Stephen Hague producer interview

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Producer Stephen Hague’s first foray into solo manufacturing was on OMD’s 1985 album, Crush

His productions are a few of the defining moments from the final 4 a long time of pop which launched – and relaunched – the careers of a few of our most treasured artists. In 2018, producer Stephen Hague took Traditional Pop by means of a unprecedented profession behind the studio desk… By Andy Jones

Stephen Hague is likely one of the best report producers of contemporary occasions. In the event you didn’t know that, you’ll virtually definitely agree after we let you know about only a smattering of his productions, lots of which got here at pivotal factors of the artist’s careers, serving as launchpads (or ‘re-launchpads’, if there’s such a phrase), to fame, fortune and notoriety.

There’s West Finish Ladies, the observe that finally gave us Pet Store Boys; there’s Freedom, the primary solo single produced for Robbie Williams. Then there’s World In Movement, the music that gave us – and continues to present us – a lot hope each time England enter a soccer match. 

Hague’s imaginative and prescient gave us some basic moments in 80s music, however he’s continued to work all through the 90s and past with numerous artists together with Tom Jones, Blur, Manic Avenue Preachers, James, Peter Gabriel, a-ha, and on and on.

For somebody who has helped create the sound of British pop music over the past 4 a long time, you is likely to be stunned to study that Stephen was born and raised within the States, however he all the time had a watch and an ear on this facet of the pond. 

“From a really early age, I couldn’t get sufficient of the stuff I used to be listening to on the radio,” he remembers, “particularly British bands, although I had my American favourites as nicely. By the point I hit junior highschool, issues had been already getting tribal: American surf vs British pop and rock, and I used to be within the Brit tribe.

“I used to be round for the beginning of the long-playing album as an ‘artform’, and the rise of FM underground radio within the States – a good time to be soaking all that up, first technology.” 

At 17, Hague dropped out of highschool and moved to LA, like so many others “chasing fame, fortune and ladies, not essentially in that order” – however not like many who make the transfer out West, his journey to success began virtually instantly.

“I made some pals, performed keyboards and bass in cowl bands,” he explains, “after which stumbled right into a circle of consuming buddies that included some Fleetwood Mac insiders. One in every of them was Walter Egan. He had simply gotten signed, and Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks produced his first album.

“I joined his band and performed on the report. There was successful [Magnet And Steel], and we went on tour, opening for large acts all around the States.” 

Hague used the cash he made to buy some recording gear, a few four-track tape machines “and the fundamentals for a house studio, which barely existed on the time”, and arrange store in a storage underneath the condo he was renting. He then co-founded the band Jules And The Polar Bears with singer-songwriter Jules Shear, who’d go on to pen hits for The Bangles, Cyndi Lauper and Alison Moyet. 

“We bought signed to Columbia Information and I co-produced three Polar Bears albums with Jules,” Hague says and provides with a wry smile: “We had been cherished by the critics, and largely ignored by the general public.”

Nevertheless, one constructive end result of being within the band was that Hague was in a position to afford to purchase a Yamaha CS-80, now extensively considered the most effective synthesiser of all time (and price no less than 5 figures if you will discover one, synth-fact followers). 

“It was certainly one of solely three in LA on the time,” Stephen remembers, “and as soon as phrase bought round, I used to be approached by Michael Omartian, a top-flight session keyboardist, who requested if I might take part on a few of his work and program the CS-80.

“For the following 12 months or so, we labored collectively on every part from Dolly Parton to The Pointer Sisters to Gordon Lightfoot, on information produced by Richard Perry, Peter Asher, Waronker and Titelman, and plenty of extra. “Being on all these classes was like going to producer college, and being paid for it. It was a useful expertise.”

Out of the blue, I’m a producer!

Hague discovered some native LA success with Gleaming Spires (the backing band for Sparks, with whom he struck up a friendship), however his massive manufacturing break got here after a tour, once more with The Polar Bears, opening for Peter Gabriel on his first US outing after leaving Genesis.

