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a top group is something which would
hardly be contemplated today. Festival
appearances and the demands of the
European and American touring circuit
meant that a sound engineer was an
essential extra member of the band.
The knock on effects were that bigger
vans were needed to transport the
gear and the band and professional
management was needed to pull the
whole thing together – all combining
to raise the threshold of viability a few
notches. For most of the bands on the
circuit, it was a lifestyle rather than a
career. This suited some people more
than others. Survival as a solo musician
was difficult enough, but to sustain a
band over so many years is an incredible
achievement. Somebody was only half
joking when they said “For a musician, a
stint in Battlefield Band could be likened
to a period of National service but without
the medals or the pensions.”
Creating a classic album is a team game.
•Alasdair White •Mike Katz
Robin Morton had spent some years on
the road as a member of Boys of the
Lough before developing the studio at
Temple so he knows the creative process
from all the angles. Robin’s style of
production is to get from the musicians
what they want to do. In some recording
sessions with other musicians, Robin had
found himself arranging the tracks in the
studio. At one time (not with Battlefield)
he stopped a recording session and
encouraged the musicians to go away
and to come back when they had decided
what they wanted to do!
Battlefield’s, and Robin’s, style of working
in the studio is very much to record the
whole band live. The end result of this
approach is that Battlefield albums have
always been more band efforts than
studio productions. “You can ‘sweeten’
the tracks later, perhaps by adding a
whistle to a set of tunes being played on
the pipes - something which you couldn’t
do live, but to get the dynamics and
Photos by John Slavin @
interaction between musicians you need
•Alan Reid •Sean O’ Donnell
the live performance.”
There are downsides to live recording with no real pattern to what comes first - the album or
“This doesn’t mean that there was no material that hasn’t been honed in performance. the tour. “It’s not like rock ‘n’ roll. We are never
production in the albums. During the “These guys are all good enough musicians to quite sure what the touring schedule is going to
recording sessions I make suggestions play the tune when they only half know them. be or even all the right time to release an album.
which the band would either take on Nowadays they want to spend more time to really We have a saying at Temple – ‘We don’t release
board or dismiss. “In the studio my learn the tune so that they can play them the way albums, they escape!’ We probably made ‘Home
contribution is often to hear what is they, as musicians, want to play them.” is Where the Van Is’ in a week, nowadays it can
rhythmically wrong rather than melodically take much longer as people want to go home and
wrong. An album is different from a live “Sometimes we have said that an album mixes see their wives of an evening rather than spending
performance, with a live performance itself but it doesn’t. Occasionally when recording hours and hours in the studio.”
the audience adds something extra. To we decide to leave something to be fixed later
create that same buzz on a recording at the mixing stage, but it is really important for Clearly priorities change, but Battlefield Band
needs a different extra. Often musicians me as the producer to listen to see that it can in goes on. Recognition of an album as a classic
hear in their heads what is supposed to fact be fixed. It is not always that simple. It is is great to have and recognition by the Celtic
be happening but that is not necessarily easy to think that you can sort things out later Connections festival in Glasgow, who chose the
what they are playing. Sometimes it takes in the studio with drop ins, but drop ins are not album for one of their series of ‘Classic Album
to producer to drag it out from them.” actually very easy. That is why they pay top-class Concerts’, adds a further element of street cred,
American session musicians large amounts of but it is the daily business of live performance
“Sometimes the spontaneous tracks money. They can do overdubs as if it is a live that keeps the band ticking. Each performance
sound of the best. At one time just before performance. It is a real skill. I say ‘Don’t correct has the potential to be a memorable and unique
a tour in America, we decided that we the mistakes, learn the bloody tunes, play them experience for those in the audience. It’s great to
needed another track to complete an and then record them!” look back, but better to look forward. The words
album and it ended up being recorded at of one of Battlefield’s promotional slogan ‘Forward
three in the morning before flying out the With an almost constant touring schedule and by with Scotland’s Past’ sums the situation up well.
next day. It worked perfectly.” now a huge output in terms of recordings, there is These guys are a class act! q
The Living Tradition - Page 24
Issue82.indd 24 24/2/09 10:47:42 pm
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