Catherine Anne Davies

Or, conversely, The Anchoress is Catherine Anne Davies, a Welsh-born talented songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, singer, producer, engineer, mixer, and more. Her debut album, Confessions of a Romance Novelist, came out in 2016, but it was 2021’s The Art of Losing that received many awards and climbed the UK charts. She’s had an interesting career, touring as a member of Simple Minds as well as teaching Songwriting and Creative Music Production programs at the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance in London. We knew she was a true studio dweller and found out she loves Tape Op, so it was a treat to drop her a line.

Hello!

Is it morning there for you?

It’s 11am. Not too bad.

Morning. That’s early for studio time.

I’ve started booking attended sessions to begin at 10 a.m. so that I can say, “I’ll work until 8 p.m.” That way I can maintain a healthy work/life balance. With that end time, it’s more likely that I can maybe see a movie or have dinner with my wife.

I’m a big fan of that now. I worked with Bernard Butler on a collab [album, In Memory of My Feelings]. He only works from 12 until 3:30 p.m. because he’s got kids. It was such a nice, civilized way of working. You reclaim so much of your life. I try and do the same. I try and finish by six and be a human being.

Three and a half hours is a short day!

We worked incredibly quickly. That had its own intensity. You don’t waste time when you’ve only got that window to get something done.

I was listening to that album yesterday. Was it more his song form, with you working lyrics into that?

Yeah, it’s totally different from how I work normally. It weirdly predates me making the first Anchoress record [Confessions of a Romance Novelist]. The very last sessions [for In Memory of My Feelings] were in 2015. It took that long [2020] for it to come out. A lot of people got confused and were thinking we did it in lockdown. We’d been sitting on this record for a decade, and no one wanted to put it out. It’s an odd timeline, and it’s strange because it came out about six months before The Art of Losing. It was so weird to have to do interviews about something I didn’t even really remember recording. I met Bernard when I was still at university. I was not even sure if I was ever going to be able to do anything in music. It’s quite a different dynamic, obviously, to be the complete control freak I’ve become since. I’m not sure if it would work now.

Catherine Anne Davies

Are you careful about that now, when thinking of working on a project? We’re obviously not dissing on Bernard; that’s just what that project was.

I definitely feel it brought out something different in me, because it almost felt like a holiday working on that project. But that was how I approached it, because I am such a control freak in the rest of the ways that I work. Even when people come to me, I think they’re expecting a certain style of production and a certain way of working. I was having this conversation with some girlfriends recently, after the whole Taylor Swift debacle with Damon Albarn and all the rubbish he was talking. [In January 2022, Albarn said in an interview with the LA Times that Swift doesn’t write her own songs, claiming that co-writing doesn’t count. He has since apologized. –ed.] I don’t want to be a spokesperson for all women, but it is a different situation for women. The implications of collaboration are so much more when they reflect back on your skill set. It’s weird. I worked a fair bit with Mario McNulty [Tape Op #142] who worked with David Bowie a lot. He always says he never second-guessed the idea of collaborating with someone. Mario would always encourage me to think of it as taking me into a different area and strengthening my team. But, as a woman, it is tricky. Often people will question, “Are you working with that person because you can’t do it?” It’s hard to negotiate that, which is why I have ended up working on my own a lot. I’m trying to be more open to collaboration in the future, thinking, “I’ve proven myself now.” People come to me for mixing. It’s like, “Okay, maybe I can bring other people to the table and not worry about what people might think.”

The expanded 2022 version of The Art of Losing has some extra mixes by Dave Eringa.

Dave did the singles on the original record. That’s all I had the budget for. It was a real freedom to be able to come back to him and say, “I love what you did with ‘Unravel,’ ‘Show Your Face,’ and ‘The Exchange.’ Can you have a go at the others?” I got him to do two more. Obviously, his drum sound is second to none. It’s fantastic. I’ve sat in on some master classes with him. It’s not a case of wanting to improve the mix on the album, because I love the mix on the record. It’s getting the opportunity for him to revisit that, as well as finding out what he would have done with it had I had the opportunity for him to mix the whole thing the first time around. It’s an alternate version. It’s always a pleasure to work with Dave. He’s such a nice man. Working with Dave has made me see the enormous possibilities of handing mixes over to someone else. The beauty and the brilliance that a fresh set of ears can bring. He’s picking up the details because he’s not heard it before.

You are mixing other people’s work. Given the skill set you’ve been developing, are you also producing other people?