“Peter and I hit it off and stayed in contact,” says Stephen. “I despatched him a few of my home-recording initiatives, he appreciated them and pitched me to his report firm, Charisma. I had moved again to Boston by that point, and was scrambling for work.

“Sooner or later, I bought a name from Charisma asking if I’d wish to go to New York to put in writing for and produce The Rock Regular Crew; fallout from Malcolm McLaren’s Duck Rock album, which he did with Trevor Horn.

“I did it [Hague produced the single (Hey You) The Rock Steady Crew], and it went Prime 10 within the UK. Then the following name from Charisma was to do one thing with Malcolm himself. He got here to Boston, rambling on about ‘opera meets hip-hop’, and we wrote and recorded Madam Butterfly. It was successful, too.

“On the again of that I used to be approached by OMD and labored on their Crush album, then the decision from the newly fashioned Pet Store Boys, and immediately, I’m a producer! Life is unusual.

Producer Stephen Hague was a pioneer of digital recording strategies; his re-recording of Pet Store Boys’ West Finish Ladies was a No.1 single on either side of the Atlantic

“That OMD album was the primary main launch that I used to be the solo producer on,” he continues, “in order that was an essential step, plus I cherished the band and making the report, however the penny actually dropped with West Finish Ladies. Though it was executed as a one-off on the time, I bear in mind listening to a tough combine and pondering, ‘That is actually fucking good!’

“When it hit No.1 within the UK, although, it appeared like one thing had gone flawed with the charts. I couldn’t consider it. That was the primary time I realised I actually may do that, and producing grew to become my full-time focus. I used to be fortunate, although, that ‘success’ arrived as I used to be turning 30, and I’d acquired some expertise and cleaned myself up a bit. If it had occurred after I was 25, I might have fucked it up, I’m sure of that.” 

An digital legacy

After West Finish Ladies, Stephen immediately had a number of report corporations and bands approaching him, hoping for some Hague-style magic mud. He claims to not have had a specific sound again then, however his work with Pet Store Boys and OMD undoubtedly linked him to the synth-pop facet of the 80s, and he does admit a hefty contribution to the style.

“I cherished digital music from fairly early on,” he says, “Morton Subotnick, Tomita, Larry Quick’s Synergy information after which Kraftwerk, in fact. My background had been guitar, bass, and piano, however I used to be an early adopter of synths. British synth-pop began to turn into its personal class: I suppose I share a few of the blame for that!

“When you have got success with a sure ‘sound’, the initiatives provided are likely to mirror that, style-wise, and you’ll miss out on other forms of acts. Late within the 80s, although, I discovered a stability between synth-pop and extra guitar-based stuff, and that gave me extra flexibility.”

Stephen ultimately succumbed to temptation and in 1985, he moved to the UK, the place he loved most of his success. All through the remainder of that decade, he produced extra Pet Store Boys highlights (together with What Have I Performed To Deserve This? and It’s A Sin), one other album for OMD (The Pacific Age) and sealed one thing of a synth-pop hat-trick with The Innocents album for Erasure. 

“It was an enormous change for me to go to work each day and be virtually sure that the information would truly be heard,” he says. “I used to be within the studio virtually continuous, and having that momentum was exhilarating, though 12 cups of black espresso a day took its toll on my sleeping habits. However I’m a reasonably upbeat man by nature, and I used to be having a blast. An enormous plus was the standard of individuals I had the possibility to work with.”

However not each venture led to long-term friendships… “Effectively, in the end your luck runs out!” Hague smiles. “There have been a number of chemistry mismatches right here and there, which doesn’t imply the information suffered for it essentially. I don’t wish to title names, however there was one album particularly the place I used to be now not on talking phrases with one half of a widely known duo by the top of the venture, and his title wasn’t Andy Bell.

