Having worked with the Beatles (he was an Abbey Road engineer in the 1960s) and David Bowie, producer Ken Scott is in the perfect position to compare the working methods of the two, and in a new interview with Strombo on Apple Music Hits, he discussed the key element they have in common.
â€œI compare him to the Beatles in one respect and that is how brave they were in their ability not to care what people thought,â€ Scott said. â€œIf they suddenly wanted to change direction, they would do it no matter what. And there are a lot of artists who won’t do that.
Scott also praises Bowie’s ability to put together the right team of people for a specific project – “he knew what each could bring to the project and what he needed from them that they would give automatically.” – and says that when it came to vocals, The Thin White Duke used to nail him right away.
â€œOf the four albums I co-produced with David, about 90% of the vocals were from start to finish,â€ he reveals. â€œI would like to perform the take, get his voice level, go back, set a record on the take, and what he did once is what we hear again today. And it’s not Auto-Tune, it’s not copy-paste, no move. It was a performance that came from his heart every time.
Scott worked on several albums with Bowie, as an engineer on Space Oddity and The Man Who Sold The World, and got production credits for Hunky Dory, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and Aladdin. Sane. He says that while Bowie wasn’t always technically perfect, he was unique.
“With all the great artists I’ve worked with and singers, I’ve never met someone like that,” he confirms. â€œAnd look, a friend of mine said they’re perfect in their imperfection. And that’s what it is. They are not totally in phase. They are not totally in time, but they come from your soul. He pretends to be each of them.
â€œZiggy’s first track, Five Years, at the end of the take he was screaming with his eyes, tears running down his face. Now, unfortunately, when you mix, do a final mix, you try to be dramatic, we should say, and make it sound as good as you can. And when you do that sometimes those little bits get lost a bit. And you hear there’s emotion in his voice at the end there. But now, quite often in my lectures, I will play the end of â€œFive Yearsâ€. It starts off with just the normal track, I put that down so it’s just David and the acoustic guitar, and I had audience members that heard that, they started screaming their eyes. It is so moving. And that’s what he gave every time.
Bowie passed away on January 10, 2016, and Scott says fans should appreciate the music he left us rather than continue to mourn his loss.
â€œListen, the only thing about when a movie star dies, a record star dies, we have the job they did and we have to be very grateful for that because they give us so muchâ€, emphasizes- he does. â€œAnd it’s a shame that they left, but we didn’t have tea with them every day. I never really understood that “oh, I will miss him so much” from a fan. How are they going to miss it? His work is still there. You can always listen to it whenever you want and enjoy what you listen to and what it gives you so much.
You can listen to Strombo’s full interview with Ken Scott on Apple Music Hits.