On recording ’20th Century Man’ with Gibonni

What’s the album called?

I think Gibo had ’20th Century Man’ in mind. I get that this is how he sees himself but it’s not self-deprecating, more a realistic evaluation of his outlook.

Does it have a lead track?

Not really. Again, Gibo might think that 20th Century Man is a good lead track and it might be. It’s actually the last song we recorded and wasn’t part of the original line up of songs. I am very keen to emphasise that for me the theme of the album is like an insider’s postscript to the Balkan war and it’s atrocities. Strangely, he has managed to make this point without politics, without preaching, without deferment of responsibility, without hatred or blame. More an acceptance of our joint responsibility as humans in conflict.

Do you have a favourite song?

Personal favourite is, My Brother Cain. It states beautifully what I said in the above question… brothers etc. I love the production (dare I say). It came together very quickly and has intensity, drama and real dynamics. Who is that guy, I’d like to hire him!

Where / how were the songs mainly recorded?

A combination of visits to Croatia, Slovenia and Battersea, London. How is a much bigger question! In short, songs started with Gibo and his acoustic, and initial versions were recordings we made (in one day) of his rehearsals with his band. They were his musicians (core instruments). I then stuck up the multi’s of these speedily recorded tracks and started to craft new structures. I added, in most cases, a set of quirky keyboard textures made from more baroque / orchestral sounds processed in unusual ways. I could elaborate here and of course I don’t tire of talking about approaches to production.

Did you go through a process of leading Gibo through the record / getting him to trust or open up to you?

We got on very well from the off. He’s intelligent and receptive to new ideas in every instance. We were also united initially by a shared sense of humour. The truth is however, that nothing inspires trust more than what is coming out of the speakers, and there was no doubting both our efforts and taste from the first progress versions. After this it was easy from the point of view that our trust and vision was mutual.

How do Croatian musicians / performers differ, if at all, in working method?

No difference really. I mean, we have a lot of quality in England when it comes to studio professionalism which may have been apparent to Gibo when working with my team. Gibo’s band performed extremely well in each instance, and I felt their commitment to him and his music inspiring. No clock watching, no unreasonable demands and just a real feeling that we were working together and doing our best to make it work. Beautiful people!

What are the challenges for artists writing and performing outside of their native language?

Gibo is a hero in his own country and the countries of the Balkans, a serious talent as a writer / lyricist and inspirational star. Other countries have their own equivalents so I guess our first challenge is to open up other countries to this special talent. English is a good step forward for Gibo as it’s both the mother tongue of Rock and Roll and is also the most international language the world over. Of course it is like writing with his left hand, as his main arsenal is his unique use of words and his available vocabulary is much smaller in English than in Croatian. Diction is also a major issue and in Gibo’s case I think one of our main achievements is to have him communicating very well whilst accepting that there will always be a hint of an accent.

What challenges are there for the producer on a record like this?

Mainly working on the language. I also feel the weight of responsibility and expectation but my primary job is to show commitment to the music and its artistic aspiration. I believe in Gibo first as a person with integrity, and also as a viable and credible artist that should progress, but I know we have to continue the process together.

Is there a common frame of reference you all share when discussing the work in progress?

It sounds bland as a reply, but music is the common denominator. We all saw the road map early on in this process so in reality it’s just about getting to our musical destination and enjoying the ride as much as possible.

Did anything surprise you about making the record?

I think Gibonni is a fantastic songwriter and I found from the first moment that I was able to interface my own skills into what he had to offer. It’s a strange phenomenon, but I always find great music easy to overdub to… everything kind of works, which is a tribute to the starting point. Did Gibonni surprise you?

I knew he was a great artist and already checked out his material before we met. I am by nature positive and always expect people to be cool. I am surprised by him as a human; he is humble, gentle and funny at the same time. I like his approach to writing very much and am inspired by his dedication to his craft. A song is like a special entity and is not a trivial, disposable moment as it is for so many. There is nothing generic about his work and in a world of mediocrity each of these songs are really special.

Any notable guests / or collaborations?

Not yet but it is quite likely we will try and engage in a couple of well considered collaborations. Whilst this is ‘business’ in some respect it won’t be crude or ill considered.