In this special d'blog, audio engineer Sunim Koria lifts the lid on his studio days with Team Tess.
"The first I heard about TESS was when I met Michael Blore for the first time at my local theatre bar after a show in 2013, but it wouldn't be another two years until I finally sat down with both Michaels to discuss recording the demo.
In all honesty, I was quite apprehensive about my involvement in the project at first, but after the initial discussion I was reassured to discover that the Michaels seemed incredibly easy to work with and, most refreshingly, they were completely open to my creative input from the onset.
Being somewhat of a literary ignorant I wasn't familiar at all with the story of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, but the Michaels were very quick to remedy this by giving me a copy of their “bible" to provide me with all the information that I needed to capture the personalities of the characters and the nature of the complex plot in the soundscape that I would go on to create.
The first listen to the rough recordings of the music that were sent to me completely bowled me over. The music, even in its rawest form, was incredibly beautiful. A solid chemistry between the lyricist and composer was apparent, with the words and music seamlessly bound together - the passion of these guys was strong enough to come through even a basic digitised mock-up. My ideas for producing the demo came as soon as I heard the music and the picture was instantly painted - it’s very rare I reach that level of excitement upon the first listen! However despite this excitement I was now filled with a new apprehension - the task of fitting into this equation. Knowing how to bring this material to life and realise it to its full potential to the best of my ability.
Before I knew it I was introduced to a number of outstanding vocalists who had made a successful career for themselves on the West End circuit; namely Joanna Strand, Antony Lawrence and John McLarnon. All of them were a pleasure to record - no egos whatsoever and nothing less than extraordinary talent. They were the definition of true professionals, with each of them possessing the determination to get it right no matter how many takes it took. They nailed everything, and it’s a privilege for any engineer to have the opportunity to work with performers of such a calibre.
Musically speaking, the two key words for me in putting this demo together were "MASSIVE" and "LUSH" (the capitalisation of those words is everything!). I strived to create a sound that is both beautiful but still have the ability to really "push out" of the speakers. An engineering highlight for me was recording the choral parts for ‘I Always Get My Way’ - overdubbing every vocal line several times individually to give the simulation of an enormous choir in a single room. It was a process that was considerably time consuming, but ultimately rewarding. Also, ‘I Always Get My Way’ was the first of my studio creations where I could really indulge my influence from one of my favourite music producers of all time - Phil Spector - right up to the inclusion of 'Be My Baby' castanets during the song's climactic moments (I hope you didn’t mind, Mr Blore!). The demo we finally created was truly "magical", though the vocal interplay between Joanna and Antony in 'One Look of Love' did it for me most especially - you wouldn't think the two singers recorded their individual parts on completely different days!
I'd love to say that I worked arduously in engineering these songs, but honestly, from the quality material I was given to work with, everything just simply fell into place and nothing was laboured. And of course, no studio session is complete without the obligatory bit of banter (almost always between the two Michaels!), but there was absolutely no antagonism amongst the team; just excellent communication at all levels. The Michaels put complete trust in me and gave me the freedom that any audio engineer in the field longs to have without a single feeling of artistic compromise. This is more than exemplified by what Mr Blore said to me on more than one occasion: "Don't tell me what you want to do, just go ahead and do it!!"
It has been an absolute honour to engineer even such a small portion of this musical masterpiece and I very much hope to be continually involved as the show evolves into a life that it truly deserves.”
Thank you for reading and please feel free to leave a comment.
We’d love to hear from you :)
Next time on d’Blog… composer Michael Blore concludes the Tess herstory and discusses the future of the show
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