Yeah; it’s something I’ve done before, although the credits weren’t necessarily pushed to the foreground. I’ve worked on a couple of records. Because my profile is a lot higher as an artist, I guess people tend to think of me in that way. I’m mixing a project and producing two other artists at the moment. I’m much more interested in making records than I am in getting up on the stage, so anything that keeps me in the studio is a good thing. I don’t want to fully transition into one world or another. I like doing lots of different things and learning all the time. It’s tricky at the moment because of COVID. People are still very tentative about getting into rooms with other people. But that’s working in my favor, because a lot of artists who have approached me about working with them have clinical vulnerabilities and want to work remotely. One of them is in deepest Wales and wouldn’t be coming down here [to London] anyway. Before, people thought we had to be in a room together, and now people are realizing we don’t have to do that anymore.

Mario McNulty did some mixing on The Art of Losing as well, right?

Mario was just mixing one track on that, and that was done completely remotely. We already established that we have a great friendship, so I trusted him to work like that. We always had long phone calls. Sterling Campbell’s drums were done in New York, entirely remotely. James Dean Bradfield’s guitar was also done entirely remotely. I was ahead of the COVID curve. I was on tour with Simple Minds so much that I had to produce the record in an airport lounge, or wherever I was. He’d send the file over, then I’d download it on hotel wi-fi and comp it on the plane. I had to do it like that, or it wasn’t going to get made. So, yeah; COVID was less of a shock, as far as workflow goes, because I was already working in that way. I knew it could be done. Although I’d love to be back in a room again with people. It would be nice!

Catherine Anne Davies

There are tradeoffs to working in-person or not.

It’s so tricky. It forces us to concentrate on building the relationship and the trust first. I know there are many different styles of production, and many different ways of looking at what the role is, but I’ve always emphasized the building of a trusting relationship and a communication. For me, it is the secret to doing something good. When we aren’t in the same room, we’re forced to do that before we even start work. It foregrounds the importance of that. I know some people don’t like to get to know the people they’re working with in the same way, but I always do. I like to take my time. I would say it’s a little bit like being a therapist.

For yourself or for them? [laughter]

For them! Definitely. A good producer can read a room and read how to get the best out of somebody, what mood they’re in, what’s going on in their life at that moment, and how to ride that. How to get the best out of that situation. I’ve sat in on a few sessions with Flood [Tape Op #117]. He uses very similar techniques, except perhaps slightly more… I’m trying to think of the right word. Not manipulative, in a manipulative way, but perhaps not always in such a kind way, though always for the best for the record. To see him push people to the edge of their psychological limits in order to get that great vocal take, he’s the king to me.

I know that you have preferred, generally, to track your vocals alone and do all the comping. Were there instances before where people were tracking your vocals and you were like, “This isn’t the way I want to work”?

Yeah, in the past. On the first record I didn’t do them alone, and the process was so elongated for that reason. The production approach on The Art of Losing was specifically suited to what that record was about. I couldn’t have sat in a room with someone else and gone to that place that I needed to go in order to get that performance. I’ve talked about this before. Because I’m autistic, I think I have that ability to detach slightly, so I can engulf myself for the vocal performance. Then I can almost go into this different headspace and become completely detached. “It’s not my vocal. It is the singer, whoever that might be.” I don’t differentiate between myself singing or somebody else doing it. I don’t have any ego about that. I’m very brutal with myself, as I would be with anybody else. I absolutely love editing vocals. I’ve done a lot of it for other people. I don’t think anyone would get into this world if they didn’t enjoy menial, hyper-focused tasks. I love it! Gary Kemp [Tape Op #145] said he can’t stand editing vocals. Other performers say this too. That’s why I don’t think of myself as a performer, first and foremost. There’s nothing I would rather be doing than sitting with headphones on editing a drum take or editing a vocal. I love it! What can I say? I’m not a typical artist or performer, if you want to look at it in that way, and that’s not my primary goal in life. It’s not where I gain my pleasure. I would happily make records for other people for the rest of my life, and it would not be a great loss for me not to perform at all.

It’d be a loss to us who want to hear your records!

Well, thank you. That’s very kind. For me, it’s about manipulating the sounds in this space. I get enormous joy out of that. In fact, I’ve probably had a more pleasurable time making records for other people than for myself, because the pressure’s off then. I’m not ever thinking about someone judging me in the same way. I applied a lot of what I had learned from that experience to The Art of Losing – almost removing myself from it. It was obviously quite helpful at the time, and it made my experience much more comfortable because I was dealing with a lot of awful personal subjects in the songs. I needed to survive. I needed to remove myself in some way. I look back and I do wonder how I did it.

