"Super" produced by Stuart Price but programmed by PSB

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PoloPony
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"Super" produced by Stuart Price but programmed by PSB

#1 Post by PoloPony » Sun 03 Apr 2016, 5:20 pm

I tried to see where this question could fit in an existing thread, but it doesn't, and it's a discussion I always wanted to have with people who would know about these things and I think you guys fit the audience.

I always wonder what a producer does. And in some way I assumed that with some, it means they use their machines, their programmed sounds, like for example, William Orbit (just to name one that often has a recognizable sound).
So, with a band/duo like Pet Shop Boys, who famously write most of their own songs, I always wondered what the producer brings to the table, especially in tracks like Inner Sanctum and Burn where there is close to no lyrics at all and the music, well, I can't see music being written to be played by the producer (because in the case of a producer like Stuart Price I bet there is nobody playing any instruments but him programming his music), which begs me to ask, what did PSB have to do with these tracks. Are these even PSB tracks or are they just Stuart Price tracks with PSB tagged on?
Of course this could be said about many artists nowadays, but yes, artists that don't really have much to say about themselves, those who simply go into the studio, sing the song ("sing" is quite a generous term in some cases), but I always thought that PSB are much more involved in the process.
So with Super I notice that the credits say Written and Programmed By PSB, and Produced by Stuart Price.
So what does that mean? Not only with the write the tracks (words and music) but also programmed. Does anyone know? Venture to make a good guess?

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Re: "Super" produced by Stuart Price but programmed by PSB

#2 Post by Shopper » Sun 03 Apr 2016, 5:32 pm

Stuart in his capacity must be a sound editor of sorts? Some tracks like Groovy, Burn, into thin air for instance have so many distinct pieces and structures, splicing them together seamlessly and creating a cohesive sound through the album is a producers job.

Kylie's Aphrodite album had like 5 or more distinct producers, Stuart remixed and added more layers on some of the tracks and was involved in the final sequencing apparently.

I would love to have a behind the scenes view of the whole process..would be fascinating
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Re: "Super" produced by Stuart Price but programmed by PSB

#3 Post by y3potential » Sun 03 Apr 2016, 5:48 pm

With regard to this thread, I've often wondered what role Pete Gleadall actually undertakes during the recording of an album. I don't mean that in any derogatory context, far from it, as he is obviously a valued and respected part of the PSB inner circle and knows his stuff. It's just that he has been associated and involved in so many PSB albums and singles over many years, but I don't understand what he actually does that a producer couldn't. For example, Fundamental was produced by Trevor Horn who no doubt would use his own 'people' to assist him, Michael Dawson produced Elysium and Stuart Price has produced the last 2 albums so where would Pete fit into projects like this..?
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Re: "Super" produced by Stuart Price but programmed by PSB

#4 Post by PopArt » Sun 03 Apr 2016, 5:53 pm

My assumption (and it's nothing more than that) is Pete Gleadall basically works on the demos with Neil and Chris identifying drum sounds, samples and things like that. Basically just pulling it together. Then those demos are handed over to the producer who then works on it more bringing a new gloss to the work. So Pete's credit is for the work he does early on in the process in their London studio.
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Re: "Super" produced by Stuart Price but programmed by PSB

#5 Post by TallThinMan » Sun 03 Apr 2016, 6:46 pm

There's an interview with Pete Gleadall from twenty years ago (how can it be so long!) here: http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/1996_ar ... adall.html

Also, a piece from the same magazine about the recording of It's A Sin: http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/dec10/a ... s-1210.htm

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Re: "Super" produced by Stuart Price but programmed by PSB

#6 Post by NikacP0kac » Sun 03 Apr 2016, 6:49 pm

Producer can be extremely musical or not musical at all (I assume Stuart is the former). But he's the one that helps them keep a theme and cohesion in the sound of the album and I think he's done a great job, for the second time in a row.
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Re: "Super" produced by Stuart Price but programmed by PSB

#7 Post by geowayne » Sun 03 Apr 2016, 7:23 pm

The role of producer varies widely from one artist to another, from one situation to another. Some producers control virtually the entire recording procedure, essentially determining the arrangement, instrumentation, and final "sound" of the music, with varying input from the artists themselves (some of whom are only too happy to turn such things over the producer). Other producers, however, are more or less just the "prime consultant" on a recording -- the chief sounding-board against whom the artist(s) bounce ideas, providing an additional opinion and vision to help artists see beyond themselves and the songs that they're already so (and sometimes *too*) close to. Some producers always serve one way or the other with the different artists with whom they work, while other producers will shift their role from one artist to another depending on the artists' particular talents and needs.

I suspect Price falls somewhere between these two extremes, but probably much closer to the "prime consultant" role with the Pet Shop Boys.

