John Leckie is arguably one of the most important producers in the history of British rock, perhaps actually helping to create some of its most famous indie subgenres. Although not solely confined to UK shores, the Abbey Road alumnus started off tape operating and balancing on historic records from George Harrison, Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney & Wings and many more, and then eventually went on to helm very significant records for XTC, Radiohead, Simple Minds, The Stone Roses, Kula Shaker, Muse, Dr. John, Cowboy Junkies and many, many more. With such a super extensive C.V. under his belt we were incredibly pleased to be graced with his presence for a couple weeks back in 2009. Read all about his top shelf back catalogue and more in this specially-adapted version of his Q&A!

[top]Producers can be fortunate enough to travel to new places for work. How did you find working in India? - Led

John Leckie: Yes, one of the 'fruits' of the job is being able to travel and work in different places and cultures. I was asked by the British Council to find and produce some new Indian 'rock' bands with a view to making a sampler album giving a taste of what was happening out there. I realised India is a huge place with 103,000,000 people and there's a lot of music going on. Most of the business is Bollywood films and there are just a few major music studios based in film complexes. We worked at Yas Raj in Mumbai and it was first class with a huge new Neve desk, Prisms on all inputs and outputs, Manley, SSL, Focusrite and all manner of goodies in the rack. The engineers were excellent, well trained and used to recording huge orchestras for films and were pleased to be working with guitar, bass, drums. India is full on and there's a lot to take in and I'm sure there are many mini studios around but still all tied in with film and TV. Check this for more info on India Soundpad Project (British Council).

[top]Those 'backwards' Stone Roses tracks that were used as B-sides... my memory's a bit foggy, but I remember reversing some of these in an Akai and finding out they weren't actually straightforward backwards tracks - they sounded backwards whichever way they were played! How was this done? I've been wanting to know for years… - Number 6

John Leckie: Well it took a lot of figuring out but what you do is: Play the tape backwards and overdub instruments on top...and that's it! Playback!

Check out Verve 'Blue' for more backwards mania!

[top]I was wondering if you could give any advice for a young engineer starting out? - audiomatic

John Leckie: First thing is I would aim at doing a session every day for the next two years before you think of being an engineer. If you really want to engineer you have to get yourself sessions and offer to record anything and everything you can. You have to learn all areas..mics, outboard, patching, mixing, mastering, be **** hot at ProTools (no good saying "I use Logic"). Know how to handle big sessions with ease (and small close ones) and most of all learn how to deal with all sorts of musicians and people who may have egos slightly larger than yours. Try and find a band you can record and develop.

Hang around studios and let them know what a great bloke you are and hassle them for a job.

Make it an obsession and get to gigs and talk to bands, managers and record companies about possible sessions.

Learn how every piece of standard studio gear works and the best acoustic spaces in the room you're working in. Be disciplined in labeling and cable tidying.

Relax and get plenty of sleep. Hope this is of help. Good luck!

[top]How do you know when you have done a song justice, or recorded/produced it in the right way, is there a right mix? Is it just dependent on the artist's Satisfaction? - Pascalm

John Leckie: Good question. I was going to say when the studio time/budget runs out, but really it's done when the artist, record company and whoever else is involved have approved it and positive reactions all round. All mixes are versions and the right mix is one finally chosen by the artist or record company. The producer only really proposes and supplies mixes and it's always the record companies prerogative which mix and tracks are used for release because they own the rights. I think you know you've done it justice when you're happy and everyone concerned likes it.

[top]XTC were a huge influence for me as a teenager. White Music and Go2 were in constant rotation and Andy's angular playing was especially influential. Do you have any anecdotes you can share about working with XTC? - Juniorhifikit

John Leckie: Yes XTC are my favourite group I've worked with. Sessions often finished with stomach pains from laughing so much cos there was always plenty of wit flying around! They were excellent musicians and every track I did with them was exciting to do and I don't think we ever had a bad day. White Music (originally the band wanted to call it Black Music but Virgin said no because it would be too confusing to the buyers) was done at Manor Studios (Helios/Ampex/Eastlake Acoustics) in two weeks including mixes. I was still on staff at Abbey Road and bunked off (skipped class) for two weeks as EMI engineers at time could not be hired out. The band were in on mixing including extra tracks like Fireball XL5. This was all hands on desk and no automation etc. When the record company heard mixes they said there was nothing wrong with them but you must have rushed it having done all that work, so go mix it again. So I mixed the whole thing once again alone in 5 days at Advision downstairs (Quad 8 desk) and that's the record. Go2 was done at Abbey Road 3 because we were originally booked in as the first session in Townhouse 1 but couldn't start on time due to technical problems installing the big red Helios. The band were tight and inventive and always had unique parts going on. I did no rehearsal with them, they just came in and off we went. The fun part of Go2 was making Go+ which was the 'dub' EP with the LP. We took 5 tracks and turned them inside out to make them as unrecognizable from the original. Some severe stuff going on and all done with a certain sense of playfulness and humour. Me and Andy continued the experiments on Mr Partridge: Lure of Salvage later known as XTC Explode. It was all tape manipulation and keyed gates cos that's all we had.

Trident Series 80

[top]You did two of my all time favorite XTC albums. Can you give some general tips on how you got the 'vintage' sounds? Was the studio loaded with vintage gear? Did you approach EQ differently than you would for a more modern sounding recording? How did you mic the drumkit? Any tips for those of us who want to make our records sound like 60s psychedelia? - Dr. Mordo

John Leckie: XTC’s Dukes album kicked off with a six track EP 25 O'Clock done at Chapel Lane Studios in Hampton Bishop near Hereford here in the UK. It was run by a church guy doing gospel records and Stevie Wonder and Syreeta had been there previously. I'd done a Roy Harper record there (Work of Heart) and also Gene Loves Jezebel and later The Fall. It was a great place in a chapel but with a control room. Trident TSM desk, Lyrec 24 track, Tannoy Golds or Reds 15" in Lockwoods built in and pretty standard outboard for 1985. And two Revoxes with varispeed for tape phasing...very important for the making of psychedelic records! Mics would have been straight U87s 84s 414s 451s 58s 57s D12 etc. The credit for a lot of the sounds has to come from the band and in particular Ian, Dave Gregory's brother, who just played weddings and really knew all the snare drum tunings and styles for different songs of the period. We worked fast doing 6 tracks and all mixed in 14 days. Recorded pretty conventionally but severe eq and treatments on mix. Everything is highly tweaked and blended. Andy P would say recording was getting all your best ingredients together and vegetables peeled and then you have to warm the oven and start to cook it. Before we started mixing I made up a sound fx tape with miscellaneous sounds (farm yard, jungle, speech, doors slamming, laughing) and this was all banded and left running during mix and randomly spooled back and if we got a bit bored or there was a mistake in the playing, we'd just fade up sound fx and whatever was on there at that time we went with. Similarly with the constantly running backwards high hat loop used to create a surge.

Also lots of solos were performed by me spooling tape across heads and fed into delays etc. A year later we went to Sawmills in Cornwall and this time we did 10 tracks in 3 weeks so it was a little more relaxed, but then we'd moved on from '65 to '68 so it was a bit more Alice in Wonderland psychedelic. Best fun was watching the band get into character to do vocals and Colin doing sawing wood solo on Collide-oscope. Can't remember much of how it was all done...gearwise we didn't really go for vintage any more than I normally would if you know what I mean. All done on tape and Sawmills has Trident series 80 and the very wonderful Studer A62 held together with a piece of string!

[top]I wanted to see if you have any striking memories of Carnival of Light (Ride). It is just a fantastic album, and the tones are both invigorating and relaxing at the same time. That album constantly inspires me, and even if you don't remember a lot from the sessions, I just wanted to say thanks. - cream police

John Leckie: Thanks. Carnival of Light was a strange record for me but turned out great. We did it at Manor in Oxford and some at RAK 1 and Chipping Norton and mixed at Abbey Road 3. My main memory is the band being particularly grumpy with each other and a bit of struggle to get things done... I think we ended up with piano and hammond on most tracks and horn sections. Jon Lord came in on hammond and did a gliss and broke his finger nail and an organ key such was his enthusiasm! It was all good fun really. Guitar sounds were good coming from the band so recording was not such a problem with them. Andy suggested the school kids choir on "I Don't Know Where it Comes From" last track and I fixed it up and the session was for 9am and of course the band never showed up and I had to run the whole session and come up with parts with the choirmaster. The band just came for a photo session at the end! rock n roll. Ride were big at the time and I had to delay starting Radiohead right after.

[top]Could you offer some advice on how to inspire/motivate inexperienced bands/artists and get the most from recording sessions? - Chevron

John Leckie: They shouldn't be in the studio if not inspired. Go fishing or walk the dog or something, read a book, get out of town, go to an art gallery, see a film, get inspired then enter the studio. But before that...get in the rehearsal room and play the songs until they get the hunger to record.

[top]Re: Radiohead - The Bends album - Can you talk about the gear used including studios, console, mics, outboard gear, guitar amps and pedals. Was there lots of experimentation with sounds and fx in the mixing stage, or was most of it committed to tape while tracking? - bforest4

John Leckie: It's all getting a bit vague now and in the distant past. Since the record in '94 we've met only occasionally most recently with Jonny at Magazine gig in Oxford (superb!) and before that seeing Thom and Jonny at Womad during a rainstorm with kids in tow and being deafened by Amadou & Mariam. Oh, and a few spaced out and wet Glastonburys and Readings too. Nigel's done real well and worked with the greats and I love them all dearly.

When I worked with them it was totally absorbing day to day and we really 'lived' the songs. I met them at a gig in Gloucester in early 1994, I think they were supporting James and then I had all the demos and I went to a rehearsal on a fruit farm out in the wilds near Oxford. Sitting in the room were myself, two managers, A&R Parlophone UK and A&R Capitol USA all to hear the new songs. The band played 30 songs...all played with passion and a lot of flaying of heads and hair. The objective was to choose a single to record to follow up to Creep, which of course the band hated. All the songs they played were stunning and it was difficult to pick that 'commercial hit'. We settled on doing 4 songs being Nice Dream, The Bends, Just and My Iron Lung. We then got the bus to RAK in London and set to work for what would take us nine weeks with just a few days off. I'd worked before with Nigel as my assistant on crazy projects like Denim and I knew RAK Studio 1 since it opened in 1978 when I produced The Skids and Bill Nelson. Its API, Studer and Neuman and nothing has really changed there since's just got better and is always a place for music. However it's not without its shortcomings and you do have to work hard to get a sound. Monitoring was pretty **** being two Tannoy Golds in Lockwood cabinets hung high in front of you and all the frames rattled etc or we used the battered NS10s on desktop or my old B&W DM1200s. I probably recorded and mixed seven albums on those speakers and it's a case of if you can make it sound good on them it'll sound good anywhere. Don't use them much now though.