The Confessions... record was meant to be written from other people’s perspectives. The Art of Losing is focused on events and trauma that happened to you. More real-life stories, and that’s also what’s connected to an audience. Does that make you nervous, that now the next record will have to retain this personalness, or can it be a combination of the two?

You know what, Confessions was such a long time ago that I don’t really relate to it at all. It was a great learning experience and experiment, but for me it doesn’t hang together as well as a record. It was such a protracted experience. It took four years. I was doing university and making it in my downtime. I don’t think it’s a case of anticipating what the audience wants, in terms of if they want the personal or the impersonal. It’s more, “Do they want a record that’s coherent?” Probably. That focus of having written and made it in a much shorter period of time is much more effective. Obviously, I was only able to do that once I got to a certain place, both financially and in terms of having a label. I don’t worry too much about what comes next. I’ve started making a few bits and pieces for albums, but I’m not someone who ever thinks I’m going to make something good if I try and second-guess what people want. I think people respond to something that we feel passionate about. Who knows what that’s going to be until I try experimenting and start doing it. It’s probably going to involve a lot of synths.

When I’m producing someone, it’s easier for me to collaborate and make a record than it is to make my own record.

I see them as almost the same thing. I guess because people are approaching me since they like what I do already, there’s a certain expectation that I’m bringing that to the party. People are approaching me because I play so many instruments, so maybe they want me to be playing and bringing some of that sound to the arrangement. I detach from myself in that way, and think, “Here’s a song. What’s the best way to present it?” There’s nothing different in the way I do that than for an artist who comes to me and says, “Do you want to produce my EP?” It’s exactly the same. I treat myself just as objectively. I’m always quite hyper-critical, and that helps. I’ve always hung on to the idea that self-criticism is a great strength for someone who wants to create anything. “Don’t believe your own hype. Don’t believe anything about your success.” As long as I am constantly holding myself to that high standard, I’ll always hope that my work will improve. Don’t be afraid to tell yourself that you can do better. Now you’ve got me thinking about this, and what’s going to happen with the next record. Should I be panicking? [laughter]

Don’t let me derail anything! When I produce records, I’ll sit down with someone beforehand and have these conversations. “How are we going to look at this project?” I enjoy the brainstorming.

To me it’s like a sculpture. It makes itself known as the process happens. I guess I’m not too wedded to having a fixed position when I start a project, be that my own project or someone else’s. It’ll chip away and make itself known underneath. I like to have that flexibility to go with a different direction. I didn’t start out making The Art of Losing as my second record. I started making a different project. I had the freedom to ditch those songs, as well as everything about that project, and say, “I’m making something different.” I like to think I can hold onto that.

There’s a traditional thought that, as a songwriter, you’d sit down at the piano, compose the song, and then record it. I know the DAW has become a place where songs start as well.

Yeah, it’s a bit of both. I still have that very traditional approach to writing. The bare bones of it will tend to be written on a single instrument, be that a piano or a guitar. For The Art of Losing, the title track was written straight into Pro Tools, but for the synth part, I wrote it as I would on a piano. It still had that same process. That was partly because of lack of time. I had a drum session booked for the next day, and I hadn’t written the song. I needed to get it straight in there, because I needed to take the session with me. I had to have that ready for the drummer. I work well under pressure. I’m good with deadlines.

Besides booking session players, do you set other deadlines?

Not really, no. I guess that’s the luxury of how I’ve worked in the past. I’ve usually delivered a finished record to the label. No one hears it before it’s finished. No one gets input into what it sounds like. I’ve never worked like that, and I don’t plan on changing that either. It’s a huge luxury to be able to do that. Again, the same with deadlines; I don’t want to impose that. I know something’s finished when I’m happy with it. I tend to do drums in sets of three songs at a time. I’ll go into the studio for two days and get the drums down. Because I’m playing the majority of the parts, I probably wouldn’t even bring in a bass player until quite later on, which is probably a strange way of working. I want to be certain that I know what I want from them. The arrangement and production dictate the song so much, so I do write into a DAW. If we think of writing as being the arrangement and production, which is a big part of how I write, that’s why I do it backwards. It isn’t finished until it’s done.

Though you say it’s backwards to do the bass last, Paul McCartney famously did a lot of The Beatles songs that way. That gives the freedom for bass to move in different ways, doesn’t it?

