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Seton Daunt

Seton Daunt

Songwriter, Musician, Producer
Seton Daunt

Writer, musician and producer Seton Daunt started out playing in bands in the 90’s Camden Town scene before finding success as guitarist with Sting’s son, Joe Sumner, in the band Fiction Plane. In parallel he started writing for other artists, also contributing guitar parts and his production skills to the collaborations. He has now worked with a broad spectrum of artists including Kylie Minogue, Natalie Imbruglia, 5 Seconds of Summer and many more...

Gabrielle Aplin, Kylie Minogue, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Natalie Imruglia, Everyone You Know, Becky Hill, Declan Donovan, 5 Seconds of Summer, Sub Focus, Wilkinson, Black Honey, Fiction Plane
Fiction Plane

"In my teens, it was grunge for me, 100%. Kurt Cobain came along and completely broke open the naff kind of cock-rock of the late ‘80’s and early 90’s - Guns N’ Roses and all of that stuff. I was so refreshed. There was that feeling of it being approachable. You thought, ‘Oh my god, you know what, I could probably play that’ because you could learn 4 chords, get in a room with your friends and make a load of noise, and grow your hair long and not wash.

I was the classic angry, moping-around teenager. I started playing guitar, intensely, 5 hours a day from age 14 or 15. My school work suffered, but that was it. I went straight out of school and started doing bands in the London – Camden scene - in the mid 90’s. I got in a couple bands that did okay.

Then I met Joe Sumner who was in the band Fiction Plane. He had a really weird abstract approach to music, like Nirvana meets Primus. It was really angular and odd. It was originally called Santa’s Boyfriend, which was named after an Alan Partridge racehorse. I told Joe I liked his stuff and he said ‘well, we’re playing this gig tonight, did you want to come and play?’ I said I didn’t know any of his songs but he told me to just get on stage and make weird feedback noises. So, I did that and then joined the band.

That was 1999, and within a year we got signed to MCA out in America. We did our first record in 2002, toured loads, had some great experiences. We kind of did loads of stuff for 6 years, had a little break, then the Police tour happened, and then the Snoop Dogg tour happened, and that kind of made us. We’d broken Holland, a bit of Germany, parts of America. We’d play, tour, record, tour and then all of us had kids - all within about 18 -months!"

Guitars on the side

"We did our first record with David Khan, who’d just done Paul McCartney. That was a really interesting experience because he is a madly experienced producer and engineer. He does ‘Mix with the Masters’ and that kind of stuff. He made us rehearse for two weeks so that he could record us live to 8-track tape. He raised the bar. We had McCartney’s drummer play on our first record, Eva Boyle. I occasionally listen back to those records and they sound really polished to me. Much more so than other records we’ve done when we did it in Pro Tools and cut it up and did loads of the classic stuff.

In-between that, every time I was home, I was writing. I started working with Ash Howes and Biff Stannard from the Biffco songwriting team (Kylie Minogue, Ellie Goulding, Spice Girls and many more). I would always do guitars for them on the side. I started getting songs away and then a friend of mine who I was in Natalie Imbruglia’s band with told me Sub Focus needed a guitarist. I started writing with him and ended up with two songs on his record. Then I started writing with Wilkinson and had songs on his record too.

It was really nice, a very natural process, just writing songs very stripped down and then getting them to people like Sub Focus or Wilkinson. I did my first publishing deal 7 years ago, with Sony.

I’m really bad at being the jobbing pop guy. I always look at it like ‘let’s be a band for a day’ with anyone I write with. I really struggle writing with people where there’s a producer, a top liner curled up on their iPad doing lyrics, and an artist sitting there awkwardly waiting for a song to be written for them. I try to avoid it at all costs.

In the bands I was in at least, everyone was always allowed input. You can be part of the melody, part of the lyrics, part of the production, if you want to pick up a bass, pick up a bass, if you’ve got a drum beat – go play it. I still have that attitude. It’s the most fulfilling, it’s the most fun and I think it bears the best results."

The midnight hour

"I’d say I’m a writer/producer in that order. I started when I was 18, my first job when I left school was to work for Phil Manzanera, guitarist with Roxy Music. I worked for him for probably a year and a half in his studio, and it was f****** amazing, a brilliant life experience. I slept on the sofa in the studio, made tea most of the time, but watched really great engineers. It was all analogue then, all tape, and an old Trident 80 desk. I’d restring all the guitars, mic guitar amps through that started working out the general process of ‘oh, this mic goes into the pre-amp and then the compressor and then hits the tape’. My knowledge was kind of limited to that, but that’s kind of all I needed for years.

Often at midnight, when the artists would go home, I’d go in the live room and play. Phil had these amazing old 60’s JMI Vox’s, beautiful old Les Pauls and a Firebird he played in Roxy music. It was a really great time for me. I saw some brilliant bands; Paul Weller came in when I was 18 and did some records.

