The Paul McCartney Project

Nigel Godrich

Feb 28, 1971

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From Wikipedia:

Nigel Timothy Godrich (born 28 February 1971 in Westminster, London) is an English recording engineer, record producer and musician. He is best known for his work with the English rock band Radiohead and is sometimes referred to as the “sixth member” of the band. He is also a member of Atoms for Peace and Ultraísta.

Godrich has also worked with acts such as Paul McCartney, Travis, Beck, Ride, Ultrasound, Jason Falkner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Pavement, Here we go magic, Brazzaville, Air, Natalie Imbruglia, The Divine Comedy, The Sundays, U2, Metric, and R.E.M.

His production technique is notable for its dense layers of sound.

[…] Godrich received his greatest visibility in 2005 for his work on Paul McCartney’s Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, a job he got after being recommended by legendary Beatles producer George Martin. According to interviews, the idea of bringing in a younger producer was for McCartney to challenge himself, and accordingly Godrich fired McCartney’s touring band on the first day’s sessions, and demanded the star abandon songs Godrich felt to be clichéd, over-sentimental or subpar. The resulting album was nominated for several Grammys including Album of the Year, and Godrich was nominated for Producer of the Year.

From an interview of Paul by Gary Crowley (2005 UK promotional only interview CD, recorded July 2005 at Air Studios in London ; full interview available on Chronicles in the Backyard Disc 1):

Nigel Godrich (Radiohead etc) is the producer. Is it correct that Sir George Martin (Beatles’ producer) recommended that you should work with him?

Yeah.  I didn’t know who would produce the album but I knew I wanted the very best and I wasn’t sure who that was so I thought, ‘Well, I’d like George Martin really,’ but he doesn’t produce any more, his son Giles does and George kind of oversees projects but he doesn’t produce, so I rang him and I said, ‘I’m thinking of doing a new album.  I’ve got some songs together.  Who would you recommend?  Who do you think’s the best person around?’ And he got back to me a week or so later and he said, ‘Well, you know, I’ve had a talk with Giles and a few people and the name that seems to be coming up is Nigel Godrich’. And I knew Radiohead stuff and I liked particularly the sounds on it and I think it’s a great sound he gets and that’s particularly important for me; and Travis, I knew he’d done that album, The ‘Invisible Band’ album, and so I liked what he did and I say particularly the sound so we met up just to see if we had the same kind of thing in mind and he did.  I think maybe he went a bit further than I did in as much as he said, ‘I want it to be a great album as well but we’ve got to focus on you, you know, so I’ve been thinking about it, I’ve been talking to people. What would you want in a Paul McCartney album?  Would you want it to sound like him and a good one sort of of that?’ So yeah, it all came through George.

How did Nigel Godrich’s approach to making a record differ from yours?

Basically it was quite similar really except the key thing, I think, was when I started to do the album that two weeks in RAK.  I came in and I said to him, ‘You know, I’d like to work with my live band, because they’re my guys and the last tour we’d been doing we’d been talking about, ‘You know, I can’t wait to go into the next batch of songs, new album.’  Nigel said, ‘You know,’ he said, ‘I’ve been thinking about that.  I’d like to take you out of your safety zone,’ he said. ‘That’s your safety zone.  You know these guys and you know what you’re doing with them,’ he said. ‘ I’d like to kind of get you out of that zone.’  And so it turned out that that basically meant that he’d like me to have a go at drumming for instance whereas Abe, my drummer is a much better drummer than I am but Nigel wanted this sort of English feel, which I’ve got and I’m not a great drummer but I’ve got a feel, so I hear, you know.  I enjoy drumming but it’s the feel that I’ve got.  So he said, ‘I want to try that, you know,’ he said.  ‘Try it,’ so we just tried it on one of the tracks that we’d made with the band and he said, ‘This is what I meant, yeah, you know, this is what I’m looking for’ so gradually I had to really, you know, very embarrassing, I had to say to the guys, ‘Look, he wants to go in this other direction and he’s the producer so I can’t really say, No, you’ve got to work with my band.’  I said, ‘How do you feel about it?’ and they were really cool.  They just said, ‘Look whatever it takes to make a good record.  We’re coming out on tour. We’ll be playing it but whatever it takes to make it, you go and make it,’ so that’s what we did and that I think was the big difference that Nigel brought to it, to how I might have done it with the band, I think, but it did make quite a bit of difference, you know, it’s changed the feel of the album and did mean I was out of my safety zone a bit.  It was like, ‘Oh God, I’ve got to play drums.  Oh God, I’ve got to do this.  Got to think it all up,’ instead of just, ‘Well, you do that bit,’ so it did make it, it was a lot more work for me but, I think he was right to do that.

