In this new interview for Oasis Recording Information, recording engineer Dave Scott recalls working on the band’s early studio sessions at The Pink Museum in Liverpool and Monnow Valley Studios in Wales.
Can you say how you came to be involved in the recording sessions for Definitely Maybe?
I was a freelance live + studio engineer based in Liverpool. I had been recording with The Real People at the Pink Museum for a year or two. Oasis had been doing some demos at the Real People’s rehearsal room and 8 track studio.
I called in there one night after the band (Oasis) had left, I can’t remember why, but I had with me a recording I had just done of The Stairs doing Skin Up For Me Baby. Coylie was there with Tony and Chris Griffiths so I played the DAT for them. Coyley was buzzing on it and we kind of connected. I think that’s where the booking at “the pink” came from, in combination with Chris and Tony’s influence. This session was actually the Supersonic session and after that Noel called me and said he wanted me and the dog (Elsa) to record his album. Five minutes earlier I had been offered the job of playing lead guitar for the Australian Pink Floyd on a world tour so I had to make a decision there and then… the Oasis album. No contest. I can still remember my mate John shouting down the stairs to me “DAVE!! THERE’S SOMEONE CALLED NOEL ON THE PHONE FOR YOU!”
When did you first meet the band and what did you make of them as individuals? Was it a good atmosphere in the studio?
We first met in Manchester at a studio called Out of the Blue. I was freelancing again and was recording/producing a session for Bonehead’s band The Rain, which also included Guigsy and Tony McCarroll. They had this guy as lead singer who was quite useless but I saw something good in the solidity of Bonehead’s rhythm guitar playing. We all got on really well I remember, even after he asked for my opinion and I commented on the band’s need for a singer. Later on in the session this guy turned up with some guitars for Bonehead’s overdubs. He said he reckoned his younger brother could do a better job on the vocals. The guy with the guitars and younger brother turned out to be Noel.
I understand the first session you engineered for the band was at the Pink Museum studios in Liverpool, where they had planned to record Bring it on Down as their first single. This plan changed when, according to Noel, they couldn’t get the drumming right, and instead worked on finishing an instrumental which became Supersonic. What are your memories of this session? Any details on the recording and mixing techniques would be great.
We had been trying to get a decent take of I Will Believe actually but it was going nowhere. After numerous attempts, the energy – which had not really been there anyway – started falling off to an all-time low. The band took a break and we moved on to do Take Me Away, which took around 30 minutes if I remember rightly, as it was all Noel on his own. One take stuff, no probs. We overdubbed the slide guitar which was an Epiphone acoustic played with a half pint glass I seem to remember. Coylie put it through an old Roland Space Echo and then I mixed it in 5 minutes.
I was really worried about the main song of the session so I had a quiet word with Tony Griffiths (who had by now sobered up a bit) and suggested that he speak to Noel and Coylie about trying something different. I had seen the band support The Real People a couple of days before and thought they were a great rock’n’roll band whereas I Will Believe was, by comparison, shoe-gazer shit. I thought it may be possible to just create something in the 12 hours we had left. I had done many long sessions in that studio and knew it was a very inspirational place to work on brand new unformed material. Tony spoke to the band and Coylie and we decided to try it. It was a risk because I had no more spare tape and it would mean erasing at least one take of I Will Believe.
So the band started playing this jam they had done in soundcheck. Noel shouted the chords to Bonehead while he improvised some words and Bonehead relayed it to Guigsy who was in the room with Tony, the drummer. After about 15 minutes, that was it. Bonehead was playing my old Gibson SG through Chris Griffiths’ JCM900, the bass was Di’d and amped, I think through a Hiwatt and a 4×12. We kept the drums, bass and rhythm guitar and then overdubbed some lead guitar. I put Noel’s WEM amp in the stone room with an SM57 close mic and a U87 about 8 feet away. After one take Noel took a break while I organised the monitor mix. I thought there was something a bit too rock about the guitars so I put Noel’s guitar slightly out of tune and asked him to do another take right away. I kept both lead guitar takes as they sat together quite well (hard panned close mics and the reverse for the ambience), as did some of the guide guitar which makes an appearance at the very end of the song (I was told to erase it but didn’t as I thought there were a couple of useful phrases there).
Noel wanted a drink before he wrote the lyrics for Liam. He said whiskey gave him a bad head and beer was too heavy. I said that I’d just returned from France on the plane and had drunk G+T as there was no Vodka (my usual) on the plane. The effect of the G+T was really buzzy, almost speedy. So, Noel got some G+T from the offy (hence the line “feeling supersonic, give me…” etc). While he was writing the words down, my dog Elsa farted loudly and jumped off the couch revealing an old stain from years ago. Bonehead said “Dave! Your dog’s followed through!”. Noel quickly incorporated that into the song.
