A while ago I wrote a post about Noel Gallagher in which I mentioned accidentally dismantling the studio Oasis were using. That was for a song I was recording with Will Young for Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason called Your Love Is King. Will had initially been asked to do a cover of Everlasting Love, originally recorded by The Love Affair. He hadn’t warmed to the idea as he felt it would be too cheesy, hence the Sade song. For some reason I was asked to produce the rejected song with Jamie Cullum
. This was of course a no brainer, Jamie being super talented and flying high. And I couldn’t imagine how cheese could possibly enter this equation.
He was on a world tour at the time and figuring a location to record was proving pretty complicated. After several missed opportunities we ended up agreeing that New Zealand would be our best shot since he’d have some days off there. So Heff, David Rose, Jamie’s A&R man, and I flew out. It was my first (and so far only) time going to the other side of the earth, so very exciting. We were very extravagantly flown out first class on Singapore Airlines, stopping off for a shower and change of clothes in Singapore, all marvellously indulgent. But it meant that on arrival in Auckland we didn’t have any jet lag.
I had been booked the most incredible room on the top floor of the Hilton in Auckland. The hotel was shaped and designed like a liner, sticking out into the middle of a harbour, extremely modern, and super luxurious. I remember waking one morning, opening the blinds and being confronted with a cruise ship cabin about 3 feet from my window, surreal. The studio however wasn’t quite as modern. Stebbing Studios felt like a time warp from the 50s. There was a Quad 8 console which none of us had come across before, minimal outboard gear, and the live room was fully carpeted with the piano stuck right in the middle. We asked if it could be moved and were told in no uncertain terms that they never moved the piano. Also we were informed that they closed at 7pm. None of this particularly bothered me for all the reasons I’ve alluded to before. We’d be fine, we could make a record there by using whatever was available, but David got pretty nervous and suggested we find somewhere else to record. So for some reason we went to look at Neil Finn’s studio which was a complete waste of time since it was fully booked. Back to Stebbings where we set up.
They were a super tight unit, both musically and logistically, accompanied only by a tour manager who was also their roadie and sound engineer. I’d figured that it would be a good idea to base the recording on a loop. Not a specific one, just one for the guys to play along to. Sebastiaan, being a jazz purist, didn’t warm to this idea at all, can’t remember how Geoff felt, but we proceeded. An arrangement was quickly figured out and we recorded the track and vocal pretty quickly. Some moody chords, three local backing singers and that was it.
Working with Jamie was a great experience, great people and great fun. And there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that the limitations imposed upon us by our circumstances contributed to the outcome of the record, and in my opinion very much for the better. We had few options and limited time. Not always ideal but under the circumstances it worked.