Q: Knowing what you know about then and now, if you had a time
machine, would you take a Pro Tools box or anything from today back to
Abbey Road to help you in the studio?
A: As far as I'm concerned, I had the best training you can possibly
have. And part of that training is getting used to mono through
two-track through four-track on up. I think one of the main lessons it
teaches is how to make a decision, because you have to make decisions on
the fly. These days there's too much of, "Oh well, we can fix it in the
mix or we can fix it in the mastering. Or let's keep this because
someone might need it for the remix or the extended version."
Q: Did everyone or anyone working on Ziggy Stardust know it was going to
be as big as it was at the time?
A: No one at that time, I don't care if it was the Beatles or anyone
else thought that in 30 years time or 40 years time we would still be
talking about those same records. It was generally, the Beatles weren't
quite like this, but the majority of artists from a Bowie to an Elton
John we were doing two albums a year and if an album stayed in the
public's conscience for six months, we were happy. We knew the thing was
successful and on to the next one. We had no idea 30 or 40 years later
we would be talking about the same thing.
Q: OK, so now 30 or 40 years later we are talking about these same
albums and they are on CD. What do you think about the sound of the
current Bowie catalog?
A: For me, it's CD and I don't like CD. My whole thing is, when vinyl
was at its best, there's nothing that could beat it. But vinyl was going
down hill and it was getting worse and worse and so something had to
take over and CD is probably better than vinyl would be by now, but it
is not as good as vinyl was at its best. With "Crime of the Century" the
Supertramp album, at the time A&M was distributed by CBS, that's SONY,
over in Europe. And we were able to get A&M to talk to CBS and get them
to have the first run pressed by the classical division. And so it was
the best vinyl you could get at the time and those first pressings were
absolutely astounding--they were incredible and then it was all down
hill from there.
Q: And so you think that what Steve Hoffman is doing with vinyl pressed
from the original master tape is the way to go compared to CDs?
A: Probably yes. I have to admit I don't have a vinyl setup, I don't
have a turntable. I prefer to look forward rather than back and I look
to the day when the CD is at the same place that vinyl used to be. I
look forward to the next record that I'm going to make, I don't listen
to the old ones very much.
Q: So then do you have an IPOD or CD's or what do you listen to?
A: Well it's a combination. I listen to an IPOD at the gym or walking
or when I'm on a flight. Other times it will be CDs.
Q: Are you surprised at the number of bootlegs there are out there
featuring alternate takes and do you have any theories on how they got
out of Abbey Road?
A: Believe me, we've been over this a lot because when I was working
with George just before he passed on, one of the things we were doing
was trying to organize what was going on with bootlegs and see if there
was some way, as we were going to be reissuing everything, see if we
could put some of the things on the reissues to take some of the wind
out of the sails of the bootleggers. And I have to admit, I was
absolutely astounded at how much was actually out there and I was only
working with George's stuff and not the Beatles. And the problem is, the
record companies aren't particularly interested in stopping it. They are
more interested in people downloading--they'll go after those people-
thats good publicity, but they won't go after bootleggers. And that is
bootlegging is bad for everyone--bootleggers bootleg bootleggers. When I
was listening to them I would hear where someone had copied an out take
from someone else and added some reverb and claimed it was a new mix or
something. It's ridiculous [Ken is started to get annoyed about this].
These are things that the artist never wanted out and it all finishes up
with the artist seeing no money, the writer seeing no money, the record
company seeing no money and the public getting really, really bad
Q: For the stuff that is commercially out there, what do you think about
the sound of the current catalog that is available for the Beatles?
A: First and foremost, none of it's mono, so I hate it all. There
were basically only two albums that were done for stereo as far as the
Beatles were concerned that they were part of and that was Abbey Road
and well even Let It Be they weren't really a part of so only one album
were they a part of that was really going for stereo since Abbey Road
was only done stereo. Ever other album they would spend a lot of time on
the mono and then "Oh, I guess we'd better do the stereo so let's throw
it down quickly." And so to me, everything was made by them intended for
mono-- that's the way it should be heard. And I can't stand the
argument, "Oh, well people like to hear it out of two speakers." They
will hear it out of two speakers, it's just always going to be a center
signal-- so what? That's the way it was meant to be heard.
Q: In an Mix interview in October 2004 when he was talking about mixing
music for surround, Ken Scott said "Crime of the Century by Supertramp
would be the most perfect surround record. But after many phone calls I
discovered it's been farmed out. Boy, was I disappointed." What did Ken
mean by saying that?
A: Well, that says it. I was told by the manager that it was already
in the works and being dealt with and apparently one member of the band
passed some comment about "It will be money for old rope." I don't know
how many Americans understand that, but its English terminology for
getting a fast buck. So obviously they weren't going to spend much time
on it, just get it done, get it out there and hopefully get a few extra
bucks. And they knew if I was part of it it would take longer.
Q: So they don't care whether it is out on SACD or whatever, they just
want the money.
