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Simon Efemey: behind the music

Simon Efemey: behind the music
BANDS : General

Ever wondered what a producer really does in the studio? How much of what these guys do is noticeable on the final recording? How would Icon have sounded like, if Paradise Lost haven’t met Simon Efemey? I guess we’ll never know, but we sat down and had a word with Simon, right after the Tiamat concert in Bucharest. He’s come here as a sound engineer for Tiamat, and we couldn’t miss the chance to meet him. Neither could James Blunt, you’ll se what I mean:

 

Simon Efemey

 

Klawz: When did you start listening to heavy metal, what were the first bands that you listened to?
Simon: Oh, god... Err, probably the first band I got into was AC/DC, in the late 70ies, when I was a kid. Then Van Halen, when we heard the first Van Halen album, we were, you know, like : this is f*king amazing, and then I got back into Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, I went back in time. Judas Priest, as well, they are one of my favourite bands, then the new wave of British Heavy Metal kicked in and then the Metallicas, etcetera.

Klawz: How did you start doing this? Being a sound engineer and producer?
Simon: I was in a band myself, as a singer and we needed a PA system. We managed to get one, but we had to rent it, we had to pay money for it. We needed it for our band, but I thought if we rented out to other bands, we can make the rent. I was into HiFi and sound, I always loved hifi equipment and good sounding systems...
Klawz: You have studies for this?
Simon: No, no studies, just purely listening, you know. So, we asked ourselves who is gonna operate the mixer and I said I'll do it, I'll have a go! And I just picked it up, you know, learned by my mistakes, picked it up and we started renting the PA out to local bands where I lived and I got better and better and better; and then we got a rehearsal place, we built a studio in and I did the studio as well, you know.
Klawz: So it wasn't like a decision...
Simon: Yeah, it just happened, yeah... I was working, I had a job in a record store but I didn't wanna work, work wasn't for me, you know. And then the band started becoming reasonably successful and when we weren't playing I when out doing other bands, I thought we could make money from this...
Klawz: Is this the same band that you are singing in right now?
Simon: No, at the moment I'm in a band with Shane [Embury] from Napalm Death, it's called Absolute Power, we have uploaded two clips on myspace. But we've not finished the album, we're trying to finish it but he's so busy...

Sake: Sorry to interfere, did you hear about Jesse Pintado?
Simon: Yeah, how about that... I heard the day after it happened...
Sake: Diabetic coma or something, not a chance for him...
Simon: yeah, allegedly so... dreadful, he was a good friend, you know...

Klawz: Let's get back to that first band of yours, have you recorded anything?
Simon: Oh, yeah, it was a band called the Hellfire Club, we just did a single and we did alot of gigs in London and we had some stuff in Kerrang! but it never went after that.
Klawz: Why not?
Simon: Somebody left the band, they wanted to work, to have a job and we had to make a commitement, like: are we going to do this? A couple of members went like " I have to get a job". So I just carried on doing sound in the studio.

Klawz: What was the first record that you produced?
Simon: The first record that I produced... It was a band called The Wonderstuff. I was doing live sound for them, they were a massive band in England, it was more indie stuff. This was in 1990, something like that, that was around the time that I've done the first proper stuff. I've done stuff in my own studio that have been released on singles, but just independent stuff. But this one was like, proper.

 

Simon says... and Klawz tapes him

 

