Acclaimed producer Mike Hedges has filled his studio with equipment that is almost as antique as the ancient French chateau that houses it. PAUL TINGEN catches up with a man who's far from manic but quite ready to preach the virtues of analogue.
Somewhere deep in the heart of the French countryside, acclaimed British producer Mike Hedges lives in a chateau. It looks rather like a gigantic mansion house, and is royally placed on the side of a hill, with a spectacular 180-degree view of rolling countryside up to 16 miles away. Hedges himself is equally striking: well over six feet tall, sturdily built, with flaming red hair and beard, he strides rather than walks. He's been said to look like a Celtic nobleman, and with a bit of imagination it's not hard to imagine him holding court at this very chateau centuries ago.
In short, Hedges, like his house, looks as if he doesn't quite belong in modern times. But that's not all. Enter this idyllic, oversized pied-a-terre and you'll find an exquisite collection of recording gear, much of it not quite belonging to modern times either. The heart of this studio is formed by historic equipment from Abbey Road Studios, designed in the '60s and dating from the very early '70s. Dark Side Of The Moon was recorded on it, John Lennon's Imagine was recorded on it, Kate Bush's first two albums were recorded on it. You get the picture: priceless, classic stuff.
The historic chateau, the historic gear and the historic-looking producer form an entirely fitting set of extremes, but the producer's pedigree provides an interesting contrast. Normally, 40+ producers gradually tend to lose touch with the cutting edge of the youth culture of the day. But rather than becoming an old-timer as a producer as well, the 44-year old Hedges has remained entirely up to date. Synth or sequencer-based music is not his thing, so dance music in all its variations is out, but in the category of live playing musicians he has maintained his position at the forefront ever since he became known for producing indie and alternative bands in the '80s. Hedges started his career as the proverbial tape-op-cum-tea-boy at Morgan Studios in London in the late '70s, graduated to engineer, went freelance in 1981 and quickly moved on to make his mark as an engineer/producer. He's worked with the likes of Bauhaus, The Shamen, The Undertones, Everything But The Girl, The Associates, Siouxsie & The Banshees (five albums), The Cure (three albums), The Beautiful South (three albums) and Marc Almond (again three albums). In more recent years, he's been involved with hits and albums by Geneva (Further), Texas (White On Blonde), McAlmont & Butler (Sound Of) and Manic Street Preacher's Everything Must Go -- which was voted best album of '96 by Q, Vox, Select and Music Week, and which won the Brit Award for Album Of The Year.