We recently caught up with Simon Humphrey while he was slaving behind a hot SSL and asked how he recorded the Clash's first album and about his take on music production techniques - Plus a second video featuring Simon talking about microphone choices for recording
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Simon Humphrey has been a top flight music recording engineer for over thirty years and continues to record and produce music based at the Chair Works recording complex in Yorkshire. Starting out at London’s top CBS Studios, Simon gained a grounding in recording techniques at the highest level in all styles of music, working with classical artists such as John Williams though pop music recording was to be Simon’s main work working with many of the seventies well known names. Abba, the Glitter Band, David Essex, Marc Bolan, Rod Argent, Hot Chocolate, Tina Charles, Pan’s People (!), Sailor, Smokie among many others.
In early 1977 punk arrived at CBS in the shape of the Clash, and Simon was chosen to capture the band’s seminal early recordings, now acknowledged as one of punk’s great albums, and for which the band presented Simon with his first gold album in recognition. Simon also recorded the Vibrators first album, gaining his first production credit (london girls ‘live’ at the Marquee), also the Only Ones’ another girl, another planet, a young and unsigned XTC, Manchester’s the Drones and many other New Wave hopefuls. In later years, Simon would also work with Talking Heads’ David Byrne and Television’s Tom Verlaine.
Along with fellow ‘young gun’ Steve Levine, Simon left CBS in 1979 to pursue a freelance career in production and songwriting, releasing his own albums of disco and pop songs, having chart success with bands Secret Affair, the Jags and the Techno Twins, and setting up his own recording studio (‘Hot Nights’) in west London. During the eighties Simon mixed Culture Club’s massive second album, including UK & US number one ‘Karma Chameleon’, recorded Bros’ multi hit debut (when will I be famous?), played bass on a Beach Boys album, engineered for film score ubermaestro Hans Zimmer, made the Birdie Song, and engineered and produced in most of London’s growing number of pro recording studios. In the late eighties, Simon was ready for a new challenge and formed his own band as a writing/production vehicle.
Beijing Spring signed to MCA/Universal in 1990 in a million dollar deal as an attempt to emulate the golden period of English soft rock recording artists such as Fleetwood Mac, but despite moderate chart success, the band disintegrated in legal & musical acrimony two years later. (emulating the ‘Mac’ in this sense only…) After a period working in Denmark (producing five gold selling albums with harmony rock survivors ‘Smokie’), in 1997 Simon relocated to Yorkshire, rebuilding and designing the Radar Rooms studios (now the ChairWorks), and continuing his career as producer and engineer.
Recent sessions have included engineering for Marc Almond and Kid Creole, northern soul legend Tommy Hunt and Sheffield’s blues star Grey Cooper, as well as many soon to be famous local bands. Simon has also contributed to the government’s New Deal for Musicians scheme as an industry consultant and currently lectures at the University of Leeds on music production.
Simon has had a unique and varied career in music recording as an engineer, producer, musician, programmer and studio builder and his love of the recording process is as undiminished today as when he first assisted on his first session in 1973 (for the Shadows' Tony Meehan & Jet Harris).
Simon works mainly at the Chair Works Studios in West Yorkshire.