“Music producer, musician, record label owner and just another human being doing this thing”, is how he describes himself. Having produce d artists such as Buena Vista Social Club, Katie Noonan, Kate Miller-Heidke, 360, Reichelt and Julia Rose, just to name a few, producer Guy Cooper recently sat down with MouthZoff Magazine to answer a few of our questions.
Story by Peter Muldoon
What did you do before becoming a producer?
I was always into audio. I actually left high school and did a robotics and computer systems engineering for about twoyears, but it was boring and I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life. I was also disc jockeying at the time so I quit engineering and auditioned for the Queensland Conservatorium where I was the first ever DJ to be accepted into the university.
When did you decide this is what you wanted to do?
I have always been into music. I just started recording all my friend’s bands as I was the only one who knew how to use the equipment. At the age of eight I reprogrammed my Commodore 64 to make synthesiser noises.
How did Human Records start?
I’ve been in bands for fifteen or maybe longer years and we’d been touring around and doing our things, booking shows, writing songs, making posters, promoting the shows, going to the show, making the CD, making the artwork, going to the print shop, trying to get a distribution deal and it just occurred to us one day that we were a label and all that was missing was a name for the label. I’m the organised one so I started the label, put my own money into it, invested my own thing, built the website and pretty much did exactly the same thing I had been doing just that now it was under the label.
What makes Human Records different?
I guess it’s that we focus on what makes humans tick. At the end of the day there are lots of things you can do in this world for money and we certainly don’t do music for money, though we need to make money because I’d like my artists to be empowered to do what they do full time because they make amazing music. We don’t sign artists that are looking for cash or are looking for popularity. All of the artists on our label will be making album number ten by the age of sixty because it is a life time dream for them to make music. We try to make an emotional connection and make music that is for human beings, not whales or mice.
In your own words, what is the role of a producer?
I think producers are a facilitator. Someone that can facilitate the music and the direction for an artist. It’s tough writing a song and putting your heart on the line and it’s tough delivering that to an audience. Our artists write songs that mean something to them and each of the songs artists bring in have a really specific poignant meaning to them that maybe I know and they know, but no one else might get and I try to facilitate that into something that can be shared with a wider audience and that’s what recording is. Music exists whether it’s recorded or not. There’s no need to ever go into a studio and hit that red button. You can play that song in your bedroom into your old age and the music still exists perfectly fine.
How much of your work involves having good people skills?
All of it! There’s certainly a different way to talk to musicians than to non-musical people. In some ways they are more easily offended because the y tend to be more connected with their feelings and emotions. All my friends are musicians and I love them and my life wouldn’t be the same without having musicians around me. I think good people skills is particularly important, especially in this industry . It’s all about what that person thinks of you or what that person knows of you, so you got to be a nice guy about and there is really no need to not be a nice guy. At the end of the day the universe is going to do what the universe wants to do. As long as I get to work with nice people that’s the most important thing.
Have you ever turned down any artists that wanted to record with you?
Yeah, definitely. I think I need to be into the music because if I really don’t like it just on a personal level, without even pointing out why I don’t like it, then I can’t make it sound good. It’s very difficult to make something sound good if I don’t really enjoy it. I’ve taken those jobs in the past and it’s just not turned out well for either of us. I have difficulty making it sound sonically pleasant if I don’t actually enjoy it or like it and that’s a big thing for me. In that case, I will just recommend another producer to them that will better suit their music.
Do you have a signature sound?
I didn’t think I did, but I think maybe I do. When people listen to the stuff they tell me that it has a certain tone to it, but I don’t know if that’s my gear or I think its more my ear, more than anything else. At a certain point in any record I’m making, I’m just making music that I like and what I like is based on everything I’ve listened to in my life. I don’t intend to have a signature sound, but once I find a sound for a band I’ll tend to stick with it a little bit.
Do you ever find yourself caught up more in one aspect of being a producer than another?
Yeah, I think so. With some bands it depends on where they’re at in their careers. If its an inexperienced band that haven’t released anything before I find that I spend most of my producing time on the song writing and the technical side of things. When you record with a more experienced band they’ve recorded before and they know what to go through and they don’t come in with songs that are playing over the top of each other or just wouldn’t show up if they couldn’t play it in time. They’re thinking about the breath of the song and the way it flows throughout the track, so then I’m focusing more on the emotion of the recording.
Where do you see the Australian Music Industry in 5 years time?
Probably the same place it is, its not going anywhere anytime soon and it doesn’t need to go anywhere anytime soon. I think the issues we face here in Australia is partly population size and partly cultural, that is our culture isn’t really valued and really we’ve only got a couple of generations of what you would call Australian culture versus a French singer-songwriter with much more history and more value there. People in this country don’t value our culture as much as they should, instead this country is run on sport and entertainment and that’s exactly it, its entertainment that people want more than music. So it will be in exactly the same place it is now with kick-ass musicians writing kick-ass music and some of them will cut through the crap of media and entertainment and cut through to people’s hearts and there will be some great artists making music in their bedrooms that never get seen.
How do you rate Brisbane’s music scene on an international scale?
There is nothing wrong with Brisbane’s music scene. Again, it comes down to having a small population. We have a lot of space and not many people. Most other cities have a bigger music scene, but there is a much bigger population to match. The good thing about Brisbane is that most bands support other bands and other musicians and realise that we’re all this together so let’s just make some cool music and help put on a good show.
Is there any artist that we should currently be keeping an eye on?
Yeah, Lane-Harry & Ike Campbell. They’re two 19 year olds and they’re busting their arse. Since September last year they’ve have done three albums and an EP. They’re working hard and they’re kicking arse and they’re good at what they do. Big things ahead for those guys. Another great artist is Hussy Hicks down on the Gold Coast. They are the greatest band in Queensland without a doubt. Anyone who hasn‘t checked them out should definitely look them up.