From PIL and Kate Bush to Nick Cave and Arcade Fire, Nick Launay has built a career working with artists who like to explore the outer limits.
Thirty years into his career, London-born, LA-based producer Nick Launay has never been more in demand. From early work on key albums by the likes of PIL and Kate Bush, Launay's most recent credits include Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds' Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, Supergrass's Diamond Hoo Ha and Arcade Fire's Neon Bible. But if the leap from Bush to Cave suggests a desire to work with an eclectic range of musicians, former punk rocker Launay believes that one quality unites all of the artists he has worked with: a hunger for experimentation and a certain non-conformist attitude. "My taste in music still to this day is the more adventurous, anarchistic, go-against-the-rules kind of music," he says. "Those are the bands I choose to work with — the ones that are trying to do something different, trying to get a reaction, trying to make people think."
On their 30th anniversary and fresh from their induction into the ARIA Hall Of Fame, Midnight Oil have delivered their rockin' greatest with 'Flat Chat'. Read on as drummer Rob Hirst gives us the low-down on what really went on behind the scenes when creating each of the 18 high energy Oils classics, in this track-by-track 'Flat Chat' breakdown.
Some people work fastidiously to build a career while others naturally fall into one. For Nick Launay, his transformation from British punk to respected music producer with a perennial punk spirit was kismet — pure and simple. Born in England but raised in Spain between the ages nine and 16, Launay returned to England when the punk movement exploded in the late '70s. Entranced by the scene and inspired by his lifelong passion for music, he decided that he wanted to make records.
When was the first time you worked with PIL. How did you get involved?
The first time was when I had just started as a very new assistant engineer at the Townhouse studios in London, which back then belonged to Virgin (PIL's Label) They came in to work on a song "Home is where the heart is" None of the other assistant engineers wanted to work with PIL because of John's reputation for throwing up, walking all over the mixing console, and being verbally abusive. Being the youngest and newest assistant, I got put on the session.... I couldn't believe my luck, I had been a fan since they started, and had also bought tickets to see the sex pistols three times, only to find they had been canceled.
Science and rock'n'roll make for awkward bedfellows. In fact if Science tried to hop into bed with Rock'n'roll it'd probably find itself kneed in the groin and sent to sleep on the couch. Sure, inside the studio it's easy to baffle the unitiated with science - 'Gee there's so many dials and buttons' - but in the recording of rock'n'roll you're not going to call on the men in lab coats, no, you're far more likely to call Nick Launay.
For Nick Launay making a rock'n'roll record is about attitude.
"I think everybody gets a break in life. Sometimes a few.", believes producer Nick Launay. As a man who has enjoyed nearly 20 successful years as a producer/engineer, Launay has had his fair share of "breaks" and he isn't afraid to admit it. What sets this eclectic soul apart, however, is his ability to identify and create these "breaks" and then turn them to his advantage. His story is one that almost circles the globe visiting a variety of musical formats along the way and making a staggering number of hit records in the process. This success has propelled Launay to his current position at the top of the list of Alternative Rock Producers. Throughout his distinguished career, Launay has always been known as a producer/engineer who is "ahead of his time" bringing an audacious and distinctive touch to each one of his projects.
How did you get started as a producer?
I was born one.
Who were your inspirations?
Toni Visconti, David Bowie (The Producer), Steve Lillywhite, Eno
You're obviously in fairly high demand as a producer. What do you think people expect when they choose you to do an album?
I would assume they had heard some of my work, so they know what they are getting into. For the most part I think they expect me to get the best out of their performance, and represent their current songs in a way that will hopefully get through to people out there in big wide world, I think they also expect me to add a certain amount of the unexpected Audio madness.
Nick, when did you first start experimenting with mixing?
When I was 9 years old, on my dads 2 track Grundig reel to reel tape Recorder. I dubbed the vocals from a Beatles song onto one channel (taken from an early stereo vinyl release, where the all vocals were on their own,panned to the Left hand channel only), and a repetitive tape loop of the rhythm track from a Rolling Stones song called "Satanic majesties request" on the other channel. When played back together hey created an interesting Beatlesk tribal 'REMIX'
Around what time period?
Before you were born!