Klawz: When do you think it was your break into the business?
Simon: Probably doing the Paradise Lost stuff.
Klawz: How did you get in touch with Paradise Lost?
Simon: It's a long story. We were looking after a band called The One Thing, who were on tour with a band called Loud. And the guy who became my sort of business partner, he was managing this band, The One thing. And I go to some of the gigs and do the sound sometimes, because we wanted them to sound good and we wanted to get them a deal. And the manager of Loud was the manager of Paradise Lost, as well. He was just starting to manage Paradise Lost. And Greg [Mackintosh] from Paradise Lost didn't want a regular heavy metal producer, a Collin Richardson-type, they wanted somebody with a little bit more on the indie side. Even though I was a total metalhead, I don't think they realized that... we had a meet and, you know, I said I love metal and stuff and I was quite into the goth type sound as well...
Klawz: The first album you produced for them was Shades of God?
Simon: Shades of God, yeah, and then we did Icon and then Draconian Times. But in the mean time I was getting alot of work as well.
Klawz: How was it to work with them?
Simon: It was good fun, great laugh, good boys. The best story I can tell you from the first album, no disrespect for gay people or anything, but the guy that owned the studio was gay. And he loved having young men around, in his studio (laughs). He had a 24 track machine that would often break, you know, it would go wrong. One day he was in the bath, he lived there, it was like a residential studio, so we lived there and he lived there as well. So he was in the bath and the machine went wrong... And I remember that me and Nick [Holmes], we were winding Aaron [Aedy] up, because we kept telling Aaron that the guy fancied him (laughs) and Aaron was like ooooh! you know... and we were shouting: Robert! Robert! - his name was Robert - and he answered yes! yes! yes! and he had a very gay voice... The machine's broken again! and he said Hang on a minute I'll be there. An he came! Soaking wet, he got out of the bath, soaking wet and he had wrapped this towel barely around him and he was a biiig f*cker. And came in to try and fix it and we were crying with laughter because we knew he was doing it, you know...(laughs) That was funny, you know...
Klawz: What's your favourite Paradise Lost album that you worked on?
Simon: I think Draconian Times, because we grew and we got it together on that one.
Klawz: How much were you involved in the creative process?
Simon: Not so much in the creation of the songs, but the creation of the sounds, getting it together, not so much the arrangements or the actual songwriting, but alot with the vocals, yeah, I helped alot with the vocal melodies, cause alot of it was straight and we thought, what if we could make it a bit more tuneful...
Klawz: There is abviously an evolution in Nick's singing, you were...
Simon: I was a part of that, yeah. I was the teacher.
Klawz: So what do you think about the way he sings now?
Simon: I think his singing is good, yeah. You know, then we didn't have the technology, when we did those albums we didn't have computers to sort things out, so it was hard, he had to sing over and over and over again and it pissed him off sometimes. And then they wanted to do more techno stuff and went with the more techno people, because Greg loved Depeche Mode and that sort of bands, he really wasn't that much of a metalhead. And by then the Pro-Tools never sort of kicked in so he was able to do just small amounts and they could piece it together, you know...
Klawz: What do you think about Host?
Simon: It's good, yeah. I like it. It's pretty good.

klawz: You also worked with Amorphis, on Tuonela...
Simon: And the one after that...
Klawz: Am Universum. They were quite far from their original sound, the sound they started with. Why do you think all those bands like Amorphis, Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, even Tiamat, they...err...
Simon: Yeah, changed. I don't know... I think they've evolved writing songs... Forget the people, the producers, but... often I wanna hear, I wouldn't say a hit, but... I like good songs, so I always tried to encourage the band: can we make a song out of it? It can be as powerul or as heavy or as whatever, but it's about that element that can make it catchy, that makes you wanna play it, you wanna go home and play it, because it's more than background stuff. When bands start off they don't really know what they're doing, alot of bands, they got the deals too quick, and they say, let's get it out; and they capture alot of energy in the first albums, but then they listen to it and they think: Wait, we can do better than this. And I think that's what really happened, really, they just evolved.

Klawz: You als worked with Napalm Death, a band that is way heavier than Paradise Lost and Amorphis. What was different?
Simon: With Napalm it was more about technicallity, everything is so technical in a way, it has to be right with the drums, it's all about timing, that band. The difference is obviously with the singing, totally different. But in what I was doing, there was nothing different, really, just coaching, you know, not so much change in melody, or things like that, but make sure the timing's spot on and get it so it flows and it sounds good.

Klawz: What other bands you worked with and you want to tell us about?
Simon: Oh, Well... At the moment, on the metal side I work with a band called Scourge, Idon't know if you've heard of them, it's good, check it out, I think they may be on myspace. It's a new band, the one guy that was in Raging Speehorn, I don't know if you've heard of that band, sort of like hardcore... But I'm also doing alot of pop stuff as well, pop/rock stuff...
Klawz: You evolved, as well...
Simon: Yeah, I have. I work with a band called Olson, they've been number one in England and they've been on tour with Duran Duran and Robbie Williams, so that was quite good. I'm working at the moment with a band that's errrr... I've got two girls, a violin, guitar it's like... again, poppy, it's err... it's pop/rock. It's not like cheesy stuff, it's stuff I like, even though I still love the metal.
Sake: Do you have to like the bands you produce?
Simon: Personally, yeah, I do. It helps.

