"What does a Record Producer do?"
I started writing my reminiscences after so many people asked me "What does a Record Producer do?", "Do you actually get to meet the stars?", "How was it working with Jimmy Page?", "Why do you and Steven Tyler have a little acrimony between you?", "Is Steve Perry a nice guy?", etc., etc.
So, instead of only regaling the tales for the bands, and subsequently retelling them for my long-suffering engineers, I embraced the cathartic task of writing them down - very tongue-in-cheek. Now I'm not pretending to be Tom Robbins (my favorite author), but I wish he'd write more, so you'd have more amazing stories to read. In the meantime, there are 4 chapters of my writings at top right.
Please leave comments, as I need all the help I can get.
The correct sequence of the chapters is:
1. Chapter 1 * New York City - November 1996 * Aerosmith
2. Chapter 5 * Innocence Lost
3. Chapter 19 * My First Visit To America * The Lime Spiders
4. Chapter 28 * Nashville, TN - July 1994 * The Divinyls
The rest of the book has both life stories, and chapters on Rush, Dream Theater, Silverchair, Journey, Led Zeppelin, The Black Crowes, Iron Maiden, H.I.M, Bon Jovi, Slayer and many others.
I do hope you enjoy these.......
Chapter 19 * My First Visit To America
I arrived in Los Angeles on October 2 ‘89, to mix The Lime Spiders album, “Beethoven’s Fist”, at Larrabee Studios in Hollywood. America! It was so thrilling to land in this sultry city with the smog of a million cars so thick you could chew through it. In the atom of movie-star dreams, L.A. is the nucleus, with it’s photogenic protons of Hummer and Ferrari driving stars, neutrons of networking managers and hustling agents, and orbiting around are the electrons of actors ..... er, waiters and waitresses with stars in their eyes and the menu SPECIALS in their heads. After I landed, I made my way to the salmon-pink facaded Ramada hotel on Santa Monica Boulevard. I unpacked my bags, and went downstairs to talk to the concierge, and asked him what was happening in town. He told me rocker Billy Idol’s flamboyant guitarist, Steve Stevens, was playing at a club called The Roxy on Sunset Boulevard - and that sounded like a great idea, so I called a taxi to take me to The Roxy. As I arrived, someone thick necked and tuxedo’ed apperared and opened the taxi door for me, and led me down the red carpet into the gig, where I was seated in a booth right in the middle of the auditorium. A very pretty waiteress came over and offered me a glass of champagne, and left me with the bottle, which was replaced as soon as I had drained it. The show was amazing, and after the show I left the club and had a drink at the neighboring Rainbow Room. I thought America totally amazing, and fell in love with it that night. I think my naiivete and the awe of me being in the States must have let me appear to be non-chalant when I arrived at the club, because I didn’t know what to expect from this state of mind that is America. I do not have any idea who the staff of the Roxy thought I was, but when I started working with Michael Brauer the next day, he asked me what I’d got up to the previous evening. When I told him, he said increduosly in his New York gangster accent, “How the fuck did you get in there? That gig has been sold out for weeks!” What a welcome to the U.S. And I didn’t pay a cent for anything! It’s funny, ‘cos it’s true!
Mixing in L.A. proved to be a huge learning experience for me. I had really worked hard at getting an explosive drum sound from the great big room of Rhinocerous studios, and mix engineer Michael Brauer immediatley triggered samples to replace the sound of the real drums in the final mix. I wasn’t very happy about it, but when you hire someone to do something, I always feel you need to let them do “their thing”, to a degree. I certainly tried to voice my feelings, but there I was, a nothing producer with a name mixer, and by the time it was all over, I felt like I’d been bullied into the final product - which, in retrospect, is not too bad! But, I decided then and there, that I would mix all my own stuff after that. In the late afternoon of our second last day of mixing, October 17, I headed back to my hotel on Santa Monica Boulevard from the studio to review our work. I was lying on my bed at about five o’clock, listening to cassettes of all the mixes and watching the news on television with the sound off, when I felt the building shake; and as I watched, information started coming in about a devastating earthquake that had just happened in San Francisco. I watched the reports all night, and when we finished mixing the next day, I boarded a plane back to my family and away from impending chasm of the San Andreas fault, which I felt was threatening to swallow me up.