RAK 1 is a big ballroom with dividing doors so you can split the room and get good isolation on the drums and good visual contact with everyone. There's lots of space and daylight if you want it. You still have to build huts with roofs for bass and guitar. Mics would have been 57 or Km84 snare, 421 toms, D25, D12, RE20 or 421 bass drum, 84 hihat, various ohs like 87s. 4038, 84, 414s, 451s, tube U47 pair. Bass guitar would be DI, D12, RE20 or U47. Guitars would nearly always be U67 and 57 flat and mix between. Lot of time spent getting the guitar sound right in the live room first. Also used UREI 1176 black face, DBX160X for compression etc. Spent a lot of time trying different amps and set ups and for Jonny's guitar went back to his original set up of Telecaster/Bluesbreaker/DigiTech Whammy/Fender Twin. Ed had his guitar's made by Plank who still works with them and usually used Mesa Boogie. Colin had Aria bass but most tracks were done on Fender Mustang 1972 and Ampeg SVT.

We finished the potential single tracks and immediately started on B sides for the single yet to be chosen. After 5 weeks I went to Abbey Road to mix Bends, Nice Dream and Just and during this time Nigel took over the set up and recorded Black Star and a couple other tracks. The single was put on hold and we continued another month in the studio. At the end of this time we all took deserved rest and they went on tour to the Far East playing Bangkok etc. We reconvened in July at Manor Studio in Oxford which was a great place, SSL and sadly closed a few years later by Mr EMI. I'd worked on many records there and felt like home. Nigel was not present at any Manor or Abbey Road sessions. I re-recorded from scratch all of Bends, Bones, Bulletproof, Punchdrunk Lovesick Singalong, Banana Co and Sulk and finished all overdubs. We were 2 weeks at Manor and straight away went to Abbey Road 3 mixing with Chris Brown. We started on Iron Lung as a new choice for a single. Only Colin, Ed and occasionally Jonny came to those mix sessions and it wasn't until someone from Abbey Road tape library came down asking for a multitrack of Nice Dream did I know something was up. The tape was to be copied and sent to the USA. All Slade and Kolderie mixes were done off copy tapes. These would have been 30ips non-Dolby 3M 995 at +9db. Good tape!

Planet Telex (originally called Planet Xerox): you probably heard the story...the chef at RAK took the night off and we were given £100 to find some food locally and ended up at a Greek restaurant and had a little vino and got back to the studio with the idea of making some loops from the drums at the end of Killer Cars. Nigel had just got Sound Designer 2 on a Mac2FX and we arranged 3 different loops. Within half an hour we had the band playing along with parts somehow falling from the ether. The rhodes with the delay was set up from Jonny trying something on another track and sound was driven by me turning up graphic eq on delay return which was set on point of feedback. Guitar tone from Ed was awesome and Colin's bass line took no time to get down. It was 2am and I say to Thom, 'You better do the vocal then it's finished or we go home?" He went straight out there and what you hear is what he sang. I don't know where it all came from because we'd been really struggling over some of the songs and this had just materialised and was done and completed in just a few hours.

Sulk: Attempted at RAK, Manor and finally captured at Abbey Road 2 on a one off session and the whole track more or less completed in a day.

Fake Plastic Trees: We had strings coming in the next day to overdub and hadn't even attempted to get track down yet over discussions on how to do it. I cracked the whip and sent Thom out in studio on his own with a click and he has a 57 and U67 on his guitar, U47 on vocal and as soon as he starts the 67 packs up with hum and fizzing so the acoustic is just 57 but the guitar was a strange resonant acoustic in highly polished blond wood and it really didn't matter what mic you used. It was a great first take and the whole dynamic of the track was governed by his vocal performance.

My Iron Lung: made up of intro and verses from MTV live at Astoria live recording done on Manor mobile and choruses from RAK sessions done month previous and all edited and mixed at Abbey Road. Can you hear the join?

Bullet proof: Ed and Johnny together playing sounds on guitar all through the song without hearing the track. Go....Stop!

Nice Dream: my crazy idea to make the acoustic guitars sound 'massed' like a Phil Spector thing and got the whole band, all 5 of them, strumming on the lawn with Headphones on in bathing suits at Manor studios.

High and Dry: I had nothing to do on this track. It's the demo recorded at Courtyard by Jim Warren and is, I am told, first take of the song after the band learnt it. Phil had just got a new drum kit and bass drum sound is new heads straight out of the shop. Slade and Kolderie mixed it and it sounds mighty fine.

The whole record for me, not including US mix time, took 99 days in the studio.

During RAK time we got out and saw gigs, Jimmy Smith at Dingwalls was one of happiest shows I've been to and Jeff Buckley at Garage was one of the most devastatingly astounding. Kurt Cobain died while making this record.

Most of the guitar fx and 'sound' is on tape. I think if you played those two inch tapes and put faders at zero you'll get a pretty good mix and approximation of the finished record. The vocals would be dry. It's funny cos when we were mixing at Abbey Road all reverb was frowned upon and when the US mixes came back they were wet.

Slade and Kolderie I didn't know of except that they'd done Pablo Honey and Pixies and I have never met them nor had contact.

The acoustic guitar sound is all from the unique sound of Thom's guitar and choice of guitar. It's the way it's played as nothing unusual or special about recording (U67 and maybe 84, no DI, API EQ.

[top]A few years back, a bunch of my clients started showing up with Radiohead "The Bends" as a record they enjoyed listening to. I remember telling one particular kid, "You should check out the wonderful English Prog-Pop band BeBop Deluxe", these guys remind me of them for some reason". Some time later I actually looked at the credits. Crash. Anyhoo. 30year fan of your records with BebopD. My question is: do you have a favorite record of the three, and if so, why? - Slipperman

John Leckie: Nice one! Yes Bebop Deluxe Sunburst Finish was the first album I 'officially' co- produced with Bill. I'd mixed most of Axe Victim with Bill on his own over a weekend at Abbey Road 3 about a year before and we had fun. Bill changed musicians and recorded the Futurama album with Roy Thomas Baker at Rockfield. Fantastic record and the sound is screaming! But Bill wanted more control and asked me to co-produce (and engineer) the next album with him.

Of the three albums I'd choose Sunburst Finish cos even today it's far out musically!

Roland Jupiter 4

[top]I was curious how I Travel was recorded and how the band locked in with the pre-MIDI Jupiter 4 arpeggiator? - jup8

John Leckie: er..? Very simple. You record the audio output of the Jupiter and the band plays along to it. There's no MIDI and syncing in their playing to it.

[top]What are some of the ways that a newer producer can demonstrate to a musician that their production techniques will benefit the project/artist's vision? - kellyjford1

John Leckie: They can do something you can't do which is the music and performance. Maybe you need to get in there and do it for them. Offer to record a live show..mix a track they already done or hang out at rehearsal. You probably need to get some evidence of your production techniques so spread your wings and take any opportunity to get in on a session cos really you learn from experience.

[top]I have always loved the vocal reverb on the song “Real to Real Cacophony” by Simple Minds. What did you use on that? - jup8

John Leckie: Wow! Cant remember..It was meant to sound like Kraftwerk...its Radioactivity. Reverb is zingey but deep, it's double tracked, probably a mix of all that and 250 msec single delay, and as it was 1979 just EMT plate. I don't think Rockfield had echo chambers built at that time but they always had a selection of plates in the horse stable! It's the way it's sung too.

[top]Simple Minds - Real To Real Cacophony and Empires & Dance albums. I'd like to know what it was like to work on two classic (and sadly overlooked) Simple Minds records with a band who were developing at a dizzying pace. Any memories/insights you can share on your involvement and the band's creative process? - Creegstor

John Leckie: I'd already done the first album Life in a Day which had a few classic tracks on but when it came out the band didn't like what they had done and decided to change direction and be darker, more harder edged, less poppy, more dramatic and take a strong European influence having played there and listened to Iggy/Bowie, Kraftwerk, La Dusseldof, Neu, Conny Plank productions etc We were well into disco and Chic and Suicide/Alan Vega and everyone wore black clothes and even dyed our hair black for the full euro look.

Real to Real was all recorded and mixed in 5 weeks at Rockfield using both studios. They had about half the songs (Premonition, Factory, Call your Name, Changeling and the rest were kind of written in the studio. We were searching for sounds and they came from anywhere...guitar or Mick's keyboards. We often miked up the corridor that runs to the side of Coach House studio at Rockfield and left the door to the studio open. It gave a good natural eq-able short reverb for drums and guitars and claps. Jim was writing all the time, trying lyrics and different approaches to singing. He was quite different on early records to how he sings now. The record was all mixed at Rockfield in one stint and quickly mastered and put out.

Quite soon after we were back at Rockfield, this time at a house which is now Monow Valley studio but at that time was a bed and breakfast with a big rehearsal room so I used Rolling Stones mobile truck that I had used for many records including BeBop Deluxe in South of France and Simple Minds first album done at Farmyard in Amersham and later Stone Roses second album. Truck was great and now sadly missed. Helios desk and 3M machines and every Shure and Neumann mic available. Klark Technic monitors! and a window to look out (Manor/Island mobiles never had windows at first) Empires and Dance was a great record to make. Derek was there with the bass lines which really formed the backbone to Minds music right up to the time he left and very often his line was first idea written. We spent a lot of time working on guitar sounds to sound like keyboards and keyboards to sound like guitars.

Technology was a bit primitive at time as no one was midi conversant and yet we did great tracks with arpeggiators on Roland Jupiter and Korg MS20. Lot of time doing handclaps and getting the right tone and reverb space and size, weird ringing snare drums. And to top it all The Skids were in another studio at Rockfield so there was a lot of messing around and food fights and buckets of water on top of doors etc. Then Iggy moved to another studio to do a party record (for Arista, same label as Minds). Barry Andrews from XTC was keyboards and Glen Matlock bass. James Williamson from Stooges producing and David Bowie pays a visit. The Minds are in there doing handclaps and backing vocals... a good night and Bowie was dressed all in red. Next day James Williamson is off home after some scenes with Iggy and I'm asked to take on producing Iggy as well, seeing as I was at the same studio. Like can I do Iggy in the morning and start Minds after dinner? OK! I'll try. So I did this for a few nights and got totally exhausted and just carried on with Minds. Pat Moran salvaged the Iggy record and it was one of the first 48 track records done at Rockfield with two Studer A800 miraculously held in sync. Thank you Otto! Simple Minds just used 24 track and Empires and Dance was mixed at Rockfield and Townhouse 2. All mastered by Chris Blair at Abbey Road.

[top]Love your contribution to The Doves “Kingdom Of Rust” - Winter Hill and 10.03 are easily two of the best tracks on the record. Considering that the band clearly loves them too (they're both in the live setlist, for example), and they certainly fit with the rest of the record - where did it go "wrong" elsewhere? I've read explanations as simple as "scheduling differences" and as complicated as "didn't like the direction" - but I've never heard the story in your words! Can you relate the story? Any interesting anecdotes? Any lessons then to share based on this experience? - Whitecat

John Leckie: I met The Doves in a backstage bar at My Morning Jacket gig in Manchester. We staggered out of there about 4am and a few days later I got a call to come up and meet again and soon found ourselves at Rockfield cutting three songs. Jez and band had demoed lots of songs over previous years but many were unfinished but all had some magic moments in the early recordings. We finished the tracks at their farmhouse studio in Cheshire which was well equipped ProTools HD, Neve pre amps and Dan Austin came in as engineer/programer as they'd worked with Dan on Steve Osbourne sessions and he's really good. With the tracks finished we went to RAK 3 to mix and all mixes sounded fine. The project was very time consuming and I was booked to record with Baaba Maal in Senegal and had other projects going after that so couldn't really get into doing more tracks on their schedule. They spent about a year finishing the record after I left and Michael Bauer mixed it all. I went to India last October with Dan and we recorded four bands together in Mumbai which was great fun.

