Stuart Epps Toured America with Elton John, Produced and Engineered Records for Led Zeppelin and Paul Rodgers and is Now Focusing on the Next Generation – Part 2 of 2

staurt… Continued from Thursday, November 5th

Q: Over the years has there been one artist that’s particularly stood out as the best or most interesting to work with?

A: Definitely the main one is Elton: the most amazing songwriter and singer and all around artist and performer that I’ve ever met. But I’ve been very lucky; I’ve worked with lots of great bands. Jimmy Page was another one I learnt a lot from and Paul Rodgers is probably the best singer I’ve ever worked with [...] he made an album with Kenney Jones, the drummer from The Who, and they had a band called The Law and he’s definitely one of the best artists I’ve ever worked with. Not the easiest [but] usually the best artists aren’t the easiest to work with. Chris Rea who I worked with and sang with, I sang on backing vocals on his album [...] I’ve been very lucky. I have worked with Oasis, and I worked with Robbie Williams and, you know, I worked with some pretty big artists and it’s always, even if you’re not into their music, it’s always interesting to see what makes them the way they are.

My big hope now is to be able to [...] come across an artist for myself who’s in the early stages of their career that I can then use all my experience to help fulfill and hopefully make into a similarly big recording artist, which is what we’re trying to do with Kendal Sant at the moment. [...] You know I still love making music with people, still love making records, still good fun. Which is a bit surprising really because you think it’s something you might grow out of, but it’s still good fun.

Q: As you mentioned, now you’re focusing your attention on up-and-coming artists, how do you find them?

A: I don’t really look. I’ve got a twenty-four year old son and he told me about MySpace and initially I couldn’t work it out at all, I thought “This is really peculiar”, but it’s been brilliant for me. Bands just come, you know, it’s a way of people getting in touch with me who wouldn’t be able to normally. So I don’t actually do much looking. It’s mainly people just coming to me and that’s how I met Kendal and I probably worked with twenty bands or so from MySpace.

Q: So when an artist/band approaches you are there any specific traits you’re looking for in order to say ‘Yes’?

A: What do I look for? Well, I would like it to be the next Beatles really. I mean, that’s what I’ve been looking for. If it’s a good project and if it’s got some sort of merit at all then I’m interested in it [...] unfortunately, there’s always something seems to be lacking. Whether it’s the songs or whether it’s their timing or something, but anyways its really down to the challenge of it as much as anything else. It’s trying to get the very best record that I can from what’s there.

Q: Who are some new artists that you’ve seen potential in and that people should look out for?

A: Well, the main one is Kendal, to be honest. And then, as I say, there’s some of these other bands that are not bad, but I haven’t come across anything sort of extraordinary. [Vivid Sky] is just well ahead of, their capability is well ahead of their years. They’re probably the best, because of their age, that I’ve come across. The guitarist, he’s just turned sixteen, and he’s extraordinary so, you know, I was a bit amazed. It’s very unusual to find young guys of that age who play so well.  I always felt this thing that most youngsters are copying bands from the 90s, but the bands from the 80s and 90s weren’t that great either in my opinion [...] so this guy is really, for his age, is extraordinary.

Q: Having worked in the music industry for such a long time, what are some major changes that you’ve seen?

A: I suppose the main one is the internet, isn’t it? I could say that the recording technology, there’s been a lot of different changes [...] I started in ’67, we’re talking about forty years, multi-track recording wasn’t even invented. So, obviously, technically recording techniques have changed [beyond] recognition until now anyone can record multi-track almost on their wristwatch, let alone at home. So from a technology point of view it’s completely changed.

But the amazing thing is that, in a way, music has reversed. Maybe it got as far as it could get [...] from the 80s onwards it seems to have retarded almost, pretty much copying from the 60s. In some ways it’s a bit sad to think that there was nowhere else to go but back, but obviously from my point of view it’s an amazing thing because, you know, on MySpace every band’s favorite band is Led Zeppelin and ‘cause I worked with Led Zeppelin or The Beatles or, you know, they mention Elton or whatever; it’s like the music that I grew up with is just as valid, if not more valid, with youngsters today [so] I can relate to kids that are making music now very closely.

And then there’s a lot of things that are missing now I find. That’s probably why they listen to The Beatles or they listen to Zeppelin and they just think “Wow.” But the thing is that Zeppelin weren’t listening to Zeppelin type bands, they were listening to blues and stuff related to the 20s or the 30s [...] some of that music was also quite complicated and complex, that you had to really learn your instrument and it’s not so often you find musicians that have the same sort of standard and quality of the 60s and 70s, which is a bit of a shame. It’s a little bit more disposable now I think.

Q: Once you find an artist you’d like to work with, what happens next?

A: So before going to the studio I’ve hopefully heard some sort of demo of the song and then I might have ideas on that; the arrangement maybe needs changing or something needs changing [...] there’s normally something, otherwise they don’t need me. Whatever it is that needs improving I would mention, I would put forward, and if it’s fairly radical then we would probably have some sort of pre-production get-together and rehearsal [...] But there isn’t a standard to be honest. It’s not a standard situation ‘cause every band is completely different. And although its still Rock and Roll and its still Rock and its still music, you know, every band has their own dynamics and you have to just approach [...] every situation as to what’s required to make it better than it already is.

The main thing is that the band likes it. That’s the main thing for me, is that when we finish the session they just go “Wow, that’s just great. It’s better than we ever imagined it.” And obviously commercial success following that would be an added bonus, but the main thing is to get the product as good as possible.

Q: What’s been one standout moment as Stuart Epps so far?

A: There’s just been lots of them, and a lot of them have been in the studio when you get these magic moments when you’ve got Paul Rodgers and a band and they’re all playing live and you’re recording this song and you’re knowing that this is the master and that this is absolutely brilliant music being made, and I’m recording it and I’m just praying that it’s all going on tape and nothing’s gonna break down in that four minutes, or whatever it is.

Or, you know, [...] when I use to work with Elton and he’d play me a new song, or when Chris Rea played you a new song [...] and then definitely magic moments on tour. When John Lennon came up on stage with Elton and you feel that atmosphere from a 20,000 people auditorium, when your friend is playing to that amount of people [...] but I can’t think of one particular standout [...] but I still get a kick out of going to Elton gigs and there’s 20,000 people singing his songs and I can remember when I was listening to them as demos.

Q: So no plans for retirement any time soon?

A: Not really, no. I can’t afford to stop. There’s a lot of people around me keep saying that they’re retiring and I say “Well, I don’t feel like I’ve started yet.”

For more on Stuart Epps: http://www.myspace.com/shwepp and http://www.stuartepps.co.uk/