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Re: "Super" produced by Stuart Price but programmed by PSB

#8 Post by TallThinMan » Sun 03 Apr 2016, 7:28 pm

geowayne wrote:I suspect Price falls somewhere between these two extremes, but probably much closer to the "prime consultant" role with the Pet Shop Boys.
Stephen Hague gave some insight into his role as the boys’ producer: http://www.petshopboys-forum.com/viewto ... =1&t=31132
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Although there was some 'tinkering' with songs in the studio, in my experience they would write and complete the songs before we began proper recording. Old school - I wish more artists had that discipline.

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There was always a 'workshop' atmosphere. You can never have too many good ideas… The trick is to know which ones make the difference. Some tracks I would have a big influence on in terms of arrangement and/or performance, other tracks I would just make sure they had fresh tea and keep out of the way!
I remember one interview (I think it might have been during the Very era) where the interviewer commented that they were surprised they didn’t produce themselves by this point and Neil answered that they always felt like they needed to get a grown-up in!

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Re: "Super" produced by Stuart Price but programmed by PSB

#9 Post by Danimal » Sun 03 Apr 2016, 8:09 pm

In the beginning, PSB programmed their own material with the exception of when a specialized piece of equipment was called for, such as the Fairlight music workstation. Neil said that by the late 80s the gear was becoming increasingly complex and they were strugglng with it, so at this point they hired Pete to help with the gear. Pete programmed the 1989 tour, then had another commitment so they used another programmer during the Behavior era (Scott Davidson?) then Pete came back for Very. Pete described his role as PSB's programmer as serving as a sound library, so it sounds like Pete's job was coming up with unique sounds or "patches" for PSB to use in their compositions, although I'm fairly certain that when PSB would record a track Pete would probably enter most of the music for the finished track into the equipment as well.
Some time around the recording of "Together" Chris took over the programming duties again, presumably because the equipment has become easier to use again and now Chris does the lion's share of the programming. From reading the credits on the past few albums, it seems that Pete has taken over the role of in-house recording engineer and chief gear-head on their tours.

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Re: "Super" produced by Stuart Price but programmed by PSB

#10 Post by TheGhostOfMyself » Sun 03 Apr 2016, 8:20 pm

If it helps, you can think of a Producer of an album as being similar to the Director of a film where the artists have written the script and created the storyboards, but now it needs to be turned into something that can be recorded and put on a DVD.

Pete's role is very technical and hands on. Neil and Chris could first start writing using soft synths on a laptop at home. Then, it needs to be transferred to different synths kept in a studio to get the right patches/presets etc. Finally, it has to be recorded and then all the tracks sync'd and level'd and put together for the first time. And that's just how even a simple demo is made. You can think of Pete as being all of the sound crew for a concert in a single person in the studio.

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Re: "Super" produced by Stuart Price but programmed by PSB

#11 Post by jrusher12 » Sun 03 Apr 2016, 8:42 pm

In a lot of cases the producer turns the raw demo into the "produced" (i.e. finished) product. Think the late George Martin turning the raw songwriting ability of the Beatles into the finished article. How much that influence needs to be depends on the starting point of the raw material. In the case of PSBs their demos are, apparently, almost complete to begin with so the production is perhaps less necessary albeit important to N&C because it brings ideas. Trevor Horn is a good example of this, doing things with tracks that perhaps no-one else would think of.

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Re: "Super" produced by Stuart Price but programmed by PSB

#12 Post by Hillbilly » Sun 03 Apr 2016, 10:49 pm

Interesting this, as it is s bit confusing what exactly the difference is between programming, producing, mixing and engineering in this case.

What do you think of the sound quality of the album? I'm not completely satisfied with it;I think it sounds very compressed and undynamic, even more so than Electric. I guess the mixer, Stuart Price, is the one to blame for this? I almost get headache from listening to the CD, and it is not because the music is bad so it has to be the sound!

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Re: "Super" produced by Stuart Price but programmed by PSB

#13 Post by boyjohn » Sun 03 Apr 2016, 10:57 pm

Hillbilly wrote:Interesting this, as it is s bit confusing what exactly the difference is between programming, producing, mixing and engineering in this case.

What do you think of the sound quality of the album? I'm not completely satisfied with it;I think it sounds very compressed and undynamic, even more so than Electric. I guess the mixer, Stuart Price, is the one to blame for this? I almost get headache from listening to the CD, and it is not because the music is bad so it has to be the sound!
To me, the mastered for iTunes version sounds very nice, much better than Electric (which is ear bleedingly loud) to these ears.
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Re: "Super" produced by Stuart Price but programmed by PSB

#14 Post by PoloPony » Sun 03 Apr 2016, 11:23 pm

Thanks for the producer replies, very interesting to read, keep them coming.
As for Stuart Price being to blame for giving you a headache, I'm with you. When I first heard Aphrodite I had the same result. Only that I didn't have any such feelings with Super, probably because it sounds ten times better than Aphrodite.

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Re: "Super" produced by Stuart Price but programmed by PSB

#15 Post by NJTom » Sun 03 Apr 2016, 11:54 pm

I remember when Mike Oldfield described Trevor Horn as a judge in a courtroom giving a thumbs up or down, wheras Stuart I am sure is more involved in the arrangement as well as production
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