A: That's the impression I was given.
Q: I will say this to Ken: I love your studio engineering work! One
question about Trident Studios in London. I very much like the sound
from records produced there in the 70's. I can hear a very nice room
ambience on records produced at Trident. Can you tell us a little about
Trident studios ?
A: It was a great time. It started off a little rocky because the two
owners had never really had any dealings with a professional sound
studio before, from the technical aspect anyway. One was a musician so
he had only played in studios. So they made some mistakes like buying an
8-track. It was the first 8-track in London and what they did was they
came over to the states and they bought it and took it back. It never
occurred to them that here it is 60 cycles and over in London it is 50
cycles. So it finished up that the 8-track was running at about 12 and a
half inches per second-- which was fine as long as it was the only
8-track in London because everyone had to use that machine to mix. But
as soon as all the other people got 8-tracks, a tape would be recorded
at Trident and then go somewhere else and "Hey, why is it running the
wrong speed?" But all of those things got worked out and then eventually
came the story of "Hey Jude" when I went down there to listen to the
completed thing it sounded absolutely phenomenal and when we got back to
Abbey Road it sounded like *$&#. There was no high end whatsoever and we
spent hours doctoring it to make it sound good and we somewhat
succeeded. I noticed there was a comment by Steve that he said he knew
exactly what was wrong with it and mentioned something about the mids.
So some people notice that it is not as good as it could be, but the
majority of the people don't.
Q: I don't have a specific question to ask, but I too think Trident in
the 70s is THE best "studio sound" if there is such a thing. To me,
Aladdin Sane is one of the most perfect sounding album I know of. So if
there's anything we should know about what made this studio so magic,
I'd be happy to hear it.
A: The engineers primarily. It's always the way. You could have the
greatest studio on earth and if you don't have the right engineers it
isn't going to work. You know with myself-- I know that sounds so
egotistical-- but there were three of us. Myself, Robin Cable and there
was Roy Thomas Baker and we could cover all aspects of what anyone ever
came in with. And I suppose another incredible thing about the place was
the piano. The famous Trident piano sound. You can get close to it in
other studios, but that was the best.
Q: Can you isolate what it was about it? Was it the mikes, the EQ or
just the piano itself?
A: It was the piano itself. The sound was so hard and so edgy you
didn't have to do too much to it to get it sounding good.
Q: I don't own the Lewisohn book and remain puzzled about the existence
of the 27:11 "Helter Skelter" jam. What light, if any, can Mr. Scott
shine on this legendary performance? Is it worthwhile? Who participated?
Were other songs and fragments incorporated in the jam?
A: As I've been saying recently, if someone doesn't remember about
something, don't talk about it. I honestly don't remember it at all so I
can shed no light on it. I've read that as well and I could do some
Q: Well, we'll just have to come back to that question in another
interview... What do you think about the fact that older recordings done
with limited technology sound fresher and more vital than newer
recordings done with state of the art technology. Do you think modern
day producers/engineers are lazier?
A: I don't think it's laziness since a lot of them work their *sses
off. I don't know...as I said at the top, I had the greatest training
you could possibly have and I don't think that kind of training is there
today. I honestly don't know what the training was like over here during
the same time I was in England. Over there we had EMI and Decca and we
all had similar ways of bringing people in and training them and going
through mastering and that sort of thing. Because the whole thing of
going from tape to vinyl was so much different. You had to be so much
more careful about things when you're doing that than you do these days.
When you're going from tape to CD or from digital to CD, you don't have
to worry about phase, you don't have to worry about too much low end--
you can basically do whatever you want. Having all of those
possibilities I don't think is such a good thing if you haven't come up
from a very limited place and expanded from there.
Q: With all the big names that Ken's worked with, I'd be curious to hear
if there were any records he worked on by people who he thought would
become household names (or something like it), but didn't. Records that
he really liked/expected would do well, but which just didn't catch the
public mood for whatever reason, etc. (And if he wants to say Happy The
Man, that'd be even better!)
A: To the person who asked that, I say "Happy The Man". I am always
surprised by the success of a record. I don't make records to sell
records, I make records to please myself and the artist and if I please
other people in doing it the way I do it I'm happy and that's the icing
on the cake.
Some Bowie questions for Ken:
Q: Do you recall anything of the songs "Black Hole Kids", "Only One
Paper Left" and "It's Gonna Rain Again"?
A: No I don't. I have no idea.
Q: Leading up to 2002, Bowie began work on a new Ziggy Stardust project
which was intended to be a soundtrack album to a film. Did you have any
involvement in this?
A: No, I did not.
Q: The first three albums that you produced for Bowie follow the form of
all originals plus one cover. I was wondering if there was a particular
logic behind this or the choice of covers?
A: No, just they were songs that David liked. Itís just the way it
went. Like originally for "Ziggy", "Round and Round" was going to be on
it as well, which was a cover. But that got dropped just because it
didn't feel right with everything else. It wasn't a question of "Oh,
it's a cover and we've already got one of those so just drop it." Itís
just however the cards fell or were dealt or whatever.
