read: peter gabriel

from reverb

“High-Tech and Hand-Made”: Peter Gabriel Shares His Recording Philosophy | Bacon’s Archive

I interviewed Peter Gabriel in summer 1989 at his Real World studio at the old Box Mill near Bath in south-west England. Passion, his accompanying soundtrack album to Martin Scorsese’s movie The Last Temptation Of Christ, had just appeared, and his most recent solo album at the time was So, released three years earlier.

Up in his office in the admin block at Real World, surrounded by bookshelves, boxes, tapes, paintings, some ethnic drums, and a great long table cleared for work, we set out on a wide-ranging conversation. We covered the creation of Real World, his attitude to songs and composition, the importance of food when recording world music, and more. But we began with some instrumental memories.

What instrument did you first learn to play?

Drums. I’d always wanted to play drums. And I still think that’s the best way for any musician to start, because if you can get drums right, you get feel. And the rest is downhill. Because I hear a lot of musicians trained up to the eyeballs who haven’t got the feel right, particularly the English players [laughs] when they’re trying to get laidback and it doesn’t quite sit. But if you can learn that on drums, to focus only on rhythm and phrasing and accent, then that’s I think the centre of any musical language.

Before you sort of learn bad habits, if you like, play along with great rhythms, and enjoy rhythm, because there is something to do with just letting go, I think. And the most extreme form of physical release in music is percussion and dance, and if you get comfortable with that, then as you develop… [he stops mid-sentence]. But I’m talking as if I’m a great player. I’m not. I’m a very primitive keyboard player. But I enjoy what I do and it feels right for me.

Peter Gabriel, 1973

So your advice for anyone starting out is to explore rhythm?

It is—well, that and a few things. I think persistence is worth more than talent [laughs] in terms of achieving results. Because in a sense I think people are born talented and they tend to limit themselves. Some will find it easier than others, but music and art are just languages that anyone can learn, and no one should be discouraged because they don’t feel good enough.

If they are determined enough, I think it’s possible to make something work. So it isn’t so much a question of denying talent, but just encouraging people to maximize what they’re capable of. And what actually determines that is their will and persistence, both in working on the writing and instruments, and particularly in selling your goods at the end of the day.

How did you get on when you were trying to sell your goods in the early days?

I used to be the guy hawking the Genesis tapes around the record company offices. I’d hang around in reception, and that would be as far as I’d ever get. I’d try sort of winking at the receptionist, usually to no avail. It needs… [laughs] well, it needs a certain iron will to survive.

Thick-skinned is the expression that comes to mind.

Yeah. We had a couple of guys who sat us down in their office and took an hour of their very valuable time to tell us to give up and go back to Brick Lane [east London] or wherever we crawled out of. Really discouraging, and quite malicious, I thought. But it happens a lot, I think, and you need to be able to fight for your music.

I had this friend at the time I was hawking my tapes around, and they said no, you’ve got it all wrong. He took me into Warner Brothers, and having found out the name of the managing director, he said to the receptionist—it was lunchtime, the timing was important—he said, I forget who it was, but something like, “Is Tony back from lunch?” So the receptionist thinks, Ah, friends of the MD. Straight to his office. Cup of tea, plate of biscuits [laughs]. And then the MD comes back from lunch and finds this bunch of wallies in his office. But he sort of admired the cheek sufficiently to give us a listen. If you could locate the people you were aiming at, and make sure you made contact with them, person to person, they’d eventually listen, if only to get rid of this pest.


read: prepping for festival gigs

from reverb

It’s great news. Your band got a gig somewhere near the foot of a festival bill. It’s your chance to play to the biggest audience you’ve yet faced. But hold on—you’ve never actually played on a festival stage before, and the adrenaline rush of a golden opportunity starts to dilute as it dawns on you and your fellow band members that you’re right back to where you were when you began playing live. You don’t really know where to start.

Who does the sound? How will they handle your unique brand of whatever it is that makes you future headliners? What about the drummer’s problems with the kit? What about the bass amp not being 100% reliable? What if you won’t even be using your own gear? All these and so many more questions.

We asked two veteran sound engineers and tour managers, Bryony October and Mark Portlock, for their advice. Bryony has over 20 years experience working with top bands and artists, including Snow Patrol, Laura Marling, Foxes, and Billy Ocean. She is currently FOH (front of house) engineer for the multi-platinum-selling singer Katie Melua, the singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant, and the UK country duo Ward Thomas, as well as up-and-coming singer Lily Moore, daughter of the late Gary Moore.


read: required life experiences

from intellectual takeout

  1. Not being invited to a birthday party
  2. Experiencing the death of a pet
  3. Breaking a valuable vase
  4. Working hard on a paper and still getting a poor grade
  5. Having a car break down away from home
  6. Seeing the tree he planted die
  7. Being told that a class or camp is full
  8. Getting detention
  9. Missing a show because she was helping Grandma
  10. Having a fender bender
  11. Being blamed for something he didn’t do
  12. Having an event canceled because someone else misbehaved
  13. Being fired from a job
  14. Not making the varsity team
  15. Coming in last at something
  16. Being hit by another kid
  17. Rejecting something he had been taught
  18. Deeply regretting saying something she can’t take back
  19. Not being invited when friends are going out
  20. Being picked last for neighborhood kickball