AUS220 Week 5: The Steve James Plea
I'm here to write about legendary British producer/engineer Steve James, in the hope that I will be selected as one of the ten students from Tim Dalton's AUS220 class to visit Steve during his upcoming drum tracking session at Melbourne's soon to be lost Sing Sing Studios. Well, with fingers crossed, here is why I need to be there.
So, why do I need the opportunity to see the one and only Steve James commanding the desk? To share the studio with an industry icon? To witness a legend at work? Well, that's actually pretty easy. The answer is this...
The opening drum role and mellow, warm guitar line that follows, was the soundtrack to my early days studying music. I studied every song on this album with the most precise attention. Every note, sound, flavour. I took it all in, over and over again. It seeped into my soul and moulded my playing, writing and preferences permanently. This whole album, produced and engineered by Steve in 1991-92, was constantly on play in my childhood home, and to this day I use it as a source of inspiration for its instrumentation, songwriting, and of course, production. The decisions made by Steve and the band on this album are simply perfection. Smooth, punchy, moving. I think for all the work that Steve James has done since being in Australia, the products he produced with boys from The Screaming Jets are up there as the most stunning. But, if being responsible for one of my favourite bands of all time, soundtracking songs of my childhood, and gaining legendary industry status isn't enough of a reason for me to beg for a shot at this opportunity, then perhaps the fact that the man has recorded, on several occasions, the band responsible for my favourite song of all time. The one and only Forever Now by Cold Chisel. My favourite rock song ever, EVER!
Steve worked with Cold Chisel on live recordings in 2005 for Warner Music on Ringside, and also in 2001 on In the Round. In 1998, he worked on some of their album tracks for Mushroom Records' Last Wave of Summer. Now, add this to the fact that he has also leant his ear to Mental As Anything (1989), Paul Young (1995), Skunkhour (1999), The Superjesus (2000-03), You Am I (2002), and many, many others, and you have yourself a man responsible for some of the greatest Australian music ever released. Since moving down under in the mid-to-late 80's, Steve James has become synonymous with Australian rock royalty. There is no doubt that he has earned his spot amongst the finest this country has to offer, but in 2000 he took home the ARIA award for Producer of the Year, just incase there was any doubt at all. For Australia, he has been a practitioner of high demand and quality for over three decades now, but it's not only Australian history that Steve has left his musical mark on. Not by a long shot. In fact, you could say that before leaving his motherland, England, he managed to play his part in the production of one of the most recognisable and celebrated pieces of music to ever come out of the UK, and a part of comedy history that has truly stood the test of time.
Now, I could bang on for another ten blogs about Steve's accomplishments and credentials, but this is all well known. The question here is why I need this opportunity, and there is a deeper reason than him simply producing some of the greatest music of all time, and me feeling like I've earned it. As I mentioned in my previous post, I am struggling a lot this trimester with the direction I feel I should take my career in. I've had the opportunity over the last four weeks to sink my teeth into the world of post-production and I have fallen in love it, but I haven't fallen out of love with my first mistress, music. I know all the facts and figures about the decline of the recording studio, the rise of DIY producing, and album sales plummeting, but the spark has not gone out. I still have that burning desire to make incredible music, and to be behind some big hits. But it is fading. The older I get the more I feel like I need stability, surety, and, to be honest, a job! I have done fairly well as a music practitioner so far, but it's all been a gamble, and I constantly question myself and my decisions. Should I have married that girl/stayed in that country/taken that job? All the chances at normality that I've had, and ignored, over the years hang over me permanently. Although this may seem like hyperbole, it is true, and also truly why I feel like this opportunity is important for me to be a part of. I'm not suggesting an afternoon watching Steve James work will be some magical answer for all of my life's questions, but it may help clear up the one about my career. At the very least, it will level the playing field with all of my recent exposure to post-production. I feel like I'm forgetting why I ever wanted to do this, and I think that seeing a true legend of the craft doing his thing may just dust off my passion, or perhaps not, but either way I will have some further clarity in my life-direction conundrum.
If all of the above hasn't convinced you that I am desperate to get on the list, then maybe I should mention that I also hope to ask Steve if he'd be interested in allowing me to interview him over the phone for the podcast I am currently writing on the Melbourne music industry. So, it's not only a matter of childhood admiration and adulthood angst, but also academic determination, and who could resist getting behind that?