Q: According to the credits, Hunky Dory was entirely produced by you
whilst the next three were co-produced with Bowie. Was there much change
in your working process or contribution between albums?
A: The person that asked that question didn't look at the cover for
Hunky Dory correctly. It said, "Produced by Ken Scott, assisted by the
actor" the actor being David. So it was always a joint effort. I
consider every album I do to be a joint effort. I'm there to put across
what the artist wants to put across not myself. In which case I need the
input from them so it becomes a co-production.
Q: Do you know anything about a rumored sequel to the Pin Ups project
that was to cover such tracks as "Ladytron" (Roxy Music), "No Fun" (The
Stooges), "God Only Knows" (The Beach Boys) and "Summer in the City" (Lovin'
Spoonful)? And speaking of covers, do you know if David ever recorded a
studio version of "My Death" or for that matter "I Feel Free" and "Gotta
Get a Job"?
A: No idea.
Q: What is you favorite Beatles album? What is your favorite David Bowie
A: I can't really say. They are all entities unto themselves and
while I like tracks on other albums "Ziggy" hangs together extremely
well as a total album, but I think there are better tracks on other
Q: Do you find that a growing concern where in years past people
listened to and liked a whole album by a group, but now whether legally
or illegally people only like a song without regard to the rest of the
work a group does or the rest of the tracks on an album? [this is an
interview, not an English assignment for the run-on sentence
A: To me that is a problem that is being brought about by the major
labels and I can't stand it. I have always fought against the thing of,
"You've got to have a hit single to have a hit album." You don't. Led
Zeppelin proved that. Then Missing Persons did that. We did extremely
well with them and didn't have a hit single, although people think we
did. It's gone from where you need one hit single to you need two,
three, four and they're not giving the artist the room to experiment, to
do a concept album. When the majors die, it will come back again I'm
sure and I can't wait for that. But at the moment, they're still in
charge, they've got the bucks, so that's what we have to live with.
Q: If you isolate the left channel at the beginning of "The Bewlay
Brothers", you can clearly hear a squeaking stool, then David smoking a
joint. Can you confirm that? It could have easily been erased from the
final mix. Why did you leave it?
A: Yes there is a chair squeaking and it's not David having a
joint--its David having a regular cigarette. And that was something that
I guess I don't know if it happened accidentally and we liked it or if
it was done on purpose, I can't remember. So yes it is a chair squeaking
and yes it is David taking a puff on a cigarette and not a joint. I
never saw David ever use drugs in the studio when I was there working
Q: How much did Lennon & McCartney interact during recording sessions?
Did they pick at each other's work or stick mostly to tinkering with
their own songs? And do you recall any singular moments of changing
something in a song on a whim that became a legendary aspect of the
A: Well towards the end it was-- it became separated, they were-- all
four of them were together for the basic tracks. But then they tended
to-- if it was a Paul song it was him doing almost everything and so on.
Sometimes they, he, needed other band members so they would interact at
that point. In the earlier days, they definitely interacted more. I
think that the Lennon/McCartney song situation-- that was always taken
care of before they came into the studio. They didn't have time in the
beginning to be able to write in the studio. And a lot of the time the
songs had been completed outside and with quite a few of them everyone
even knew the songs before they came into the studio. Some time it was,
"OK, I've got this one. Let's work this out" and it would be a new song
for everybody, but a lot of times they had even demo'd them--the White
Q: There have been many articles, stories and books about John and Paul
in the studio and how they didn't get along. How much of that is true
and how much of that is the tabloid journalism that feeds peoples' need
for controversy and problems. Was it really all that bad?
A: Not the whole time, absolutely not. Much more of a big deal has
been made about it than I saw. Now my mind was often on other things, I
was learning my gig-- the first session I did as an engineer was a
Beatles session. I had been brought downstairs, I had been sitting in on
sessions for two weeks and boom, on a Saturday I'm working with the
Beatles as an engineer. I'd never touched the board up to that point.
Q: Were you scared? Or were you confident you could do it? Were they
that big by then and you were thinking "Oh my gosh, I'm working with the
A: Are you kidding, this was Magical Mystery Tour. So yea, by that
time they were big. I was absolutely petrified. And I was shaking. And
as it turned out we got nothing, it was a complete write off-- I had no
idea what I was doing. But the thing was I'd had a long term
relationship with them going back to "Hard Day's Night" on and off. And
I think that because of that they were willing to cut me some slack and
let me continue and eventually we got some good stuff together. Were
there problems during "The White Album"? At times there were. Let's face
it, Ringo quit--there must have been problems. I remember one occasion
when we were doing an overdub of brass on one of Paul's songs, Mother
Nature's Son I believe, and John and Ringo walked in in the middle of it
and suddenly you could cut the atmosphere with a knife. It was suddenly
so tense, just for the half an hour they were there and then after they
left it went back to normal. So there were moments of it, but you can
hear from some of the bootlegs out there some of the earlier takes of
like "Blackbird". You can hear John talking to Paul over the talk back
and they're laughing and joking- they're having a great time. But people
think they weren't even talking at that point. There were some really
Q: I would like to ask Ken about his recollections of the mixing
sessions for "Hunky Dory" and ".....Ziggy Stardust.....Ē I find it
fascinating that David Bowie would not really be involved in the mixing!
