Interview with Will Gosling (1984)
by Mike Bartram (from Country Club)
- What exactly is your role as Big Country's engineer?
- An engineer's job is basically to bridge the gap between the producers and the band's
fantastic concepts and the harsh reality of pratical possibilities. In other words they come
up with idea of how they want something to sound and it would be my job to create the desired
effect using the technology available. Of course it's rarely as clear cut as that. Since
everyone in the band has had quite a lot of studio experience and Steve, of course, used to
engineer himself, they often have a fairly good idea of how to get a certain sound and
sometimes sounds will just come out of pure chance - we may be working towards one particular
angle and stumble across something totally different which, although it bears no relation to
what we originally had in mind, may sound great anyway. It's this open-mindedness which helps
to create the originality of the 'Big Country Sound' - I suppose it's a sort of no-holds-barred
sort of approach.
- Do you feel the importance of your job is not really appreciated by people outside the
- I don't think it's so much a case of my job not really being appreciated, it's more that
most people who haven't spent time in studios don't quite understand an engineer's job. I'm
sure a lot of people imagine an engineer to have a beard and to walk around in a white coat
with a clipboard on his arm like in the old newsreel films of B.B.C. technicians. I think the
fact that Big Country records sound good is really proof that the team works well. I'm not
saying that if I wasn't engineering the records they make wouldn't be as good - but I'm sure
they would be different.
- On hearing a certain record, could you tell if the engineer has done a good job?
- Like all artistic mediums, I don't think it's ever possible to classify any recording as
being good and another as being bad. It's very easy to say why one does or doesn't like a
particular sound - but of course it's all just a matter of taste. I mean I've worked on
records and been disapointed with my engineering and people have come up to me and said how
great they thought it sounded ( and of course vice-versa). Having said that there are a few
things that most engineers would frown upon or applaud - for example a bass that distorts and
rattles unpleasantly and thus be considered a no-no but even then in certain instances this
may be an important contributing factor to the sound of the record. Basically what I'm trying
to say is that I can't necessarily say one engineer has done a good job and another hasn't
but I can say whether or not I like it.
- Are there any engineers you've got a high regard for?
- There's far too many to mention, but the people who spring to mind are Alex Sadkin for
his Grace Jones stuff which has a sort of clarity and space to it unlike anything else I can
remember hearing and whoever engineered "Thriller" by Michael Jackson can't be too bad.
There's also people like Glyn Johns who's technical knowledge is immense (he's engineered and
produced almost all the 60s-70s bands from the Stones to the Eagles and Joan Armitrading). I
must just mention also Martin Levan who made a John Martin album called "Grace And Danger"
which I think sounds fantastic and I always look to as a standard to aim for.
- What other bands have you worked with other than Big Country?
- I started work ar RAK studios so I've done my share of RAK artists: a few Hot Chocolate
and Kim Wilde records were my first adventures in the land of the engineer, but since then
I've worked with Orange Juice quite a lot and I've just finished some work with their drummer
Zeke Manyika whose solo album will be out soon, and also:- Bruce Foxton, The Adventurers,
Care, Twisted Sister, The Pretenders, Thompson Twins, Danse Society and others too numerous
to mention. Actually I find it very hard to remember what I've done - probably if I saw every
record I'd ever worked on I'd be amazed.
- "The Crossing" was recorded at the Manor and RAK studios, why the change to the Swedish
Polar studios, was this move justified by the resulting material recorded over there?
- There were a few reasons for going to Sweden. There were some tax reasons which I don't
understand for working out of the country, and we were originally going to work in a studio
called Compass Point in Nassau in the Bahamas, but it was eventually decided that at the
particular time of year we had to work it would be too hot to be condusive to artistic flow.
So Sweden was chosen as Steve had worked at Polar before and been happy with the results and
also I think there was the feeling that all the healthy fresh air and trees of Scandinavia
could only help boost the Big Country sound. I think the fact that it was done in Sweden also
helped by separating everyone concerned from the inevitable hassles of being at home or at
least London. For a band like Big Country there's always a thousand people needing things
done - pictures to be taken, interviews, meetings etc. and the fact that we were in Sweden
meant that only the people with really important things bothered to interfere. So distractions
were kept to a minimum and we were able to become immersed in the album in a way that probably
would not have been possible in Britain.
- You were assisted by Mike Nicolto and Steve Chase, was that the case with the new album?
- Assistant engineers are generally employed by the studios - basically they are trainee
engineers. So by the time we were onto this album Mike and Steve were engineering themselves -
Mike at RAK and Steve at the Manor. Of course there were assistant engineers involved in this
album but not the same people. There was a guy called Kaj in Polar, Neal at the Roundhouse
and a girl called Dana at RAK.
- We've talked about your involvement concerning studio work, how about on the road? I'd
imagine the pressures are far greater.
- Unfortunately I've never done any live work with the band apart from recording a couple
of live shows on a mobile recording studio for various TV productions and the odd b-side.
Althought the principles are the same live mixing is a fairly different art - balances vary
from venue to venue depending on the size and acoustic qualities of each place and of course
you've only got one chance to get it right. For this reason it's an exciting prospect and if
I can find the time it's something I'd like to do in the future.
- I believe you're moving onto production work, is that right?
- I've been co-producing Zeke Manyika's solo album on and off for a year and I've produced
some Orange Juice tracks from their soon to be released new album. I've also had production work
with Care and another band for RCA who are, as yet, unamed. But hopefully there are more
projects on the way and if the Big Country album is a success it will no doubt help my
reputation and my phone will ring ceaselessly for years with offers of production deals. It
definatley feels like the next step for me now and I've been fortunate to have worked with so
many good producers from whom I've learned a great deal. There is also the possibility of
co-producing some film music with Stuart from Big Country, which I'm looking forward to
immensely as I'm sure producing music for films adds another aspect to recording in that it
has to work in conjunction with visual scenes and the mood of the music becomes as important
if not more important than the actual melodies themselves.
- Is that a big step and have many engineers made the grade as a producer?
- I would say that probably half the producers working at the moment have been engineers in
the past and the other half are musicians, songwriters or hairdressers. It is a big step as
it means taking on the overall responsibility of a project and it gives one greater control
over how it eventually ends up sounding. I think it's very important to have a good technical
knowledge of how the studio works so that you know exaclty what is possible and how to
- Steve Lillywhite is a very highly rated producer, did you learn a lot from him?
- Steve is probably the best producer I have worked with for several reasons. He has
incredible enthusiasm for everything in the studio which inevitably rubs off on other people
and inspires a great atmosphere in which to work. He has no limits to what he will try or
accept as good. Sometimes things occur just by accident wich many producers would dismiss as
mistakes just because they were not part of the original plan - but Steve has recognised that
they has a certain quality - be it charm, humour or just a shock and such things often add
character and a sense of spontineity to a track which one may not necessarily otherwise
achieve. I've definately learned from everyone: bands, producers and other engineers and in
that way I consider myself very lucky to have worked with so many talented people.
- What are your own musical tastes?
- I could far more easily say what I don't like rather than what I do like. I listen to so
much in the studio that if my tastes were not diverse I would never have lasted this long. I
think working in the studio makes you far more appreciative of any records because you are
trained to listen to so many different details that I often find myself liking something just
because of the vocal sound or even the snare drum sound.
- Good luck and thanks for taking the time to talk to me.
Taken from the Country Club fanzine Issue 10
Back to the "from the archives" page
Back to the "I hope you like it!" main page