Lyrics finished, Liam read them, listened to Noel’s guide vocal melody, did the recording in one take with a drop in for a mistake in the middle. Amazing! Then Tony Griffiths did the “Aaah” backing vocals in about 5 layers. He really is the master at that stuff and quite instantaneous. After that we did a tambourine and a couple of tracks of hand claps. I had to erase the hi-hat to record the tambourine and the claps were put in the spaces on other tracks. I wasn’t too happy with the drum solo intro so I suggested (and demonstrated) a technique to Noel of scraping the plec along the strings to create a certain sound. I imagined something like the intro to Peter Gabriel’s The Intruder but Noel did something slightly different and quicker.
I mixed the track very quickly, putting the vocals up with a PCM70 reverb and a TC2290 delay. I then put the lead guitars in using the room ambience more than the close mics. After that, rhythm guitar, bass, drums with a rev7 for muddy reverb, then everything else. There was no automation at all on the desk and just a 3 band eq, although it was a 1969 Neve, which sounded great. The main monitors couldn’t be trusted so I used NS10s but not very good ones (hence hardly any bass guitar and crappy drum sounds). The drums were never listened to on their own, just mixed into the track so when I heard the intro was just gonna be drums I was horrified and had no time to fix them. It was mixed down to 16bit domestic quality DAT via several metres of unbalanced cheap cable with RCA connectors, and to cassette which sounded better!
We referenced to a CD and realised we needed more top end so I just went across the mixer turning up the highs, then repeated the mix. I had no idea then that it would be released like that, I thought I was doing a quick monitor mix. I would love the chance to do that mix again, knowing what I know now!
How long did Supersonic take to record and was it ever remixed? (The instrumental version has some minor differences to the released mix, including the bass being more audible than the finished version – could this be from a monitor mix?)
The whole Supersonic thing took 11 hours. As far as I know it was never remixed. I’ve never heard the instrumental until now, unless I did it at the time and forgot! No two mixes could be the same because of the lack of automation. There were no other monitor mixes. There was no time. The final mix is just a monitor mix.
Do you remember anything about the extended version of Supersonic that Noel mentions in this quote?: ‘The version [of Supersonic] that’s on [Definitely Maybe] and on the single fades out, but originally that song went for fucking days, with lots of mad guitar, radio interference and all kinds of things. Perhaps we’ll release a full-length version one day.’ (quoted in a 1994 interview for NME reprinted in the NME Oasis 1991 – 2009 Collectors edition magazine, p. 11)
Supersonic actually ends about three seconds after the fade out, except for the drums and bass. I did the mix as soon as we had finished the overdubs and was it never remixed afterwards. There are no other mixes as far as I am aware. I just listened to the instrumental and the mix is just too close to the one I did for it to have been redone by someone else. The way the guide guitars enter at the end of the song is the give away for me (the chordy ones I was told to erase but didn’t ‘cos I knew I was going to need something other than the lead guitar line to finish the fade with). Usually, when I have done a mix, I will mute all the vocals and run an instrumental. This was common practice at the end of a session until the advent of digital recording and mixing, where you can recall the exact mix whenever you want. On an analogue set up such as we had (which was proper old analogue i.e. 1969 EMI-Neve console, Studer A800 tape machine) you have to do the instrumental there and then because you will never be able to recreate the mix in exactly the same way ever again. For some reason, probably better mastering, the instrumental sounds better than the backing on the full track.
I think Noel was thinking of Slide Away in that quote. It did go on for ever and evolved into an I am the Walrus type thing. It was my suggestion to keep Slide Away in its original form and do a cover of Walrus for live shows. On the original recording of Slide Away [at Monnow Valley] Noel did some very amusing ad-lib vocals on the guide track, imitating scousers and the like. The full recording must have been about 10 minutes long. I’m not sure if I mentioned last time that Tony the drummer couldn’t understand the concept of alternating between his two crash cymbals (so that we didn’t have all the crashes on one side of the stereo image) so Dave Batchelor had to stand in front of him during the recording and point to each cymbal in turn so he knew which one to hit. I wish we had video of this ‘cos it was priceless! You may be able to hear on the track that the crashes go left-right-left-right.
Some early instrumental mixes of Definitely Maybe have recently surfaced and I wondered if you might be able to identify if this Fade Away instrumental came from the Monnow Valley recording sessions.
