February 25, 2020

Stephen W Tayler: the Innerviews interview

Few people can hand over a resume as great that is as awe-inspiring as this man: producer, mixer, engineer, composer, and visual artist Stephen W Tayler sat down with Anil Prasad for in-depth Innerviews interview (20000 words!). He has an key factor in getting the sound right for artists such as Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, Genesis, Gong, Jethro Tull, Rush, and Tina Turner.

Inventive musicians from both progressive rock as well as jazz in its various mutations are his forte. On being present when jazz-rock hit in the early Seventies:

I was a big fan of a lot of jazz-rock and prog-rock when I joined Trident. Some of my favorite albums were by Yes, Genesis and Mahavishnu Orchestra. I saw all kinds of gigs. When I started as a tea boy at Trident, during my first week, I was making tea for Queen, Supertramp and Ace, who all had big hit singles and albums on the go. I was a fan of all of them, but I had to pinch myself and realize “Well, they’re just people who are talented.” I had to get used to that and not act strangely amongst them, but being in the presence of these really famous musicians was kind of mind-blowing.

With Return to Forever, I was very much on the periphery of a mix session, so there wasn't really a lot to witness other than tapes being played, mixed and recorded. But when I was an assistant engineer working on say, a Shakti session, I found myself understanding the music with my background as a musician and being able to sort of follow what was going on. Now, as a tape op back then, you were required to operate the tape machine on behalf of the engineer. They had no remote controls. So if you wanted to start recording in the middle of a recording at a specific point, he would have to instruct you when to press the record button. And so, this was a trust you had to develop with your engineer or producer.

Some of this music was really complex. And when they said, "Well, after the seventh bar which is in 15/8, we require you to drop in on the third beat of the following bar," I understood that, which was useful for everyone. So, yes it was fascinating to be amongst these people.

» stephentayler.com

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