Chapter 5. * No license, no cherry, no clue!
I should tell you about Luke S - a fellow school buddy at St. Andrews School in Bloemfontein, South Africa. He had one of the biggest appendages I’ve ever seen on a man, not that I’ve this untamed propensity for checking out packages, but with about twelve or fourteen of us living in the dormitory sharing three showers, it was unavoidable. Luke’s massive penis resembled a baby’s arm holding an apple,and would hang to his knee when he was just fourteen years old, somewhat like a prozac’ed python wrapped around his waist. One summer, he invited me to spend the holidays with him at his grandmother’s farm in the beautiful Eastern Cape Province. The area always reminded me of The Lord Of The Rings, with it’s soft, green hills and rambling woods, and I think Tolkien actually did spend some time living and writing there. We had a rustic little thatched round bungalow, a rondavel, out the back of the main farm house where Luke’s grandmother lived, and also visiting for that summer, was Luke’s cousin, Janisa. She was a very pretty twenty-nine year old and sadly had been fairly recently widowed, and was the mother of a six-year old daughter, also visiting her great-grandmother. On our first night there, at about eight o’clock, after we’d finished dinner and said our goodnights, we went back to our rondavel, to retire early and turn out the lights, there being only a limited supply of electricity from the farm generator. About nine-thirty as we were lying in bed attempting to read by candlelight, there was a quiet knock on the door. It was Janisa, and she’d a bottle of cheap scotch, and was smoking a cigarette. We let her in and she offered us a drink and a smoke, both of which we accepted. And both of which tasted terrible to me. And then we all just lay around the edge of the bed and talked, and told stories, Luke in his pajamas and I in my white underwear under the covers of the big bed we were sharing. Now, I have no doubt that the massive lump in his schoolboy shorts was the motivating factor for her visit, and before long the formalities had been sidelined and her predatory proceedings were sufficiently advanced that I was a mere spectator, an innocent bystander and a very curious voyeur, albeit unwittingly. I was lying prone on the right side of the bed, while she had her wicked way with Luke. Like a corpse with advanced rigor mortis, I was lying dead-still on my back, with only my left hand nonchalantly escaping the boundaries of my death state, and doing the Addams family hand-slide towards her so I could ever so gently touch her softly rocking ass cheeks, as Luke was losing his cherry and mounting her from atop, and after it was over – which wasn’t very long, we all lay around and drank a little more whisky, before she headed out the door back to her room. I was wide awake and still aroused for hours long after the pair of them had entered and explored the mysteries of their deep REM sleep.
The next morning, over an unusual and unforgettable breakfast of eggs, white carrots (which could have been turnips, radishes or parsnips) and toast, we all tried our best to be nonchalant about the events of the previous evening. Janisa’s parents, her daughter, Luke’s grandmother and us all sat about the table, and after our mouthwatering farm breakfast and a cup of tea, did whatever fourteen year-olds do on a farm without any supervision. We rode horses all over the farm, shot frogs in the creek with a pellet gun, snuck up to the sty and shot a pig in the hind legs and then ran like hell as it squealed like a terrified woman in a Boris Karloff movie. Early dinner, and Janisa wasn’t around, and after we’d had an enormous meal of grilled lamb chops and mashed potato, Luke and I headed back to our rondavel. At about ten o’clock there was a knock on the door, and there was Janisa – looking much worse than she had the previous evening. She’d been drinking and seemed a little out of sorts, and she came into the room, put her arms over my shoulders and said “I think it’s your turn tonight, honey!” She kissed me, had a little toke on her marijuana reefer and started stroking my stomach with her long nails while Luke swigged the raw alcohol straight from the whiskey bottle and looked on. She pulled the covers of the bed back, lay on her back and took my shirt off. I was harder than Chinese arithmetic as I fumbled at the clasp on the back of her bra like a watchmaker in boxing gloves, but I did not have the combination or technical capacity required to unhook her, and the clasp stayed secure until she arched her back up, and let herself (and the twins) out! On the little transistor radio on a ledge behind the bed, America sounded very brittle and tiny as “Horse With No Name” escaped the bounds of the short-wave radio’s two inch speaker. I tugged at my jeans, and grabbed at her damp panties, managing to remove them, but before I could get my newly liberated manhood significantly ensconced in her musty and dank folds, my resolve was fatally weakened, and my loins exploded over her dark curly haired mound. Oops, I’d just lost my cherry........ Just like that! But Janisa wasn’t quite done with us, and decided that we should all drive to Durban that night, a port city about six hundred miles away, madness, but we would have done about anything, ANYTHING, for her.
