My Olympic story continues..
So this was the first time I was to spend any real length of time in London and also working in a normalish kind of way. It was quite a switch up from my regular routine – at home I get up after midday and stroll to the studio next door, can stay there all night, go to bed whenever, be my own boss and can go days without speaking to anyone. In London I had to be at work about 10am, commuting on the tube, surrounded by people, working to a brief – a lot on my own but also with others, etc. But I actually enjoyed these changes for the most part and found myself to be very productive in the studio – whether this is down to the urgency of the deadline or the different working methods, it’s hard to say.
I took to reworking some of the tunes from my last album, The Agony & The Ecstasy, in a 120bpm format as well as some sketches of tracks I had made whilst writing that album which never made it to the final cut (Cant Stop This Fire was one of those). And of course had a lot of fun remixing my favourite Underworld tunes, Rez being a highlight. The whole process was dominated by remixing in some form or other and anyone who knows me knows I love remixing! It’s one of the most fun aspects of being a producer. So whilst it was a high pressure gig where the hours got longer and longer, I was just really enjoying it all. The whole Underworld team are such good people too that it was a pleasure to work with them. And Rick in particular is a really inspirational figure for me.
I got to meet Danny Boyle a number of times too and found him to be another very inspirational person. The way he can keep a cool head and sense of humour whilst juggling a million problems at once is quite astounding. And not only is he a creative genius but a real man of the people too. For example, every group of volunteers who came in to kindly give up their time and energy for the event, were given a talk personally by Danny where he explained his ideas and the vibe for the show and how the volunteers were the most important part of it all for him and how they could be a way of counteracting the big corporate nature of the event. I can’t imagine many big time directors of shows like this doing that.
Working at 3 Mills I was thus able to pop out of my studio and head over to the big sound stages on site to check out some rehearsals for the ceremony. This really helped in getting an idea of the feel of the show and also seeing/hearing hundreds of volunteer drummers playing together had a kind of galvanising Braveheart effect on all of us. Another key moment was going to a stadium rehearsal for the first time. It felt a bit like going to Jurassic Park! I was drowning in lanyards and it was literally a military procedure, having to go through airport style security handled by squaddies, who checked the underneath of the car with mirrors. But they were also incredibly polite and friendly as were everyone I came across working at the stadium. Seeing the thousand drummers rehearsing there, in the pouring rain, to the music I had been writing, was truly awesome and also helped me understand even more how the music needed to be for the event.
It became clear that typical, contemporary dance music would not be quite right – sonically things are so harsh, busy and lacking in dynamics that if that was played at the stadium it could become pretty unbearable, especially for the two hours the Athlete’s Parade could last. The tunes need to be a little bit less dense and having a lot more dynamic breathing room. Danny also wanted some more well known pop favourites of his peppered into the mix of the Athletes Parade, so older tunes from people like Pet Shop Boys and Bowie are from a different sonic era that wouldn’t sit so comfortably next to typical stuff from today. We had to strike the right balance so they all worked together.
A key part of making the tracks gel in this way was Simon Gogerly – Grammy winning mixer and engineer for people like U2. He’s also a top bloke who was great to work with and he did great mixing and subtle mastering of my tunes that really gave them the right edge. Seeing how he does things so differently to what Im used to in dnb production has really made me think about how I might work on tunes in the future. The whole thing has been an education! Not least because after a month or so at 3 Mills, we then moved over to the legendary Abbey Road Studios.
This was such a buzz for me, being of course a massive fan of The Beatles, Pink Floyd etc. But apart from the history and cool stuff and people all around the place, it’s just a beautiful place to work. Going from the somewhat sterile office environment I had at 3 Mills to the old build, full of character, history drenched room at Abbey Road (with garden view!) was just the thing to give me another boost. It also meant I was working with someone else in the room – long time Underworld engineer and a massive part of their live show, Darren Price. We really bonded over this show and he was great company to have as well as being a very handy second pair of ears when it came to the critical latter stages of my work.
Things were amping up now as deadlines were approaching. Not only did the music and sequence of the Athlete’s Parade need to be finalised but the accomanpying cd/mp3 album had to be worked on too. We wrapped up things at Abbey Road and felt it would be better timewise to head back to 3 Mills for the final hurdle. Underworld had brought in their tour bus to 3 Mills as it was becoming increasingly impossible to think about leaving for home at any point. It was getting pretty intense, things were taking their toll but as the ceremony drew closer the buzz made everyone go that extra mile to make sure it went the best it possibly could.
In the third and final installment I’ll tell you about the final days of work and the actual Opening Ceremony itself…