Did you have any major differences or fallouts with Nigel Godrich?

I think so.  You know it, that was the thing.  I brought in some songs and Nigel would just sort of say, ‘Well, I don’t really like that.’  And, you know, it was like, I thought, ‘Well, you know, had it been in another situation I might have got away with that, thought, well, I’m going to do it, simple as that,’ but with him it was like, ‘Why don’t you like it?’  He said, ‘Well, look, that seems a bit corny, you’ve done better than that.’  And it was really quite cool, you know, and there was none of the sort of yes-man bit which is very easy in my position.  People can sort of say, ‘Well, you’re the one who knows,’ but to be working with a good producer, you know, they’ll say as Nigel did, ‘I’m not really keen on that song.  Let’s not do that one,’ so he’d knock out those songs and then other things, he said, you know, ‘I like the opening line,’ and I said, ‘O.K.’  We nearly came to, you know, it got a bit fraught because I got a bit fed up with it.  I said, ‘Look, tell me what you don’t like.  Don’t just say you don’t like it.  Get very specific.  Let’s go down the lyrics.’  He said, ‘All right, well, I like that opening line’. I said  ‘O.K.,  tick.’  He said, ‘But I don’t like those next.  That’s boring.’  I said, ‘O.K., cross.’  We did that, went all the way down, and I said, ‘What kind of thing are you looking for?’  He said, ‘Well, it’s boring.  It’s been said before.’  ‘O.K. Mmm.’  You know, we had a couple of moments.  Probably the best moment stroke worst moment was I was sitting down to do a bass piece, stick bass on a track and I was feeling great, (Sings) and I was really, ‘O.K. Let’s go.’ And just before I sat down, got the sound, got everything out, knew roughly what I was going to do on the part and then Nigel with the greatest timing ever says, ‘You know that song we were doing the other day, I think it’s crap.’  I went, ‘Oh, yeah.  O.K. Fine, anyway.  Let’s  just get on with the bass,’ but of course I’m going, (Whistles) ‘Plungerino,  Well, O.K.’  (Sings). ‘ What do you mean you don’t like it?’  ‘I don’t really like it.  It’s crap.’  I said, ‘Well, you know what, Nigel, that was not the greatest timing.  I was  just about, you could have waited till I’d done the thing,’ and it was one of them, I just, I lost it, I mean, I didn’t get angry, but I just lost all confidence.  I just thought, ‘Oh, the song was crap, was it?  Great, you know.’  He said, ‘I didn’t think you’d take it like that, didn’t think it’d affect you.’  I said, ‘Well, think again, you know, because it did’ and we had, that was our moment, like pivotal moment on the album and I said, ‘O.K. Fair enough.’  Next day, ‘Let’s get that bass.  Came in, nailed it  somewhat angrily and then when we started putting it back together’ and I said, ‘Look, that was really bad  timing and, you know, I’m used to George Martin, the ultimate diplomat, ‘Paul, do you think, perhaps…?’  I said, ‘No, I don’t think.’  He said, ‘ Well, can we give it a try. And we possibly might…?’ George is that.  Fabulous.  So I think Nigel learned a lot of stuff.  We both learned on the album and then we put the whole thing back together.  Now we knew where we stood and it was like, ‘O.K. if you don’t like it just tell me but not just before I’m going to do a take.  And let’s be very specific.  What don’t you like?’  And so we did that with all the stuff and there was one song that we totally re-made, it was a song that’s called Riding to Vanity Fair.  It’s on the album and we went through it, he said, ‘I don’t like that, don’t like the melody, don’t like blah, blah, blah,’ and so I just got in the studio and said, ‘Right, O.K., how about this?’  ‘Wow, much better,’ So I kind of re-wrote the whole thing and it wasn’t going to make it to the album and it has now and a lot of people are kind of  noticing that track, so what he did was definitely right but caused a couple of tense moments along the way,  but it was good we did it.  I’m much more pleased with the track than when I brought it in.

Last updated on January 14, 2015

Albums, EPs & Singles which Nigel Godrich contributed to

Chaos and Creation in the Backyard

By Paul McCartney • Official album

Contribution: Piano and epiphone acoustic guitar loops, Producer • 14 songs

Fine Line

By Paul McCartney • CD Single

Contribution: Producer • 2 songs


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