Doves are wonderful people and live for the music. Lessons to share? I find working with computers and chopping everything up and reassembling very tedious. Sometimes you don't know what you've got til it's finished and there is danger in going off on distant tangents. But this itself can be very creative and often the only way such sounds can be found.

[top]In a situation where you feel strongly about something but the band/musician disagrees, who has the final say? Have you had occasions where your creative instinct/taste were at complete odds with the artist? How do you resolve that? - EliasGwinn

John Leckie: Good question. For me the final say is always with the artist...or should I say between the artist and the record company. It's them against me! But they hired me so that's the way it is and it's their prerogative to use my recordings in whatever way they wish...add to, subtract from, re-voice, rearrange, remix whatever. When you take out a producer's contract the main condition is the producer assigns his copyright of the work he does to the record company to exploit and change in whatever way they wish. This can be subject to conditions within the deal but the first clause usually states that's what the contract is all about.

I have had to work through creative differences with artists and of course there can be crazy demands or ideas, but then again that's why they are artists and should be allowed full freedom.

Neumann U67

[top]A Storm In Heaven is my favorite LP from The Verve. Can you shed some light on how you captured the great guitar sounds and what method you used to give the album such a dense and dreamy feel, and also what console was used? - Alnico

John Leckie: Album recorded and mixed at Sawmills with John Cornfield and me engineering. Most tracks cut live with guide vocals in quite a small low ceilinged room. Most of Nick's guitar would be what he played with the band on the backing tracks. We never started rolling tape til Nick was happy with his sound. He usually used Flying V and Gibson acoustics. Pedals were probably Boss and amps were Marshall and Roland Chorus. Delays were sometimes Watkins Copicat and I think at one time we dragged an SPX90 out of rack to fix into his guitar rig. Guitars were usually recorded with U67 and SM57 on each cabinet up close to the speaker. In the room all guitar cabs would be boxed in with screens and roofs and fairly confined space. Reverbs and stuff added later on mix

[top]The tracks on The Very Best Of The Stone Roses where remastered did you have any involvement in that? Did you recently remaster all the tracks that were on the upcoming 20th anniversary CD? As some had already been done for the very best of release did you just cut and paste them? or did you do them all from scratch? Also why was Ian the only Rose to join you? - charlie1

John Leckie: Yes. I remastered The Very Best of The Stone Roses for Silvertone a few years ago. We did my tracks from the original half inch with Chris Blair at Abbey Road who did the original album. Silvertone/Sony/BMG didn't make such a fuss about it the way Sony is now over this new release. We really just went for the original sound and didn't really pump it up too much. On The Very Best Of, there are tracks from Second Coming which was on Geffen/Universal and no matter how hard Dave Wibberley, the project person at Sony/BMG tried to get masters from Universal, the lawyers told him to just go out and buy the CD! Which is what he did and for second album tracks, that's what's used on record as flat transfer.

On this new release box set all tracks are from Silvertone and all remastered from original half inch 30ips non dolby and done with John Davis at Metropolis over a few days. Of course all the band invited and only Ian called and came down. I spoke to Mani who was out on tour with Primal Scream and they all heard the old demos and extra tracks which are on a box set and they all had test CDs for approval but only Ian responded.

[top]I'm a big fan of The Fall records you did, so I was stoked when I learned you were doing a Cowboy Junkies record! I was wondering if you could shed some light on how you got such an amazingly lush rock record in "Miles From Our Home" out of a band that had a history of sweet, minimal roots records. - Emptyman

John Leckie: Doing the record with Cowboy Junkies was an honour to do as I had Trinity Sessions album and loved the whole vibe they created. Miles From Home was nine years later and the band were signed to Geffen and there was some pressure to come up with 'hit' singles and get radio play. All the songs and parts were demoed by Mike Timmins on DA88 and we went out to a log cabin in Ontario away from the city where the band had been working and rehearsed. We recorded at McClear Studio 1 in Toronto, which is a big Neve/Studer set up but business was mainly advertising and some big film sessions. It wasn't really a 'rock' studio and though a quality place we were glad to get outta there and moved to Chemical Studio in Toronto which was a small self run place with API and some old gear and amps and I think the band were more at home. All tracking bass and drums and vocals and keys by Vince Jones from Grapes of Wrath was done at McClear. All recording took a month or so and we then moved to Abbey Road to overdub strings and mix in 3 on SSL G where I was used to working at time. The whole band came to mix in London and I was then told some US guy was mixing some tracks for a radioplay single. We finished mixing all tracks and extras and the band returned to Canada. It was only when the record came out that I saw nearly the whole album had been remixed. I couldn't play it for years and felt pretty disgruntled by the whole affair cos somehow it just seemed wrong after all the work I'd put in from rehearsal through to the end.

I was recently contacted by a guy writing a book on Cowboy Junkies and I dug out the CD and can now enjoy it years later for its clarity and crunch ! Also back in touch with Mike and hoping to see them in the UK. So we're mates again!

[top]I was looking down the (long and impressive) list of projects you have been a part of and did a double take when I saw the words The Adverts! This album was the soundtrack of my life for a good part of my youth. I would love to hear about it. Everything sounds really dark in a cool way and has a ton of energy. - Makinithappen

John Leckie: Yes! Adverts! The second album I produced was for Doctors of Madness and Kid Strange was mates with TV Smith and he'd done records for Stiff and the Gary Gilmour's Eyes classic so I jumped at it. I was a staff engineer at Abbey Road at the time so it was done in studio 3 over 2-3 weeks. It was an EMI Neve 1083 desk, may have been Necam mix and all usual Abbey Road mics, Fairchilds, Gain Brains, plates, JBL speakers. Haydn Bendal tape op'd and I did many records at that time with Haydn (XTC, Bebop Deluxe, Magazine) The band were tough and tight and Gaye Advert really drove the band. All tracks cut live, no click (and no guitar tuners at the time). Howard Pickup the guitarist had one through his HH amp combo and the drummer's kit was nicked from the previous night's gig! Gaye looked great and I can remember the classical musicians' faces when she went for tea in the canteen. People have never seen torn jeans before. Me and Tim got on great even though I was an old hippy (turns out he is too).

The train effects before the last track are recorded late one night on train tracks at Westbourne Park station. Tim and I climbed down on tracks and I had an EMI TR50 (?) to record underground trains going past the points. No Time To Be 21 was a top twenty hit and they did Top of Pops. Yes it was a fun record and a changing time for me as I was on point of leaving Abbey Road and going freelance and we'd just had a baby. It’s Ian Brown's favourite album too.

[top]Of these...
a) the skills to pick up good projects
b) trying to make a project sound good
Which should be more of a priority of a producer? - Emreyazgin

John Leckie: Great question best yet!

They go hand in hand really as both have to be good. You always have to make a good sound that's right for the project...and complete it in time and do a good job or else no one will use you.

Finding the interesting projects is equally important because if you work with talented people that turn you on then the work is easier and a lot more enjoyable. The skill in finding those jobs is often down to who you are and how you come across and what your taste is. I think you have to get out there and 'network' and get to know the bands, management and record companies and focus on people who can help you get projects. Most of all, be yourself.

[top]My Moring Jacket “Z” album. How much of the reverb on this album is natural (ie. room and ambient mics) as opposed to artificial (plate, spring, digital, etc)? - Quint

John Leckie: The record was all done on 16 track so may have something to do with smoothness. Most of the tracks were cut live with the whole band including vocals in Great Hall at Allaire. Reverb on vocals would be added later and we used Zoom FX box and EMT plates at Sunset Sounds. The reverb on voice would not be from room mics but vocals would be recorded as dry as possible and to avoid spill used SM58. The rest of the instruments would have spill on...the room is huge like a wooden cathedral and we had various mics up high and down low. Drum kit is loud in the room and the amps were behind screens with roofs and blankets. Piano in a separate room and often Jim with his amp in a separate room but glass doors around for good visibility. Even though we were on 16-track I still kept two tracks for room ambience.

[top]Any advice on how to keep artists and bands focused on long projects? - Fieldstone

John Leckie: Good question! Don't do long projects! There's always indecisions and gear shifting. I try not to spend more than two weeks in any studio without then taking a few days/week off. After two weeks things can slow right down. If you must work 7 days a week cos of scheduling, try breaking Saturday at 6pm til 8pm Sunday. You find you get a lot of work done Saturday afternoon and by 8pm after dinner Sunday everyone's up for it again with renewed energy.

Send band members away when not needed. Do sports. Go out and see other bands playing while recording. Change working hours....get up early, start at 9am, sometimes. Take a break before mixing.

[top]In my humble opinion one of the best things about that Stone Roses LP was the use of creative mixing to transform some of the songs. Do you still use a lot of outboard effects? And has your approach to the use of effects changed over the years? - Tedmanzie

John Leckie: It's always good to come off the preset if you have time and inclination to find something special. Yes with plugins there's just too much choice and really I still use the same fx set up when I start to mix or even record as I always did. Outboard - I use EMT plate, SPX90, 900 or better still SPX1000 but nothing too complicated. Lexicon 480XL, Lexicon PCM60 and 70. Tape delays and AMS harmonizer and delays though delays done more in computer now to get them spot on. Eventide harmonizer and now finding Sans Amp Classic indispensable when I mix.

Yamaha SPX1000

[top]Do you have any stories of sessions in which you recorded a "scratch" track or two - a scratch vocal and/or scratch guitar track for instance, that just came out too perfectly and it wound up being used as is? - Staticwhitesound

John Leckie: Yes, happens all the time if the conditions are right. It's not that it's so perfect because it never is and that's not the point. Always go for good competent usable sound on 'scratch' tracks. You'll probably find a number of scratch tracks on Radiohead’s The Bends album, The Fall and even Muse.

[top]I always thought The Stone Roses debut album was one of the lushest sounding records I've ever heard reverb wise. Can you tell us what you were using to get such a deep perspective and do you think if the same record cropped up today you'd use the same approach? Also could you please tell us how you went about getting the drum sound for Reni? I always felt he was one of the best hi hat peddlers ever to grace a record and have always wished for some insight into how you carved that sound. Mani's bass chain wouldn't go amiss either but I realise it was all a very long time ago now. - Lemontree

John Leckie: Thanks for kind comments on Roses record. Reverb was probably a mixture of AMS RMX16, Lexicon 480XL, SPX1000 or Alesis Midiverb 2 all on various tweaked settings. Or EMT plate at Battery Studios. If I was doing it now I'd use less reverb all over. Drums on Shoot You Down all go through MIDIverb 2 number 43 and not enough of it. Yep, Reni is one of best drummers I worked with and he never played the same thing twice. Really he had his own mixture of drums on kit and apart from usual fussing getting sound was not a problem. Selection of snares were used depending on the song (Noble and Kooley a favourite).