So, we dressed warmly, packed all our clothes into our backpacks, I grabbed my French Horn and we loaded up her big family car, and quietly prepared for our road trip to Durban. Janisa and Luke were in the back, hugging and kissing, and I was in the front, being the designated driver and all. Now, I couldn’t tell them I’d never driven before – I was just fourteen – and I felt my manliness and mature demeanor on the verge of collapse as, it was! The farmhouse was set high up in the grassy green hills, and finally, with the car packed and the three of us ready to go, we set off for the main road which ran through the valley at the bottom of the hill. Down the hill we went, slowly at first but picking up speed fairly quickly, me clinging to the steering wheel, like a drowning cat being swept downstream hanging onto a log, while the car was gaining momentum, and as the sharp turn at the end of the dust road loomed, either I froze, or had no idea what to do, but I just put my foot down hard on the pedal, and the car accelerated and took off over the edge of the cliff, crashing down violently onto the hillside, and then rolling down about five times until a line of trees arrested our descent into the valley below! When the noise and dust had settled, we were almost upside down. Janisa was very quiet and lying on the side door window with her eyes closed, making no sound at all. So Luke and I extricated ourselves from the mangled car, and sprinted back up the hill, all the way to the farmhouse, barged into her parents room panting and out of breath and woke them yelling breathlessly, “Janisa’s had an accident, Janisa’s had an accident!” Her father leapt out of bed, and we raced down to where the car had shot off the road, and he scrambled down the hill, pried opened the crumpled door and gently pulled his garbling daughter from the back seat of the car. She was in total disarray and looked terrible – her hair was all over the place, her lipstick smudged, her top had been halfway removed beforehand, and very much looked like it. But she was fine, no broken bones except she was just drunk as a skunk.
So the very disheveled four of us made our way back to the house, and we were sworn to secrecy about the events of the evening by her father, and sent to bed. The following morning, Luke and I rose at about five with the first rays of the sun and headed for the wrecked car to get our belongings, as it had been way too dark the previous evening to see anything. I found my French Horn lying on the hillside where it had been thrown as the car had tumble-turned down the hill the previous night, still in it’s hard-shell case, which had been quite banged up and was lying open. The Horn itself was unmarked, although I never did find the mouthpiece; and just as we pulled our bags from the trunk, we heard the low belly-rumble of the farm tractor coming close. So, we hid behind some low shrubs, only just in time to avoid being seen by her father and his work crew, who had come to remove the car, which they did and it was hidden behind the furthest outbuildings so Luke’s grandmother would never see it, and hopefully, never find out about the evenings goings-on! All Janisa’s father ever said to us, with a very peculiar look on his face was, “It’s certainly is strange that you two boys were fully dressed and awake when Janisa crashed, and that you heard it from so far away.”
So, as our summer holidays came to end, we headed back to school, cherry-less and with Horse With No Name wildly galloping through my desert of memories and fantasies, and permanently emblazoned on my mind. I wrote letters to her from school, but the first postcard she sent was to be the last I ever heard of her. It’s funny, ‘cos it’s true!