 

Sake during the Tiamat show

 

Sake: And I wanted to ask you something else: what's your opinion about producers like Andy Sneap?...
Simon: Err, well I know him really well, I've done stuff at his studio (laughs), so... He does what he does, you know. He gets, he does it...
Sake: Peter from Hypocrisy?
Simon: Err, yeah, ok.
Sake: Dan Swano?
Simon: I don't know him.
Sake: Steven Wilson?
Simon: Not bad, yeah. I like some of them, but I think the job of producer, in a way, some of it it's overrated. I think alot of it, you've gotta be like, you know, the football coach, you're the guy that's trying to make the team play better, do better. Sometimes you can... are you into football?
Klawz: Kind of. Are you?
Simon: Oh yeah, massively.
Sake: What team?
Simon: Wolverhampton Wanderers
Sake: Oooh, we had a Romanian player there, Ionel Ganea, a really violent guy...
Simon: (laugs) Yeah, that's right. But, yeah, that's how I sort of see it sometimes. And alot of producers are just engineers, they can do good work but they don't know how to errr...
Klawz: So who do you think are the best producers of today? Metal or no metal.
Simon: Bob Rock, probably... Butch Vig was good, Rhett Davies who did alot of the Roxy Music stuff and all that sort of stuff, you know... I like those sort of people, you know, you can tell they had a big influence...
Klawz: What is a good producer to do, other than mixing and engineering?
Simon: Keep the band motivated, keep them inthe right mood they should be, err...

(that's when James Blunt first came in. Someone had left his cell phone in the  room and it was ringing that f*king stupid lousy crappy little song of his called You're beatiful. Everybody laughs. Sake tries to shut the thing up, but doesn't get it. Finally it stops.)

A good producer is like a football manager, really. You can't actually get on the field and play, but you can keep all the players motivated. Catch the mood, know when something shouldn't be done, don't make people do things when they're obviously pissed off or drunk or, you know, ill, or whatever. Talk to everybody and try to get them focused on what it is gonna be, rather than when you get to the mix and going like: what the f*ck are we doing here?

 

 

Sake: What bands do you like? Do you like Nevermore?
Simon: Yeah, I quite like them.
klawz: They're produced by Andy Sneap, would you have done something different for them?
Simon: Yeah, possibly, yeah. I would have worked more on vocals, stuff like that...
Klawz: You think their vocals need more work?
Simon: Always vocals need more work! I like Three Inches of Blood, they're quite funny...err who else...
Sake: How about the nu metal bands, System of a Down?
Simon: Ok, I hate the production on them but I like the vibe, the spirit. Great singer. That band I'm working with, Scourge, it's all heavy but with screaming singing, you know, it's passionate, they didn't have much money, but I liked it so I went in anyway. I also like brutal bands, if it's good, I like it. I kind of liked the second band that were on today, they were ok.
Klawz: Grimegod.
Simon: Yeah, I thought oh that's a bit different, rather than the usual stuff...

(James Blunt time again, everyone tries to ignore it, but it's not that easy...)

Sake: How was the crowd tonight?
Simon: Brilliant, absolutely brilliant!
Klawz: Were there any problems with the sound?
Simon: No, everything was fine. The was a problem with the intro tape, that didn't work but, what the f*ck!
Klawz: I didn't notice...
Simon: Oh Well you didn't because you didn't know there was one... (laughs) It didn't work. But for what we had, the equipment, it was good, you know, I'm fairly happy.

Klawz: Tell us more about your band.
Simon: It's called Absolute Power and we play we call it strong british metal, it's like, if you can imagine something priesty, Raven, Accept - I know that's not british but it's in the spirit. Those were the bands Tigers of Pan Tang, Y&T but with modern massive sound, twin guitar and shredding, plenty of shredding on it. I'm the singer.
Klawz: Your favourite singers?
Simon: Freddy Mercury, Bonn Scott, David Coverdale, Ronnie James Dio, Rob Halford, Geoff Tate.