Dreamhire was an equipment rental company attached to the studio so we had a good choice of drums. It's all in the playing and most songs cut with the band all playing and no click.I seem to remember though on some tracks we used snare and BD samples which were laboriously done with old AMS DMX1580 in lock and triggered from backwards copy of live snare. The live snare was never replaced but the sample was just used to back it up and strengthen. Tambourines were done the same way. Album was on 48 track Studer (2x24 track) 30ips non-Dolby. Paul Schroeder was an engineer on the whole record and was excellent.

Mani's bass was the painted Rickenbacker as in pictures and it was DI'ed and Ampeg SVT although earlier it would have been Laney amp. Most of the record was done on SSL E Series and Neve at Rockfield. All sorts of things are done to get the sound, some heavy eq from SSL or Pultec, some DBX compression, some 1176 and some reverb in the mix. But it's all in the playing really...

[top]I wanted to know if you have any advice to make the bass guitar step out just enough to know that the bass player is an important feature of this mix. - hakim

John Leckie: There's probably some universal things you could try...

As far as possible get an even tone on the instrument so notes don't stick out and boom or sound thin and disappear. Compression may help but really it's all in the playing and as much as possible I record bass uncompressed with no eq. With an even tone it will sit in the mix through the song. Use quality (the most expensive) DI box, short leads and try different preamps. Avoid total tube chains for bass cos is not always the best sound depending on what you're after. Most importantly ask yourself do you know what you're listening to? What are the monitors and room resonance doing to bass tone? You sometimes have to crank the monitors to get the bass tone and performance, but check if it's still all there when track played quietly.

UAD Little Labs IBP
Record DI and miked amp. Be careful when mic'ing the amp you don't get “boom”. I've used 84 on the amp and it can focus on the speaker and be less boomy. One problem is getting a good phase relationship between amp and DI. Try getting mike in as close to the speaker as possible (AKG D12 good for this, but dull). Try Little Labs phase box or the UAD plugin or even try moving waveform a snitch to match up (fun, but can you decide where it should be?).

If you want it to stick out but not mixed too loud, create a distinctive tone that no one else uses. This may involve everything you've got in your arsenal of sounds and modifications. Don't be afraid of bit of chorus (the old Dimension D is bass favourite), delays on certain notes. In the mix the main thing is to create space for it...cut boom/low end on guitars and keys. Watch out for loud resonant bass drum hits and maybe use these to mould bass drum and bass together...if the song/vibe lends itself to this. If you're into funk try putting bass drum and bass through the same compressor.

[top]Could you describe the transition from TapeOp to Engineer to Producer? - Monkeyt

John Leckie: You have to fight your way in and say, "I can do that". It's probably different for everybody and there's a lot of luck involved in getting the right projects to move you forward. It's years of hard work and dedication and enthusiasm for each project when you're an engineer and you have to really want to then move on and be a producer and take on all the responsibilities. And then you have to be on top of things and go out and seek work before it happens etc.

[top]When recording guitar with Muse, how many tracks on average are being used? Was a DI box used for reamping at any point, and how was the MIDI output exploited? - Fast_Fingers

John Leckie: When I worked with Muse we did it on tape so even though often 48 tracks used (2x24T) we didn't use that many tracks. They mount up when you double track stereo guitars and have ambience on separate tracks too. Rarely was DI recorded and rarely was anything re-amped cos it's just never the same. I try to get good main guitar sound that would work live and any performance FX changes would be made live on backing track 'guide' guitar. Often this was kept as a basis and even solos would be tried and kept on this track. The better and as close to the real thing this 'guide' guitar is, the easier the track will be to overdub and build on. We'd then break it down into parts and by overdubbing, double tracking and feeding the taped tracks to different fx we'd create the guitar sound for the whole song. Never used no M1 D1! Sometimes the guitar split to two amps left and right.

[top]Re Simple Minds Empires and Dance album. I was wondering how finished the songs were when the band came to the studio and how much influence you had on the arrangements and sounds of the tracks? Also What kind of treatments did you use on Mick Macneils synths? - jup8

John Leckie: Empires and Dance was very keyboard based along with the rock solid bass lines. I think it was Korg MS20 and we had a Yamaha CS80 which I hated and a lot of tracks started with Jupiter arpeggiator. There was no MIDI. There was a good piano in the studio and a Hammond organ but I don't think we used it except for Leslie FX on guitar and backing vocals. It was all played in and often used a big Carlsboro amp with silver horn Mick used live. A lot of bass synth done with this and room ambience recorded. It was 24 track and we were really concentrating on doing extended 12 versions of I Travel and Celebrate. A lot of songs were rehearsed at Monow Valley before the Stones mobile truck arrived so we had arrangements though I remember a lot of two inch edits going on.

[top]1) In the mastering stage for The Stone Roses 20th was the vinyl mastered directly from the analog tapes or was there a digital intermediate used? If the latter, what was the bit depth and sampling rate of the digital master?

2) Will this CD be "louder" than the original release which is one of the CD's I point to constantly as an example of what the CD format is capable of? If so, was dynamic range compression and clipping avoided? What is your opinion of how loud so many recordings are these days and what teh lesser of two evils is (drc vs. clipping) and what can be done moving forward to get dynamics back in our music?

3) Was any consideration given to a high resolution digital version (Blu-ray, SACD or DVD-Audio) for the Stone Roses 20th release and/or a multi-channel 5.1 mix? I think it's a shame (Pearl Jam - Ten, Beatles Mono/Stereo remasters, The Stone Roses 20th Anniversary, etc.) how often the potential to go beyond the same old boring CD medium is ignored by the major labels. You'd think Sony might have considered an SACD hybrid at least for the album. - Dobyblue

John Leckie:

1. The vinyl was mastered from a digital intermediate. And I think it was just 24bit 48k.

2. Yes it will be louder than the original CD but there should be no clipping or compression. It's not mega loud and needn't be. I hate loud CDs and always sound congested. The new Roses 20th I think the main difference is in the low end where we haven't added any, just kept it true to the original.

3. Sony had no interest in a higher quality version of the record and though I pleaded to do a 5.1 mix they couldn't see its commercial potential. Also to do 5.1 mix would cost at least 2-3 weeks in a major studio.

[top]Of all the amazing albums in your discography, the House of Freaks (HOF) album is my sentimental favorite. Tragically, Brian and his beautiful family were taken from us in a senseless act of random violence. I would appreciate any recollections you have in recording, what at the time, was a new paradigm for a rock band i.e. a two-piece band with just a drummer and guitar. - Deuce 225

John Leckie: I had a wonderful time recording Tantilla with House of Freaks. I was stunned to hear about Brian and only found out years later what had occured.

The record was for Rhino and after hearing the demoes and a phone conversation I found myself in Richmond and hung out at Main St Grill and the whole scene there was vibrant and real and for me, very American. We rehearsed for a bit and saw Famous Actors from Out of Town which was another band Johnny Hott played with; Marty had a studio space and played some hammond. We went to the Sound Design studio in Santa Barbara which had Neve and Studer and was a great room with partitions and walls that moved but was solid. We cut all tracks there and then moved to Indigo Ranch in Malibu which must be one of most memorable places on earth. It is closed now but opened by Moody Blues in the 70s and was a small ranch house high in hills above Malibu (Solstice Canyon) with the most amazing views to the ocean and desert all around. Be careful of rattlesnakes and mountain lions, we were told. Space was tight as some of the buildings had been burnt down in fire so I slept in the drum booth of the studio! Experienced my first earthquake there. Desk was a Dean Jensen Custom and rather like an API. Tape machine was 3M and monitors JBL in a long wooden room. Lots of Pultec and Altec.

I remember it was Thanksgiving and we decided to rent some camping gear and drove down to Borrego Springs and Joshua Tree and camped out the weekend. It rained a fine drizzle the whole time yet we managed to get fined $200 for lighting fire. A good time was had by all and we had to get back to Malibu and start work again.

The record was just the two of them and no bass and the songs were really good and ahead of it’s time really. The next record, Cakewalk, was excellent. I saw Johnny Hott when he was in the UK with Sparklehorse but that was in the early 90s.

Thanks for the memory.

[top]I am interested in the use of click tracks in your productions. Mainly on The Stone Roses, the Bends and Z (MMJ). Did you use clicks throughout the tracks or would they be turned off at a certain point? Do you generally prefer tracking with or without clicks? (I guess this is a project-to-project question...). - Jimmyz

John Leckie: If you run down the best top 25 records of all time I bet you none of them were recorded with click tracks.

There's no click tracks on The Stone Roses apart from Fools Gold. There's none on Z except Wordless Chorus and Bends which I think were all click tracks. So it varies from band to band and what the music needs. I prefer knowing the BPM on The Count in and then letting it go. It's good for bands from time to time to rehearse with click tracks especially on new songs.

[top]Please tell us anything and everything about the making of the dukes of stratosphear albums...they are radical & the encyclopedia of straight-up awesomeness.
- How did u flange the mix/vocals in "You're my drug"?
- Where did the bathtub splash come from in "Brainiac's daughter"?
- Was "Pale and precious" only on 24 tracks or did u use slave reels on psonic psunpot?
- How awesome is Dave Gregory? - Strawberries

John Leckie: Dukes Rule!

OK. Phazing on Drug is actually the whole mix phased and each 2 bars of chorus where he sings 'drug' is phased and cut into the master! So you do your mix onto quarter inch tape at 15ips and then copy it to two stereo tracks of 24 track with a good line up. Switch one set of tracks to sync and send them to well lined up 15ips tape machine with vari speed. Bring replay output of tape machine up desk set fader to -3db and then set outputs of other set of tracks to -3db. By finding the right point and if levels are equal phasing should occur as speed is changed on the quarter inch machine. Depending on music you can really ride the wave with this! Then phase every 'drug' and copy the result to the second master mix quarter inch and edit in.

Nice one! The splash is actually Andy throwing a huge flat rock into the creek at high tide at Sawmills studio in Cornwall where we recorded. I miked it close in stereo with 87s and yes sounds awesome and dead right for track.

Pale and Precious all 24 track and no slaves and no automation on mixdown so all handheld!

Mr. Gregory is truly awesome and I'll send him your regards!

Genelec 1030

[top]I was wondering a little bit about how Rodrigo Y Gabriella work in the studio. Do they just come and play together live? Or do they track separately? Is it close mics and separation between the two (if they track live), or are room mics used more? - unitymusic

John Leckie: Rod y Gab was recorded at Riverside Studios in Bath with the two guitars played live in a small 12ft sq room off the main studio with some traffic noise outside but it was OK. They just sat side by side and I used a small Genelec 1030 under each chair as a foldback to just reinforce the sound. It wasn't very loud at all and in fact it was barely on for some tunes. Guitars were miced with everything I had, U67 and Km84 on each guitar and DPA1060 tiny spot mic taped in soundhole just behind strings gives really close microscope sound. Also recorded DI and each guitar has a small mic on gooseneck mounted inside so I recorded that too and used every thing in the mix including room ambience. If anything I probably overdid the room ambience on some tracks...I was really trying to make guitars sound as big and important as possible. When they play live its DIs into the PA and cranked and does sound awesome.

