"What box did they use for that?" - TWR talks to Nick Davis at The Farm on 21st Feb 2005.

TWR: OK. First of all… About this book...

ND: Right. What a great book!

TWR: What’s the story behind that?

ND: I’ve got so many jokes on my computer, one day I thought ‘I’ve just gotta get rid of them’ this computer’s full of e-mail jokes. I thought I should just burn them to a CD so that I’ve got them forever. Then I thought I should actually publish it, you know, I think they’re such a good collection of jokes. So I rang up John Webster, who used to work at Virgin Records; he’s my main supplier of jokes and I said ‘I’ve got a great idea John, we should write an internet joke book’. He said ‘What a good idea’, and he rang up an agent he used to work with at Virgin Publishing, called Rob Shreeve, and he said, ‘Yeah, what a good idea’. So it just went like that. We got a deal with John Blake Publishing and, it happened. It’s funny. It was in The News Of The World yesterday. Did you see?

TWR: No I didn’t.

ND: Yesterday’s News Of The World. It had a half, well, nearly a full page on us. It was actually quite funny. Not on us, but on our book. It was really good.

TWR: Did they like it?

ND: Yeah. Well, they were plugging it. You’ll have to read the article really.

TWR: How long did it take to put together?

Click to enlarge
The book wot Nick wrote...

ND: I think we’d been sending them to each other pretty much since the internet began really, but I probably haven’t got that many from that early on. I think there are jokes in here from about 1999, I would say, through to 2004. And all the dates are all when they were actually sent. Some of the political stuff makes sense when you see the date. This is probably about four years worth of e-mail jokes, but I’ve got volume 2 and Volume 3 waiting to go. I could do another two books, easy, ‘cos I’ve got so many of them. It’s just funny having an idea that’s been turned into a reality. I quite like that.

TWR: Where did the name Willis come from?

ND: At college my friends said that I reminded them of Dylan from The Magic Roundabout and they just thought that Dylan wasn’t a great nickname, I don’t know why Willis is better. They thought that Dylan was a bit cool and they found that Rob (Bob) Willis, the cricketer’s, middle name was Dylan, so they called me Willis. So there you go.
Have you read it?

TWR: Yes, I read it the day I got it.

ND: Did it make you laugh?

TWR: It did. Yes. There were several in there that were very amusing…

ND: I like the one about the Okey Cokey. That still makes me laugh.

TWR: Was the publishing deal hard to get for the book?

ND: It wasn’t that hard. We got a proper agent. He had a few book companies interested in us and we went with John Blake ‘cos they said they could get it out for Christmas! And here it is being released on February 24th...

TWR: In time for this Christmas...!

ND: Yeah. Obviously we missed the (2004) Christmas period. We weren’t together enough. We had to be ready by last May to get out for last Christmas and we were probably together by June or July. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be.

TWR: Moving on to current projects…what is it you’re working on at the moment?

ND: Good question…I’m probably going to be mixing a live DVD for an artist called Jennifer in France. That’s in April. I’m not actually doing anything for Genesis at the moment but I think they are going to continue with the back catalogue. So that might cheer a few people up.

TWR: OK then. I guess what we really want to know is what is the delay with The Lamb this time round?

ND: I think the delay this time is the fact that The Platinum Collection got delayed in America ‘til March; they can’t put something out in March and something out in April.

TWR: Why not release the Super Audio CD in the UK and Europe?

ND: Don’t know.

TWR: Why not put A Trick Of The Tail out instead?

ND: Yeah, I mean A Trick’s ready to go. I honestly don’t know why they’re delaying it. The record companies have a better picture on this than I do.

TWR: Is it just those two that you’ve done so far?

ND: Well, we’ve done everything that’s on The Video Show in 5.1. Invisible Touch is pretty much done.The Brazilian and Domino are probably the only two things that aren’t done on that album. We Can’t Dance has got five or six songs done, the Mama album’s got four songs done. I would say if you looked at the catalogue you could say that thirty or forty percent’s probably done now.

TWR: With Invisible Touch, are you intending to go over things like Feeding The Fire and Do The Neurotic as well?

ND: I don’t know. I would have thought so. The band just haven’t thought about it really. I can see both sides of the argument really. You could say it wasn’t good enough to put on in the first place, why put it on now? Then you could say it’s an extra, so put it on now, but then do you put in on the album, or do you put it on at the end? I think It’s Yourself is definitely good enough to go on (Trick) and I think Do The Neurotic would be good, but you’d just have to put it on at the end I suppose. They will decide. It’s not really my decision, but I think the band will weigh up that people want it and whether they want it on the album, that’s the thing, I don’t think there’s any problem with it coming out, but it’s whether it should go on. That album was that. They said this was The Lamb album, or whatever. I don’t think, there isn’t anything from The Lamb period as far as I know, that will go on there, but, if It’s Yourself wasn’t put on A Trick Of The Tail for a reason that it wasn’t good enough, I presume, then have to decide, l do you want to destroy what was A Trick Of The Tail as an artistic work or not. Artistically it’s quite a tough decision. It’s not as easy as one would think.

