OSIBISA: Howard Popeck interviews Gregg Kofi Brown: Lead vocals, bass, guitar, compos. Part 1 – in the recording studio

Hi Gregg. Thank you so much for agreeing to this. So jumping right in ...

Q: Where do your affections lie; is it vinyl, CD, Radio, live gigs?

A. Playing live is my passion. It's the one thing I missed during the pandemic, although I was able to record some live performances for social media.

Q How do you feel about headphone listening, both in the studio and at home?

A. Headphones are my main source of listening for mainly studio and daily walks. I must invest in a decent pair of headphones though.

Q Generally, studio playback either from master tape or digital storage is an exhilarating experience, using state-of-the-art equipment. When you listen to those recordings on an ordinary hi-fi system, how do you feel?

A. There is no better way to check a mix than to listen to it on a below par stereo system, because if it still sounds great you have a superb mix!

Q: Many performers say that even the finest audio systems fail to convey the magic of the original recording, the dynamic and atmosphere of the concert performance. Is that your experience?

A. The amount of times I've spent in the studio or at a concert getting blown away by the sound of a track, only to get home and get bitterly disappointed is numerous.

Q From your perspective, what is the role and what are the benefits of the record producer in the studio?

A. To oversee the technical, the arrangement and quality control of a recording.

Q: Does a producer in general help with interpretation, or get in the way or somewhere in the middle?

A. They can help with the interpretation musically or just make sure the best performances are captured from the artist and musicians.

Q Do recording engineers, vital though they are, contribute to the characteristics of the recording or do they just ‘push the buttons’?

A. They enhance the sonic possibilities of your composition.

Q What do the band feel are your greatest strengths currently?

A. Composition, arrangements', social consciousness and giving the audience energy and satisfaction from our live performances.\

Q Is the running order of tracks on your CDs a considered process, or merely random e.g. do you attempt to set the tone with the first track; leave a haunting memorable image with the final track, etc?

A. I would say it is a completely thought-out process consulted with the band, management and the record company.

Q So from the band’s perspective, does it seem right that people dip in, rather than hear the whole thing [I’m thinking here of New Dawn] right through?

A. My advice would be to listen to the whole album initially then select your favourite songs. I guarantee there will be something for everyone on this album.

Q For the final mix, do you bias towards headphone/mobile listening?

A. Probably mobile listening. The lower quality of the system the better to judge a good mix.

QYou’ve operated right in the middle of the rapid evolution of studio equipment, production, and so much more. So, from the band’s perspective as professional musicians, can you point towards tangible improvements biased towards the needs / aspirations of the musicians rather than the ‘suits’, the money-people and so on?

A. The ability to have DAW systems as part of your home recording setup sometimes means you can get so much done before going into an expensive studio. Although it can take away from the magic of the spontaneous creativity you get from jamming on a track in a studio. It saves mega bucks and you can always go to a rehearsal studio for that jamming experience. It's important to watch your recording budgets these days because the revenue from music releases has all but disappeared.

Q: Given the care you take with your recordings, do you have the final say in which studio you chose and if so, what criteria do you apply to choosing?

A. Yes we have final say. RYP Recording Studio in Harrow West London was comfortable and had the right balance between the protools environment and  analogue based outboard gear. With studio owner Michael Smith we found a sensitive and creative old school trained young engineer/producer where we could air our dirty laundry have arguments and then marvel at the outcome because nothing was taken to personal. As co-producers Michael, Robert and myself had to leave our ego outside the studio because the production took precedent over all other considerations. 

Part 2 [out of 3] in early June

Keep up to date HERE

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Thank you Osibisa and Sam.

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