English · Interviews

Interview with Monte La Rue: “Corporate is no longer part of my world”


Amsterdam-based lounge deejay and producer Monte La Rue (born in Antwerp as Jan van den Bergh) has an impressive track record, both as producer/artist and record industry professional. He has worked as Artist & Repertoire manager for, among others, USA Import (handling releases by Sven van Hees, Miss Moneypenny and Ludovic Navarre a.k.a. St. Germain), Indisc (handling the DJ International, Tommy Boy and Gee Street labels) and Arcade (supervising the European releases of The KLF, Derrick May and Rozalla). He has initiated a string of labels, including Buzz for Arcade, Apollo for R&S and Cinq Etoiles for ID&T.

His recording artist portfolio includes releases as Wet (That’s The Game, 1983), Atmosphere (At-Moz-Phere, Top 10 Germany in 1990) and Fabergé. In 1999, he established the Monte La Rue moniker as an outlet for his instrumental downtempo and mood productions, releasing the albums Interludia (2002) and The End Of The Rainbow (2008), as well as masterminding various series of lounge compilations. Currently, he is preparing for release a Best Of Monte La Rue album, tentatively titled Mood Mode.

You have extensive experience in the international record business, however since a couple of years you operate strictly ‘do-it-yourself’. Why is that?

Record labels don’t add any value to the process initiated by me as an artist. I’ve confined myself to working with independent musicians, producers and distributors. That works best for me. I want to operate on a more human, non-corporate level. The corporate world is no longer part of my world. Been there, done that. Not for me, thank you.

What channels do you use to distribute your music?

I use a so-called aggregator, a service that distributes my productions via channels I select myself, like Beatport or iTunes. For every new release I decide what is the best distribution partner or channel.

That implies you have an insider’s knowledge of the music industry. What are the criteria to select the right distributor for your product?

The distributor cares about your release and will follow-up with sales reports, suggestions and various kinds of feedback; it is not somebody that offloads a couple of boxes of cd’s into the shops and that’s it. Distribution is an ongoing process, it involves an ongoing dialogue. Do not aim for a sales peak shortly after release, but invest in a two-year sales route.

For your creative projects, you work with a pool of creative people. How about the business side of things?

On that count, I do all the work myself. I am knowledgeable about contracts and deals. I keep track of developments in studio technology. I keep the pulse of the music industry. It is an ongoing, everyday process.

You are a part-time teacher at the Hanze Hogeschool in Groningen, The Netherlands. What do you teach your students?

Since 2010, I teach in the EMP (Electronics, Media and Production) curriculum. I explain the basics of the music industry to entry-level students. I coach students in their final year how to execute and successfully complete a creative project, including the business side of bringing the project to fruition. My message to them is: doing business is as much fun as being creative. The business side of things is not an obstacle, it is part of the process.

What is the single largest problem facing the music industry today?

Too much output, too many average and sub-standard releases. A&R has been all but eliminated and labels as well as producers clutter the market with a tsunami of sub-par releases. It is my policy to release one product per year tops. I fail to see how three releases a week will establish a fan-base. That’s thinking in short-term peaks, which are unsustainable. That’s working on impulse and it will drain your creativity. I prefer the long run.

Quality control has slipped. How can that issue be resolved?

Music2Deal is part of the solution. It’s a community of music professionals of many stripes, producers as well as business types, which offers an opportunity to garner feedback before you release your music to the public. In general, your music benefits from professional feedback. You break out of the confinement of working by yourself in the studio and profit from professional feedback. It outstrips likes by Facebook friends who do not have a clue since they like everything their friends post.

What is Music2Deal’s role in the current music industry?

Music2Deal enables you to test your music and what it can mean in your corner of the international music market. What are the opportunities? Are there more ways of exploitation than a release per se, like can it be used as sync music? Moreover, I like to see Music2Deal as a bridge to work with musicians and producers outside my local talent pool; it enables me to broaden my horizon. A professional environment is crucial to filter out the noise and stem the chaos. In that respect, Music2Deal offers a helping hand.

English · Interviews

Interview with Stuart Epps

Stuart Epps
Stuart Epps has worked with many great artists, such as Elton John, Robbie Williams and Oasis

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