Yeah, I work with a really melodic bass player [Beau Barnard] as well. It’s a bit of a motto of mine: “What would McCartney do?” As a producer, I don’t think he’s as praised as he ought to be, in terms of the creative impetus he had with the band. I haven’t thought about my process that way. Even down to the opening song on The Art of Losing, “Let It Hurt,” the drums were put down right at the very end, because initially there wasn’t going to be drums on it. It was only right at the end I decided that it needed that. Thank god I do everything to a click!

Yeah, I figured!

Again, because I’m not university-trained in sound recording, I don’t adhere to rules. I picked up what I’ve learned in studios along the way, but everyone’s got a different way of working. As long as I am careful to be correct enough that I can come back and change things – record everything to a click, have enough separation to give options later on – there is no one right way of doing this. I do like that flexibility, and I guess my recording process always has that in mind. I want to be able to change something later on and not have to redo everything.

Oh, yeah. In the years of working on tape, our hands were tied.

I’ve never had that experience at all. I’ve worked with people who have come from that background, but, for me, Pro Tools was fairly far along when I got into the game. My first foray into recording was a digital multitrack I got for my 18th birthday. Pretty quickly from there I was into [Apple] Logic. The first thing I ever did in Logic – the actual first track, no word of a lie, never even used Logic before, never even tried it – ended up on [BBC] Radio 1 as a hit. That’s a big, mainstream pop station.

Crazy.

That was when I realized that I had some natural propensity for this. I didn’t know what I was doing, really, and yet people seemed to think it was well done. I have a healthy respect for the rules and the way things are done. Now I teach one day a week on a Master’s [Program] in production, and I like to make sure my students know how to do things properly so they can then decide which bits of the rules to discard. It’s that balance between traditionalism and also throwing the rulebook out, but for the sake of creativity.

I think we have to. If you look at all this recording gear, frequently we ask, “How can we misuse it?” That might be the door to some creative unlocking.

Yeah, most of the parts of my process on The Art of Losing was degrading signals after I’d recorded them nicely. Days spent throwing signals out through the Leslie [speaker] cabinet, or through the [WEM] Watkins Copicat [tape delay]. I would bounce everything out through that and then decide what I was going to use. I’ve got a Korg CR-4 –an old cassette tape recorder [with speakers] – and I’d re-amp guitars or synths through that. I’ve got this tiny little Blackstar 5 watt [guitar] amp that I throw DI’d guitar back out through. Again, it shouldn’t work. We’re always told to get the best possible signals, or the best possible gear; but then I found myself wanting to sound a bit more “shit.” That was the fun part for me. Once I’ve got everything in my session, the manipulation of the sound is a massive part of the process for me.

Catherine Anne Davies

Were there times when you processed something and said, “No, that doesn’t sound right”?

With the Leslie, once it was set up, I spent a solid two days throwing out everything I thought I might use through it. There were pianos, drums, and vocals. I wouldn’t necessarily use them in the mix, but I had already decided that that was the sound I needed. It was this idea. I wanted to capture that spinning chaos that you get when you’re very deep in trauma and grief. People often understand grief as being this very somber, sad place. But actually, it’s incredibly disorientating. I was trying to think almost a bit cinematically about what sound would make you feel like that. Literally, the spinning of the Leslie cabinet makes you feel like your head’s going to fall off. At the moment, I’m mixing the album in 360° to come out later this year. Obviously, the opportunities for fucking with the listener’s head in that are absolutely brilliant; creating this real sense that your ears are going to fall off. But yeah, I usually have a pretty clear idea of the processing before I do it. With the Watkins Copicat, when I’d be setting that up I’d get an eraser and stick it into the tape as it’s looping around, stabbing it with my finger, and digging my thumb in.

To make it wobble?

Yeah. There’s a lot of physical manipulation. I’m always experimenting and trying to see what’s going to happen. Then I would chop that up itself and put it on a parallel track. There wasn’t too much experimenting with ideas I hadn’t tried before. Once I hit upon a technique, I would utilize that across the body of the record. As you probably heard, the songs themselves might feel quite different to one another. My trademark of production is I always have that sonic signature that runs through the collection of songs, even if the songs themselves are very different tempos or played on very different instruments. For me, the mark of a good producer is one who can find that thread that runs through sonically. It’s 14 songs; a lot to hang together. Looking back at it, I probably picked three or four distinct sonic signatures that I could reintroduce, a bit like a leitmotif for a film composer. That was the Leslie cabinet, the Watkins Copicat, the CR-4, and the weird, spoken word montages that happen. And the modified Vox Continental [organ].