Was Ken in complete control of how the mixes turned out or did David
give him some guidelines beforehand?
A: I was in complete control as such, the basis, of course was set up
by the recording. It wasn't like it can be today where you'll hand a
finished recording off to be mixed and they'll overdub and pull stuff
out or that kind of thing. What we put down on the multi-track was what
we were going to use. So there were certain parameters there that were
fixed, but from there on-- the balance of everything, the effects, all
of that kind of thing was up to me.
Q: I love that drum/handclap intro to "Soul Love" with the fantastic
sounding reverb - was it a "plate" or a chamber?
A: It was a plate-- Trident didn't have any chambers.
Q: Do you have a preference for one over the other or do they each have
their own applications?
A: It depends. Obviously with a chamber it's there and you can't
modify it. With a plate you can change the times and everything so
that's better for different things.
Q: Can Ken tell us a little more about his method of mixing different
sections of a song and splicing the resulting mixes together to create
the whole mix? Was he a pioneer of this method or was it common
A: Pioneer is a strong word, but I had never come across anyone else
doing it before. I really don't know if I was the only one doing it or
whatever. It came out of necessity for me. When it came to mixing the
Bowie stuff, some times it would just be me-- I wouldn't have a second
or anyone and to be able to make the changes that I wanted to make
during the mixing I had to do it in sections. And I got used to that
method rather quickly and really enjoyed doing it that way.
Q: What did the members of Supertramp think when they had a good look at
the cover photo of "Crisis? What Crisis?"
A: I remember the picture, but I can only guess what is being
referred to. I only have a CD copy so the picture is really small, but
I'm guessing there is a bulge of some kind somewhere based on the way
the question was worded and icon that was used.
Q: For any given Beatles track, how much was he responsible for the
track's "sound," how much was George Martin, and how much was the
Beatles? In other words, who made the mixing decisions? Engineer vs.
Producer vs. Artist?
A: It changed during their entire existence. When they first started
they weren't even allowed at mixes, so at that point it would have been
Norman Smith and George. In fact I would have to say in the beginning it
would very much be Norman because back then the producer- A and R is
Artist and Repertoire and so they were more concerned with the material
and the arrangement and the sound wasn't really considered all that
important back then. So to start off with it definitely would have been
Norman and later when they became more educated about the studio and
what can be done and can't be done and what they would like to have done
they started to take more control to where it was probably 50-50. Well
it would have been 33 1/3, 33 1/3 and 33 1/3 because as it went on
George also became more interested in the sound as well. And I would
have to say towards the end, they had the final say about everything.
There are several tracks on the White Album where when it was time to
mix they would just say, "Full bass and full treble on every track." and
that's what it would be.
Q: What does Ken remember of the final 24 hour session for the White
Album? How was the running order decided?
A: It was grueling. It was my first ever 24 hour session and we were
all over the place. With regard to running orders or anything like that,
I'm sure we tried several, I can't remember. I was doing things in one
control room; John Smith was probably somewhere else sorting out and
putting the running order together with someone. They were listening to
bits and pieces-- everything was going on throughout the studios of
Abbey Road so what anyone actually finished up doing on that day I don't
Q: OK here is that section... Finally, how did he and Emerick get along?
What about "second engineers" such as Chris Thomas, Glyn Johns, Alan
Parsons, and (gasp!) Peter Mew? What does he think of the current crop
at Abbey Road--Rouse, Cobbin, Mew et al.?
A: Well Geoff and I were close friends for a long period of time. It
obviously started to change when he was at Apple and I was at Trident.
But then once I left Trident I never saw him again until recently when
he wanted to interview me for his book. I notice the question asks about
second engineers Chris Thomas and Glyn Johns. They weren't second
engineers, Chris was Georges stand in as producer and Glyn on Let It Be
was the engineer and some of Abbey Road if I remember correctly. As to
the current crop of engineers, Allan Rouse is great. He knows so much
about all of the tapes and the recorded material. Pete Cobbin I've met
once. At the end of that interview on Record Production.com at Abbey
Road, Pete came down to meet me and we spoke for 20 maybe 25 minutes.
That was the first time I had met him. I have to say I do like what he
does to a point. If something is going to be done like splitting up all
of the bounces on the four tracks and all of that kind of thing, I think
he has the right attitude for doing it. He tries to get as close as he
can to the original with the spread. Itís tough because as I said
before, the Beatles were involved in the mono-- that's how they wanted
them to be heard. If you're going to do it different ways, I think he is
talented enough to do it properly and he has the fact that he is a total
Beatles fan and so he wants it to be good and he's going to get it was
good as he can without the Beatles input.
