Name: Tom Dalgety
Location: Los Angeles, California
You started out playing the guitar in bands but eventually found your more permanent home behind the console as opposed to the stage. What attracted you to recording?
Being a control freak! No, I suppose it was because I was so obsessed with records: their overall sound and the continuity of them. I loved the idea of capturing a specific moment and putting it into a time capsule almost…and that’s a buzz that you don’t really get from playing gigs. Well, not at the level we were at anyway… Haha!
You worked quite some time before producing Royal Blood’s debut album, which broke your name to a larger audience. What was that like?
It was a very exciting time. I’d actually been working with Mike and Ben in a few other incarnations for about four years before they became Royal Blood, so when the planets all finally aligned it was great. I’d already been working in studios for years and was perfectly content with how that was all going. But yeah – the Royal Blood record certainly tipped a bit of petrol on the fire for sure!
From there on, you have won or been nominated for several awards and worked with some the biggest acts in the rock scene. What would you say the personal highlight has been for you so far in your career?
That’s a very tough one. Having a run of Billboard number-one singles with Ghost (“Square Hammer,” “Rats” and “Dance Macabre”) is definitely up there. And the Grammy nominations were definitely a trip. But the ultimate highlights are probably getting to work with some bands that I adore. Killing Joke and Pixies are big favorites of mine, so seeing my name on those records still makes me smile. There are a few more of those in the pipeline, but I can’t talk about them just yet.
Name one band you still haven’t worked with that you would love to record…and why!
Oh wow … theres too many to mention and I wouldn’t want to jinx anything. So I’ll give you an impossible one: Pink Floyd! There’s something about them thats just pure magic.
One session is never the other one alike. But is there one thing you always do or use – production-, gear- or method-wise – regardless of band/artist and circumstance?
I’m not sure really. The fact that it’s a different process every time is a big part of the appeal for me.
In your opinion, what makes a band great?
Boring answer alert, but it’s the songs! Well, let’s say – the emotional impact of the music. It’s more important than anything else. I’d always rather hear awful players recorded badly playing a fantastic song… than than other way around.
The recording of an album has many stages: pre-production, tracking drums, guitars, vocals, mixing etc. Which part of the process is your absolute favorite?
I think the very beginning and the very end of the process are the best bits. Everything in between is just hard work, haha! But seriously…the early pre-production/demoing where you’re getting the best out of the parts and arrangements, that’s probably my favorite part. Also the most important part, I think.
If you weren’t producing records, what would you do?
Shining shoes? I have no idea. I have no qualifications or discernible talents outside of music, so I don’t think I’d have amounted to much. My previous employment before music was at a waste recycling site…
In a mix, where do you usually start: the drums, guitars, vocals or something else?
I always try and force myself to start by getting a decent overall balance of the mix. It can be quite tough to begin with, but it usually makes things easier further on down the line. It means you can avoid falling into the trap of getting this enormous drum/guitar/whatever sound… which then doesn’t work with any of the other instrumentation! I only start soloing things when the track is already making sense.
Name a few all-time favorite albums that you did not work on where performance, sound and feel all come together in perfect balance.
OK, I could do this all week! I go through all different fads and phases, but there’s a handful that never change: Black Sabbath’s “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath,” Led Zeppelin’s “Houses of the Holy,” The Doors’ “LA Woman,” Pink Floyd’s “Meddle,” Depeche Mode’s “Violator,” Sisters of Mercy’s “Floodland.”
If you produced an album that you couldn’t mix yourself, who’d be the first name on your list for the gig?
Either Andy Wallace or Spike Stent, depending on the vibe of the music. Having idolized them for a long time, and then been fortunate enough to work with both of them… I know it would turn out good!
Best studio moment ever?
Maybe recording the song “Daniel Boone” with Pixies. Just because it unfolded in a really natural, unplanned way in the studio. I think it took all of us by surprise. That’s captured quite nicely in the making-of podcast. Another good one was recording the vocals for “In Cythera” with Jaz from Killing Joke… Once we were done, he asked me to loop the track for him to listen a few times. I went to bed, thinking he’d listen maybe two or three times. When I came back to the control room at 10am the next morning, he was still sat in the exact same place – still listening to the whole song on loop!
…and worst studio moment ever?
Ages ago, putting an old reel of two-inch tape that hadn’t been baked on a Studer A820. It filled the machine room with a cloud of oxide dust!