What made you take on the Tess concept album project?
I must confess it took a great deal of convincing for me to take it on. I believe it was about the fifth time Michael Blore asked me that I finally said “Yes”. It was by no means due to any kind of disinterest. I just didn’t feel confident that I would have the time, or even the know-how, to do the material justice. But then it dawned on me: exactly how often do people get approached to produce a concept album for a new through-composed musical?
Not often, I’m guessing?
Not to mention being allowed a wealth of creative freedom and an opportunity to work alongside some big names in the industry. From there, I romanticised the idea of producing something that could rival my all-time favourites in the musical theatre concept album form – the original recordings of Jesus Christ Superstar and Chess. And thus, it was safe to say I was hooked.
If I really had to choose, I’d maybe pick the Quartet in Act 2 – a genius moment that is dark and tortured yet, at the same time, consoling and beautiful. Not only does it showcase the brilliance and complexity of the Michaels’ writing, but also the expressive vocal performances of four of our marvellous leads. I also love the dramatic shift and change in mood as it seamless follows on from the contrastingly upbeat and quirky Society Ladies. Another one of my favourites!
What was your favourite track to mix?
That would easily have to be I Always Get My Way. I think I even managed to get the kitchen sink into that one there’s so much going on! However, at one point early on in the mixing phase this song would temporarily become my biggest bane.
Oo, do tell. It is an interview.
We had already recorded a version of I Always Get My Way for the demo we’d put together in 2015 and I had done everything to get that sounding as tremendous as possible.
The energy of the demo version just wasn’t there, the instruments were stepping all over each other and I simply hadn’t done any justice to Tam Mutu’s electrifying performance. It was the one time that I truly felt defeated. I felt I had no choice but to begin again and mix the entire album from scratch, which at that point was already about two-thirds complete. Thankfully, the Michaels were gracious enough to give me the time that I needed to rethink my mixing “game plan”. For the next album mix I started with
I Always Get My Way first and did not even think about moving on to anything else until I was completely satisfied. The song ended up becoming my benchmark for the entire album thereafter.
Can you give us the scoop on any gossip?
Ooh, there’s far too much to tell! But I shall save the Michaels any embarrassment and further damage to their already deplorable reputation –
And focus on myself for this one.
I’m all ears.
As can sometimes happen when recording a multitude of vocal parts for a project as colossal as Tess, I discovered during the early stages of post-production that a few lines in some of the inner parts for the female chorus were completely missing here and there in a couple of numbers.
Most people probably wouldn’t even be able to spot those moments, but they are there. I can certainly hear my voice a mile off.
We should listen now and play “Spot the Prod”!
[He doesn't respond.]
Perhaps another time. What were your technical challenges?
Where do I start?! For me, the greatest challenge was probably making an incalculable number of vocal and instrumental performances (well, 1,306 to be precise!) sound like they were all recorded “as one” in the same room and within the duration of a couple of hours even though they were captured over a period of nine months and across five studios. I probably used every trick in the book to achieve this – and even made up some of my own!
So, killer question, would you do it all again?
I’d love to… but maybe after a decent couple of years’ break at least! As much as I’ve loved dedicating most of my musical focus on Tess it’s definitely nice to be getting more than three hours sleep every night once again.
Three hours sleep? And you still look so young?
Moving on. What’s next for you?
In terms of projects, I have my own album of material that I have been constantly putting on the back burner since 2010, so really I should be getting on with that if I want it to be completed any time before 2040!
I see it now. TESS 2 - T2 - Revenge of the Tessth!
Can I go now?
Sunim Koria was in conversation with Tess administrator Scott Collins.
Thank you for reading and following the progress of Tess. Please feel free to leave a comment. We'd love to hear from you.
Next time on d'Blog... We bring you more news on the Tess journey from score to stage via the radio.
FROM STUDIO TO STAGE
HOW WAS IT FOR YOU?
MASTER AT WORK
INTERVIEW WITH A COMPOSER
ANOTHER MICHAEL'S STORY
THE LAST 5 MONTHS
LONDON STUDIO DAYS
A DAIRYMAID'S DIARY
IN THE STUDIO WITH TAM MUTU
THE ADVENTURE ROLLS ON
IT'S PRE-PRODUCTION TIME!
WHERE ARE ALL THE D'BLOGS?
A HERSTORY (THE FINAL PHASE)
A HERSTORY (PHASE THE 4TH)
THE LYRICIST SPEAKS
RECORDING TESS - THE SINGER
A HERSTORY (PHASE THE 3RD)
A HERSTORY (PHASE THE 2ND)
A HERSTORY (PHASE THE 1ST)
REVIEWS & REVELATIONS
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT ALEC
ONE HELLO IS HOW IT STARTS