Q: But you agree with Steve that the original mix, which in this case
was mono, was the original mix with the karma.
A: Yes, but then I also did a 5.1 mix of Ziggy which I love-- and I
love doing. Was that wrong? I don't know.
Q: True, but you were there at the beginning with that also so you knew
what was intended originally.
A: Well I guess that may make some difference.
Q: Speaking of the 5.1 mix, when mixing classic albums such as Ziggy
into 5.1, how do you approach it in terms of the placement of the
instruments, vocals, etc? Do you go for discreet placement, or do you
prefer to spread the sound around? Was this a challenge since, unless
you knew something nobody else did, these were never intended for 5.1?
A: I tried to put myself into the same kind of head space as I would have been in back then and try to think the same way, I guess. What I
tried to do sound wise was match up the sound as close as I could to the
original, and do the same kinds of things that were on the original, but
with the added depth and being able to use behind as well. I didn't do
anything like putting David singing behind me or anything like that. I
kept certain things very specifically placed, but then other things,
they could do whatever.
Q: But now Ken, some people might love the 5.1 but at the same time you
are said you only like the original mono vinyl versions of things.
Doesn't that kind of make you a hypocrite?
A: Well, my argument to that with regard to Ziggy, which is the only
5.1 I've done, the original, stereo, is available if people want to hear
that. And if they want to hear something different, they can also hear
the 5.1 whereas with the Beatles, the mono isn't even available for
people to get-- which bothers me to no end. I think that should be out
there. If they want to hear the stereo, if they want to hear the 5.1,
that's their choice.
Q: So you aren't opposed to alternate versions as long as the original
is still available so the choice is up to the listener and not the
company that only puts out one version.
Q: I've often said, one of the ten albums I would take to the Island
would be "Birds of Fire" by the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Ken, could you
give us some recollections of the making of that recording ?
A: That was amazing. Well, lets see we first started off in England.
I should give a little prep to this. When I was over in France recording
one of the Elton John albums, it was a communal sort of dining room and
so every night at dinner there would be some music playing and we would
all be sitting at this long table eating. Well, Elton and Gus Dudgen
were fans of Mahavishnu Orchestra's first album "Inner Mounting Flame"
and that used to be playing. Now, I would catch snippets of the music
when everyone sort of went a bit silent and then people would start
talking again. And I just got the impression that it was a bunch of
completely whacked out musicians each playing in a different studio-- no
one quite knowing what was going on. I thought it was terrible. Then I'm
back in England mixing the Elton album and I get this phone call from
CBS and it's "John McLaughlin would like to meet you and they are coming
over to England to do a TV show and he'd like to meet you with regards
to doing the next album." My immediate reaction was "OK, send me over a
copy of the album so I can sit down and listen to it properly" and was
absolutely blown away. And then seeing them play live at the TV show
took me even further. And then getting to work with them was amazing. We
started it off in England and then finished if off at Electric Lady in
Q: Why is that done? You said you recorded Elton in France and mixed in
England and you started Mahavishnu Orchestra in England and finished in
New York. Is that for convenience, practicality, scheduling-- is one
better for recording and another better for mixing sound wise? Why are
albums recorded at more than one studio?
A: OK. With Elton, for a period of time in England there was a tax
benefit to artists writing their songs and recording them out of
England. They wouldn't get taxed as much if the money was kept outside
of England and the money would be paid to wherever they wrote and
recorded the songs. So that was the reason for recording in France. But
of course Gus and I had done so much at Trident, we wanted to mix there
so that's where we'd go for mixing. With regards to Mahavishnu it was
pure practicality. They were Americans and lived over here and just
happened to be over in England between gigs and thats where we started
Q: Jan Hammer did a lot of experimentation recording synths through amps
later on, but a lot of the BoF stuff sounds pretty clean -- was the
MiniMoog recorded direct? The Mini does sound like it's going through an
amp on the title track -- that was the debut of Jan's "guitar sound" and
I always loved that it seemed to be placed as the first solo on the
album just to make you assume it's McLaughlin at first!
A: Sometimes. It was a combination. It was see what kind of thing was
needed during the run through and if it worked being clean then take
direct and if it didn't we'd take it through the amp.
Q: And on Visions of the Emerald Beyond, that was the band with the
string quartet and horn section -- was any of that recorded with the
entire band playing at once (and how did you pull that off?) or was it
A: Quiet honestly I can't remember. A lot of it would have been
overdubbed but I'm not sure if it would have been that way on
Q: Now when that is done, what thought process goes into whether a whole
orchestra is brought in or one instrument dubbing several parts? Is it
A: With Mahavishnu that didn't even come up since they were all
there. In a normal situation it's horses for courses. If you only want
an orchestra on one track, then you only get them when the rest is
finished so you can bring them in to overdub. Sometimes there is...
