Tips of the Trade: The role of the producer

Thursday, 02 Nov 2017

 

Producer Greg Haver (photo by Christian Tjandrawinata)

If you have ever quietly asked yourself "What exactly does a producer do?" or "Do I need to work with a producer?", then this Q & A with NZ-based producer Greg Haver is for you. Greg has worked with an incredible roster of musicians over his career, notably Manic Street Preachers, Super Furry Animals and Mel C. He is curator of the NZ Producer Series at Roundhead Studios, which this year features renowned guest producer/engineers David Wrench and Romesh Dodangoda.

Treat the artist with respect, motivate the musicians, organise sessions like a military operation. 

Q: How did you become a producer? At what point in your professional life did you start to write that down as your occupation?

It was a convoluted process, but always the end goal. I’d worked extensively as a musician, engineer and songwriter, but it was my purchase of a studio in Cardiff, Wales at the start of a successful period in Welsh music and my recordings with those artists (Manic Street Preachers, Catatonia, Super Furry Animals etc.) that gave me the licence to put “Record Producer” as my occupation.

Q: How does the client find the right producer to work with? Will a producer possibly turn them down?

I feel that the communication between artist and producer is key, if that's right and you take time discussing music, sharing playlists, and finding out if there’s a common goal, then the artist should get a feel if you’re the right producer. I’m lucky in that turning down sessions is an option if I feel I’m not correct for that particular project, it’s much harder for a young producer just starting out where you need to build up your body of work and have a level of financial security.

Q: What services generally does a producer provide? For instance, what does it entail if someone wants to engage a producer to work with them from start to finish on an EP?

It should encompass all aspects of the session: working on budgeting, liaising with management/label, arranging material, booking studios and musicians, overseeing the whole tracking process, getting the best out of the performers, engage recording, mix and mastering engineers. It’s also important, for the duration of the recordings, to be available to the artist to deal with any issues that arise.

Q:  Describe the ideal client in terms of preparation.

Well written songs, a vision for the record they want to make, being on time and having good communication.

Q: Is the Producer Series intended for aspiring producers or more so for artists who want to work with a producer on their recording?

The idea behind the series is to up-skill producers and engineers already working in the industry along with networking opportunities gained and the sharing of knowledge with everyone attending.

Q: How has the role of the producer changed in the last 5 years? Has streaming impacted what a producer does?

We've had to learn to be creative with technology and time management so as not to compromise the quality of recordings due to decreasing budgets.

Q: What are three pieces of studio equipment you can’t do your job without?

A great sounding live room, a case of guitar pedals and a good selection of snare drums.

Q: What should a novice-beginner producer have as a software starter kit?

As little as possible, learn everything about a few items, starting with a reverb, delay and compressors.

Q: How does a producer stay abreast of all the different studio updates and software advances?

I don’t try, I rely on the talented engineers I work with to point me in the direction of all the cool new things.

Q: What is your producing philosophy?

Treat the artist with respect, motivate the musicians, organise sessions like a military operation.

Q: If a producer contributes to a song while working on a recording, should the client credit the producer or is that part of the producer service?

I personally see song arranging as part of the producers role/job description, but I know a lot of younger producers who write, engineer and produce so it’s only correct that they get their share of the song.

Q: What kind of training or education should an aspiring producer pursue?

At this producer series, myself, David Wrench and Romesh Dodangoda are all self taught, but any pursuit of knowledge is a positive, so learn, but also be creative and find ways to bend those rules both sonically and musically.

Q: How can we encourage more females to become a producer or to develop producing skills?

It’s something APRA AMCOS and other organisations have rightly made a priority and an area we’ve made positive moves towards for the current producer series.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Creating music and experiences that the artist will have with them for the rest of their lives.

Q: Best location for a recording studio?

 The city for vibrancy and good coffee, the country for getting more work done!


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