Ok re: Fade Away: we didn’t touch that song at Monnow Valley or Liverpool. What I can tell you from listening to the link is that the snare has been replaced with a sample. Tony could never be that consistent and every beat is identical.
Were you involved in the recording of the demo tape Oasis produced with the Real People (the one with the swirling Union Jack logo on the sleeve)? The version of Columbia on there has two samples that are proving hard to identify and I wondered if you might know the source from working on the track at Monnow Valley… They can be heard in this upload of this later studio version done at Sawmills:
Sample 1 (50 secs in) A male voice says: “A man saying ‘I’ve seen so much to disgust mother, take me into your arms…how am I to protect you?’ on the intro.
Sample 2 (3.44 in) What sounds like a Hare Krishna chant on the outro.
Regarding Columbia, the use of samples like the ones you mentioned is a very “Realies” thing to do (as I was making the real people album What’s on the Outside around the same time). Usually Tony Griffiths would just go through radio stations until we found something to record. I wasn’t involved in the Oasis demos at Porter Street but I did visit around that time. The lyrics for Columbia were from Chris Griffiths who sang them into Liam’s ear while the band were jamming an instrumental. The subject of the song, and the title, come from the Real People’s record deal with Columbia Records, who dropped the band in the summer of ’92 if I remember rightly. I was at Glastonbury Festival with Dr Phibes and the House of Wax Equations at this time. We were chatting with the Realies just before they went on stage when they found out they had been dropped by Columbia and their manager had disappeared with 35,000 pounds VAT money. So they just necked a load of “E”, went on and played a great show. I remember Tony volleying his bass through the air after the last note of the set.
Were Shakermaker and Married With Children attempted at Monnow Valley?
We did record Shakermaker at Monnow Valley and I remember it sounding quite good compared to some of the other songs. I had some copies of the studio session (and a couple of live takes of Shakemaker) on DAT tapes with all kinds of other priceless stuff on them, like fights, insults, and some incredible comedy double act stuff from Noel and Bonehead. Unfortunately they were nicked from my flat in Liverpool. Anyway I don’t think they used that version and I wasn’t aware of any hassle from Coca Cola. Married With Children wasn’t touched on while I was there, so can’t say. But I reckon not.
Is this instrumental of Cigarettes and Alcohol from the Monnow Valley sessions? Anjali Dutt (engineer on the Sawmills sessions) says it isn’t from the version she worked on, so was wondering if you might be able to identify it.
I’m unsure about that Cigarettes and Alcohol version. There’s extra overdubs been added since I worked on it so it’s difficult to tell but the drums sound crap enough for it to have been Monnow Valley. Really though, I’m not sure.
How long were the band booked in to the Pink Museum and what other songs did they record whilst there? Did they do a version of Shakermaker there?
Two days. Saturday and Sunday. We did Supersonic, Take Me Away, and maybe a version of I Will Believe has survived. Nothing else was recorded.
Was this backing track of Bring it on Down recorded at Pink Museum?
Oasis at Monnow Valley studios, Wales
The first recording sessions for the album were produced by Dave Batchelor at Monnow Valley Studios in Wales; how did Batchelor get involved and what was the atmosphere like going in to record the album?
Dave Batchelor had been the Inspirals’ live sound engineer. Apparently him and Noel liked a lot of the same music.
I personally felt that Dave Batchelor was unhappy because Noel had chosen me to be the engineer. I think he would have liked to have had that choice. I think as producer he should have had the say. I couldn’t connect with him artistically or technically, neither could I get any idea from him what his vision for the album was. This made life very difficult for me. I had rarely worked under other producers and when I had, there had always been a collaboration. I think that the lack of direction and different expectations led to an uncoordinated session with too many compromises.
Can you describe the recording and mixing techniques employed during the Monnow Valley sessions? These seem to have been criticized later on (i.e. Noel and others recall that each instrument was recorded separately, which produced a cleaner sound than they were hoping for). Did the set-up change during the sessions when the band was disappointed with the initial results?
There were many technical issues with the studio which caused a very stop/start kind of session with no flow, which is essential for a band like Oasis. I remember that every mixer channel sounded different, the patch bay was buggered, there were no empty tape reels for editing and splicing, the headphones didn’t sound great, not all the mic lines and tie lines worked, and there was no opportunity before the session to come in and test/fix all this stuff. It became quite stressful although I didn’t communicate many of these issues. I didn’t want to add to the negativity.
