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3 Producers
Martin Hannett | Stephen Hague | Steve Osbourne

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Stephen Hague

Artist/Title: New Order Special and the album Republic

Recorded at: Steve & Gillian's gaff, Cheshire, Real World & RAK Studios, London

Date: 1992-1993.

Engineers: Simon Gogerly, Mike Spike Drake, Owen Morris, Richard Chappell.

Assistant Engineers: Ben Findley & Sam Hardaker

Additional Musicians: Audrey Riley, David Rhodes, Andy Duncan & Dee Lewis.

Recording format: Digital tape, MIDI

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American producer Stephen Hague was a similar producer to Martin Hannett only in the sense that he was not shy about sacrificing the original sound of the band in favour of his own vision of the production.  In Hague's case this meant giving the production a dance workout, although how much of this was down to circumstances outside the producers control (band split, record company collapse) and how much was of it was the producers egotistical ambition is debateable.  Hague certainly took things much further than Hannett to the point that, in many of the album tracks, only remnants of the band's original input remains in the final mix with only the vocals and occasional ghostly bass lines in the instrumental breaks to inform the listener who the band are.  In fact, so much of the finished track (and indeed the album) was Hague's own composition that he ended up with a joint writing credit for the whole album.  He worked on the basic music tracks before they were even given to the band, and supervised the entire writing, recording and production process from start to finish like a film director with other producers, engineers and assistants working under him.  Any traditional band vibe ends up practically buried under the layers of dance mix production and session musicians, but then this may have been appropriate for such a dysfunctional and estranged band as New Order in 1992.

 

Special is the most interesting song on the album, if only for the curious and very high-pitched (barely audible) bell chimes used for the intro which are looped all the way through the song (like the electronic drums on Martin Hannett's production of Isolation) and the strong but understated peak of the songs final chorus.  It started life as one of a number of unfinished MIDI files on the computer of drummer Steven Morris, who was in the final stages of recording an album with his fiancée Gillian Gilbert (the bands keyboard player and second guitarist) under the name The Other Two.

 

Usually the songs would be written and rehearsed before the band hit the studio.  In this instance, the album was hastily put together to make money for the bands ailing independent record company (Factory Records) and the bandmembers, who were all involved with their individual side projects at the time (Electronic, Revenge and The Other Two) had not spoken to each other since falling out in 1990.

Stephen Hague's work began in Steve & Gillians home studio in 1992, structuring and patching up the unfinished MIDI compositions to send out to the singer (Bernard Sumner) so that he could come up with lyrics and vocal melodies to work with.  I do not know if Hague had any hand in the actual songwriting beyond sequencing and MIDI composition but it is unlikely.  Bernard visited Steve & Gillian's studio to record guide vocals and some guitar parts on the tracks.  Then a rough mix was sent to Peter Hook in order for him to come up with suitable bass parts for the songs.  Peter later visited Steve and Gillian's studio to lay down his ideas and the songs were finished, at least in demo form.

 

Hague then took the tapes and MIDI files along to RAK Studios.  There he started to refine the sequencing of the songs in a contemporary dance style and the bandmembers came to record their parts for the final mix.  Bernard would have recorded guitars and keyboards in addition to his vocals.  Peter may have recorded some keyboard ideas in addition to his bass.  Steve would have recorded his drums to fit the sequenced beats and chipped in with more programming ideas, keyboard parts and samples.  Gillian will have recorded guitar parts, keyboards and some vocals.

Hague used these parts as elements in his developing dance anthems, which he layered and reprogrammed around Bernard's vocals as though making a remix album.  The album would have been finished in 1992 but the record company, which the album was supposed to be saving, went bust. 

 

The receiver, London Records, did a deal with the band who agreed to release the new album material with them.  Being more of a corporate label, London ordered that the album be remixed and given a much more glossy, commercial sound.  It was at this point that the small army of engineers, producers and additional musicians listed in the album credits above would have come into play under Hague's supervision to meet the early 1993 release deadline.

 

Audrey Riley, credited as an additional musician, would have worked on string arrangements.

David Rhodes is a session guitarist.

Andy Duncan is a session drummer, but would most likely have been used to contribute extra percussion as production details.

Dee Lewis is a vocalist, and would have provided subtle backing vocals.

 

Many of the album tracks were submitted to other remix engineers and producers and the results most sympathetic to the band sound were selected for the album.  The mixes rejected for the album would all eventually end up being released as club mixes, b-sides or cashing in as tacky remix compilations.  This is the reason that the album had so many engineers (basically sub-producers) and assistant engineers.  Unfortunately, the album notes do not specify which engineers worked on which songs.

 

Owen Morris, credited as an engineer, is an established dance producer in his own right and would have worked artistically under Hagues direction, on the remix of some of the album tracks.

Mike Spike Drake is also a remix engineer.

Simon Gogerly has a track record of engineering and mixing.

Richard Chappell is another well-established engineer (Paul Weller, Peter Gabriel etc.) although I cant find any mixing or production credits for him.

 

When I started this section, I wanted to write about a single track - Special - but despite some lengthy Internet research, I have not been able to find specific credits for individual tracks so I have had to write a broader overview of the album production for this producer as opposed to an in-depth analysis of one song.  I thought Hague's work on this album was worth writing about as he had such a profoundly different and wide-ranging task compared to the other two producers.

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Corrections, additional information, observations and constructive criticism are welcomed.  Feel free to e-mail:

 
Copyright Philip Quinton 2002
May be reproduced or sourced for educational purposes