There is a different sound when you double track or quadruple track or
whatever a musician or a whole orchestra. If you double track it's a
different effect to having a large orchestra so sometimes its preferable
to do the double tracking rather than having the larger orchestra.
Q: I thought Missing Person's debut Capitol LP sounded a little safe and
reticent (compared to seeing them live in a club shortly before it's
release). Was this Capitol's call or yours?
A: Mine. We did most of the recording before they even had to deal
with Capital. That was totally my call so I will live or die by that
Q: How do you walk that tightrope in getting your records to sound
clear, detailed and still have a natural warmth? It sounds like you
"pull down" certain frequencies to create space (i.e lower midrange).
See Ken they want to know all of your deep dark secrets!
A: I know, and I wish I knew them to be able to put them out there. I
really don't know. I don't pull certain frequencies down-- every now and
again I will duck out a little around 240[hz] there's a honkyness there
on bass and bass drum that I don't always like so I'll pull a little
down there, but that's it. Interestingly enough I do have certain set
frequencies that I add at which goes back to the old EMI days. It's very
similar to the EQ that was available there then. I know it, I like it
and it's what I use. And it comes down to getting the sound from the
studio and getting that right. It comes down to using the right mikes.
And if you get those two things write you don't have to do much.
Q: Earlier I asked if you would like to take back something like a Pro
Tools box back in a time machine to which you answered "No." Is there
anything that is available now that you would like to have had then even
just for convenience? Is there anything that is made better-- maybe a
better compressor or is the tape stock better?
A: Not that I can think of. Anything that one would have had would
have made it different. And I don't think it should have been different.
I think its grown exactly the way it should have done.
Q: Despite your crystal ball failing back then to predict where we are
now, I would still like you to peer into it again and tell me where you
see things going in the coming years. We've seen the evolution of the
MUSIC business become the music BUSINESS. Will that continue or will it
come around again away from the big companies and back to the artists?
A: Yes, I believe totally in the pendulum theory where it swings back
one way and then the other. I don't know how much its my crystal ball or
my hope, but I want the demise of the majors.
Q: But that might put you out of a job since nobody could afford to have
you work on their projects anymore as they work on it in their own
A: Hey, if I like something, I won't be expensive. There seems to be
this idea that someone like me would cost a fortune. Not necessarily.
Look, take someone like Missing Persons. I quit everything for a period
of time to look after them because I had total faith in them. To me,
it's the music. If the going rate was five bucks an hour for doing an
album, I'd be there. If other people are making lots of money, of course
I'm going to try and make lots of money, but that's not the bottom line.
The bottom line was and still is the music. And as long as I'm enjoying
doing that, whatever. And always remember that the act will be making
far more money from each record sold if he/she/they don't have to recoup
all the ridiculous costs that majors now charge them and they're getting
all of the money from the sales not just a ridiculously small
Q: One last thing. How do you spend your typical day while you're
sitting around waiting for the next big thing to come around?
A: Let's see. Remodeling a house, puttering around in the garden.
Right now I've been answering a lot of E-mails about a certain book that
I'm not going to get in to. I've been helping to put together a website
for myself. I'm also starting to do talks/lectures, if you will, which I
want to start taking around the country and doing. When I started at
Abbey Road, there were engineers there that had been around since the
beginning of sound recording. And the stories that they had and the
things that they imparted to us were absolutely astounding. We used to
sit around and listen to them tell stories and it would blow us away.
Unfortunately at that time, there wasn't much interest in them other
than from those working at the studio so all of those stories have gone
by the wayside. I don't want to see the same thing happen for the next
generation-- especially the way the music business has gone. I see it as
very, very important that the stories from my era be put out and put out
TRUTHFULLY...I had to get that in. So people can learn from what went
down then. There were good things and bad things that happened and they
need to know both of those sides.
Q: You don't like only the tabloid versions going out. You want them to
hear the good stuff as well.
A: I want them to know all of it, but it needs to be truthful. That
whole thing about the Beatles animosity toward each other the whole time
they were doing the White album. It was nothing like that. There were
MOMENTS when it got hard, but a lot of the time it was fine, it really
was. Yeah, I just want it to be out there correctly. There's been enough
******** written that isn't correct and there are a lot of people who
take credit for things they shouldn't take credit for. And there are
people who should be given credit but aren't, like Norman Smith. What he
did for the Beatles in the beginning-- invaluable. He was experimenting
as well. He was giving them a different sound than most people got in
England at that time. And that helped them. That kind of thing needs to
be brought out. The first talk I'm doing is basically about my time with
Bowie and I'll give some insight to that. I've got a break down of a
couple of the multi-tracks that I can play track by track so the people
can hear the sound as it was and then what happens to it in the mix and
some stories and just that kind of thing. So I'm getting all of that
organized. I guess that's a normal day.
An aside from me, Ken. A big hand please for Doug. He did an unenviable
task amazingly well. Thanks Doug.
