Before I did the Prince's Trust concert I had misgivings about it. I thought, "Is this going to end up looking like some huge ego trip of mine? I don't know about this." But then my mind changed as we went on because everybody was so happy. All the musicians had such a good time, because they were all guys that had played on the records, but nobody had seen them play. All the guys I used in my band were in my band — it was a great band!
LC: I bet! [laughs]
There were like, 40 people up there. It was a trick putting it all together, and the transitions between the acts. And we actually worked it out in here, to actually plan how to do the show, the number of people that we had to get on and off, the equipment, the transitions between songs. But the thing is, on the night — because we mixed it here — I was surprised at how little we had to fix. I played one wrong note in "Kiss From a Rose" and the string players were amazing. It was an odd experience. The other thing was that it started me really seriously playing again, because my wife had an accident after that and in a way, the guys who were playing — we'd go to "group" after that — most of the guys who played in that show, and it became a sort of therapy.
LC: Both John and I record and play music and you get kind of removed from what you started out as. I'm a bass player as well, and it's been awhile since I actually played out — since I was in a band. And I miss it.
Oh, it's great playing together in a band with a bunch of guys. It's one of the most fun things you can do. That's what I did for a long time. It took up pretty much every night until I was thirty. And then when "Video Killed the Radio Star" was a hit I stopped playing. I said, "I'm not good enough. I'll get somebody really good." And then I'd go and get somebody really good and when they'd gone I'd get rid of it and play a really simple part myself [laughs].
I think that one problem with the current "workstation" vibe that's going on, somebody buys a Neve module made in China and they think that they are going to get a sound like an old Neve board from the '70s. They're not! They're going to get some kind of sound, but a board back then was a world that you lived in. You knew it, and it had good points and bad points. SSLs were always by far the best desks logistically in terms of cut, mute, subgroup and inline, but I wouldn't say they were the best sounding. Pop music and rock isn't necessarily about "hi-fi." I think the best sounding desk that I've ever heard would be that Focusrite at Ocean Way Studios. If you've never heard that one, it's a beautiful board.
The thing is, if you can't hear clearly what you are working on, then you can't take any chances. You are always going to end up somewhere in between and a bit muddy. But if you want to make something like Queen records — I always think that one of the best rock productions ever would be Killer Queen. You can hear every gag in Killer Queen that's worth doing in a rock record, and it sounds terrific as well. You can't make a record like that in your bedroom! Because you can't hear what you're doing! In a proper studio, you've spent half a million quid baffling it up and doing all kinds of stuff. Then there are all the things that you don't see, like using [Yamaha] NS-10s with a 1000-watt amp on them. That's why they sound clear. All those little things — mic collection, leads, the room, just the whole bit.