What is significant to me, although not as significant as oil in George Bush’s Operation Iraqi Freedom plan, is the fact that on my return to school, I moved into being the conductor of the orchestra/band. I was much more at home steering the direction of the music, aimless as it remained, than I was performing in the band. And this is the way it’s been for me ever since then, and sometimes the musicians that I work with will intimate that I’m really just a frustrated musician, to which I can honestly say, that I have no desire to be a performing or recording musician, whatsoever!
Significant too, was that sometime soon thereafter, I started playing guitar. Well, strumming the chords kinda like an infomercial chef grating vegetables on a mandolin! Blowing in the Wind, House Of The Rising Sun and Cracklin’ Rosie. Then John Denver’s Country Roads and Thank God I’m a Country Boy, and then I heard a snippet of Born To Be Wild on an illegal radio, being broadcast from Lourenco Marques. Radio LM!
From Mozambique, not South Africa .
Pandora’s box had blown open, and I could smell the panties!
Chapter 28 * Nashville, TN - July 1994
I’ve always thought the Divinyls were amazing. Chrissie Amphlett’s voice is so sexy and sluttish, and her accent adds a raspy illusion which makes her sounding like a smoky voiced prostitute in a King’s Cross junkie choir, all attitude and enigma! Mark McEntee is her perfect foil, with his razor edged guitar tones and riffs, and the passion and magic between her voice and his guitar was so sublime, it seems that they were always destined to be lovers, which they were for a long time. When I first heard the Divinyls, I was blown out of the water - like an inedible rainbow reef fish dynamited off Hin Muang in Thailand's Andaman Sea. I must have listened to the Temperamental album, which Mike Chapman produced, a thousand times, and can hear it in my head now without playing it, with it’s armadillo mix all spiky and tight - one of Bob Clearmountain’s perfect mixes. The title song, the gorgeous Punxie, Hey Little Boy with it’s sixties “hoo-hoo” backing vocals..... what an album!
So, when Peter Collins asked me to stay in Nashville and record a new song for the band, I was delighted. We moved into Woodlands Digital Studios to set up the session on July 20, just a few days after I’d wrapped up the Bon Jovi “Always” sessions, and were ready and waiting for the band - who sauntered in the following day at about four in the afternoon, obviously just woken and driven to the studio. The air was so tangibly thick with tension right from the beginning, you could have cut it with a knife - thicker even than Los Angeles summer smog, but a lot cooler in the artificail air-conditioned studio environment. Drummer Charley Drayton and bassist Jerome Smith came into the studio, and I got them to play a little, and set up the sounds for them for the session. Jerome was very animated, and Charley was more reserved, but very professional. I, as usual, tried to be very upbeat to give the session a sense of urgency and fun, but it was a mime song and dance act for the blind! Chrissie came into the vocal booth to get a sound, and muddled along - trying to find the key and learn the lyrics of the song from a cassette of the demo in a very non-commited way, and then she disappeared. Mark came in about half an hour later, and noodled around on the guitar - seemingly in the dark as to the song’s structure, composition or arrangement. It was patently obvious that the two of them were not talking, and I was to learn later that this was the first time they’d been together since Mark had broken off their romantic relationship, and no one was happy. Mark had his new blonde Australian girlfriend with him at the studio, and Chrissie was with Charley - and the song we were recording, was a song written by Chrissie (with Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly) about the breakup of their relationship.
"You got a new girlfriend But I still love you
I can't stand the thought of her Having a piece of you
What’s she got that I don't
What’d she do that I won't
You must be blind
Take a good look at her - She's not your kind
I don't' know what I'd do If I saw her with you
I'm Jealous, I'm Jealous, I'm Jealous out of my mind
I come around and see you Cause I want to remind you
But what if she's there... How would I find you?
You've got a new baby But I want you back again
I'm liable to do anything - I might kick her face in!"