My pleasure Ken. And I'm confident there are enough questions maybe we
can do this again soon. Thank you very much.
BONUS: For those who missed it, here are some questions
that Ken and I didn't get to in our interview, but were asked. In a
couple of cases we did cover them, but Ken answered them in a thread on
the forum as well. Here is that section:
Q: I'd love to hear Ken's recollections of working with Syd Barrett and
Pink Floyd during the late 1967 Apples and Oranges era. What was Syd
like in the studio? Was he reasonably together or was it apparent that
he was cracking up?
A: Quite honestly I remember very little about working specifically
with Syd. The one thing that does spring to mind and I hope I'm
remembering it correctly is one Saturday he had a session booked which I
was supposed to do. Session's supposed to start at 2:30 no sign of Syd.
At 5:30, the time the afternoon session is supposed to end, still no
sign so myself and my assistant go round to the pub to eat. We return
for the 7:00 start of the evening session and security tells us Syd
arrived at 6:00, waited for half an hour then left saying he'd be back.
You have to know how this is going to end. We hung around until the
supposed end of session, 10:00, leave and are told on Monday he turned
up at 11:00. Not too together but I don't thing it's quite a sign of his
Q: Most of the outtakes were liberated during the making of the 1983
Abbey Rd Video Show. One of the engineers helped himself to several
reels and made copies.
A: I have to say Chris you might be right and you might be wrong on
that. I, and probably a lot of others, have spent much time discussing
this at Abbey Road. No one has ever got to the bottom of it. I know what
the dastardly bootleggers say, but they are the last people I would
expect to tell the truth.
Q: When you first met David Bowie, I believe he still had his long "Laureen
Bacall" hair. What was your first impression of him? And as silly as the
question may sound, do you remember the first time you saw him with his
Ziggy haircut? I don't mean the exact date, of course, just the
situation. What was your and everyone else's reaction? Apart from "It
Ain't Easy", which is known to be a leftover from the "Hunky Dory"
sessions, do you remember whether David recorded any "Ziggy Stardust"
track still with his long hair?
A: I don't remember at all. Sorry.
Q: - If you isolate the left channel at the beginning of "The Bewlay
Brothers", you can clearly hear a squeaking stool, then David smoking a
joint. Can you confirm that? It could have easily been erased from the
final mix. Why did you leave it?
A: I can confirm the sounds are there. I can also confirm it's NOT a
joint. To the best of my knowledge db used nothing in the studio as long
as I worked with him. I guess it was left because we liked it. Not sure.
Q: Why was "Bombers" replaced by "Fill Your Heart" on "Hunky Dory"? Some
bootlegs have "Bombers" segueing into "Andy Warhol" as it would have
been on the album. Had you already mixed it that way? Was there any
difficulty in replacing it?
A: This thing of alternate tracks always haunts me. For the longest
time I didn't even remember a song called "Bombers". So having said that
I guess you realise that I'm going to say "I don't remember".
Q: When the previously unreleased "Sweet Head" was included as a bonus
track in the David Bowie Ryko reissues, it sounded like a finished
recording at first hearing, but comparing it to the other tracks on the
"Ziggy Stardust" album, it has no backing or double-tracked vocals. How
did you like it? Do you feel like adding final touches when you hear it?
Q: Were you disappointed that you were not given the chance to have any
degree of involvement when "Ziggy Stardust, The Motion Picture" was
finally released in the 80's? And then again in the recently released
Anniversary Edition on DVD? I know you did a first mix of the concert,
but were you there during the actual performance? (The commentary track
by director D.A. Pennebaker and Tony Visconti is interesting to hear,
but full of inaccuracies. Couldn't they have checked their facts before
A: Actually I never got the chance to mix it. I, along with Roy
Thomas Baker, recorded it, but then the movie was shelved so no more
work was done on it. By the time the project was resurrected David was
back working with Tony. Hey your comment about them checking facts
sounds like me bitching about Geoff. I guess no one bothers these days.
And lastly yes I was disappointed.
Q: The production on David Bowie's "Aladdin Sane" is far more lavish
than on "Ziggy Stardust", not to mention the additional musicians and
back-up singers. Why was that album given such a deluxe treatment? Was
it more difficult to produce than "Ziggy"? What were the basic
A: We did what felt right. That's all we ever did.
Q: I understand Trevor Bolder had been fired after the "Ziggy farewell"
concert, but was asked to come back for "Pin Ups" when Jack Bruce
declined to join David's band. As a result, how was the atmosphere
during the album's recording sessions?
A: OK I guess. Trevor was a pro. He did what he knew he had to do.
Q: Did you have any involvement in the "1980 Floor Show"?
A: I recorded the sound for it.
Q: Piano player Mike Garson's insistence on converting fellow band
members to Scientology has become legendary in Bowie history. Do you
recall any of that? Did he try to convert you? Just for the record, Mike
has long given up Scientology and has been playing with David again
since the Outside tour in 1995.
