London’s Abbey Road Studios are set to open their doors for a series of public events throughout April and May. Boasting a series of talks in “Studio 2” that will also include stories and demonstrations about the recording techniques developed over the studio’s 82 year history. Taking part Abbey Road engineer Ken Scott who has made records with The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Lou Reed, to name but a few. To preview the events – head to The Sound Of Abbey Road Studio’s website for full details and tickets – Scott has written this guest column exclusively for Q.
My first ever session as a recording engineer was with The Beatles. Yes, the first time I got to sit behind a mixing console and push up the faders and turn the knobs just happened to be with the biggest band in the world. For a young engineer, I was 20 years old at that time, the experience although terrifying was an absolutely incredible way to learn my gig. There I was working with THE band with no boundaries, no time limits, no budget limits and no constraints as to how something should sound.
To explain. It was usual that for the first few months after their promotion a new engineer would only get to record artist tests. These were short sessions that were only to see how good an act was in the studio prior to signing them. Basically a great way to get one’s feet wet without worrying too much about how good or bad it sounded. After that came the typical 2 or 3 songs in a 3 hour session and because of the amount you had to get done in such a short space of time all one could do was use the tried and tested microphones and outboard equipment, just exactly the same as your predecessors and, considering how music was changing at that time, it was…..…boring.
I however was working with the most experimental band around at that time and it was actually frowned upon to do things the tried and tested way. I remember walking into the microphone room one day with Paul and he picked a mic to try based totally on how it looked, not bothering to ask if the sound quality would be any good. Wow. I always felt that I could use completely the wrong microphone, placed in completely the wrong place, basically screw it up as much as is humanly possible and there was as much chance of them coming up and saying “That sucks” as there was for them to say “That’s terrible, but we like it”. What a way to learn.
We were recording the saxes on George’s song Savoy Truffle and whilst he was down in the studio running through the song with the musicians I got what I thought to be a really great sound. George comes up to the control room of Studio Two, listens through once and turns to me to say “Yer they sound great, but distort them”. Unfortunately they sounded like the tried and tested sax section of the past, not something for a Beatles record, so mess them up I did and never looked back.
For more head to Abbeyroad.com.