Adam Satur is a 19-year-old student at Napier University, Edinburgh. He is also a musician and producer, and is currently working as part of the sound crew on “Grimm Tales” (I’ll let him tell you more about that).
He is a personal friend of mine who has been known to let people draw on him with marker pens. (Long story-don’t ask). In this interview he tells us about “Grimm Tales” and what a music producer actually does.
Alan: Tell us one outrageous fact about yourself?
Adam: How about three? I’m half Scottish, half Anglo-Indian. Anyone who knows me personally has probably heard that fact a million times by now but I still find it interesting. My friend Erica thinks I’m a lesbian. Lastly, my parents had a cat before I was born which they had to get rid of once I was born as it kept trying to sleep on me for warmth, smothering me in the process.
Alan: Can you tell us about Grimm Tales?
Adam: Grimm Tales is a play which I and another guy named Matthew Hawke are composing music and working sound design for. It’s being put on by Theatre Paradok in Edinburgh this month as Edinburgh University’s English Literature Department endorsed play. It takes the audience from a little boy’s bedroom, following him through a series of fairy tales, as compiled by the Brothers Grimm, but with some exciting twists which make it a Theatre Paradok production! It’s going to be very sensory and a LOT of fun. Certainly not suitable for children, though! It’s on at the MacEwan Hall from 16-20 March 2010, £6/£5 concession and students which is wholly worth it. Believe me; I’m not making any money from it and the takings just go to make the next play better rather than to pay anyone so this is just honesty!
Alan: What made you want to take part in this project (Grimm Tales)?
Adam: I’ve worked with Theatre Paradok in the past. I composed a couple of pieces for their last production in November which was Paradok’s cross dressed and twisted take on Shakespeare’s “Taming Of The Shrew” and was the sound technician for their amazing production of Angela Carter’s “Nights at the Circus”. Each semester people have the opportunity to pitch an idea to the society which is then voted on to decide on the next production. In the pitch for Grimm the directors mentioned creepy, conceptual electronic music which I felt summed up what I do perfectly! It’s a lot of work and quite stressful but I know the production will be amazing so it will all pay off.
Alan: Who influences you musically?
Adam: I’m a huge Frank Zappa fan. I admire him as a composer, bandleader, musician, thinker, amateur politician. He was a very inspiring man. He’s my main influence with most things and just trying to constantly push myself. My list of other influences is too long to go into in much depth but Imogen Heap is a big one; the use of many layers within the music but most of them doing different things that all manage to work together. I work very similarly in that I use lots of different layers to stop me becoming bored. I find composition to be like solving a 3 dimensional puzzle and if I have too many instruments doing the same thing I often become bored. It makes finishing lots in a short time pretty difficult when I work by that method but it makes the process more interesting than just churning out a load of things in a short time. The complication makes you feel like Greg House or Jack Bauer!
Where was I? Oh yeah; Zappa, Heap. I’m influenced by a vast range of things. Glassjaw’s first album; a load of metal such as Pantera, Machine Head; lots of acoustic and older folksy stuff like James Taylor; a lot of intelligent hip-hop such as Astronautalis (@astronautalis, very cool guy), Jehst, Lupe Fiasco, J Tha Undead, Immortal technique. I think I’ll stop there or it’ll just turn into a screen-capture of my iTunes library.
Alan: Who influences your production style?
Adam: Brian “BT” Transeau, @BT for all you tweeters, is my main production influence for most of my stuff, from a technical standpoint. I’ve not really worked alongside enough people to judge in terms of producing as a more mentoring role. BT’s sound is very clean and slick but with lots of texture. He’s world renowned for that sort of stuff. I learn a lot just from listening to his production.
Alan: What exactly does a producer do?
Adam: Ask that to five different producers and you’ll probably receive at least four fairly different answers. Ask five more and you’ll probably have a few answers of ‘no idea’! It depends heavily on what the musician or band wants. Some want you just to be a recording engineer with more opinions on what gear to use to make the album sound its best. Others want someone who can be like a temporary extra member of the band who can comment on ways to make what they’ve worked on in the rehearsal room sound more finalised as a song. Some want a performance coach to suggest different ways to play a riff or lick to make it easier or just sound bigger and better.
Alan: So which are you?
Adam: I’d say I’m more of the last two when working with others but at least a little of all three is necessary in case that’s what the recording needs. With being mainly from a composition background and mindset, which I found my way into from playing instruments, I find it a lot easier more natural and rewarding to advise people on what they’re playing and how they’re playing it. The results of simple things like playing a chord differently can really bring a piece of music to life and when you witness that happening there’s a real sense of achievement.
Alan: What is the difference between a producer and an executive producer?
Adam: Executive producer is really a film and television role more than a music role. Again it seems the sort of role that most people who do it don’t know what it is that they actually do. Within film and television producers are more along the lines of music producers who make creative suggestions and decisions. The producers decide on whether a script needs changed or what plot devices they think just don’t work. They usually get into that role by being investors in the film; executive producers just give more money!
All that being said I am hopefully starting soon with work on a wee thriller with the feel of a zombie film but with a different storyline and a competent female lead who’s not scary-butch. I’ll be largely producer on that, with a bunch of script and composition roles as well. Just a small project with some friends with different creative experience and similar opinions. We went to see “The Crazies” recently and discussed afterwards that we’re a bit bored of female characters in most zombie films being incompetent beyond belief or just so butch that they’re just men with vaginas so we decided to write our own film to combat that. It’s set in Edinburgh and, if the script I’m working on goes ahead, features the vaults under Edinburgh quite a lot. The setting means I can put some wee tasteful Scottish undertones to the music so I’m looking forward to trying out that effect. It should be fun!
