Wayne Proctor talking about drumming, producing House of Tone and King King
BD: Firstly, a big doodles thank you for taking time out of his busy schedule to sit down and talk to Bluesdoodles about music and so much more.
We all unwrap that album, put on the stereo and listen, we love the sound, it often bringing back memories of a great night of live music. Have you ever wondered what goes into making the album you love to listen to?
Wayne Proctor is candidly unpacking the mystery of record making speaking as a musician, member of a band and a producer. Wayne has gathered up all these skills and more into a brand that is being recognised on many stylish albums as House of Tone.
The conversation flowed, starting off traditionally at the beginning and then… well read on to find out.
BD: Wayne have you always had the ambition to be a producer?
WP: Yes I think so, from a very young age. The drums were my third instrument I learnt, having started on the Piano at 4 and then progressing to guitar at 8. I could instinctively pick out singles on an album and recognize the best songs. I could hear the sound choices, the construction of parts and arrangement; the idiosyncratic production elements… just as an A&R man needs to when identifying a single to promote an album.
I have always been interested in production, starting from the first band I was in, where I was heavily involved in the arrangements of the songs, this was helped along by my dual knowledge of harmonics from playing the guitar and the rhythmic side of things from playing the drums. Producing was a logical step for me as part of my development as a musician. I wanted to have recorded what I could hear in the room and in my head so I needed to understand how producing and recording works. I realised I had a lot to learn, so with a mixture of teaching myself and observing the recording making process of albums I was making it all started to come together. My first time working with a world renowned producer was on Aynsley Lister’s self-titled album, his debut for RUF records that was produced by Jim Gaines. Jim has produced artists across many genres; this guy had won Grammy’s! I observed how he managed the session, the technical side of things and his people skills, I watched and listened to everything he said and did. I could see how he handled people and songs and what the engineer was doing.
BD: You have been really busy, how do you work with different artists sounds and styles
WP: Yes, It has got busier and busier thankfully, it’s great to work on different styles and work with different artists/bands, it really keeps things fresh and creative for me. Just recently I’ve worked on albums by Stevie Nimmo, Ben Poole, Red Butler and on a new album by Adam Norswothy. Adam’s is a more traditional song driven album and after working on the more blues-rock orientated material
I needed to make sure I came into Adam’s album with a blank canvas. Just like resetting a camera with white paper you need to reset yourself between each project. Luckily, I tend to be present from a very early stage in the recording process so I get to know what an artist can do, so you get excited about revisiting that artists musical character, it could be the voice, guitar playing, lyrics, melodies. I just do my best to find the heart of the artist or band and bring that more to the forefront, so the listener gets to see a much more potent version of that artist
BD: So what got you to take the leap to be a Producer
WP: Honestly? I got a bit sick of not hearing the quality on albums that I wanted to hear and that I knew an artist was capable of. Too many producers pressing record and getting the album done quickly for the record label, I understand budget plays a part but I do feel the quality of the content is compromised when an album Is recorded too quickly. When things are rushed you don’t maximize the potential that a song or album can have. I knew in the end the answer was to do it myself, and create a team of like-minded people with an overflow of ideas and a hunger for quality. I’ve been producing, mixing and engineering for just over a decade now, my first album I produced was for Sean Webster back in 2005. We had a great communication, (we have known each other since we were 12 years old, actually went to school together) and it just worked, that album was recorded at Superfly Studios or Bluewater Studios as it was known back then. I have travelled a long way since then creatively, my knowledge has really deepened and I have a much better understanding of how to make things work and solve problems when things aren’t working. Twenty-Six albums later and a bunch of singles and EP’s and any success I’m experiencing is just down to hard work, focusing on the details and establishing good communication between myself and the artist so there is mutual respect and understanding, so the artist knows you always have their best interests at heart.
BD: Once a song makes the Album is it farewell and on to the next?
WP: Yes usually but occasionally you get to revisit things, funnily enough I am coming to the end of re-mixing ‘Rush Hour’ from King King’s Reaching For The Light for a radio version. The new re-mix is for Planet Rock and it is sounding awesome… it makes me want to go back and re-do the whole “Reaching For The Light” album, it just highlights that producing and mixing is constantly a learning process. I have done a further six albums since “Reaching For The Light” and every album has taught me something new that I can being to the table the next time round. My hunger to improve and get better at what I do is pretty immense.
BD: What an experience touring with Thunder must have been
WP: Yes it was straight after King King’s visit to India to play the Mahindra blues Festival, which was an incredible experience. We landed in Gatwick after the India trip and drove straight to Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall; it is extremely rare you get to experience so many amazing and special gigs in a row. Its been a fantastic reward for all the hard work we’ve been putting in, getting the Thunder tour was certainly a high point of what’s been happening for myself and the band. There is so much potential and so many new opportunities and doors opening for King King, it is beyond exciting.
BD: Now back to what do you, so what does Wayne Proctor bring to Production?