[top]Re: Paul MCartney. Any stories you can share of working with him? - Studio Addict

John Leckie: It's funny cos it's so long ago I only have a distant memory of it all. I engineered two weeks of Wings sessions in Abbey Road 2 for what would become the Red Rose Speedway album. I also recorded and mixed the single Hi Hi Hi and mixed C Moon which had already been recorded at Morgan. I'd worked with Paul as a tape op on 1st solo album and on Wild Life and I got to engineer cos Alan Parsons was away or something. Alan took over the rest of the record with Ric Lush and Tony Clarke. Hats off to Mark Vigars who assisted on all Wings sessions for years at Abbey Road and even went to Scotland to record Mull of Kintyre. I hadn't done many tracking sessions so I was pretty nervous. Paul was cool and before anything was recorded he'd go through all the possibilities of the sound, instructing eq and compression but not touching the desk. Lots of hard work, full on all the time. Hi Hi Hi was written in the studio really and no one seemed to know what they were doing except Paul. He was cool though and made the tea and ponced **** off us. (I may need a UK translation for that one..) Linda was luverly and bossy and they often walked or cycled in. The band were Danny Sewell, drums and of course Henry McCullough on ace guitar and out of it and the ever partying Denny Laine. Roadie was Trevor and he came in later and we mixed a live show together.

It was fun and I was ****tin meself most of the time but it must have been good cos they used all the tracks.

[top]Matt, the singer from Muse is one of my favourite vocalists and a defining part of his style is the sharp intakes of breath that add drama and urgency to his performance. Was it your decision as producer to leave the breathing in (as this part of the performance is often gated out) for artistic reasons? Did you encourage the artist to develop this part of his act? - mirror symmetry

John Leckie: Yes. We left the breathing in and no, I didn’t encourage it, it just comes naturally with passion! With compression on the vocal it pushes the breathing forward and sometimes if too loud would be reduced in the mix. Most of the time we'd just let it go. The mic was Rhode Classic tube mic which is like a 'modern' U47 and if new its very bright but a little 15k top cut helps.

[top]The sound of albums like the bends, storm in heaven, and yr work with Spiritualized have always had this wonderful sense of tone and openness to the drums - they sound really powerful and expansive but remain 'soft' texturally - what approaches did you take in terms of drum selection/mic placement and room size/treatment for these albums and how did you approach their context from a mix perspective as well. - Dr Roundmenge

John Leckie: Thanks for compliments on drums sounds. It really does depend on the drummer and the music. Always use a good kit preferably Ludwig, Gretsch, some Yamaha. Make sure it's a good size for the drummer’s playing and tuned with new heads and get a selection of snares to try for different songs. Make sure the drummer is rehearsed and knows what he's doing and talk to him about the dynamics of the song. I kinda go for a natural sound on drums but pushed forward...I mic up pretty standard with 57s 451s D12 87s and record room sound and maybe 50% of time not use room ambience but recreate something within the track. It's important to get drums sounding good as dry as possible before adding room ambience as the impressive 'big' drum sound can often swamp a track and just may not be right for the song.

[top]I am a big fan of wet, ethereal recordings, and you seem to be involved in many of them. Richard Ashcroft's vocal sound is particularly inspiring. What would be some of your favorite strategies for effects treatments? Do you use cross feed effects? Could you share with us what was done on Storm In Heaven, or Urban Hymns? - gtrmichael

John Leckie: What are cross feed effects? Do you mean delays feeding into each other? Yes, I do it all the time. I use a selection of reverbs and delays on a voice depending on song and vibe. Usually it's an EMT plate if it's a good one, RMX16 setting 1 turned down a bit, SPX90 1, Alesis Midiverb 2 45, Lexicon 480XL, H3000. And usually 250 msec delays. Most of Verve Storm in Heaven is H3000 Canyon and probably one of best, simplest and smoothest reverbs Lexicon PCM60 (set to longest/biggest). Beware of overdoing reverb and then compressing the mix on mastering as this makes it wetter.

Eventide H3000

[top]I just checked your discog again and saw you engineered Mott the Hooples "Mott" record. I'll bet you have a funny story or two about those sessions!!! ALSO, Gryphon in the SAME YEAR huh? That musta been culture shock! So…
1.) Any stories about the making of those 2 discs? (would be greatly appreciated).
2.) Do you think rock music is as diverse a genre as it was 30 years ago both from a musical and production standpoint? - Slipperman

John Leckie: That's right. I was at Abbey Road and trying to get as many engineering jobs I could. I had to do Mott as I had all their records. We were in studio 3 and the band were producing themselves. We cut All Way From Memphis, Drivin Sister, with a cranky EMI sound fx of a car starting up and a few others. It was good fun and they loved it but went to AIR to finish. I remember them being real pro and Buffin's kit being the biggest in size I'd ever recorded. We also got out the Maltese Cross guitar which was awesome and heavy.

Gryphon was produced by Mike Thorne who was an EMI house producer and also wrote for Studio Sound mag. We heard his job at EMI was to recommend what studios their bands should use, even though he hadn't made a record yet and EMI had its own studios full of talented engineers lying empty. He did Live At Roxy and later Soft Cell Tainted Love. We did most of the sessions in big Studio 1 and mixed in 3. It was pretty quick and played live with 9ft Steinway and bassoon.

[top]Re: The La's 1988 single "There She Goes". I'd like to know how far your involvement in "There She Goes" went? How were the drums and guitars mic’ed and processed during recording? Did you end up mixing the song? If you did, what did you add at that stage? - recky

John Leckie: I was hired to produce 4 songs with The La's in 1988. Together we did great versions of Feeling, Come in Come Out, Man I'm Only Human and the new song There She Goes. When I heard it I knew it was classic. We tried it many different ways as it had just been written. We were at Chipping Norton studio in Oxford and we got a take down but we were suspicious about the tempo. The worst thing I did was show Lee the varispeed on the multitrack! From then on no one could decide the speed. We went to Jam in North London and tried re-recording it but it wasn't as good. We tried all sorts of guitars for the hook line on the intro. Electric sitars were hired and used. The track even had a fade up at one point and unfortunately the release last year of my version was the rough mix with no bass on and the fade up. We went as far as mastering and I still have playback lacquer. I then moved on to other things and they went in with Mike Hedges and then Steve Liliwhite and he finished it a year or so later

[top]Los Lobos “Good Morning”.. How did you get this great drum sound from "heart of stone" ? Do you remember what drumset it was and how it was recorded/mixed - what mics/pres/desk etc. where/in what room did you record it? - QRS

John Leckie: Yes. It was an honour to work with Los Lobos as I had all the records and Drum sound totally down to Pete Thomas who played drums on a lot of Lobos records. He has amazing snare drum tuning and can change drum tone at a turn of a key and it's always usable and it'll fit the song. The whole record was recorded at Caesar's house in East LA. If you get a special edition CD I think there's a little EPK with a movie of us making the record. Cesar had a great set up and a little drum booth with door and window built into the control room and he always told me it was modeled on the booth at Sound Factory B in Hollywood. It's quite small in there and the kit was mic’d with 57, D25, 87s o/hs and I think we had a U47 on the floor tom(!) about 6inches away and 84 or something 10 inches away from the hihat. Most of the sound just came from 57 on snare which was deep and rattled but in the track was awesome. Nearly everything Los Lobos does is first take so you got to be ready. Guitars and bass were in the kitchen and bathroom. Desk was Neve 'broadcast' like a mini Neve with aluminum coloured knobs? Recorded on MCI 24trk and mixed at Sound Factory B on API. Dave McNair did some mixing so you should check.

[top]I'm interested to know how you go about working with the artist when you think a part of a song or the song itself could be better? - QRS

John Leckie: Good question...if the song is bad, do another one or get a re-write. You have to be brave enough to tell them. If you're a musician or writer, help them out. (I'd check publishing arrangements before you get too deep into it ) If part of a song is weak it may need arrangement in drums or bass. Sometimes a new imaginative bass line in a weak verse or bridge can really lift things. Do it in rehearsal pre production, not in the studio.

[top]How do you identify potential singles during pre-production/recording? How much recording time do you try to spend on the strongest tracks compared to the average tracks? And how do you steer the band towards those "money" tracks when their hearts may be with other songs for whatever reason? - Submodern

John Leckie: By instinct really. The singles are the catchy ones that capture the band in its completeness in under 3 minutes. I try to give equal attention to all songs when doing an album. Yes the potential singles may get more attention but it depends. The single should be the simplest and easiest to get down really. What's an 'average' track? All the tracks should be great! Don't know what you mean by 'money' tracks. The band has got to like the song or you won't get anything done. Some bands don't have one single in a bunch of 12 you send them away to write one, or pick a cover, or re-work a potential one they do have tucked away somewhere. That's what the work is...

[top]I'm wondering if you can talk about the transition from engineer to producer. It looks like a lot of your earlier credits were engineer and then you kind of moved into the producer seat with some mixes here and there. How did you convince labels that you are a great producer in the beginning? - Coops

John Leckie: Er...yes that's how it works really. You do good work as an engineer, get a band that takes off or gets interest and acclaim. You take on producers' responsibilities whilst still engineering, you get more confident, someone asks you to produce, someone just wants you to engineer or do more good work...and the record companies may ask you again, and so on and you become a producer.

[top]I notice that all of the records you’ve produced have very strong rhythmic arrangements. Do you ever/often have drummers record to a click? Could you tell me how that rich flanging effect was achieved on Be Bop Deluxe’s “Life In The Air Age”?. What are your thoughts on tracking/mixing digitally vs. to tape. Is any of your work done digitally? entirely ITB? I realize this is a well trodden subject but I’d really like to know what you think! Why did you only produce Public Image Ltd’s first single? Any interesting memories from that session? - Captain

John Leckie: Of course I have drummers record to click if the song and the drummer needs it. It's often better without it and some songs can't be clicked because of tempo changes. If I use click and grid it's a very different record to without.

Phasing Fx on Live in Air Age is tape phasing done on mix at Abbey Road. The multitrack machine, STUDER A80 has sync output and line output at same time and in fact the sync output can be lined up and checked. The sync output of the tracks you want to phase are fed to a quarter inch 2 track tape machine and you listen to the replay output of the tape machine at equal level to replay output of tracks you are phasing off the multitrack machine. As you vari-speed the quarter inch machine and some balancing of levels the phasing effect comes in and you just kind of ride it. Works better with all machines at 15ips.

Digital vs Tape? I don't know. People can write books about it...I use both really but more ending up all digital. It's good to hit tape somewhere. In the box? yep! Love to do it again.

Public Image? Awesome. They never asked me again and got no credit even though I was hired as producer but it was never sorted out. 'Thanks to no one' they said on the record. Recorded two days at Advision on Quad 8 desk, never worked there before so it was a bit of a nightmare getting tracks down. Keith Levin wanted his Fender Twin amp in the control room so he could 'check the sound' and Wobble was so loud bits of ceiling fell down. John was cool and played pool and seemed to enjoy the whole thing. Bill Price mixed it at Wessex but it sounds just like my rough mix to me.

