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Geoff Dugmore
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Geoff_Dugmore
Geoff_Dugmore
Geoff_Dugmore

Geoff Dugmore

Musician and Producer
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Geoff Dugmore

Geoff Dugmore is the king of session musicians, having played on 89 top 20 albums including an incredible 53 number ones! As if that's not enough, he's found success in at least three of his own bands, produced Debbie Harry and now plays, produces and MDs with countless other acts. Meet the man on a session and many more

Stevie Nicks, Tina Turner, Debbie Harry, Robbie Williams, Dido, Richard Ashcroft, Johnny Hallyday, The Europeans, Joan Armatrading, Robert Palmer, Paul Rodgers, Mike Scott, Killing Joke, Climie Fisher, Thompson Twins, The Waterboys
Tea towels before drums

My mother told me when I was three years that old I'd drum with pots and pans and use pieces of paper to simulate cymbals! When I was 11 I really wanted a drum kit but my parents wouldn't let me, so they bought me an electric guitar and I learnt how to play that instead. By the time I was 12, I'd swapped that for a drum set with a guy at school. It's what I'd always wanted to do, from when I saw The Beatles Let It Be album cover. It had a gatefold sleeve with a picture of Ringo Starr on his drums at Abbey Road with all these tea towels over the drums. I thought 'that's what I want to do'. I saved my money up, but I bought the tea towels before the drums!

I made my first demos at 13 and sent them off to record labels, ones we thought had the coolest pictures on their labels like Elton John's Rocket Records. And, of course, we got all of these rejections letters, but couldn't believe why! I played with the same bunch of guys and we'd play covers most nights, and we didn't realise it but we were learning a lot about music. At 16 I got my first record deal with Phonogram which was a real pop thing. It wasn't successful but gave me a little bit of an insight into the business.

At 17 we all moved down to London. There was five of us living in a two-bedroom flat in Neasdon and eventually that went up to eight! In retrospect, those were some of the best times. We were young, we had nothing but sacks full of dreams.

Across Europe to session land

Eventually we signed to A&M Records as a band called The Europeans and we had a lot of success with the first single which did well in the States, and we always did well in Europe. We were a bit of a musicians' band, where we could sell out 2-3000 venues but could never translate it to record sales. I actually found out recently that our third album, Recurring Dreams, was voted in the top 10 80's albums by producers of that decade, which was nice! We split up under acrimonious circumstances but it's all resolved now. The keyboard player went on to be the singer in Marillion, Steve Hogarth, or Shrimp as we call him – Shrimp because he came after Fish!

We'd been working on our third and final album at Sarm East Studios and I bumped into the studio assistant around six months after the band split up on the tube. He asked what I was doing and said I should go and see this girl who was managing some record producers. I went to see her – Karen Clayton who went on to build Metropolis Studios with Gary Langan. I got to work with Joan Armatrading and then got a call to work with Split Endz before they went into Crowded House. I had landed in a fortunate space as Karen was putting the word around and we were quite well regarded in the Europeans, so I was getting lots of session work.

And then I found myself producing

I'd just got off a project working with Stevie Nicks and met a mate of mine who'd just finished working with Madonna and we got into this conversation about how we were working on a treadmill without realizing, and losing ourselves in other people's realities. Within a week we sold everything and rented a bedsit in Notting Hill and wrote songs. It was a very cathartic experience. We got a record deal with Epic and did an album with Phil Brown under the name Wildlife. A lot of fun, everyone sang and everyone played.

I then played with Thompson Twins and Tom Bailey from the band was producing a couple of tracks for Debbie Harry. I came along and was MD and played on her tour and afterwards she asked if I wanted to produce her next album, so that's how I got into production. I found myself at Electric Ladyland studios in Manhattan with Debbie Harry and Joey Ramone doing a duet and there I was behind the desk!

I have picked it up more production in the past five or six years. It's a whole different mindset as you are taking an artist's idea and looking at the end game and trying to guide them to that point. I've just been producing a guy called Calum Frame. He's only 20 years old but his songs are reminiscent of early Floyd, Tom Petty or Rufus Wainwright. There's so much about this kid that when the manager sent his stuff I thought he was 30 or 40. When I found out he was 20 I thought 'wow, this kid has lived a life and he's only 20!'. It sounds fantastic. I really enjoy producing, especially younger bands and singers.

Take the Astons everywhere

I got some Aston mics but I don't like to have a preconceived idea about a product – I just try them on this and that and see how they do. I used the Spirit on Calum's acoustic guitar and it was perfect as it was very real. It went along with the vibe that we were trying for. We put it on the Martin acoustic and it just sang. It just worked, you know? We also used it as a second vocal mic, with one mic slightly behind the other, and it just gave a nice glue, putting the vocal together and an air to it in a very natural, organic way.

Then I was on a drumming session, doing a track at ICP Recording Studios in Brussels. I always take the Astons with me when I go to another studio, and we had the Spirit on the snare drum. We needed to record quietly and then crank the gain on the Neve desk. The sound was so true and it could cope with the fact that the gain had to be high – there was no hiss or anything. It just worked so well in that situation. I was like 'wow!'.

The mics featured on Richard Ashcroft's album and Live with Yazawa in Japan on the tour I just did. 8 shows to 80,000 a night... what a buzz that was. I also used the mics with The The on their Australian tour, and on the forthcoming Damien Saez album.. He is a mega star in France. 

I used the Origin with another band called Little Eye I was producing and I used that over the drums as I was only using three mics: the bass drum mic, a snare mic and the overhead and it sounded fucking awesome.

Out-takes

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

Q. What would your fantasy mic be?
A. “It would probably be that you could put it on anything and it would sound amazing!”

Q. What are the 4 words you’d chose to describe Aston, or your experience with the brand?
A. “Consistency , value, quality and reliability.”

Credits

Aston gear has been used with the following artists...

Richard Ashcroft

The The

Calum Frame 

Little Eye 

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