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Future Now: At The Coalface

Here’s the next interview in an ongoing series with music industry people who can help give perspective to the changes and predictions for the future of the business.  I’ve included the whole interview as it’s pretty short, but go to my blog (Timothy London) to read it in context and for my own tuppence-worth.

Someone who does both like and understand (music) is Pascal Gabriel, a Belgian born producer/songwriter who first had hits with S’Express and Bomb The Bass in the late 80s.  Since then, he has worked with a huge selection of top pop artists, from New Order, Kylie, Erasure, Ladyhawke, Little Boots, Goldfrapp and Marina And The Diamonds and many more.

How different are the budgets now from ten or fifteen years ago when recording major label artists?

They have been much much reduced. You used to make an album for, on average 100-150k, now if you have 50k that’s not bad.

Is there any change in the way A&R people deal with new signings?  Do you feel that new artists have more say in their production?

Not really. Most of them still haven’t a clue. They just drop different key words that they don’t know the meaning of. The only change IMHO is the vocabulary.

Do you feel any difference in the way that A&R deal with you?  IE: is there more trust, do they listen to your opinions etc

No, not really. See above.

Is there any evidence of the onset of…‘a more genuine and authentic music industry with less cynicism and more integrity all round….’?

Mmm, no, not that I’ve experienced. There has always been good & bad guys, I don’t think the ratio has changed at all.

Have you produced any artists who are self-releasing (on their own label)?   What are the differences in the way an album would be recorded if you have?

Yes, I did an album with Miss Kittin in that way. It was great coz there was just me & her - no A&R involved! Not that I listen to them much in any case, but at least there was no bullshit to listen to! Once Caro & I were happy, that was that, done.

I know you recorded the Andy Bell album all on laptop – do you think the record company would notice any difference in sound when recording like that?  Is there any difference?

I don’t think that most record company employees would notice any difference, no - because it is all very subjective. I’ve heard great mixes ‘in the box’ and disastrous mixes done the olde-fashioned, all-channels-out out of a mixer way.

Plus: I know for a fact that many (if not all) top mixers nowadays all mix ‘in the box’ - some of them for a few years already - so mixing on a laptop is no different, you just have to manage the data better if it overloads the machine, that’s all. You submix, or bounce or freeze stuff so you can do it, it’s very straightforward. After all, it’s all about decision making, and taste - as it’s always been.

What do you think will happen to the music business in the next ten years, how do you think it will change?

The giants will have to change to sustain the profit margin they used to make, for sure…

Already most companies only do 360 deals, and are in effect becoming Entertainment / Marketing companies.  What’s changing is the drive for young artists to sign to those companies. If an artist already has a fanbase, and making a living out of gigs & merchandising, they won’t rush into a poor deal, they’ll do it themselves. So it will create many independents, which can only be a good thing!

Thanks Pascal!

Tim London is a producer/writer/manager, a member of the pop group Soho (famous for one hit wonder Hippychick).  Currently working with psych hip hop boy band Young Fathers and electrorockabilly wild cat, Her Royal Highness.  More at

Reader Comments (3)

I dig the interview.

I'm curious, though: what phrase is the source of your title? I actually just re-read it to find out if Coalface was a band or some such...I'm clueless and curious what the context was.

Tim - I want to convince you to publish your blog posts using full-entry mode on RSS. It generates more interest / traffic. Personally, I rarely click into a partial post..

Cheers Justin. The coalface is the place where the raw product is carved out, in this case the studio with the artist and producer.

Bruce, I'll message you off the page.

May 7 | Registered CommenterTim London

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