It’s all there in the lyrics! Anyway, we finally got the band all together and started running through the song. I was blown away by Charley’s feel on the drums, and was later quoted in Modern Drummer magazine as saying he was the “best drummer” I’d ever worked with; but unknown to me, I was about to make a blistering faux-pas. In a light-hearted attempt to keep the session alive, I had remarked that Charley and Jerome were sounding amazing, and added that “it must be that natural rhythm”, which unbeknownst to me, didn’t go down at all well with Chrissie, who thought that I was making an ugly racial stereotype - which with my “South African” heritage was tantamount to discrimination. If anyone had bothered to find out anything about me, they would know this to be without any validity, but in the self-centred, insular and very frosty environs of the sudio; no-one even cared.
Cutting the basic tracks was straight forward enough, I think two or three takes would have nailed it, as Charley’s pocket and groove were flawless, and Jerome just stuck to him like chewing gum to a boot on a hot day! Recording Mark’s guitar was quite a bit more difficult, but his ideas were great, and we finished the guitar without Chrissie hearing a note of the recording.
When it came time to do the vocals, Chrissie didn’t even bother listening to the track in the control room first, she just went into the booth and we ran over the vocals quite a few times, and then she went back to their motel. Peter and I stayed on to compile the vocal, and then I Fedexed a copy to the songs writer, Billy Steinberg, as Peter wanted his opinion on the vocal. I was surprised, because I’d never seen anyone give the songwriter that respect in the studio - and Billy replied first thing the next morning with some very salient points about adjusting the melody in the chorus, which Peter took note of, and then he had Chrissie re-sing the parts. And the difference was very positive, and the song came out great. We’d an ocarina session player come in and lace some ethereal parts all over the song, but I’m not sure they were ever used anyway, as the band hated the sound of it! (The ocarina is an ancient shell shaped flute-like instrument, and is probably most famous now as the instrument played on the Legend Of Zelda video game.)
"What’s the definition of optimistic?
An ocarina player with a pager!"
Once the track was recorded, we moved back to Emerald studios, site of the Bon Jovi "Always" sessions, where I mixed the song, and it’s many versions (with ocarina; without ocarina; etc. It’s a very dry mix, with Chrissie’s vocals standing very proud of the instruments - and it only took me about one hour to mix. When I had finished the mix, I went out into the lounge area where the band were sitting unforcomfortably quietly, and I said “I’ve finished the mix”. All four of them just looked up at me, said nothing, didn’t smile or make any gesture and didn’t move - so I went back inside and got my already packed bags and walked out. As I walked by them in the lounge on my way out, Charley said “Where’re you going?”, and as I got into the taxi I replied “I’ve got to go the airport, .. I’ve got a plane to catch!”, and closed the car door, and headed for the airport to go to New York, where I’d been booked to mix an album for Doro Pesch, starting the next day.
A singularly strange experience, but to this day “I’m Jealous” is one of the mixes I’ve done that is my favorite. And I still think the Divinyls are amazing.
The Divinyls - Underworld
A few months later in Sydney Australia, MCA Records president, Chris Gilbey called me to see him in his office in North Sydney. He explained that the Divinyls had been recording an album in Los Angeles with producer Keith Forsey, but that they had blown through their sizeable advances and budget, and MCA had nothing to show for it. He asked if I would take the multi tracks, which were in his possession, and see what I could make of them, and I agreed. (I learned later that the most basic error in contractual negotiations had led the Americans to assume the budget was in U.S. dollars, whilst the Aussie management was negotiating in much weaker Australian dollars - and thus the massive shortfall!)