“And there have been a number of occasions I needed to ban sure record-company guys from the studio, for the higher good! Wanting again, possibly I ought to’ve executed {that a} bit extra usually.”

Profession highlights

Hague has now labored with an unimaginable roster of artists, together with Robbie Williams, Tom Jones, Peter Gabriel, The Pretenders and Blur. So which have been the highlights? 

“I realise now that it’s fairly a listing!” Stephen says when offered together with his personal CV, explaining: “I’ve all the time been one to maintain shifting and barely revisit the previous, however I may break it down into a few classes. One can be having the possibility to work with folks I grew up admiring.

“It’s arduous to explain the sensation of opening the studio door and Dusty Springfield walks in, as an illustration, or having been vastly influenced by an artist like Todd Rundgren after which making information with them.

“It’s simply loopy and somewhat intimidating. I assume it separates the lads from the boys when you may look Robbie Robertson within the eye and say: ‘I don’t suppose you’ve nailed the refrain but’ – simply surreal. It was an analogous expertise with Chrissie Hynde, who I like. And Tom Jones? Effectively, who didn’t develop up with that voice on the radio?

“However I’ve discovered that even with essentially the most ‘iconic’ singers, you hit some extent the place you’re simply two working musicians within the work setting, and you discover your widespread language and get all the way down to the duty at hand.

“Then there are artists that aren’t carrying a lot profession baggage, or smaller suitcases, anyway,” Stephen says. “After I first met Robbie Williams, he pulled as much as RAK Studios on a bicycle, having simply pedalled over from Maida Vale. His report firm had set us up. The mission was to make his first solo single, and have it enter the charts at No.1.

“I used to be proper in the midst of a James album, and will solely carve out a number of days. All of it labored for essentially the most half, besides it solely bought to No.2, and it felt surprisingly like I’d let everybody down. He’s a very good man, Robbie, I like him lots.” 

And whereas he’s happy with his intensive again catalogue of hits, Hague nonetheless finds it arduous to outline a terrific report.

“Everybody, from the man within the nook store to Quincy Jones, has an thought of what a terrific report is, and I’m continuously cross-referencing what I’m engaged on with information that I’ve heard and cherished (or hated), and the favourites I grew up with. Every part that goes in resurfaces ultimately, hopefully on the proper time!” 

Enjoying for ‘En-ger-land’

Stephen recounts a unprecedented few days which gave us the (different) final soccer music, World In Movement…

“There was a gaggle of followers ready outdoors the studio ready for the England group; the phrase had gotten out. The gamers had been in surprisingly good spirits and somebody organized for ‘refreshments’.

By the point they made it into the studio, every participant had a bottle of Champagne and some beers. Keith Allen appeared with a raft of lyrics and a significant hangover, and on his heels got here Tony Wilson and Bernard Sumner. Peter Hook arrived and was mingling with the footballers. Everybody was both very under-slept, hungover, or within the means of getting drunk. We needed to get issues shifting quick.

“My plan was for every participant to do a part of the notorious rap. We began with Gazza. Nope. Then the remainder had a go and it was surprising. I can neither rap nor play centre-forward at Wembley, so I couldn’t get pissed off, however my plan wasn’t working. Then John Barnes gave it a attempt to we had our man.

“Keith, Tony and I mentioned the unique ‘E is for England’ line. I believed it was a foul thought to have a drug reference and face a doable BBC ban, in order that went. In that very same chat, ‘England’ grew to become a three-syllable phrase, ensuing within the ‘En-ger-land’ chant on the outro.

“The subsequent day, we started the method of creating the precise report. I believed it ought to have an instrumental part, so headed off to search for some voiceover stuff. I knew fuck all about English soccer then, however introduced again a few movies of England’s World Cup glory. We tried a number of issues and it appeared to work. I left London for LA the day after
we completed, so wasn’t within the UK when it hit No.1, however each 4 years, it rears its head once more, and what an odd beast it’s.”

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