Producer Ben Hillier has overseen albums by a unprecedented vary of artists together with Elbow, Blur, Nadine Shah and at least three by Depeche Mode. Right here he tells Basic Pop how tensions within the studio – and even a band member leaving – will help the artistic course of… By Andy Jones
After finishing the distinguished Tonmeister course at Surrey College – one which has delivered many a prime document producer – Ben Hillier landed a job with the manufacturing duo of Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osborne.
With them, he quickly realized the humanities of engineering and remixing and spent the remainder of the 90s working with the greats of the manufacturing world (suppose Flood, Stephen Avenue, Alan Moulder amongst many others) earlier than being promoted to the position of producer on Elbow’s debut album…
“My first correct album was Asleep In The Again,” he says. “It was a bit of bizarre as Steve had already produced the album with Elbow once they have been with EMI, however the document firm didn’t launch it and ultimately dropped the band.
“Then Elbow have been picked up by V2 and needed to make the document once more, however by this level they’d moved on and needed to do one thing totally different so solely half the songs that have been on the unique have been on the brand new model.”
Ben helped the band re-record some songs and produced the remainder of the tracks with critically-acclaimed outcomes, and although it could be some years earlier than the band broke via on a significant scale, Ben may inform they ultimately would.
“They at all times had the ambition and the expertise,” he says. “They’re such a stunning bunch and I actually loved making that document with them, I’m actually happy with it. It’s extra left-field than their newer stuff however it’s nonetheless nice.”
As his profession progressed Ben embraced extra diversified and difficult initiatives, one probably awkward one being Blur’s Assume Tank because the band’s Graham Coxon left through the course of. “They didn’t have a guitarist which made it attention-grabbing,” he says.
“Damon [Albarn] then performed a lot of the guitar, Alex [James] performed a bit of bit and it was extraordinarily artistic and actually good enjoyable although they have been a band in disaster. Graham is a very good mate of mine and I’ve achieved 4 solo data with him so it was an odd expertise in that sense, however it meant that Damon was actually up for making an attempt a great deal of stuff.
“I used to be there as they wrote the songs and we kind of drew all of it collectively. The entire recordings just about ended up on the document and we didn’t return and re-record something as that was the sort of really feel we needed – kind of scratchy and thrown collectively.”
Of all of the artists that Ben has labored with, Depeche Mode should be an enormous spotlight. It is a band who typically modified their producers album by album so Ben should be proud to have been requested to come back again to supply a hat-trick of recordings: Taking part in The Angel, Sounds Of The Universe and Delta Machine.
“I really like working with Depeche,” he confirms. “I actually do, and they’re very, excellent. That’s the explanation they’ve been going so lengthy: they’re astonishingly good at what they do. I believe Daniel Miller initially launched us and steered me as a producer.
“They’d achieved the earlier album, Exciter, with Mark Bell who was superior however I believe they needed to maneuver away from the extra techie method with numerous laptops which is what Mark did effectively. So I had a gathering with them and we simply obtained on very well so that they have been like ‘proper let’s do it!’.”
“They’re fairly a difficult band to document due to their setup,” Ben continues. “You sort of need to construct a studio for them as a result of most studios are set as much as document acoustic or stay devices and the management rooms are fairly small whereas all of them should be within the management room on a regular basis.
“So on all of the data I did with them we constructed a management room within the bigger stay room of the studio we have been working in so we may have all of the synths and all the things arrange within the one place.
“They’re very ready and their concepts of demos are absolutely recorded and realised songs,” he provides. “It’s wonderful however it doesn’t depart you plenty of house to maneuver stuff round, so if you wish to change the course of a track it’s important to fully pull it aside and rebuild it.
“It’s fairly irritating as you begin off with this demo that sounds wonderful after which whenever you pull it aside it inevitably sounds worse till you construct it up once more.
“The extra I labored with them, the extra that Martin [Gore] particularly would belief me and keep in mind that we’d most likely wish to rebuild the songs so would depart some house for me to do this, which was nice.”
Which of the three Depeche albums does Ben stay most happy with?
“I actually loved Delta Machine, that felt actually nice,” he replies. “Martin and I have been working with one another higher than earlier than and Martin and Dave [Gahan] have been in an ideal house personally.
“Each time we’d begin a track I used to be getting Dave to do an entire new set of vocal takes and work on different stuff and that drove him mad by the tip of it, however I’m actually happy with the vocals on that document and I hope that Dave is, too.
“They have been realised to a degree that I don’t suppose we achieved on the primary two data, not that they have been dangerous in any approach, it’s simply that Dave is such an ideal singer that I simply needed to get the very best efficiency that I may.”
There are, in fact, well-documented tensions between Gore and Gahan on current albums over what number of of every’s songs are used. Did Ben see any of those tensions floor?
“There was nothing horrible,” he remembers. “It undoubtedly got here into the studio and it’s one thing that I may see, and with all of the expertise of working with so many bands I knew that it was one thing that I must confront head on.
“You don’t wish to depart one thing like that to fester, it’s important to discuss it, which I used to be fairly pleased to do with each of them.
“I’m very a lot an album producer and at all times a lot happier after I can get my tooth into a group of songs and discover that they swimsuit one another very well so you might be constructing a illustration of a band’s musical panorama. From my perspective it’s all in regards to the album.”