Abbey Road has an extraordinarily talented team of engineers across recording, mixing and mastering. In the first of an occasional series, we meet award winning mastering engineer Frank Arkwright, who tells us the stories behind some of his most iconic work. Over to Frank:
Elton John and George Martin - Candle In The Wind
The biggest selling chart single of all time, over 34 million sales. It’s quite strange being asked by Sir George Martin about the sound.
Coldplay - The Scientist
Listening to it for the first time the day after it was mixed with Chris Martin on the sofa in the studio was pretty mind blowing.
Blur - remastering all their albums
I spent six weeks with Stephen Street and went through about 500 tapes and dats. Every song they’ve done about 230 in all I think. I was in the Oasis camp back in the day but after mastering all of this...
Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
They were virtually living at Spike’s studio, Olympic , and every day for a week 4 or 5 of them would come over when a new track was finished. One of my favourite bands at the time.
The Smiths – Complete
Remastering all their albums and singles. I spent three brilliant weeks with Johnny Marr working on it. He was designing a new Fender Jaguar signature guitar as we worked, and checking out the prototype. He gave me my first guitar lesson. How Soon Is Now of course. Paul Weller and Bernard Butler joined us for some of it, so I was in good company.
The Verve - A Northern Soul
Richard Ashcroft came into the studio barefoot, no shoes and a carrier bag full of his possessions after being evicted from his house by an irate landlord. It was such a good album and preceded Urban Hymns, an all time classic. I imagine he lives somewhere pretty nice now.
Oasis - Hindu Times
I remember before the session I was advised by Noel Gallagher's assistant to expect him to be grumpy when he came in because some other mastering engineer had asked him if he had any better songs! In fact he was in a great mood when he arrived and he was brilliant to work with. Aside from being an incredible musician, he’s an amazing raconteur with a lot of stories to draw on.
Roxy Music - various albums over the years
I learnt a lot about music production from working with Bryan Ferry and quite a bit about style.
The Killers - Somebody Told Me
Originally on a little indie label, they weren’t in the country so we mastered it anyway. This track turned out to be the breakthrough single that turned them into a huge international act.
Bob Marley’s archive in Jamaica had a lot of unreleased gems in it. I was mastering The History Of Jamaican Music and the A+R man produced a 1/4” tape for me to check out. I put it on the tape machine and was presented with the most beautiful song called Lion. Just Bob Marley singing on the right channel and an acoustic guitar on the left. Magical.
Joy Division/New Order
I’ve mastered or remastered all their records over the years. Amazing to work on, and an iconic band. I remember working late one night with the original tapes of Atmosphere and being totally overwhelmed by it’s powerful beauty.
Abba – Gold
I had a red studio at the top of a spiral staircase. It turned into a ‘70s disco for two weeks as I mastered all the production parts for the world. Happy days.
System Of A Down - Mezmerize
System Of A Down were a huge grunge act from the USA and came into my studio at Sony to work on Mezmerize. They were very concerned about piracy and the leaking of tracks before release date which is fair enough. Their security man swept the room for bugs and listening devices which was fine. But at the end of the session late on Sunday night he said “we have to take your computer with us , don’t worry we’ll pay for it” ...OK, well I won’t rush in on Monday.
Read more about Frank here: www.abbeyroad.com/engineer/frank-arkwright