[top]How do you deal with backing vocals? Location on mix, reverb, delay, compression, exciters, etc. - Hidraulico

John Leckie: Try using a different singer? I mean from the lead singer. Make sure the parts are balanced and harmonies are correct and no one sings in unison when they should be as this just double tracks lead voice. Maybe try a different mic than what the lead voice used. Sometimes BVs are better sung slightly away from the mic than if it was lead, depending on the vibe you're trying to create. Double track and put left-right and spread away from the lead voice. Cut bass on BVs and make sure they are even and not too sibilant.

[top]You seem to be a big fan of the SM58 - guitar amps, vocals, and I'm sure many other applications. What is it about the character of this mic that draws you to it? Is it the way it lets a track sit in the mix? Takes EQ well? - jarbar

John Leckie: Yes. All those things. It's kinda flat compared to 57 and sometimes I take the windshield off and leave it exposed and use them on acoustics etc. Good under piano and takes heavy EQ and always works. With a 58, a 67 and D12 you can make a record!

[top]You've worked with some bands that have some really exceptional electric guitar tones (Muse and Radiohead in particular - "The Bends" is one of the thickest tracks they've ever done in my opinion). Is there a particular approach you take to get that thickness and punch that these bands are so known for? Do you double things through different amps/effects, or leave most of that to the guitarists? Do you ever use EQ or compression on distorted guitars? How so? - seamus james

John Leckie: Do anything you can to get a good tone but I find it's best to use a good guitar (often vintage is best), a good amp for the size of space you're in and a good player. Good to have an amp with drive on input and start with clean sound and get that good. Keep leads short and mic with Neumann U67 (pad in) and SM58 or 57. I get in real close sometimes touching the speaker grill and position around the cone depending on what tone is. If it's really bright you need to come away from the centre. Check phase and play with fader levels to preference. I always try to mix a mono bus so recording on one track. If you put mics on multiple tracks to decide on balance later and then start double tracking you end up with trillions of tracks. Sometimes record ambience if sound is choppy or a solo and experiment with panning. I don't usually record DI except maybe the DI output from the FX pedal. Less tracks and options left on mix better for me. Try to keep it flat and uncompressed.

[top]The Kula Shaker album you produced remains one of my favourite albums, and has also served as a reference for mixing and mastering time and again. still does. Did you get the band to play live for keepers or did you go for drum tracks and overdubbed the rest? - The Reel Thing

John Leckie: K was recorded at Eden and Livingston studios in London and some tracks done at Chipping Norton. Some of the mixing was done by Stephen Harris and he did a good job. Eden and Livingston e series SSL and Chipping Norton, (now closed) was Trident TSM (great!).

Most tracks that sound live were cut live with guitar, bass, drums and guide vocals. The guitar FX would be changed live by Crispian and we would DT or add parts as overdubs. Drums were 57, 421 D12, 84, 87 . The room is pretty dry. The kit is Slingerland (?) and sounded great in the room but always a bit mad with the cymbals. Much time was taken on getting the right backing track and most tracks used no clicks. Compresor probably 1176 and/or SSL channel compressor. Delays would maybe be tape but often Roland 3000 at 250 msec with top wound off return. Maybe stereo ping pong delay from Lexicon PCM70. Bass sound was down to Alonzo's playing.

[top]The Verv’s ‘Storm In Heaven’ album is one of my all time favourite albums. I would love to hear more about the making of this record. - polf

John Leckie: Yes. Just answered questions on The Verve above so check it out. The Album was made at Sawmills studio in Cornwall which you can only get to by boat. We rehearsed in Wigan for a week to arrange and shorten some of the songs as most were 10-20 mins long, We spent 5 weeks recording and went back for 2 weeks mixing so the whole record was done there. Check out my other Verve answers for more info.

[top]What is / are your favourite tracking studio(s) in the UK? - D.F.

John Leckie: OK. Depends what the music is and what the character of the band is. Some bands don't like hi tech 'posh' studios with lots of people about, some want only the best, some want to be in the country away from it all, some can only be in the city. Depends on the budget also..

But here goes: There's not much left..

Abbey Road Studio 2
RAK Studio 1 (for tracking) ,2,3 (mixing)
Sawmills Studio Kernow for tracking and vibe
Rockfield Studio 1 or 2 Monmouth (legendary)
Doghouse Studio Henley on Thames (cozy but great sound)

[top]Can you tell us anything about the drum loop in Fools Gold? - badger17

John Leckie: The drum loop on Fools Gold was found by John and Ian from a breakbeat record of loops they had. I don't know what it's called or where it comes from. The original demo of Fools Gold had John playing the guitar line and Ian singing all the final lyrics over this drum loop so that's how it was used. It plays through the whole song although the drums are overdubbed playing almost the same pattern to fatten it and in the mix it's taken in and out to add variation. The same loop is used on What World Waiting For and One Love.

[top]Re: Syd Barrett. Knowing you worked on the aborted final Abbey Road sessions, as well as "Barrett", is there any insight or remembrance you would like to share? - Analogtodd

John Leckie: There's a whole book on Syd sessions that really does say all there is from me. The author gave me a real grilling and I couldn't remember a thing except Syd always had a different girlfriend each day...sometimes two! It's a good read if you're a fan as notes on all Syd sessions including the last with me and Peter Jenner. The book is Random Precision: Recording the Music of Syd Barrett 1965-1974, by David Parker.

I never worked on Madcap Laughs as before my time but I tape op'd for Peter Bown on Barrett in Studio 2 with Roger Waters and David Gilmour producing. I can remember a stream of musicians trying to get complete songs down and Syd not really knowing what day it was or why he was there. The later sessions with him on his own were in Abbey Road 3 and just Peter Jenner and Pat Stapley and me engineering. Syd's plan was to do an album in the 5 days by recording guitar first day then drums on Tues, bass on Wed, vocals Thurs and mix on the Friday and knock off early for the weekend. Sounds simple...and maybe workable..but sadly we never got further than the guitar. He was alone on sessions, had all new guitars and amps but sadly couldn't really get through a song without turning his guitar off or walking away. He'd always come back though and I think we did work the full five days but I don't think he wanted to be there. We spent some time mixing out takes from other sessions which appeared on Opal and also mixed the legendary Vegetable Man and Scream Thy Last Scream but still never released.

That's about all on Syd...I just remember him as being very fragile. I was honoured to have a picture of one of my tape boxes from a Syd session on Opal which is a compilation of out takes etc on vinyl. It's a disgrace as I can't spell "Effervesing" on Effervescing Elephant. Still can't.

[top]My question is about the Stone Roses. As producer, how much did you influence them to create that loose indie/dance sound? Also, were you aware at the time that you were involved in something so special? - Rhythmtech

John Leckie: I don't think I influenced them to make that 'loose indie/dance sound'. That's what they had when I first saw them and I just bought that out in them and allowed them to be and get the best recording of it all.

It was pretty special at the gigs and when it took off just as we were doing Fools Gold. We all had a great time making the records and it shows a bit in the music and mix.

[top]My question is what did you do to get that amazing bass tone for "I Wanna Be Adored" by the Stone Roses? I happen to think it is one of the best sounding (in terms of tone) bass parts in any song. While the whole song is brilliant sounding, the bass always stood out to me above everything. Any special tricks or gear used? - StiffOswald

John Leckie: Yes. It's good isn't it. It's all down to Mani really. With bass it's always in the playing and the touch. Mani would have used a Rickenbecker guitar... the painted one like in the pictures and pretty certain it was a Laney amp and cab of some sort. We recorded DI and mic'ed with 87 or 47 or RE20, I can't remember. Credit should also go to Mr. Paul Schroeder who was the engineer and really knew the room. I think there's a bit of reverb at the start as well. All recorded and mixed SSL at Battery Studios.

AKG C414

[top]Re the Santoor maestro...Can you recall any info regarding this recording? The space and the 3D like quality of this LP is breathtaking. - Baikonour

John Leckie: Yes. I love this sound and am deeply honoured to have worked with Pandit. It's recorded at Real World in the control room with the musicians in the Stone Room with the water running under them. Its two santoors miked with two AKG 414s each just about 8-10 inches above strings. The musicians are seated on the floor and tabla is about 9ft away and I don't remember any screens. We also had Calrec Soundfield above each santoor. It took the evening to set up, tune instruments and allow them to settle and we started the following day about 4pm till 8pm and did the whole raga. I think we then came in the next day and recorded a shorter piece. It's on 24 track tape at 15ips as they needed to play non stop for more than 16 mins. I mixed it in the same room on SSL a few days later after Shiv Kumar had returned to India. There is little reverb nor any processing on the mix. The instrument has a natural resonance and the 3D panning is really the players moving up and down the strings as the mics are panned left right.

[top]I'm curious what it was like recording with Jim James. I'm a huge My Morning Jacket fan, and "Z" was an incredible step in their career I feel. What vocal mics, pres, and compressors did you use on his haunting yet familiar and calming voice? - Aaron Inkrott

John Leckie: I've been answering a lot of questions on MMJ so check out my other answers above. Vocal mic would be Neuman or Telefunken U47 or Shure SM58. Mic pre Neve 1073 and usually Urei 1176 limiter. Jim has a great voice and we nearly always used reverb from Zoom Fx or EMT plate.

[top]I'm of the opinion that 'Storm' is the quintessential 'Verve' album from a band perspective. What got you interested in them and how did you approach the production? - Wiggy Neve Slut

John Leckie: Thanks for the good question. I first saw Verve after getting to a gig early and seeing them as a support band and they just blew me away. I couldn't stop thinking about them and went to about five gigs before I even spoke to them or the record company. We booked into Sawmills for 5 weeks and stayed 7 and mixed the whole record there. From the start the songs were constantly evolving...most tracks in rehearsal were going on for 10-12 minutes. Sometimes they would play for hours non stop. So we had to 'trim' the songs and just bring things into focus and still keep the vibe and power of the band from live performance. I don't know if I fully achieved capturing the live Verve experience from those early days. Maybe the record did not sound 'loud' enough or dynamic enough and we did get a bit carried away with reverbs. One of the tracks Blue was written in the studio and started off as another song backwards. It was a single in USA. The early singles before the album were good songs and not on LP. Check out Man Called Sun produced by old mate Paul Schroeder.

Of course the band had a lot of input. They were all there thru to the end with comments etc.

[top]Re Pink Floyd. Could you provide some technical info about the recording (drum mics, console etc)? - Haryy

John Leckie: When I worked with Floyd it was all a bit primitive. Meddle was recorded on EMI TG console and all the mics would be Neumann U67's, U87's, Km84's, KM86's, FET47's, AKGD20 bass drum, AKGD190, AKGD1200, Fairchild 630 limiter, Altec compressors. We later overdubbed at AIR working on NEVE 1073 (?) console and 16 track Studer. Again all mics would be as above. It was mixed at Morgan by Robin Black.

[top]Being a huge Fall fan I was wondering: what was it like to work with Mark E Smith and band? - Decibike

John Leckie: We had great fun and I did 3 albums and it taught me a lot about working with bands and openness in music. Most of the tracks were from the band playing together live and Mark would be in control a lot of the time running this. Once we got tracks down he didn't want to change much. Other songs we'd explore all sorts of possibilities from playing along to cassettes to using toy drum machines and tape samples.