What’s that?

It has a little bit of a crazy mod on it. With the model I was playing on the record – that I don’t have access to anymore – I could alter the delay time in real time when I was playing. It has this underwater sound, quite similar to the Leslie. That wasn’t applied afterwards. You won’t hear that anywhere else, because I don’t think anybody else has modded theirs in the same way. It’s been such a long time since I recorded the album, I’m having to dig into my memory. I managed to get a hold of an old Yamaha CS-1, the original, and played a solo on “All Farewells Should Be Sudden” with a wah pedal. Who plays keyboard with a wah? I thought, “Well, let’s see what happens!”

Talking to you about some of these sounds and the creation, what’s amazing is when listening to the album I don’t feel like there’s all this manipulation going on. It all flows with the album and supports the emotion of the words and the tone of the songs.

Thank you. That’s really kind of you to say. I think that’s the role of the producer, not to get in the way of the songs, but to support them. I thought about the production on this record as being about supporting chaos and turmoil, and how I could present that sonically. Outside of the songs and the lyrics, the voicings and the chords, how could I make people feel as if they were going on this journey of grief, chaos, and trauma with me? That’s what I love about production. I have this whole other instrument at my fingertips that can articulate emotion and a story to people.

I know your synthesizer collection is growing. What have been some new acquisitions, and how does that influence the writing process? Is there experimentation that leads to mucking around in Pro Tools that leads to songs?

Everything about The Art of Losing was influenced by my gear acquisition habit. Each new acquisition spawned a song. The title track would not have happened without me buying the Oberheim OB-6. That comes from my Prince obsession. “The Exchange” was pretty much done on the [Sequential] Prophet-6. The Jen [Electronics] SX1000 is all of the bass lines on the record.

That’s a synth I had to look up.

That was a lot of eBay searching. I had to replace some of the knobs on it. It’s an old Italian synth. It wasn’t that expensive, but it’s great for bass lines. This was coming up for me because I was in Simple Minds at the time and had to learn a lot of their back catalog. I was looking it up, going, “What synths were they using? How am I going to recreate this?” I was using the Arturia MatrixBrute, which is a very modern synthesizer. But I was on tour, lonely, bored, and on eBay bidding late at night. I don’t drink, so what else am I going to do? I started buying synths. I didn’t want to use any soft [software] synths on the last record. Everything is the real deal; it’s hardware. Recently I have been falling in love with the ease and the flexibility of the Arturia V6 [virtual instrument] collection. It’s great not to have to set everything up just to noodle around. But I can’t beat the beautiful sounds that I get on the OB-6; I’ve just scratched the surface with it. If I get a bit of gear, it does inspire me for a good bit of time, because I’m exploring all the sounds on it. I’m going to at least get two or three tracks out of that. It’s an investment in my creativity.

Will you run out of room, or do you cycle instruments in and out of your studio?

On my floor back there in a box is a 6-tier Jaspers keyboard stand that I ordered. It’s too wide for the space, and I can’t go any higher. Six tiers goes too high. So, yeah, I have run out of space.

You’re in the upstairs of a home?

Yeah, I’m in the roof up here. I’ve moved. Downstairs I’ve got my grand piano and also my upright. Everything you hear on the record was recorded in my lounge, essentially. People say, “You can’t do it like that! You have to go into the studio.” No, no you don’t. The piano on my first album was all recorded in my old lounge. No one would know the difference.

Do you have a handful of mics?

More than a handful! I’ve got a pair of [Neumann] U 87s that are my go-to for the piano, and I always have a pair of Coles 4038s too. I don’t end up using the Coles an awful lot in the final mix, to be honest, but it’s nice to have it. More and more, the U 87 is my go-to vocal mic, although I used to use an [sE Electronics] Gemini II valve mic a lot. That’s on “Unravel.” Strangely I did some vocals on an old BBC commentators mic. “The Heart is a Lonesome Hunter,” that vocal was recorded on the Coles mic. I thought, “You’re not supposed to do this. I wonder what it’ll sound like?” It worked really well.

For certain songs, a ribbon mic is going to give a unique texture.

I tried re-recording the vocal on the Gemini. One thing that I am a big fan of is trying different preamps. I’ve got quite a lot to choose from. I’ve got a couple of Neve 1073s and the API 512c, which I will always use for bass. My baby, my favorite of all, is the [Chandler Limited] REDD.47 preamp. Anyone who follows me on Instagram will know how much I’m going on about this. It is my go-to vocal chain; The REDD.47 with a Neumann. That’s it. It’s expensive, yes. But it’s worth it. I always have a couple of Aston Spirit [mics] permanently set up on the upright downstairs. I’m not going to leave the U 87s set up all the time. I like having that flexibility of being able to just go and record. I have an [AKG] D19 that I use quite a lot when I’m re-amping. The vocals on the first record were done entirely on an [Shure] SM58.