Klawz: How did you get to work with Tiamat?
Simon: With Tiamat... Just through a friend, their tour manager is a friend of mine who works for Century Media, but he's an English guy. And he lives with the guy who is my partner...
Klawz: Is he the same guy that got you together with
Paradise Lost?
Simon: Yeah yeah

Klawz: Quite a helpful guy to have around.
Sake: Are the guys from Tiamat easy to work with?
Simon: Yeah, brilliant. That's why I like coming out. They said can you come and do a gig? their normal sound man couldn't do it, they said can you come? And I started coming out and doing abit of live again, cause I've stopped doing live, always studio and I thought that after ten years or so in the studio I should be coming out and doing live again and...

(James Blunt starts whining his pitiful song again on the cell phone)

...and did James Blunt tonight! (laughs)
Sake: Johan seems quite a difficult guy...
Simon: No, he's not, he's a lovely guy. They're all reeeally nice guys and that's why I thought it's great coming out, cause the Sweeds, they love to have a drink and us, British, do as well. It was like old friends, after the first show.

Sake: How do you like our beer?
Simon: Yeah, I quite like it. I got drunk on it last night, so... No headaches. It's ok, you know, I wouldn't say it's brilliant, cause I'm English, you know, we make some of the best beer in the world. So tonight it's like coming out to a party, you know.

Sake: Do you have to work something else besides being a producer?
Simon: No, that's what I do.
Sake: And the bands? We had some eight months ago a concert with Lake of Tears, a band from Sweden, and those guys were all having jobs.
Simon: These guys... Johan hasn't got a job, he just writes some stuff, the guy who plays the keyboards works in computers, Lars has got a studio and Anders is on maternity leave for a while cause his wife she works for... I don't know if it's MTV or something she does media work...

(James' Blunt rings again, everyone laughs, didn't this guy killed himself by jumping off a bridge, I thought I saw it on TV)

...This guy is quite persistant.
Klawz: Any plans to work with Tiamat in the studio?
Sake: Or maybe do James Blunt...

Simon: [With Tiamat] Hopefuly, yeah. We were talking last night that this might be a possibility and I think that it could be, so...
Klawz: What's you favourite Tiamat album?
Simon: Err, I don't know... I mean... I couldn't say. I mean I love the set, there's about eight or nine great songs for me and I personally love the ones when he plays the lead, cause I love Pink Floyd and it has that vibe, you know...
Klawz: So it's Wildhoney, then.
Simon: Yeah. yeah. There you go.

(James Blunt pops in again. I'm amazed that cell phone was still in one piece at the end of the interview)

Sake: When was the last time you listened to Icon?
Simon: Not that long ago, actually. I got reaaally drunk at home. I moved recently, I live near Chapel Studios (Paradise Lost recorded their last 2 albums there), in Lincolnshire, because I use that studio quite a bit. I lived in Birmingham, I used to live in the city but England has becone sh*t, you know, with all that dreadful govenrment, you know, no disrespect, but it's just become sh*t. So I moved into the countryside and I have a box with all the stuff that I've done and I pulled something out, you know when you're drunk... and I got Forever Failure out of the box and I remembered... I've done some work with Skid Row, I did some live stuff and Sebastian Bach came in the studio, we were recording at the Brixton Academy, they've done a live thing and we were mixing some of the stuff for B-sides Themselves. And he came in the studio and I remember I was mastering Forever Failure, it wasn't even out, and he loved it, you know what he was like, he got blasted into the thing... And then I got Icon out of the box, I put that one on and I thought, well... those were great times. You know, you don't remember half the sh*t...

(I guess all of us were nervously anticipating the next James Blunt moment. I couldn't stand the pressure anymore, so I decided to put an end to the interview. I noticed everyone else felt relieved)

Klawz: Thank you.
Simon: Excellent.
Sake: Good luck.
Simon: Yeah, you too.

Thanks for stopping by, you really shouldn't have bothered

Autor: Klawz
Vezi galeriile trupelor: General

   September 23, 2006  | 0 Comments  | 9660 Views « BACK

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