[top]Re: The Fall - Does Mark E. Smith write the songs and the arrangement and have people come in, or does he rehearse before recording? Is he a strict ringleader or have an attitude that's more "here's some lyrics and how I want to sing it, make some music around it" - Sean Sullivan

John Leckie: Yes! He's all those things. At the time I worked with them they rehearsed. They had two drummers! Lots of songs with loose arrangements and if things weren't working in the studio we'd just scrap it and move to another song. Most tracks cut live with the whole band and live vocals which Mark would change every time. Brix had a few songs and sometimes took the direction, Karl Burns was often very vocal but Craig and Steve would be quiet but simmering in the background. Between the two of them and Karl when he was on it they defined The Fall's sound at the time, with Mark taking the front of course. Later on records by Bend Sinister we used keyboards and cheap drum machines but still most of that was cut live at Abbey Road with no multitrack. Sometimes Mark was adverse to overdubs and I quickly realised that what he wanted on the final mix was close to what he heard when he had the first playback of the backing track with his vocal. So I ended up doing away with multitrack and we cut Mr Pharmacist and two others straight to stereo and that's it done. It worked for them at the time and in the context of the album it's cool.

Yes Mark was in control and the leader of the band.

[top]Re Magazine: I consider the bass (and guitar) sounds on Real Life to be quintessential new wave/post punk. Can you tell us a bit more about the set up/recording method for the Magazine bass sound? - Butcha

John Leckie: Yes it's a good sound...and really it comes from the player. I saw Barry recently at Magazine reformed gigs and its sensational. He really drives the band. It was Rickenbecker as for amp I don't know. It was recorded at Ridge Farm Studio barn in Sussex but on the Virgin mobile truck with Helios desk and Ampex 24 track and mixed at Abbey Road 3 on Neve. I was quite into Valley People Gain Brains at the time cos it's all we had at Abbey Road beside Altecs and Fairchilds so maybe some of that on it. Also its a mix of DI and amp.

[top]I was wondering how difficult it was to and what mics were used in the recording of John Lennon's Piano and Guitar. - Jrhoden

John Leckie: Long time ago and I was just tape op on that one. Mics would have been probably all Neumann U87 or 67 on guitar and on piano. Piano was mono so would be one mic placed center slightly angled towards hammers and lid down on 'short leg' or a 87mic box used to prop it up! It's slightly shorter so the lid can be just that bit lower. Top and sides cover with as much padding/duvet/blanket you can and especially over front where he is singing so less voc getting onto piano mic. Vocal could have been tube U47 or 87/67. Lots of 10k (+8 to 10db) on EMI TG desk and maybe TG compression. Vocal in Fairchild limiter.

[top]I was curious if you had any recollections of producing The Proof's "It's Safe" LP. - Xian00

John Leckie: I may have been at one of those gigs! Not many people know of that record. It was for Nemperor which was run by Nat Weiss who was an Old Timer in NY who was with Brian Epstein/Beatles etc. We recorded at Power Station in NYC which is now called Avatar and pretty much the same as now except now SSL and Neve. 24 Pultecs lined the back wall in both studios. We worked studio 2 nights starting at 7pm cos it was cheaper and during the day studio was used by Chic so I was checking all drum mics and settings! In the big studio all the time Bruce was doing The River with Bob Clearmountain and Jimmy Lovine and we always had dinner together cos Proof was with the same management as Bruce. Also saw some Meatloaf sessions there. The band were great players and songs were hard hitting power/pop/rock and Tom had a great voice. The band was arranged tightly and I think Tom's brother was the drummer? And they had a crazy lead guitarist who was good fun but not as 'serious' as the rest of them and he added a lot of excitement on stage. And good songs too!

[top]Re: My Morning Jacket “Z” album.
- How much of the reverb is natural and captured in the engineering stage?
- What was the reverb setup for the mix and what processors and outboard were used in particular?
- I am particularly interested in the vocal reverb, how was this achieved? - Deaf

John Leckie: Jim's voice is very suited to reverb so in a way any reverb you put on him is going to sound good. We used mainly a Zoom fx unit Jim had. We also used the EMT plate at Sunset Sound where we mixed. Other possibilities are just an SPX90 on setting 1 large hall. What's wrong with that? Often it's the amount of reverb you use that can add the mystery. A large long setting but just the tiniest amount...try Breathing Canyon on Eventide H3000. Yikes!

[top]In your interview in 'Behind the Glass' you make a somewhat provocative statement saying that 'all Acoustic Treatment is rubbish'. If I understood you correctly, you're saying that a mix done in an untreated room (i.e a typical carpeted living room and not an empty garage of course) will translate much better as the listener will be in a similar sonic space? - doorknocker

John Leckie: I remember doing an interview for that book years ago and the subject came up in the conversation. So obviously I'm not an acoustic design expert with the maths etc but having worked in many rooms and had varying results I find the main thing is to learn the room and its response...the size of speakers and the air they have to move is important and instinctive to feel really. You have to have a setup where you can hear what you're doing ie when you move the eq you can hear it happening. Yes, carpet the floor. velvet curtains are good as they can be drawn back and really just listen every day to a good reference CD of music you love or what you're trying to attain. Just get to know the high end, the low end and the space in between, the width. Play your mixes elsewhere, make adjustments.

Even in best designed top of range mixing rooms you still have to 'learn' the room.

[top]Pink Floyd “Meddle”. Please just tell us about these sessions. Anything that comes to mind. The Floyd's working methods, isolation? Many overdubs? Were they good singers in the studio? I'm more interested in the sort of atmosphere than "what mic?" Thanks, that album helped point me into the field of audio engineering and producing. - Tekis

John Leckie: Meddle was a long time ago and it was really one of the first sessions I engineered. I'd tape op'd for Peter Brown on all the original eight track sessions at Abbey Road 3 which was all backing tracks from all 'nothing' sessions. At the time it was only Air and Trident that had 16 tracks so we went to Air above Oxford Circus and did straight transfer eight to sixteen. Pete Bown was there the first few days and as it was a different studio, Neve desk, 16 track, Pete just got up and left me to it. Can't remember how long we were there...week or two...but it was just me and them. Worked hard continually trying things. Vibe was good between them all and vocals were no problem. Things were done and redone for sound or tuning. A good time was had by all and they were often gigging during the recording and had to move all gear out and set up again day later.

[top]Anyway, I just wanted to know about the production of Z, I've always thought the production and mixing were phenomenal on this album. But specifically, the songs Gideon and Dondante, what mic/signal chain (compressor, eq, etc) was used on Jim? Do you remember what reverb(s) were used? - Sword in Hand

John Leckie: Z was recorded at Allaire in NY state in the Great Hall studio. Whole record was done on 16 track 2 inch tape and mixed to tape at Sunset Sound in Hollywood. Dondante is the band live in studio one take no overdubs with Jim doing vocals and guitar live. A few of tracks on Z are live vocals. Usually Neumann or Telefunken 47 or SM58, mic pre Neve 1073 and probably UREI 1176 on end. Reverbs would be the Zoom reverb box Jim had, don't know the type but would if I saw it, and probably EMT plate from Sunset Sound or even the famous chamber at Sunset Sound as used by other Jim from Doors!

[top]Can you tell us about George Harrison's guitar in “All things must pass”. - andres_feret

John Leckie: George probably played a Strat at the time and often used Fender Champ or Vibro Champ amps. Miked with Neuman 87 or 67 and always double tracked or ADT'ed. Lots of double tracked acoustics too.

[top]Apart from all your amazing work you've done, please tell us what it was like working on Herbert von Karajans recording of Meisters. - sONIC_jUNKIE

John Leckie: Thanks. I was tape op on this at Abbey Road studio 1. It was just the mixing which was four track and the engineer was the wonderful Chris Parker. It was ten sides and me being new to opera it was a bit of an ordeal. For me it was a lot of playbacks and learning to follow on the score and also perfecting my quarter inch tape edits on sustained strings when there's no bass drum to edit on. Also taught me to listen and be patient.

[top]What's it like working with a producer who has a band, eg Mitch Easter? Does that change your role? Division of labor? Any recollections of this record? I am a big fan of it! - Dannygold

John Leckie: Yes. I enjoyed this record and it was an honour really cos I'd bought all Let's Active, REM, Don Dixon records and call came from Mitch to meet up. We recorded tracks at Rockfield and then went to N Carolina Winston Salem to Mitch's Drive In Studio at his parents house. He had AMEK Angela and lots of 3M tape machines of all sizes! It was great and the whole town was! We really shared production as most of the songs were demoed and arranged and I just got good sounds up.

[top]Could you discuss how you handle a vocal like Jay Ashtons (Gene Loves Jezabel)? - Grumblefoot

John Leckie: Wow! Gene Loves Jezebel are a very underrated band. It was mid 80s at Chapel studio in Hampton Bishop in Hereford UK. Set up for vocals is pretty much same as today. I'd use good Shure SM58 or tube Neumann U47. For Jay it'd be 58 and singing in control room with speakers on loud with him dead close to the mic. Take cymbals out of playback to reduce spill. I often use UREI 1176 black for vocals and often different mic for backing vocals like a AKG 414.

UREI 1176

[top]I have to ask if you have any particular interesting stories or memories of recording Magazine. This was the first album that got me interested in recording and producing music. Your name has been etched in my mind ever since I turned the LP over as a 16 year old and saw that you produced it. Still love this album just has a magic and a depth that so many other recordings lack. In fact I remember reading that Radiohead asked you to produce due to this record and not The Stone Roses as most had people assumed. - Space Station

John Leckie: Yes. Real Life is one of my favourites and recorded at a very busy time for me and it took a few years into the 90s before I realised how good it was. Recorded at Ridge Farm in Sussex before it was a studio and you could rent the barn and accommodation and we recorded on Virgin mobile truck in the snow. Tapes were then taken to Abbey Road 3 for overdubs vocals etc We recorded the last track “Parade” at Abbey Road and I always thought the fade up was cool if I may say so! My good friend Haydn Bendal tape op'ed for me at Abbey Road and we both got good memories of the sessions.

Go see them playing live. They just got together again and are awesome!

[top]I'm curious what it was like recording with Jim James. I'm a huge MMJ fan, and "Z" was an incredible step in their career I feel. What vocal mics, pres, and compressors did you use on his haunting yet familiar and calming voice? - Aaron Inkrott

John Leckie: Z was recorded at Allaire Studios in NY state and its fantastic place, high in Catskill mountains and it was snowing the whole three weeks we were there so hardly left the buildings.

Jim's voice on most tracks was cut with the band playing live. Jim would be in another room on the porch and with a glass door could see through to everyone. Sometimes he'd play guitar and sing and his amp would be beside him behind screens. Mic would be either Neumann or Telefunken U47 or a simple SM58. Usually going through UREI 1176 also. All of Z is recorded on two inch 16 track tape and no computers until mastering.