Alan: Do you think shows like “X-Factor” and “Making The Band” are bad for the music industry?
Adam: I don’t think they’re an unthinking black hole of evil but they have their downsides, as do games like “Guitar Hero” and all that lot. They make money for the industry through royalties from TV shows and games which is never a bad thing. They raise interest in taking part in music as well but they put the focus on the wrong parts of it. The whole X-Factor vs. RATM battle resulted in people laughing at Joe McElderry for achieving a number 2 single with his debut and he was apparently upset by it. Most people need to spend years to get anywhere near that so people are being disillusioned into thinking being on MTV 20 times per day is a bad thing but I think there needs to just be more from serious musicians to carry on from the interest created by these shows and steer it in a more realistic yet fulfilling direction. ‘Making The Album’ type shows are a good step along the way but more needs to be done to combat this horrible obsession with fleeting recognition.
Alan: What else do you dislike about the music industry?
Adam: It’s pretty difficult to say what I hate about the music industry.
Alan: Well try.
Adam: I like certain elements of where it’s coming from and also where it’s going, but I dislike certain elements of both as well. I like that the focus of musicians’ careers is becoming live performance again as I feel that’s the real proving ground of a musician but I dislike that these circumstances are a result of music becoming less valued these days. It’s a cycle of treating it more like a product than an art form to try to entice people with a quick, easy and shiny advertising method but easy piracy technology means that there are still big losses which leads the to an increase in the product over art method which makes people pay less attention to the easy to buy charts so pirate a bunch of music to try to find something good etc..
The music industry seems to be finding its way back to the hands of the creative minded people and working back into an artistic and interesting industry with care, thought and effort into the overall impression of what’s creative which is giving modern music its value back.
In terms of the music industry itself I hate the cookie-cutter mentality. It’s been going on forever so whether it’s a trend is questionable but it’s certainly a very prominent process at the moment. I know it’s pretty vital for filling playlists as the good and innovative musicians rarely work quickly enough to fill a 3 hour playlist in the time it takes a trend to grow but the lower-quality alternatives detract from the innovation of the progenators of these scenes.
In terms of music itself I like some stuff of most styles. Most genres have their gems and their dirt; it’s just a case of trying to find the gems.
The whole ‘intentionally innocent’ sound has been getting old for the last 6 months. I’m bored of this whole intentionally underdeveloped and consciously badly dressed, clashy fashion in music, graphics and clothing. I don’t understand it. Maybe I’m just growing old before my time but it seems counterproductive. Give me a nice shirt, a jacket that doesn’t clash and a song where the writer knows what they want to do. That being said, everyone should listen to Imogen Heap more. She’s the epitome of the good things I mentioned.
Alan: If you started your own label and money was no object who would you sign and why?
Adam: I like this question. That’s a tough one as there are so many. There are loads of amazing bands cropping up in Edinburgh at the moment, many of whom I have the honour of knowing on a personal level. I’m mates with a band called Vasquez (www.myspace.com/wearevasquez) whose music I am absolutely in love with. It’s spazzy, upbeat-poppy rock with vaguely hardcore punk tinges sprinkled about. So catchy, brilliantly written, amazingly played, mindblowing music by really sound guys. Think a catchier yet more manly version of The Mars Volta but without the vocals, swapping it for more punky intensity instead. I saw them probably 6/7 times within a 2.5 month period. I’m always hounding for new music for me to listen to so I suppose if I had them on a label it’d be the same only I would make a bit of money out of it!
Honestly if it’s in the top friends on my myspace page then I’d probably love to sign it. Even If it’s not on my page, if it’s on the top friends of them I’d probably sign it. Meursault, Pinky Suavo, The Japanese War Effort, Two Light Town, Conquering Animal Sound etc.. That’s just Edinburgh bands! I’d love to sign Astronautalis from Seattle as well. I could write an essay on the amazing bands I adore.
Alan: Who would you like to work with in the future?
Adam: Most of the people I just listed, for sure. Imogen Heap, as I said earlier would be great to work with. Daryl Palumbo from Glassjaw would be fun as he’s a great lyricist and I really enjoy his vocal style. Pretty much anyone with an open mind who is willing to push themselves, push me and be pushed by my.
Alan: On the flip side who would you not like to work with?
Adam: Anyone closed minded and reactionary in that they dislike or shut off from something without being able to provide a reason why. Similarly, the sort of people who try their hardest not to learn any music theory; the sort of people who block their ears when you so much as mention a chord name, scale or anything to do with what you or they are actually doing in case, god forbid, they might actually learn something. People who simply have not made the effort to learn I don’t have issue with, there’s a difference between knowledge and stupidity, but people who make a conscious effort not to learn truly are the definition of ‘idiots’, to me. If you don’t want to, even casually, learn things as you go through life then there is no point in living. Life without living and experiencing may as well be spent in a sealed cardboard box.
Alan: Thanks, Adam, for taking the time to speak to me. I wish you good luck with Grimm Tales. Grimm Tales is being performed at Edinburgh’s MacEwan Hall, Bristo Square, 16-20 March 2010. Shows at 18:15 and 21:00 each night. Tickets £6/£5 concession.