Blame the Whisky...
After discussing potential producers for our first record with Megan, I have a rare night in and am listening to music, accompanied and enhanced by the odd slug of bourbon.
I put on Tracker, a recent record by Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler. It's co-produced by Guy Fletcher, also from Dire Straits, his longterm keyboard player, multi-instrumentalist and collaborator.
As ever, as the whisky works its way foggily into my head, it forms into increasingly ridiculous ideas.
Guy Fletcher recording with Mark Knopfler at British Grove
Wouldn’t it be great if Guy Fletcher produced our record.
I have another thoughtful sip.
The room around me fades and I’m leaning casually against the mixing desk of a massive recording studio, having made a stunning debut record with the band, chatting amiably with the occupant of the producer’s chair.
“Was it fun making Brothers In Arms, Guy? Isn’t it like the 10th biggest British album ever?”
“Listen Dan, it was fun alright, but this Common Threads record you’ve just made is the best thing I’ve ever done. Universal Music just called to offer you a 50 million dollar record deal – oh, and Paul McCartney wondered if you fancy reforming The Beatles with him? By the way, both the girls in First Aid Kit were after your phone number.”
Meanwhile, in the real world, I look down at my whisky glass. It is empty.
We are now somewhere between the second and third whiskies, where the first ridiculous idea, wouldn’t it be great if Guy Fletcher produced us, becomes the second, even more ridiculous idea: I’ll ask him.
A laptop is fired up. There’s a furious flurry of inebriated typing. Tap. An email flutters into the ether. I pour a third whisky and resume listening. I walk around a bit. I listen to more music. I lie down.
It is morning. I am sober. I have a thundering headache. I must stop drinking whisky.
I suddenly sit bolt upright in bed.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph what have I done. Last night. I didn’t actually send an – oh dear Lord. I think I did.
I blearily scrabble around for my phone. It nearly jumps out of my hand when
I see an email notification…from Guy Fletcher.
I am mortified.
Guy in infamously iconic MTV video back in the day...
I’ve emailed a man arrogantly demanding to know if he, Grammy-winning co-producer of one of Billboard’s top albums of 2015, will produce the first ever record by an obscure rabble of unsigned chancers.
You can’t just pick out a favourite from your record collection and assume whoever’s credited on the sleeve is not only available but also has the slightest inclination to work with any random loon that contacts them out of the blue. “Hello, Stevie Wonder? Listen, you don’t know me but we need some harmonica on this tune and I was wondering - what are you doing Thursday?”
Fully expecting Guy’s mail to read “Don’t be so bloody ridiculous and never contact me again”, I am already mentally composing a grovelingly apologetic reply as it loads.
Once it does, my hungover eyes settle on one extraordinary phrase: “I would
be glad to produce the band”.
Evidently I’m still asleep. I never woke up in the first place. I pinch myself. I read it again.
There it is again: “I would be glad to produce the band”.
I slap myself fully in the face, hard. I read it again.
Guy Fletcher wants to produce us. Us!
So it came to pass that, a few days later, Guy suggests we meet for a chat at British Grove Studios, the world class facility in West London built and owned by Mark Knopfler, where great records have been made by The Killers, The Last Shadow Puppets, Dave Gilmour, Iggy Azalea and of course Mark and Guy themselves.
Megan and I stare awestruck at everything. Someday, we promise each other, somedaywe will get to record at a place like this. Seeing where so many of my favourite records were made is a thrill - let alone being shown around by one of the greats who made them. If the 16 year old me could see this…
No expense is spared on the studio gear– the best vintage microphones, pre-amps, compressors and tape machines hooked up to state of the art digital technology. Amongst the great sounding musical artefacts is an EMI console used by Paul McCartney to record Band On The Run, and another vintage EMI desk, neither of which are even the main mixing desk.
“The bass sounds really good through this”, says Guy, “so we tend to use it as the world’s biggest bass DI box”.
World's biggest bass DI
Like being so spoilt for fine wine that you can afford to stick a 1959 Chateau Lafite Rothschild in the spag bol – insane, but it does make an exceptionally good bolognaise sauce...
As planned, we sit down to discuss our record. Guy’s website mentions his home studio is near the South Coast, so I raise the logistics of getting the band there.
“Actually”, says Guy, “I think we should record it here”.
Somewhere deep inside my very soul the 16 year old me becomes slightly hysterical. I manfully struggle to maintain a straight face.
“Oh…oh, right. Well, I suppose that could work…”
“Wooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahh!!!!” screams the 16 year old me, silently.
I mention getting our equipment here and wonder if the studio has any amps we could use.
“Oh yeah”, Guy replies, “Mark has a few he leaves here. Some of his instruments may be around too if you want to use them.”
The 16 year old me is running about with his arms aloft like he’s scored the winner in the cup final. I am encountering grave difficulty regulating my breathing.
“Oh really? Ah yes, well…jolly good. Er, well that all seems in order. See you in July for the session then Guy. Very nice to meet you. Coming, Meg?”
Back outside in the West London sunshine, the studio door closes behind us.
We hold our breath about five seconds until we’re out of sight.
“Did that actually happen?”
“Certainly seems like it.”
“I didn’t want to say this before, but I’ve been trying very hard not to scream. I’ve been holding it in. I’m not sure how long I can keep it up.”
“Shall we go a bit nuts now then?”
“Yes. Yes, I think so.”
Roll on July.