As to the techniques, it was fairly standard. I put the kit in the live area which was a mistake as the combination of huge windows and a marble floor made the acoustics uncontrollable. After a few days, we moved the drums.
I wanted to be able to get good live takes of everything and then add what was necessary, as I don’t believe a bass or rhythm guitar overdub can ever be as good as the one live done with the drums. I’m not sure what Dave Batchelor wanted around this subject. He wouldn’t say. We did separate the guitar and bass amps from the kit, that’s normal, but it takes a bit of time with the headphones mixes to get the vibe right.
It’s important to note that this band had done gigs and rehearsals but very little recording and almost no live style recording (i.e. everyone playing together with isolation for the amps). To go fully live without isolation is great if you have a really tight band with a flawless drummer, great backline that’s right for each song etc. We had none of those things and too many chefs.
How did the band get along with Dave Batchelor? Some accounts of this time suggest that their relationship with him was ‘instantly adversarial’, others that it deteriorated over time as the band realised they didn’t like his mixes. Did you agree that these early recordings were lacking in some way and, if so, why?
I think if he’d had it all his way then he could have achieved something but not the Oasis sound. I also don’t think that there was enough emphasis on it being a band. All communication was done through Noel. Myself and Coylie were treated as inconveniences and the rest of the band as children. I think this existed from the start but became annoying and apparent as time went on. I can’t say too much here ‘cos he fired me after a couple of weeks. I didn’t see the rest of what happened but I heard stuff from Liam and Bonehead that made me think I was never gonna hit it off with that guy. He’d kind of decided that before we met.
Can you comment on any differences, musically and / or sonically between Batchelor’s recordings and what was released? I understand that there were several very different takes of Slide Away, one of which was slower and more bombastic, like Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb. How did these different arrangements come about and what did you and the band think of them? Were any of the other songs re-arranged like this?
The tempo of Slide Away was one of the issues that got me fired eventually. We’d been trying to record the song for hours and it was getting really tedious. Not because of the song itself, but because Dave had this tempo in his head that would have made the song something completely different, and the band just couldn’t play that slow anyway. Oasis then had a slow stompy kind of feel to their stuff but that didn’t mean the tempo was slow.
After many hours of just being the recording engineer, I had to say something. I suggested a tempo that I thought they could deal with. Bonehead and Liam instantly said “that’s it!”. We then got the take in the next 20 minutes I think. Batchelor was livid. It was his call and I suppose I was out of order but someone had to rescue the situation, even if it cost me my job.
The other clash was when we were doing some lead guitars on either Slide Away or Live Forever, I can’t remember which. Batchelor had Noel do solo after solo after solo, which is OK but he wanted them all recording. When I said “I’m out of tracks, which do want me to go over?” he said “just record it”. I repeated my question and still got no response other than anger. It’s OK for a musician to behave like that but the producer has to interface the technical with the artistic. I later read some comments by Owen Morris about the ridiculous number of solos on Slide Away.
How long were the band at Monnow Valley? Did all the songs included on the finished album get recorded there?
I think they were there for another two weeks after I left. As far as I know and according to what Coylie told me, they just kept Slide Away.
Did they also record some Rolling Stones covers there (with Noel on vocals)? Do you remember which songs they were and whether they were planned for b-sides?
Not while I was there. Noel did borrow my Let it Bleed album while I was there (I never did get it back!). This may have led to something but I know nothing about that apart from an off the cuff remark Noel made to some journalist somewhere.
The album was then mixed at Olympic Studios in London, with Dave Batchelor bowing out after four days; did you attend these sessions and, if so, what are your memories of them?
I wasn’t involved.
Did you hear the subsequent unreleased version of the album re-recorded at Sawmills and mixed at Eden Studios and what did you think of it?
Slide Away is credited as the only song from the Monnow Valley sessions to feature on the released album (albeit in a remixed form by Owen Morris). Did any others derive from the Monnow Valley sessions?
Not that I’m aware of though you never know. Stories in the press are rarely accurate, even from the horse’s mouth.
What did you think of the finished album and did you think at the time that it would come to be regarded as a classic?
It sounds great in the car and the radio but crap on a real hi-fi. I always look at the punters in nightclubs when anything from that album is played and it still fills the dance floors! It makes me quite proud to have been involved but I’m very aware that we’re not curing cancer here. It’s only rock’n’roll.
Classic status? That’s not for me to say. I leave that to the people who understand pop. I never did. I just loved working with that band. I’ve rarely seen such focus and commitment anywhere else in 31 years.
(c) Dave Scott 2012, 2013.