edge, man! Not that I'm endorsing drugs. If you sold yourself to an advertiser it was like selling your soul to the devil. You had to be very careful who you associated yourself with. To go on a talent show? You're dead. You will never become a proper artist.
How are we going to proceed from here? That's the really interesting question. We need some kind of apocalypse. Someone needs to pull the plug and we need to re-think everything. That's basically where we're at. We are watching it all go down the tube. I don't know what we're going to do.
I know one thing though. I'm smashing my head against the wall even though I'm bleeding pretty badly. Working with someone like Peter Ruppert is where I see value. I probably wouldn't be making any music now if it wasn't for someone like Peter, Peter understands this whole other world. He's the guy that I told you about. He has the commercial values. I have a lot of integrity in what I'm doing, but I'm also good at adapting. I have that Michael Brecker thing of wanting to make the client happy. Working with Peter and his bright ideas is what makes it worth it. Otherwise, just do whatever you feel like and when you feel like it. Because you'll never know what's going to make it.