Q. What's the plot ?
Retired pop drummer meets classical singer for pop songwriting.
Q Explain the title 'Radio Pop Volume 1' ?
MN : It's Radio Pop because they are the sort of thing that would fit on the more mainstream pop radio stations, like BBC Radio 2, Magic 105.4, Heart 106.2 - less so the urban pop of say, Radio 1 or London's Capital.
And 'Volume 1' as it is the first of a series; the songs for volume 2 have already been written, although we haven't recorded any of them yet, and those for volume 3 are in progress. Volume 1 is just our first outing. We are doing them as compilation albums of singles because that gives a huge creative advantage.
A team-based production line singles model, like the Funk brothers and the Wrecking Crew, with different singers according to the song is much more promising artistically for a writer. We enjoy the freedom of working in whatever genre we feel best suits the song.
(I must emphasise we are not claiming to equal the astonishing talents the of Funk Brothers or the Wrecking Crew, but we have taken the idea of a stream of singles.)
And the industry at large is moving away from the long-term album model; the way things are going is more about song collections than artist based collections. Singles compilations like the 'Now that's what I call music' series remain buoyant even though single artist album sales are generally shrinking.
Doing this singles compilation thing as a writing team means we avoid the narrow corporation pigeon holes - shoe-gazing indie-boy rock, bedsit-angst singer-songwriter, nymph-pop and so forth, and its pre-occupation with the sexuality of puberty as the only marketing strategy.
LW : RPV1 is an eclectic batch of songs. RVP2 and RPV3 will be as well ! Because its what people do anyway - put a mix of their favourite tracks together, regardless of genre.
MN : Before mp3 players, people would do compilation cassettes of their favourite songs. And everyone is fed up of the album that is really two great singles and eight or ten fillers. We're just cutting out the middle man !
LW : The fact that the songs are stylistically different from each other is just what happened naturally. I think that's partly influenced by the differences in our musical backgrounds. It also meant each track needed a different singer, and it was a joy to find and work with our featured singers, Akua, Danusia, Elizabeth, Hazel and Mia, all consummate musicians with completely different styles.
MN : It is a compilation album, not an ‘album’ album, if you see what I mean...hence the sub-title ‘The first eight singles’. And all the tracks are available as stand-alone singles from iTunes, Amazon and the rest as well as our site.
Q. Are you guys a band, a writing team, producers, a label, a studio, a publisher, or what ?
MN : We are writers who have decided to do our own recording and production. We want the freedom to do the song in whatever genre it seems to suit....It's very simple really, we just want to make good singles with the best performers. We can choose whoever we want for each track as it comes.
Q. How did you get together ?
MN : I had been a drummer for years but secretly yearned to write songs myself, and I loved records with orchestras on them, Motown, Philly, tha sort of thing. I often had vivid Bacharach fantasies and I knew that successful songwriters did it on pianos. So I began taking music evening classes at Morley College where Lisa was one of my teachers. But we ended up working together when Lisa needed some pop drums for a small film score she was writing....
LW : I think I was sort of dragged across. Michael persuaded me to try my hand at it.
MN : This whole pop/classical divide thing is really in the marketing rather than in the music; it's not really an issue for musicians themselves. Once you look under the bonnet so to speak, the differences aren’t really there. And so many successful pop records are made by session players with a classical training. And actually a lot of what people call 'classical' music is simply pop from a long time ago. And lots of those huge epic symphonies are based on folk music, the 'world' music of its time.
And all those cover versions the fledgling Beatles learnt in Hamburg taught as much harmonic engineering as any classical music course....in 'Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles' by Dominic Pedler, he goes through all of their Hamburg sets chord by chord and thus showed how they mastered harmony by learning show tunes and standards. Truly a masterpiece of musical scholarship.
LW : For me its fascinating venturing into pop late in the day, rather than in my angst ridden teens.
Q So what what about live performance ?
MN : We are not a performing live band. The costs of re-creating our sound live would be prohibitive....and there would be insurmountable diary problems trying to get all our session people together long enough for a tour. Our job is to write, record and produce the songs.
And as studio workers we are sceptical of the current fashion that the only new music that is any good is that which can be easily and cheaply reproduced live. Which is partly a cover up for economic abuse in which 'live' is being promoted as some kind of antidote to recording artists being forced to give up any hope of any income from selling downloads.
LW : We know the importance of live for the recording process. It is really important to us to use live players as much as possible. Our guest singers, Akua, Danusia, Elizabeth, Hazel and Mia, are all seasoned live performers themselves with their their own careers under way.
MN : They can certainly cut it live. They are all doing their own gigs...so I guess if you want to hear them live, you can, but it will probably mean going to five gigs instead of one, but that’s no bad thing - we have included links to their sites.
Q What's with the little green radio ?
In our studio we have a cheap and cheerful little green radio that we use for testing our mixes.
Q. What were your early influences ?
MN : The bands that I wanted to be in as a kid were the Wrecking Crew and the Funk Brothers.
LW : I didn't hear much pop as a child. I think I was mostly drawn to large romantic classical pieces like piano concertos. I had a secret admiration for Motown and the Beatles. As a classical singer of Schubert lieder I actually appreciated both more because a great song is a great song in any age.
Q When will volumes 2 and 3 be out ?
MN : When we are ready. When we have sold enough copies of Volume 1 to pay the session fees....