John Leckie Interview - 3rd July 2002

  From entering Abbey Road Studios on 15th February 1970 as a Tape-Operator, to Balance Engineer, JOHN LECKIE then graduated to the role of Producer, helping to launch the careers of some of the most exciting and influential bands of the past three decades. Producing landmark albums of recent times, such as The Stone Roses' eponymous debut LP and Radiohead's 'The Bends', Leckie continues to be one of the most prolific, sought after producers in the recording business.

He produced the best of the Roses' work, including the singles Fool's Gold and One Love, before parting ways with the band in 1993. John kindly agreed to take part in a Q & A session with This Is The Daybreak. Thanks to John for taking the time to answer these questions.

Are there any songs you worked on with the Roses that tried something different than what we hear in the final versions ? For example, was there ever an attempt to extend any other songs apart from Fool's Gold, One Love, Something's Burning or I Am The Resurrection ?

Everything I worked on with The Stone Roses you have heard, I'm sorry. You've heard everything thanks to Silvertone. There were no attempts to lengthen anything. Everything I "attempted" in the studio with the Roses we finished .....with the exception of Where Angels Play which was unfinished and abandoned and Silvertone dug out some old rough mix we had done early on with a guide vocal. This was never meant to be heard and certainly not intended by me or the band for a commercial release.

Can you talk us through your production of a choice track on the debut LP, Made Of Stone. In particular, the work put into capturing that classic guitar solo by Squire ?

There was a demo of Made of Stone and it was rough but pretty similar to the final version. John always delivered a good solo. He worked out what to play before he came to the studio and we continually worked on guitar and amp sound. The phazing at the end of the solo is "tape phazing" over the whole track after it's mixed. The music just lends itself to that kind of effect (so much that you probably don't notice it). It's done by hand "playing" the speed of a one tape machine against another of fixed speed. When they are moving between plus or minus 40 milliseconds apart then the sound is created and the whooshing can be played with the music.

Of the backwards tracks that you worked on with the Roses, what editing did you do on each to get them to gel ? Who, or what was the inspiration behind experimenting with backwards tracks ?

The tracks were meant to stand up as individual masterpieces and not bear any relation to the original forward version. Overdubs were done and a careful mix...the good bits came quicker. The inspiration came from simply playing the original multitrack tape backwards and digging it....and me getting them to work on it and add instrumentation and sometimes see how far we could go. I'd done tracks like this with XTC.

What production techniques did you use on Something's Burning to create that distinct sound ? The best description I've read is that it's as if the speakers have been rubbed with a wet sponge !

Thanks for the compliment on the sound...I like to be rubbed with a sponge ! Something's Burning is a live in the studio take arranged a bit and everyone playing together. We added a real vibraphone (played by Reni) which gives it a rich velvety sound. Recorded the night after the paint job before the police arrived !

How faithful does the finished version of Ten Storey Love Song compare to what you had envisaged ? The drums you recorded are more of a 'rock' style, but the finished version of the song sounds like a debut LP-era effort. Can you describe your attempts to put down the rest of the parts to the song ? Do you still own a copy of the demo John gave you at Ewloe ?

It's a long time ago........the "basic" track for Ten Storey Love Song was recorded during the second Ewloe sessions on the Rolling Stones Mobile in a four week session. The "take" is the track I recorded: the guitars are the same and we recorded lots of them but I had more in through the verses. I recorded the intro guitar and solo. The bass is the same but the drums are a different recording, but playing the same parts. I never had drums over the intro. The vocal is a new take as I'd never heard Ian sing it that way with the "gruff / sweet" approach !

My version of this would have been, yes, even more like the debut LP and much denser and driving. We worked on this together for a long time and somehow it didn't turn out as epic and rich as I would have wanted. John did do a good demo, I think with him singing and yes, I still may have a copy of that demo somewhere ! (After checking, John Leckie informs me that it is actually a demo of Driving South, and not Ten Storey Love Song, that he owns).

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