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Chris Porter
Chris Porter
Chris_Porter

Chris Porter

Producer and Engineer
Chris Porter

Within a year of starting his studio career, Chris Porter had engineered Bowie's Scary Monsters with Tony Visconti. Since then he's worked with a huge roster of artists – from Wham! to Cliff Richard to Take That – but we suspect that singing backing vocals on Scary Monsters must be a highlight…

George Michael/Wham!, David Bowie, Simple Minds, Thin Lizzy, Take That, Chris de Burgh and many, many more
Built to last

When I was about 13 I wanted to sing after listening to Stevie Winwood and Stevie Wonder. Unfortunately, there were no bands looking for a 13-year-old singer and it would not be until 1970 that I joined a band. I was a keen soul fan but the band, Cataclysm, were intent on prog rock. Oh well! One evening we set up for a rehearsal in a local hall. I was holding a microphone plugged into the guitarist's Vox AC30. Now, in my head, remember, I am one of the Stevies but as we launched in to a Beatles song, the strangled and hesitant noise that emanated from that amplifier came as a surprising and embarrassing shock. It was not good.

After a while, I was able to sing and people were able to listen without it causing too much pain. By 1974 I was singing with a band called Smacky Davis. A talent show called New Faces had just started on TV and we auditioned and were accepted. Legendary Producer Mickey Most was on the panel and took an interest in us. He came to see us at a couple of our shows. I thought that this was the beginning of my show business career and I moved to London. I was to be disappointed. Mickey Most did not sign us so I had to start earning a living in the big city…

Bored with working for others, I thought that working for myself would give me the opportunity to attend auditions, so with a few musician friends we started doing small building jobs. As a lot of our friends were musicians, so naturally a lot of our jobs were related in one way or another to music. In 1979, we were asked to do some building work at Tony Visconti’s Good Earth Studios in Soho. We also constructed some huge acoustic screens on wheels to divide the studio area. The studio is now called Soho Studio and I notice from their website that those screens are still in use. We built to last back then!

 

Enjoy What You Do

I spent nine months on and off at Good Earth and Tony then asked if I thought my future was in the building game or might I be interested in training as an audio engineer. I had obviously seen what had been going on in the studio including him and Thin Lizzy making the now famous 'Live and Dangerous Album'. It was an amazing opportunity although it involved a huge drop in income. I promised my wife that if I wasn’t making headway in the industry after a year I would forget show business. It was clear I would have to learn fast and I did. I spent night and day in the studio doing all the usual menial tasks of cleaning and tea making. I engineered jingles and ads in the morning and then prepared the studio for whichever band would record from midday often until the very early hours of the next day. I often slept under the recording console because there was not enough time to get home and back in time for sessions.

Towards the end of 1980, I had already worked alongside Tony with David Bowie on the album 'Scary Monsters' and also sung backing vocals on it. I had worked alongside Kit Woolven who was co-producing Thin Lizzy’s 'Chinatown' and many other exciting records. Then a friend of mine, Bob Carter, was offered the production of new funk band Lynx and asked if I would engineer for him. Our very first effort 'You’re Lying' charted top 10 in the UK and also top 20 in the US. We went on to record the album 'Intuition' which had healthy chart showings too. Bob was then offered the production of another young band, Wham!. We recorded Wham Rap (Enjoy What You Do) which went on to reach 8 in the UK chart. This was the beginning of a working relationship with George Michael which was to go on for 15 amazing years.

Traveling with a Euphonix

Over the years I have had three studios which I have both built and owned. The most recent was Stanley House Studios which I purchased in 2003 with the producer Hugh Padgham. The recording console I owned for the longest period of time was a Euphonix which I bought in 1992 and it travelled with me right the way from my first studio in Cranleigh, Surrey, to Stanley House Studios. When we sold Stanley House in 2014 the desk was finally sold too.

I now make music at home with a compact but powerful set-up consisting of, at its heart, a Rupert Neve Design 5060 Centerpiece and the wonderful MunroSonic Egg 150s speakers. I also have a pair of PMC MB2 XBDs monitors which sound incredible as well. My computer is a 2012 Apple Mac Pro with 64MB of RAM and my audio interface is an IZ ADAII with 24 A/D and D/As. It’s the closest thing to getting the warmth of analogue tape recording but with the reliability, ease of use and the flexibility of digital. I use Rupert Neve Design Portico 5024s for my mic pres and my go-to compressor is the vintage Neve 33609.

A reflection black hole

Aston has really raised the bar and has a unique approach to the design and manufacture of its products like the 'listening panel' who assess the sound of the microphones at various stages of research and development in an unbiased way. The results are stunning microphones with fantastic sonic properties, and they are are robust and well designed and all are manufactured entirely in the UK. I use my Origin and Spirits happily alongside classic microphones such as the Neumann 49b or U87 or AKG C414s and quite often choose the Astons. I was also really impressed with the Aston Halo – it's a reflection 'black hole'.

Last year, coinciding with the release of the Aston Starlights, I was embarking on a tour of the US performing Front of House duties for King Crimson, I had the opportunity of re-assessing some of the microphones being used on stage. I asked Aston if I could try the Starlights on drum overheads for our three drummers. Previously Neumann KM84 were being used. The Starlights performed superbly and the ability to choose from one of the three voices available is very useful when there are three drummers on stage. I love using the Aston Spirit as a mid and side pair the unique shape means they can sit one on top of the other for a perfect stereo image.

Out-takes

Q. If you weren’t working in music what would you be doing?
A. “A property developer.”

Q. What would your fantasy mic be?
A. “One that could be focussed, as in, sit in a room anywhere but with the ability to position it virtually anywhere in that room remotely.”

Q. What are the 4 words you’d chose to describe Aston, or your experience with the brand?
A. “Exciting, intelligent, brave, industrious.”

Q. What is the first song that made you cry?
A.Mother's Pride by George Michael. Why? Just have a listen…”

 

Credits

“My favourite artists are... whichever ones I am working with!”

King Crimson

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