[top]Please tell us about your approach to the recording/producing approach with Be Bop Deluxe. I would also like to know if you often did live rhythm tracks and kept Bill's guitar tracks when and if you did that. How exactly did you record his guitar and vocal overdubs (mics, techniques, etc). - Beyersound

John Leckie: All tracks on Sunburst Finish and Modern Music recorded with no click and cut live as backing track in studio with drums, bass, rhythm guitar or a scratch guitar and basic keyboard all going down at one time. The band were great players and Bill made difficult playing demands on them. The music was almost written to show off the talents on instruments and parts were complex. I never went to rehearsals but Bill demoed everything playing all instruments at home on a little cassette portastudio and the band were sent away to learn it almost note for note. Overdubs were plentiful and somehow we managed to get it all on one 24 track. All mixed manually too as it was before SSL though may have tried Necam.

Guitar would be multi miked and a lot of care and time taken on sounds and replicating what was coming out of amp, which was usually Carlsboro and later Mesa Boogie. Vocal were nearly always 87 with sponge pop screen and sung close almost kissing.

[top]What is your favorite gear? Like a special preamp, mic or reverb that you can't live without. - Engstrom

John Leckie: SM58 or U67 or UREI 1176. That's it. With all three you can make a record!

[top]Could you tell us something about recording New Order's last album? Any tips on recording synths? - IM_

John Leckie: All the tracks were demoed by the band at Stephen's studio in hills near Macclesfield in the UK. Some lyrics were written and some songs were just snippets and some completely finished. They had lots (about 40?), very few were 'played' and all files are 'manipulated' in ProTools.

Synths are really just DI'ed with best quality DI boxes and cables. They would never use presets and always spend a lot of time programming and shaping sounds in synth. Often the song is conceived because of 'found' synth sound/rhythm. There's also a lot of stacking up of sounds on the multi track.

[top]Any recollections working with Robyn on Respect by Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians. Just beautiful Soundscapes. Were the songs basically ready to go, or was there a lot of re-shaping done on the spot? - Mark Kaufman

John Leckie: I had a great time making that record. It was recorded at Robyn's house in Yarmouth town on Isle of Wight in the UK. A quaint little town by the ferry to Southampton. Recorded on a BBC mobile truck with an SSL desk and parked outside with cables across the pavement and Robyn often doing the cooking for us. The band were well rehearsed and I think Robyn had more songs to record that there just wasn't time for. We set up just in the living room with keyboards, drums and Robyn guitar and vocals. Some of the vocals live and the piano parts were all later replayed via midi feeding a Yamaha Clavichord piano which plays itself! Thanks for the memories. We all had a party in the garden and some tracks were from live recording at the party.

[top]Re: Pink Floyd Sessions - I have always loved the sound of those albums. Do you recall any details of how the basics were tracked? In particular I am interested in the setups for guitars and drums. - AudioWonderland

John Leckie: Basics all engineered by Peter Bown at Abbey Road 3. (Pete did Piper at Gates of Dawn) Very dry room. Mics would be 87s, 84s, D20 bass drum and maybe AKG D190 or D1200 on somethings. No Shure mics at Abbey Road when I worked there. Guitar would have been 87s 0r 67s and vocals the then new FET 47. It was all recorded on 8 track 3M one inch EMI tape and transferred to Studer 16 track at AIR. Mixed by Robin Black at Morgan so would have made some changes.

[top]Re: the Posies: This album has great distinctive drum sounds and drumming--very '60s influenced, Keith Moon-ish, barely stable, fill-mad drumming that really energizes the album. What do you remember of the drum recording? - Magpel

John Leckie: Well long time ago...recorded at Crow Studios in Seattle. The sound is really from that room cos it was good and homely and musical. We rented an API 'sidecar' desk, monitored loud on TANNOY Little reds and drums were well tuned and well hit. Miking nothing special: 58s rather than 57s, 451 on toms, 414s and 87s overheads and room. Overheads and room probably compressed with Urei 1176. Mixed at Enterprise in LA. Huge studio complex in Burbank used by glam/metal bands with film star girlfriends. Huge Ausburgher monitors and the longest 80 channel (?) SSL I worked on. I think the mix got a bit 'sheeny' from all that sunshine.

[top]Re: Kula Shaker album K you did and was curios what the guitar chain was that you used, guitar, amp, mic, fx etc? - Marshalllove

John Leckie: Thanks. K is a good record and I recorded most of it in 5 day periods finishing a few tracks, mixing, then recording and mixing more til we had an album. Mostly done at Eden, Livingston and Chipping Norton studios. Two of those are closed now...

Guitar chain as far as I remember was Fender Strat , Fender Twin Reverb, 90s one with very sensitive red knobs! Most effects from Crispian's pedal board which I think was Zoom and it was really his live set up. I didn't mix all the album but it all still sounds great.

[top]“Seasons” album by Morgan Fisher. Did you spend much time at the commune? Any info or stories I would love to hear as I think Bagwan was an amazing phenomenon and that a lot of his teachings will be more and more relevant now and in the future. I notice some stuff you've done with a Hindu/spiritual theme, did you try to find this work or did it come to you? - gurubuzz

John Leckie: You mean Seasons album by Morgan Fisher? No, it was recorded at Medina Rajneesh Neo Sannyas Commune in Suffolk UK around 1982. Music was a big part of life in the commune. We had lots of instruments and a sound cellar where we could set up to record. There was a great pool of talented musicians to play but most of the record, which is all cover versions, was started with eight track tape percussion loops round the room and mixed to an arrangement. No click, no midi.

Osho or Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh has many teachings that are relevant to all of us living here and now today. I'm extremely grateful for my time with him. There are Osho centers around the world and I'd really recommend anyone to spend time with books or taped discourse and to actively participate in the meditations.

[top]Re: 'Stormcock' by Roy Harper is such a special album! Could you share some impressions from the sessions, especially regarding the acoustic guitars from Roy and Jimmy Page and the orchestrations? - Doorknocker

John Leckie: Yes. Stormcock is a great record for listening to all through...its only four songs and all acoustic. I was just a lowly tape op button pusher on sessions which took a good few months in hot summer 1970 all in studio 3 Abbey Road. I wasn't on many sessions but went on to engineer and produce another 7 albums with Roy so he's a bit of a mate really. Most of the engineering was done by Phil McDonald who did Beatles and went on to Apple and did all John, George and Harry Nilson etc. I tape op'ed for Phil on George Harrison and John Lennon. He's the best and with Peter Bown at Abbey Road taught me how to be on sessions and get good sound. ( still searching...)

As far as guitars go I know Roy always cherished two John Bailey guitars he had custom made (UK luthier I think). He had a twelve string as well. What Jimmy played I don't know..wasn't there unfortunately. Check out other Roy Harper album 'Flashes From Archives of Oblivion" with rotten recording of Jimmy Page, Ronnie Lane, Max Middleton and Keith Moon on drums live at Rainbow, me in room at back with TG desk and 3M 8 track trying to get it down after Roy and full orchestra played. All orchestra on Me and My Woman on Stormcock is arranged by David Bedford and recorded by Pete Bown in 2. I remember we had The orchestra waiting in the canteen while me and Roy edited the eight track for recording as he hadn't decided on takes. Lots of multitrack edits on Roy's records. James Edgar did the artwork and was traveller mate of Roy's and often slept in a studio somewhere but would often produce great little watercolor pics he did of the proceedings. What else about Stormcock? Lot of dope smoked...yes it was Abbey Road but this was an 'underground session'. Pete Jenner was the producer and did many records with bands he managed at Abbey Road in 70s and seeing as I was the only guy at Abbey Road with long hair I got on the sessions!

[top]I LOVE your work on Origin of Symmetry by Muse and always wondered why the production of the record was split over two Producers? Also, is there more than one bass guitar in Citizen Erased? When it kicks in it is just HUGE! It's so sick! - pygarry

John Leckie: Thanks for compliments on Muse records. Dave Botrill had already done and mixed his tracks and yes, the idea from the beginning was he would do the 'hits' and I'd do the more experimental weird stuff so those songs were done. We went to Real World Studios and recorded tracks in Big Room and then spent some time at Dave Gilmour's boat studio on Thames called Astoria. And then had a week or so at Abbey Road before the band went off to Sawmills to mix with John Cornfield who they'd worked with before. All this was planned before we started.

Massive bass sound? Yes there's two and liberal use of Big Muff I'm sure. Matt was putting it on everything. I think all their records since have been awesome and yes looking forward to where they go next!

[top]Could you regale us with tales of your early years? I know you were at Abbey Road early on and worked with Lennon a bit, but not sure what period/albums. - brill bedroom

John Leckie: I started at Abbey Road Feb 15th !970 after writing a letter and getting an interview with Ken Townsend who was manager at the time. I already did a Film & TV course at college and was working in a small dubbing theatre in West End London so I had a bit of equipment operational training before I went in. I'm not a musician so although I'd been going gigs since I was 14 (Stones/Yardbirds/Who/JohnMayall/GrahamBond/Nice/Family/Floyd etc) I had never met a musician nor attempted to play an I had a lot to learn! First session that morning was Procol Harum and the Edgar Broughton Band in the afternoon. It was pretty full on after that working 7 days a week with lots of overtime so the later the sessions better for the pay packet. Worked on all types of sessions and was introduced to the world of classical music working on Beethoven Symphonies and lots of solo piano or violin. As tape ops if there was no urgent banding to be done and if a studio was free we could go to the library in the disused squash court of a block of flats opposite and select four or even eight track tapes that hadn't been mixed stereo and do our own mixes referencing the mono. I mixed Cilla Black, Gerry and Pacemakers, Johnny Kid and Pirates and many Freddie and Dreamers B sides in stereo, often in Room 65 (the four track reduction room). First summer was spent tape-op’ing for Phil McDonald on George Harrison's All Things Must Pass with Mr Spector who was always screaming for `more tape echo!" and millions of musicians in the room all going down to eight track. Later I was with Phil and Phil again with John and Yoko. I did the edit on Working Class Hero. Can you hear it? I did all the edits on Yoko's album! Got to end of first year Phil McDonald asks if I'll come down to Ascot to John's new studio at the house and tape op on the album that would become Imagine. I'd already booked myself in to do a month of Pink Floyd which would become Meddle so I missed Imagine. At Abbey Road you still had to be in at 9am Monday morning to do bands or tape op Bob Gooch on classical sessions even after a week of nights with Pink Floyd or Roy Harper. One tedious tape op job was being on a 9 to 5.30 week of Classical Playback in Room 42 or 43 which are in front of the building facing the car park so you could always daydream out the window and watch the weather change. The job entailed playing back quarter inch classical masters, often on split reels, on old BTR4 tape machines with dangerous rewind. The producer would ask for Take 83 from a huge pile of tapes and you had to spool it, find it, play it. Then, "Take 43" and you'd have to find it. Every take was announced before the start and a 50Hz tone was recorded over the announcement so you could hear it as it went spooling past. The producer couldn't handle master tapes and there were no copies done as no cassettes or CDs so this was the only way of listening. The producer would follow the score and provide editing instructions for an expert team of tape editors who'd put it all together and next week you'd have to listen to it all again.

So that was early years. I still had to do tape op duties as I progressed and got more sessions as an engineer.