Interview with Stuart Epps
Tell us a bit about yourself in the music industry?
I started off at DJM when I left school at 15 in 1967. DJM were the Beatles publisher at the time. I started as office boy, then assistant engineer then engineer. 1967 were amazing times and that’s where I met Elton John, then known as Reg Dwight. That was background in engineering at DJM but then fairly soon I went into A&R and we had DJM Records and I left engineering but then I was producing with Elton John.
Then in 1971 I was working for Rocket Records looking for new artists doing A&R and touring with Elton John and then with Kiki Dee. Then I became Personal Manager to Elton John and the tours were quite big about 3 months long or so. Then I did the same with Kiki Dee including big USA tours for the two of them.
After the 1974 tour I was 24 and was going to retire but saw a guy called Gus Dudgeon who was building a studio in Berkshire and I wanted to come on board at the Mill Studios which I co-ordinated the building and implementation of the studios. We did a new band signed to Rocket called Shooting Star and an act named Voyager who we produced a top 5 hit with Halfway Hotel.
We also did Lindisfarne (Run From Home). Then I engineered on Chris Rea’s first album and did all the backing vocals. I engineered the huge hit ‘Fool If You Think It’s Over’ for him and then record after record including Gilbert O’Sullivan’s ‘What’s In A Kiss’. Then the Ice On Fire album for Elton John including the big hit Nikita and before that Song For Guy a major hit single also for Elton.
In about 1981 Gus sold the studio and Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin bought it and asked me to work for him and I became his studio engineer and studio manager. Things took off on a producer basis for me as Atlantic Records were working a lot with Zeppelin and they asked me to produce Twisted Sister and again another hit with ‘I Am, I’m Me’, then worked with a guy from Whitesnake under the name of Van Den Burgh and we had a huge top USA smash with Burning Heart.
I then recorded and engineered the last Led Zeppelin album with Jimmy Page called Coda and it wasn’t long after Jimmy Page bought the studio that Bonham was found dead in his house so that was the end of Led Zeppelin but Jimmy wanted to put the Coda album out as a tribute to John Bonham. We took all the tracks and extra multi tracks from ‘In Thru The Out Door’ and any leftover tracks and then 6 minutes of drums from the Montreux studios sessions.
I did record another album with Jimmy for the Soundtrack to Death Wish II. Another project was a project of Paul Rodgers and Jimmy Page under the name of The Firm that I definitely did co-produce although you won’t find it on the sleeves and that contained a large hit called Radioactive. That was a great album.
What do you recommend anybody on Music2Deal who is looking to become a producer, what is the best way to get into production?
Really producers generally come from engineers which I think is a good grounding of how an engineer and the recording side works. Having said that producers don’t have to come from that background.
It’s definitely a good thing for me to come from an A&R background as the crossover of both production and A&R can be immense although it does depend on what the producers role is which can change depending on the project and what the record company require. In my way it is choosing the songs so a background in A&R is really important. It’s musicality, A&R, experience really the whole thing of coming into the studio and landing with ideas. It’s vital for the producer to know all that. The producer should always have ideas so working with Gus Dudgeon who produced Bowie and Elton was so amazing as that guy always had ideas. The producer is therefore the one who should be sailing the ship and coming up with thoughts and ideas.
What bands are you currently producing?
I’m currently producing a band called Machine People in the UK with Richard Rogers. I’ve just entered into working with various new artists via remote producing and file sharing although I’m also working in the usual way with one of the guys from The Who and also Shakin’ Stevens. Working with Zak Starkey on his solo album, the son of Ringo Starr from The Beatles and formerly with Oasis and The La’s.
If you had the choice of producing one artist dead or alive who would it be?
I used to say Joni Mitchell but I guess having worked with them Led Zeppelin again.
What is the weirdest project you worked on?
That could be the Soundtrack to Death Wish II and seeing how Jimmy Page’s mind works. He was using the Theramin and early early guitar synths and just had so many weird and wonderful ideas. It was brilliant to watch him, as a musician he is brilliant but as a producer he was stunning.
A few words about Music2Deal?
Music2Deal is obviously a fantastic tool and a marvellous system to have to help you with your music. I’m all for Music2Deal. I think it is totally brilliant.
More information: http://www.stuartepps.co.uk/
by Sara Shirazi