No way! Amazing.

The capsule in the U 87 had gone and it had to go get fixed, so I didn’t have a second mic at that point. Again, I haven’t had any complaints. If it’s good enough for Bono… I probably have a cupboard of 12 mics, but I do find more and more it’s the U 87s for everything. It works well with my voice. Obviously, it doesn’t work for everybody. I’ve got a lot of natural low end happening, so I don’t need the help from the valve. I’m a believer in having a couple of nice, quality pieces of gear so that the signal chain is good to start with before I start fucking around with it.

Right. I think that there’s something emotional about achieving a certain clarity that can heighten the emotion of what’s being tracked. Then you’ve gotta fuck with it.

Yeah. On the first record, it was about the [Neve] 1073, because I didn’t want to color that too much. The REDD.47 has got a little more coloration happening. There is a character to it. Everything but one of the vocals on The Art of Losing went through that, and it gives the vocal the same sonic character. These qualities, we pick them up with our ears unconsciously, whether or not we know what we’re listening for. I’m not changing the quality of that vocal character too much across the body of the work.

No, I agree. When I’m producing, I try to do the same thing. I try to find certain shared mic’ing techniques across the album. Sounds can change around that.

It’s so nice to hear that, actually, that it’s not just me. Sometimes I do wonder if I’m talking bullshit. I do love gear, and I do probably have a bit of a gear acquisition problem. But I have to say that I probably only use 50 percent of it, because I do have go-to chains that I rely on and I know are going to deliver the result that I’m looking for.

Absolutely.

Depending on the budget of the record, and the time I have, [those are factors] as to whether I’ve got time to experiment, and potentially fail, with something. I remember experimenting a bit with singing through the API 512. It wasn’t great. It worked well on the bass; it’s fantastic. In the name of experimentation, I tried to mix it up, and it sounded awful [on my voice]. What’s the point in changing it? It’s about understanding that it’s not a case of “more gear is better.” It’s having the right gear for me. I’m lucky that the U 87 is great for the piano and also does work for my vocal. I know that’s not true for everybody. When I do have other people here, there’s a lot of brainwork. The getting-to-know-you process is also about matching the vocal to the right mic, and I will take my time with that. I feel it’s the most important part of making the record with somebody; identifying, and not assuming, that what works for me works for them. Sometimes, when artists transition into being producers for other people, they forget that. That goes for gear, as well as the process, approach to a session, and everything. I never take lunch breaks when I work, but that’s not going to work for a lot of artists that come here. It’s about not having the arrogance to assume that what works for me is going to work for other people.

That’s important to understand. I know that as I’ve grown as an engineer and a producer; it becomes all these various techniques to draw from.

Yeah. One of the things I picked up over the years is: All the best engineers that I’ve worked with – when I have to go into big rooms – are the most unassuming and easygoing people. There are probably tons of people who are just as technically good as them. What makes them the person in that room who I’m going to go back to and use again is their presence in the room, and the vibe that they come with, or the lack of vibe; as in they’re not getting in the way. That wasn’t something that I knew when I was starting out. I didn’t realize that it was just as important what my personality was as what my technical chops were.

Right. At the end of the day, if you’re going to spend ten hours in a room with somebody, they better be okay to be around.

Yeah, although look at the history of music! It’s not always been that way, has it? If you buy into the “you’ve got to suffer for your art” equation? A lot of the industry has fed off that for a long time, hasn’t it? The idea that it’s supposed to be difficult, or you’re supposed to be around difficult personalities. It doesn’t have to be like that.

There’s a very big difference between blunt and honest versus treating people like shit.

Oh, definitely. It’s always meant with love for me, wanting each other to do their best work.

I want to help people do something well.

I could go on for hours, as you probably can tell.

Catherine Anne Davies

Absolutely. That’s a part of this gig; it’s never-ending.

That’s why I love teaching now. People might look at those who end up doing some teaching as thinking, “Oh, is that because your career’s not going so well?” No, the value of doing that is what I’m learning. Some of the students are 21. What they’re listening to and what they’re doing keeps me on my toes. It keeps me fresh. I’m constantly updating my skills as well, which is important.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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