I took the multitrack tapes to the now defunct Rich Studios and set to work on them. Some songs were major productions, and others were nothing more than guide tracks, with a scratch vocal and a scratch guitar track - and I genuinely put every effort into making them reflect the band, which I had enormous respect for, and represent it’s music. My thought was that it was better that someone cared for the band was doing this underhand job, than someone who didn’t really have a rock feel for them; and I managed to mix a whole album out of the tapes, and mastered them with Don Bartley at EMI in Sydney. I thought that I’d done a great job, considering the material I’d been given to work with; but sometimes the naivety of being creative hides the ulterior motives of the shaman businessman. So, I think Chris Gilbey may just have been trying to shock the band, because he sent them a copy of “their new album”, and they were not happy. I bore the full brunt of their distaste and animosity, but Chris’ tactics worked, because the band reconvened in Sydney, with Charley Drayton producing, to finish the recordings properly, for what would be their Underworld album.
In an ironic twist of fate, I was working in Studio B at E.M.I. Studios 301 in Sydney, mixing the “Blue Cave” album for the Sydney garage-rock band, The Hoodoo Gurus, while on the same floor, the Divinyls were tracking in Studio A. We shared lounge and kitchen facilities, but in a silly petulant and pre-pubescent display, someone in the Divinyls camp (Charley!) had insisted we split the facilities into two halves and had a floor to ceiling partition built with gobo’s ( the eight foot high moveable modular sound insulations walls used in the recording studio for instrument separation) and and covered with ceiling to floor black curtains. On the rare occasion we would bump into each other, either getting a coffee or just passing, it would be a total silent meeting, unless one of us was caught off guard, in which case you may have heard a faint primeval grunt eminating from me. All in all, a situation much messier than my the mud soaked folk at the Woodstock festival, without the high.
As it transpires, I have become very friendly with Charley in recent years, and respect him, both as a person and as a musician, very much. He has married Chrissie, and they share their time between Australia and New York, I’ve bumped into Jerome once or twice but haven’t seen Mark since. I have a copy of their unreleased album - which has some sublime and inspired moments on it, that in the basic simplicity surpass the final product, which appears sadly, to be the swansong of a truly wonderful band. However, nothing is over ‘til it’s over - so we’ll see.....
Chapter 1 * New York City, November 1996
Steven Tyler entered the studio like a whirlwind, walking low on his sinewy haunches, somewhat resembling the deranged cartoon character, the Tasmanian Devil, with a tornado in his wake stirred up by a long leather cape and a huge smile stolen from the pages of Alice in Wonderland, which had left the usually cheesy toothed Cheshire Cat with a vacant furry moon face for the day. Atop his rubbery visage framed by those famous fantastic elastic jowls was a tall, red and white striped Cat-in-the-hat hat, and his demeanor was telegraphed in advance by the raucous witch-like cackle of his good humored laugh. We never knew what mood he’d be in, during the tension filled recording sessions with him, but it looked like we were in for a beauty of a day. The previous evening’s session had ended in a very loud and aggressive shouting match, umpired by road manager Jimmy Ayers, and it seemed as if this was a Steven kiss-and-make-up moment, as he jumped into my lap and threw his arms about my neck as I sat behind the old Neve recording console in the woody log cabin like interior of the control room of Avatar Studio A. A Kind of Star Trek country house, situated on West 53rd street in the grimy Hell’s Kitchen area of Manhattan, Avatar studio was pretty quiet that day, as it was a wintry Saturday and the studio was empty. We were in the middle of the recording sessions for what would become the Aerosmith Nine Lives album, and I had asked Steven to come in on the Saturday, which was outside our normal recording routine of weekends off during the project, but I wanted to finish the chorus for a new song for the album called Full Circle. It’s a shanty of a song, and you could just as easily visualize drunken pirates or returning Nantucket whalers on heaving sailing ships sloshing mugs of beer and singing along (the original rock ‘n roll on the high seas), as you could preppy Boston kids, jammed into a bursting Cambridge Sports bar after a college football game, and I wanted to have some of that drunken flavor in the song - and who better to do it, than the no alcohol drinking Steven Tyler? But only because he’s a Boston boy!