A: He never preached it to me. I happened to have several
scientologists around me at that time and none of them ever pushed it at
me. The one thing he did do though was something I only understood at a
much later date. When it was time for him to leave France and return to
England, he told me he had bought way too many things, couldn't pack
everything and would I take some things back for him. Sure thing, as he
gives me a whole bunch of books. It was much later that I realized that
at that time it was against the law for a non citizen to take anything
connected with scientology into England. I guess I was his mule.
Q: Is there anything on the Bowie albums that you produced that you can
mention as being your idea?
A: Way too long ago to remember anything like that.
Q: Are there any interesting anecdotes of your sessions with Bowie that
you could share with us?
Q: How did you like the new directions David Bowie pursued after you
worked with him? Did "Young Americans" surprise you? And "Low"? Would
you have produced these two albums if you had been invited to do it? (I,
for one, had been a fan for less than a year when David released "Young
Americans" and I was very disappointed. Even though I could see that it
was a greatly produced album, it was not my David Bowie. When I became a
Bowie fan I thought he would always be that kind of rock and roll figure
like Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Alice Cooper. Today I realize he built a
diverse and long-lasting body of work and I admire him even more for
that, but at the time I didn't like his new directions. I'm curious to
hear Ken's opinion about it.)
A: I think db and I had gone about as far as we could together, so I
don't think I would have even if given the chance.
Q: What was the last time you spoke to David as his producer? Was there
any kind of farewell talk between you? Since then, have you spoken with
him again or seen any of his concerts?
A: The last time we worked together was to record 1980 Floor Show.
Production wise it was 1984/Dodo. And yes we are in touch and I have
been to some of his concerts. That last tour was f*^@ing amazing.
Q: What are your favorite acts? Do you think the music of the 60's and
70's was better? Are there any new groups or artists that you like?
A: The Killers, Scissor Sisters and Avenged Sevenfold. There is no
better or worse as far as talent goes. As far as "the business" goes,
much, much, much better in the 60's and 70's.
I better stop or I'll go on forever.
Q: I shouldn't have read your post, Mal. Now I have another question for
Ken. Incidentally, I had been told by a fellow fan that the single mix
of "Starman" was different, but I have never heard it. I happen to have
the "Fashion" 7" picture disc collection, do you know if the single mix
is there? I'll have to check it when I get home.
Anyway, here's my additional question: the 30th Anniversary Edition of
"Aladdin Sane" included the single mix of "The Jean Genie". I heard it
on headphones and compared it to the album mix. Although they are both
in stereo, the single mix has the instruments closer together whereas
the album mix has a far wider separation. Why were some songs mixed
differently for single release? Was there a technical reason for it?
A: Jean Genie was recorded whilst the band was on tour in the States.
The single mix was done by the original engineer. I mixed it for the
Q: One pair of mixes I am particularly interested in are the single and
album mixes of "Starman". The single has a fantastic loud sound for the
repeated A note over the A -> G section that leads into the chorus
whereas the album mix is considerably less exciting due to that A -> G
section being rather subdued. I wonder if the "loud" single mix is an
example of Ken's "mixing in sections" method (see below) while the
quiter one is a straight mix? Why would they use the mix with less
impact for the album? [What I am also dying to know is why the single
mix of "Starman" (ie the one with the loud brigde) has not been made
available on CD although I wouldn't expect Ken to necessarily know the
aswer to that].
A: I was unaware of different mixes being done for album and single,
other than Jean Genie.
Q: Finally, can Ken tell us a little more about his method of mixing
different sections of a song and splicing the resulting mixes together
to create the whole mix? Was he a pioneer of this method or was it
common practice? I know Brian Wilson used to splice different sections
together from different takes to create a track but mixing different
sections of the same performance separately and splicing those together
is a new concept to me! What a great idea .
I am guessing that "Quicksand" may be an example of this mix method
since it has a natural break where the guitar harmonics are used and
then the doubled acoustic picking in the left and right channels sounds
like it has been mixed separately and edited in - also the verses and
choruses are very distinct. Was that track mixed with the splicing
method? Are there other example that may be less obvious that Ken would
like to tell us about in more detail - any particularly difficult
sections or mixes using this method that he's particularly proud of?
A: To use a non Bowie recording as an example. "Bloody Well Right" by
Supertramp. Starts, Blam, quickly fade everything out but the solo
wurlitzer. At the next Blam, edit so I could get all of the band tracks
up without any tape noise, quickly fade everything but solo Wurlitzer
and so on and so forth. It came down to if I wanted to make changes I
couldn't make whilst a mix was in progress... EDIT.
Q: I'd like to ask Mr. Scott if he can tell us something about recording
Hot Water with Level 42... BTW The Master Mix is great!
A: That whole album was hard. I'm used to the majority of the
material for an album being written and arranged before going into the
studio. With that one we went in with a bunch of grooves and everything
else was written once those grooves were recorded. Very hard for me. But
I'm glad you like how it came out. Thanks.