Dale Newman walks in.

DN: It’s a pack of lies!

ND: Yeah. I did it all.

Dale goes into another room.

TWR: What’s different with the latest version of The Lamb compared to the first one that you did?

ND: There's slightly more rear action going on for some tracks, on the surround mixes.

TWR: Some, but not all…?

ND: Yes. When we went back to it, some of the earlier mixes were tamer at the rear, but after about half way through, it was quite wild...it was more surround anyway. And I think that was just the fact we just getting more and more into the format. I did about eighty percent of what would have been CD one and about forty percent or fifty percent of would have been CD two again, for just changing the panning really. Just slightly more effecty...gimmicky only in a couple of places…the slipperman voices, a bit coming out all over the place and stuff like that. I’m quite keen to keep it all musical. I think that it’s great to put stuff in surround, but I don’t want it to be just like panning for pannings’ sake. It’s still got to sound like a piece of music that sounds better for the surround.

TWR: Was it frustrating to have to go over it all again?

ND: Not at all. It was quite nice really. Everything can always be better and especially if you can come back to it in a few months time. I heard things and you think ‘oh why didn’t I do that?’ and then suddenly you get a chance to be able to do that so no, it’s not frustrating. More frustrating is actually waiting for it to actually come out. But, no, I don’t mind reworking stuff.

TWR: Was it Peter who brought about those changes?

ND: I suppose so. I think he’d done his DVD, which is very surround. I’ve heard it and it is, remarkably all around you at times…too much in my opinion, but some of it is really good. I suppose, having heard some of that, he wanted a bit more of that sort of thing on The Lamb and admittedly the first version of the album was quite tame. No-one was unhappy. I don’t think anyone would have been upset. If you sat there at home and listened to them, the old one or the new one, some of the tracks you wouldn’t notice the difference and others you just say they’re two different opinions of the same thing. Neither would be offensive I don’t think.

TWR: Moving on to the Video Show DVD and the Platinum Collection CDs…How did you go about remixing the songs? Was it the same process you used for The Lamb, as in taking the multitracks and putting them into Pro-tools?

ND: Absolutely. Yeah….No difference. It’s just more of the same really.

TWR: One the thing that was plainly obvious from the start was the drums. They were so much clearer this time round compared to the first time and, nothing against David Hentschal or whoever mixed them the first time round is that it sounded as if you took a bottle of polish to the songs. Everything sounded so much clearer.

ND: Yeah…A few people have been quite critical…remixing this old stuff. I think you have more time these days, you have an automated desk, it’s very easy, you know, you’ve got much more time to come back and just mix it. At the time they were making an album with monetary problems. The thing that I think they suffered from is that a couple of the David Hentschal albums were mixed in conditions where the monitoring in the studio was faulty. I’ve heard the un-EQ’d stereo mastertapes that they made at the time and obviously something was wrong in the room ‘cos you wouldn’t mix something to sound like that. Now you can get rid of all those problems. When the CDs and vinyl were made, the mastering engineer would have put lots of bottom end on to try and compensate for the fact that the mixes sounded thin and stuff, but that’s not Dave’s fault. That’s obviously a fault of the studio. And nowadays, you know, the monitoring in here is pretty good, so I’m not having to start with that sort of hinderance.

TWR: It’s also like you found the bass guitar in some songs as well…

ND: Yeah, I quite like the bass guitar. I think Mike’s bass playing is phenomenal on the The Lamb stuff. He’s really quite incredible, but, a lot of Mike’s bass playing is really undervalued. He’s very melodic. He’s really got some good stuff going on. It is nice to hear it, so I try and make sure you can hear it.

TWR: Phil's voice is also much clearer as well. He's no longer fighting with the other instruments...

ND: When you’re mixing in 5.1, you’ve got this centre speaker that I use mainly for Phil, mainly for the singer and a few other effects at times and that gives the voice an incredible clarity. You get very used to that clarity of the voice so when I make the stereo I actually think maybe the voice is a tiny bit louder than I would if I’d have just started just to mix the stereo on it’s own; it probably wouldn’t have been quite as loud. So maybe the voice is a bit loud….I don’t know, it’s quite nice to hear what you’re singing...he’s not a bad singer…

TWR: Were the tracks on the albums recorded badly back then?

ND: No. Things were recorded better back then than they are these days.

TWR: How so?