One of the studio techniques we employ, is the overdubbing of many voices in one part of a song to create a group vocal effect. The difficulty with this technique, is that when all the nuances and vocal timbres of only one person are combined, the effect is not really group-like, but is more a stadium sing-along feel, and is the effect used by Def Leppard and Bon Jovi on their big rock hits; and this wasn’t the feel I thought we should apply to the chorus of Circle. So Steven went into his vocal booth to ready himself to sing. The vocal booth is a smaller isolated studio situated across from the control room, and is separated from the control room by the big main studio, and then glass so that everyone working can still see each other, and his vocal booth had been transformed from a drab and brightly lit work space into an incense steeped magical, mystical candlelit booth, with exotic cloths lining the walls and all manner of indigenous or exotic musical instruments lying about, making it look like a yard sale from The Lord Of The Rings! Steven warmed up his voice with a few vocal exercises and we began stacking voices onto the song’s chorus.
Don't let it slip away
Raise yo' drinkin' glass
Here's to yesterday
We're all gonna trip away
Don't piss Heaven off
We got Hell to pay
Come Full Circle"
In order to achieve the aforementioned desired drunken sing-along effect, I kept throwing character ideas to him, which he would impersonate. “Do Bob Dylan,.... do Tom Waits, .... do a little old lady avoiding being run over on a highway, .... do Joni Mitchell, .. a choir boy, .. a throaty cigarette whore ....”. It was so funny, and probably the most enjoyable day of my dream experience of producing an Aerosmith album, and to isolate and listen to those voices off the multitrack would be as sidesplitting as any stand-up comedy album. Once we’d got the choruses done, and I was winding back the tape, Steven sat down and started nonchalantly fiddling with one of his instruments, a red and gold wind-up box of some sorts that his wife, Theresa, had found at some flea market, and bought for him. It sounded strangely like the chorus to the song, but was in a different key. So I used a technique called varispeed to change the speed of the tape machine, and thus the base key of the recorded music, until they were in tune, and at the end of the song I recorded Steven winding the plaintiff drone of the box , and that’s the sound you can hear right at the end of the song. After I’d been through all the character vocals, balanced them and transferred them to a stereo track of group vocals, Steven sang the lead vocal, and if you listen to the song carefully, the good-naturedness of the session is evident in a chorus, sung by Steven with a little lyric change:
We're all gonna trip away
Don't piss Kevin off
We got Hell to pay
Come Full Circle"
After Steven had finished singing four or five lead vocal takes, I was sitting at the recording desk and compiling the best of them for the final vocal performance for the record, and Steven went for a walk into the chilly November air of a subdued New York City. About an hour later, he returned and burst into the control room, and brushed by me like a highwayman galloping down some moonlit track, yellow taxi fume dust kicking off his heels; and pulled up at the Compact Disc player in the corner of the room. With his caped back presented to me so I couldn’t see what he was doing, he tore the cellophane wrapping off a newly purchased CD like a lion on a New York strip steak, and slid the silver disc into the machine - pressed play - and strode over to the recording console where he leaned over me and pushed the button to hear the CD, and out of my cranked up KRK6000 speakers, a choir punched me between the eyes. It was a loud African choir singing in the richest coffee tones, the South African anthem, “Nkosi Sikele Afrika” (God Bless Africa) - it was banned from being sung or played for my entire life I’d spent growing up and living in South Africa. I had heard it, and had even recorded it - clandestinely -while working in Cape Town, but the force of it on that New York day was a heart-stopping blow to my stomach, and as I sat in the chair with Steven leaning over me, I burst into floods of tears - crying so deeply from the pit of my stomach. All my heartbreak, tension, drive and ambition; and a huge sadness and disappointment - in everything from the racial distortions of my birth country in my upbringing , to the desertion of my family who left me behind - and the flood gates tore open and the dam walls exploded. I couldn’t control my sobbing as Steven had my head cradled in his arms, and was rocking me gently and we were both apologizing profusely and totally unnecessarily. I felt I had indeed, come full circle.
Aerosmith - Avatar Studios
Working on string arrangements for Nine Lives.
A&R guru John Kalodner, Steven Tyler, David Campbell and me.