WP: Firstly, I like to give artists time and space to be creative, I work hard to build trust and try to break down their preciousness and preconceptions of how things “should” be and help make the music flow in a more organic way. Avenues of creativity need to be opened and kept open to build on an artists inherent natural talent, I want to push them above what they think they can do – see them blossom. To do this you need to make sure there is a good vibe and complete trust with the artist from the beginning. Albums take time, Ben Poole’s latest “Time Has Come “ was three years in its gestation, lots of talking between myself, Ben and Alan Robinson (Manhaton Records) to formulize the album and get the right set of songs. It is not about going into the studio and pressing record straight away. An album needs to be worked on, developed, thought about and developed further. It makes such a difference to the end result. And when producer and artist are in complete trust at the start, ideas are free flowing, everyone feels comfortable. And of course as a producer you need to recognize how to get the best out of every artist you work with, find ways to make them feel at ease so the music flows out of them, give them an arena to overflow with ideas where all ideas are entertained
For me, pre-production is the key to how great an album can be, whether we have a few weeks or a month to prepare an album I always recommend some time gets spent on pre production. Working as House of Tone is all about trying out ideas, to find what does and doesn’t work, putting content with depth and meaning into the music. I have a very methodical brain so I am able to visualize the music and see how things can sit together and how that ultimately affects the end result. I am always pushing for all levels to be of a higher quality, the songwriting, the playing, the quality of recording, it’s about Investing time at all stages of the process. It’s vital you do this so you’re not just churning albums out like a factory line. The quality has to be maintained and kept at a super high level to really leave a musical legacy.
BD:I am sure people have heard the terms relating to stages of record production but many do not know what the differences are.
WP: Pre-Production: Is usually the artist/band and myself in a room shaping the songs, trying ideas out and seeing what sticks. Ideally you record this stage even if with just your phone, you listen back, tweek things, make more suggestions and develop the idea till it feels right. Pre-production is where the actual content of the music is first established and developed.
Record: The stage where everything that has been written gets recorded with confidence after all the pre production. You can track live as band and do overdubs, or you can build up from the drums and add each instrument. I tend to let the material dictate which recording approach is needed, in the end it’s all valid you just want the best way to make the songs sound the best. At the recording stage I like to get the sounds from the instruments as close to as they will be in the final mix, so its lots of moving microphones and auditioning sounds to make sure you’ve got some thing great and not just a generic sound. You want something you are excited about sound wise, getting great exciting performances gives you so much more to work with at the mix stage. It really is worth getting the musicians to dig deep and do that extra take to get that something special.
Mixing: The stage of clearing everything up so it can all be heard and you can pick out all the that has been recorded, so you’re getting all the details as a listener, so you can hear the vocalist breath, you can hear guitar to the left, keys to the right etc. Giving the music a balance and making the song feel like a journey of highs and lows. A mix should enhance all the hard work that has been done at the pre production and recording stages, enhance the dynamics make everything feel a lot more visceral.
Mastering: Is the final stage, It is giving the album a polish and a final sheen. It stage you make sure the volume and general EQ balance even across all the tracks has an even feel so nothing jumps out and things have a nice flow.
BD: Tell us a bit about House Of Tone, Superfly Studios and Y Dream Studios
WP: We are a complimentary package of production and studio. Half the recording gear in the Superfly Studio’s is mine and so it made sense to join resources with Andy Banfield owner of Superfly studios and to use this amazing space to record artists and then Y Dream Studio’s owned by Steve Wight is where the mixing takes place. So House of Tone Productions is the whole package: recording, production, mixing, mastering and artist development.
House of Tone is all about re-investing into the music scene/artists by giving the artist/band the opportunity and time to make their album something to be proud of. I want House Of Tone to be known as a quality brand across a wide range of genres. As soon as you see the House Of Tone Logo you know you are getting a quality artist, recording, production and mix where care has been taken to give you the most enjoyable listening experience you can have.
We must be hitting the mark as we had nominations for four albums at the British Blues Awards, Three for Bands and Two for solo artists. We are working hard to create a package that is easy for people to buy into whether it a band or solo artist. I really want artists and bands to House Of Tone as a brand of choice that they know they will get a superior quality album at the end of the creative process. In addition to album production, we can create websites, shoot videos, deliver creative artwork and artist development. We are creating a whole atmosphere. The artwork has to be as just good as the music. I studied graphic design before I went professional as a musician. I’ve actually just finished the artwork on the new Ben Poole album, it was a collaborative effort between producer, artist, label and management, all working towards a high quality end result. I really believe House of Tone can provide the full artist package.
BD: If you were putting together the perfect band with members from across the years (dead or alive) who would you have playing?
Drums: will definitely have two out of these three depending on style of the track –
Jeff Porcaro (Toto) – John Bonham (Led Zepplin) – Phil Collins (Genesis) – Steve Jordan (Eric Clapton)
Bass: Lee Sklaar (James Taylor, Phil Collins) John Paul Jones (led Zeppelin) Pino Palladino, Jaco Pastorious (Weather Report, Joni Mitchell)
Guitar: Steve Lukather (Toto) Scott Mckeon
Singer: Phil Collins (Genesis) Peter Gabriel, Jeff Buckley
Keys: Billy Preston
From a lyric and melody point of view it would have to be John Lennon, Jeff Buckley and James Taylor.
Bluesdoodles has been delighted to review Albums produced by Wayne Proctor, House of Tone, Superfly Studio combination.
King King – Reaching for The Light – Read More HERE
Stevie Nimmo – The Sky Won’t Fall – Read More HERE
Ben Poole – Time Has Definitely Come – Read More HERE
Adam Norsworthy – Rainbird – Read More HERE