Adam Moseley Talks Early Days at Legendary Trident Studios & more!
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Prior to becoming a powerhouse audio engineer and music producer, Adam Moseley (Beck, Rush, Nikka Costa/Lenny Kravitz, Wolfmother, Spike Jonze, U2) studied law in London for a year, then travelled about working as a chef in the UK and abroad. In 1978, he got his foot in the door of Trident Studios and started building a prodigious career that spans four decades.
Trident Studios is the legendary home of seminal records and tracks by dozens of rock’s greats. Among them are Queen’s first four albums, Bowie’s most enduring classics (Space Oddity, Hunky Dory, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, etc.) and Lou Reed’s Transformer. Even the Beatles got in on the action, lured, at least in part by Trident’s Ampex 8 machine, (Abbey Road only had a 4-track at that time), it’s where they recorded “Hey Jude,” “I Want You,” and much of The White Album.
We recently spoke with Adam to learn more about his early days at Trident and to garner just a bit of the wisdom he’s attained along the way. Enjoy!
How’d you get your foot in the door at Trident Studios?
“I got hired as a chef and construction worker at Trident. They were enlarging the control room, and then after three months of that, I was kept on and promoted to T boy runner, which was normally the lowest rung, and then worked my way up through being a tape operator, assistant engineer, engineer/mixer, and then co-producer/producer.
So Trident was the home of David Bowie’s first albums, Queen’s first five albums, Elton John’s first three, Lou Reed’s Transformer, T-Rex, Carly Simon…so the guys that did those records created ‘the Trident way’ and the Trident approach to music. It was their engineers that I learnt from. I was the next wave. So they were my mentors. They were the ones that I would watch, listen, and try and figure out what they were doing and why they were doing it. They were the ones asking me to plug in certain effects or plug in a microphone and then move or change it for a different one, and put it in a different position. These were the guys that I learned from.”
That’s great. If only we could have been there too. Would you say you’ve had a number of amazing mentors in your life?
“There weren’t many. There were only maybe two that actually actively tried to share information and show me but the rest were still mentors. Even if they weren’t actively showing me stuff, I was just very observant and watching, listening, and trying to figure out what they were doing, how the sound changed, and why they were making [those] decisions. And it’s always been important to me all through my decades, I’ve been at various studios and had a studio in Silver Lake (Los Angeles) and my own crew, and it’s always been really important to me to share and bring people through…
I was at Trident for my first four formative years, from starting at the bottom to leaving as an engineer/mixer/producer. Those opportunities are hard to come by these days. There are good schools, which are teaching music makers the skills but they’re still not getting the practical experience. In my first four years, I worked for maybe 200 different producers and engineers. And a lot of them were showing me great techniques and great ways to talk to an artist to get a performance, to set the mood, to be hands-on or to be completely hands-off.
And a lot of them were showing me what not to do, because I’d be in the room and something wouldn’t be working out with the band or there’d be kind of a vibe happening or the producer wasn’t paying enough attention to the artist to find out what the artist really wanted.”
Despite having a vast amount of knowledge and technique, from analog to digital, and even designing plugins, you consistently stress the importance of feeling and emotion in music.
“Yeah, and for me that’s all I have to go on. If someone comes and plays a song to me and it doesn’t create any feelings or responses, then I have no ideas. I can technically look at something but I’m probably not going to do the project because it’s just not inspiring me, and then I’m not going to be able to think of the right colors or shapes or dimension of the mix or the arrangement and the frequencies because I’m not being really inspired, my brain isn’t being inspired, and my emotions aren’t being inspired.
So all you have to go on is your feelings, and that’s why I talk about nurturing your kind of emotions and your instincts, educating your instincts just by listening to records that move you and the combinations of sounds in them and just learning how different combinations of sounds create different feelings. And that runs across all genres of music.”
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