That’s where I met Ash Howes, head engineer at the time, and he became one of the UK’s biggest mixers. From U2 to One Direction. He really gave me a break. We became really good friends in that studio, and he really liked how I played guitar, and I loved how he mixed and produced, He was one of those guys who made everything sound good easily. One day he told me he’d got a job for Dave Stewart as a co-producer and asked if I’d be up for doing any guitars! Now I’ve spent the last 20 years, off and on, doing guitars for Ash. We produced the last Gabrielle Aplin single together, we did 5 Seconds Of Summer together, we did Kylie together, it’s been a great friendship for a long time."

Pick it up and play

"I co-produced the last Black Honey record with Emre Ramazanoglu. He’s a great producer in his own right, and a great mixer, we come from two very different directions. He’s more hip-hop, drums and electronica, and I’m more guitars and bands, but it was a really nice meeting of minds.

Black Honey were the kind of band I really wanted to work with. Doing their debut record was a landmark for me, that was the first full length I’d done for someone else. They’ve just started getting a lot of Radio 1 play. I’ve done a lot of writing with them. They’re one of my favourite acts that I’d say you’re going to hear of later this year and the next year. They’re like the Streets meets Chase & Status, meets The Arctic Monkeys.

I’ve still never written a song 100%, lyrics and everything, ever, on my own. I don’t feel the drive to. I kind of love doing it with other people. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

In my studio I try and have shit set up just so the creative process is never impeded by having to go get cables and spending 10 minutes doing bullshit. If a guitar’s not mic’ed up I’ll plug straight into my interface.  I feel like it’s much more important to get the idea out then trying to do it perfectly. My Aston Spirit’s set up the whole time so if there’s an idea you can just go and sing it.

Nowadays I never practice guitar any more. To be honest I spend half my time in front of a computer and purely look at guitar to write, which I’ve found so liberating. I definitely got into that neurotic world of being a guitarist, when you’re obsessing endlessly about pedals and mic positions on amps. That’s really healthy and useful but it’s really nice to step over and say ‘I’m just going to pick it up and a play’."

The Spirit next door

"I use Apollo UAD stuff, I think its killer. If you wanted to get really snotty and techy, maybe there’s better conversion, you could go down that rabbit hole, That’s not my thing. For me it’s ‘record it well enough that it sounds really decent and just put it down’. If it’s not clipping and there’s not a shit load of background noise, you’re going to be fine.

I’ve recorded quite a lot of guitars with the Spirit; I put it on an old Vox AC30, head and cabinet, that’s one of my favourite amps, I’ve had it for years. I do a lot of recording on it, it’s got a classic chimey mid-range. I had a 57 on it and a Spirit, and I really liked the richness of the Spirit for clean. It sounded killer. Immediately, it sounds a lot better than my 421 or other stuff I’d normally put on my guitars.

Another time I put my Spirit in my garage, which is next door, as a room mic for really loud David Lynch-style  guitars, and it sounded f****** killer. So, instead of reverb it was the Spirit in another room with the door open. It was a real room reflection sound, it didn’t have that digital depth, almost ugly but in a good way. It was really cool.

I love it on acoustic too. I’ve got a little Martin parlour that hasn’t got much bottom end, but is really beautiful sounding, and I like a Spirit on it, a couple of feet away.

We did a lot of backing vocals on a Spirit on the Black Honey record. He had an U87 and a Spirit, and we decided the Spirit was better that day. If you blindfolded me, I wouldn’t know the difference between the two. Because an 87 is like £2000, you might think ‘well surely it’s just got the edge’. Let’s put it this way, the main mic I record all my vocals on now is the Spirit - all the time. For years I was convinced when I signed my next publishing deal, I’d buy an 87, but now I don’t need to go buy a Neumann. I’m very happy."

Out-takes

Q. Who are your favorite artists?
A. Nick Cave, Bob Dylan, The Pixies, Max Richter: modern classical, I think he’s brilliant, Alex Turner, Josh Homme, Queens of the Stone Age; definitely a big influence for a lot of factors, Beach Boys, Beastie Boys.

Q. If you weren’t working in music what would you be doing?
A. A failed stuntman

Q. What would your fantasy mic be? 
A. I’d really like a mic that you can abuse, so it doesn’t get in the way of doing aggressively creative things. Also, a compressor in a mic would be cool. A Stealth with a distortion box in it would be sick.  Something to compete with a 58 live would be really cool as well.

Q. What are the 4 words you’d chose to describe Aston, or your experience with the brand?
A.
 Innovative, Good-value, Sound great, Look great

Q. What was the first song that made you cry?
A.
The Pixies – This Monkey’s Gone to Heaven

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