ND: It was a craft then, whereas nowadays it’s just some tosser who can plug something into a Pro-Tools system! Things were recorded well, generally. Good old analogue tape. It was an artform, engineering in those days. These days it’s just a question of trying to work out how your plug-ins work and see if you can get it to play. People do monitoring at home, which is great in some ways but then you haven’t got a proper audio environment, you don’t actually know what you’re recording and even if you’re trying to do a good job you’re compromised ‘cos you’re not in a proper acoustically treated room.

TWR: Were there any problems with the master tapes this time around?

ND: They all generally get a baking and stuff, but no they’re fine.

TWR: Talking of master tapes…It’s Yourself was damaged I believe…?

ND: Really? Not that I noticed.

TWR: No?

ND: No.

TWR: Didn’t it have to be edited?

ND: It’s got an edit in it because it’s got an extra verse, but there’s nothing wrong with that verse. It was taken out for the single but there is an extra verse on the multitrack version that I’ve mixed.

TWR: Oh right, OK. Ah, Submarine that was the one. Was the damage to that irreparable…?

ND: I don’t know what the damage is. I don’t think there’s anything that’s been damaged. I think the band wanted to change the ending and they put a fade out on it instead of some other ending. I don’t remember. I don’t think there was anything that was damaged. From what I remember it’s just the band didn’t like the old ending so we just made a new ending. Maybe I’m wrong…my memory fails me, but I don’t think there’s any damage.

TWR: Are you aware of the word ‘suite’ being banded around the internet with regards to Submarine and it’s relationship to Dodo/Lurker and Naminanu?

ND: I can’t say I am. No.

TWR: Why was Illegal Alien remixed for The Platinum Collection but not Mama?

ND: They were all remixed. All the new mixes are on the DVD. Mike has got a sort of a thing in his head about the original Mama, that he thinks is unbeatable. Very strange man! He wanted to use that for the CD remaster. I think the Shapes album sounds atrocious on CD. It’s just awful. Remastering it, which you obviously mean on the CD, does improve the sound a lot, but Mike’s got a bee in his bonnet that he thinks the original mixes are perfect so on the CD he just said ‘use those’. That’s All was a close call. He just thought that my version had a bit too much bass in it or something. Illegal Alien just sounded so much better they couldn’t argue with that one. I think Tony would have used the new That’s All and Home By The Sea. Mike was more the other way. I just stayed out of it really ‘cos I don’t want to be seen to be pushing. I mean I think my mixes much better. I mean I really think Home By The Sea in DTS is just fantastic. I can’t tell Mike, he’s in the band. When we do the SACD I will have to remix that, again, to make it so that he’s happy with it, so that’s how it is at the moment.

TWR: Will the SACDs have a fold-down 2-track mix or are they just designed for multi-channel?

ND: They’re hybrid SACDs. They’ll have a six channel mix and a new two channel mix and, depending on what the band do, either the original layer or the new CD layer.

TWR: So you’re remixing everything to 2-track anyway?

ND: Yeah. As well…yeah.

TWR: Why was something like Your Own Special Way not treated?

ND: When we first started this we had an original running order which was a lot different to where we are finally; seventy percent was the same, thirty percent different. Originally when the running order was put together all we did is put all the ones that had happened because of The Lamb, I Know What I Like…all the ones from the DVD Video Show which had to be remixed in 5.1, so we had an overlap of about forty or fifty percent of songs that were remixed, and we made up a CD with all the new mixes. We had all the songs made up in the running order but using the new mixes where we had them and then we listened to it and we thought ‘these old mixes sound pretty bad’ and it really showed up, so either then do you say ‘do you take all the new mixes off and use all the old mixes or do you remix some of the ones that sound really bad?’. The Musical Box sounded awful, so they decided to remix the other stuff and do as much as possible. We thought we only had about a week to do it. It turned out we had a couple of weeks. It really was quite tight for time and we had a priority of things to do and Your Own Special Way was a low priority ‘cos we thought the original sounded fine and it does sound fine…Supper’s Ready sounds OK, but it would have been a very big job because a) it’s so long and b) it’s a complicated song. We just didn’t have time to do it properly so we just thought we’d save it and it sounds alright as it is, so that was the reason some got done, but most of them got done. The Selling England sounded pretty good I’ve got to say. Peter was very happy with the remixes of the Selling England stuff. I’m amblivilant about those ones. I think in 5.1 I think they sound better. There were some that were vast improvements. I think all the And Then There Were Three stuff sounds loads better to me. Many Too Many is a great song and I think it always sounded pretty weak and I think. It’s sort of come out now with much more of what it should have been. I think Invisible Touch is better. Land Of Confusion I wouldn’t say is better. Tonight, Tonight, Tonight is better. I think the We Can’t Dance stuff sounds better actually! Yeah, it’s bizarre. No Son Of Mine sounds loads better to me, especially the ending. You can always have another crack at the whip can’t you?

TWR: How long would each song take to mix?

ND: A day, I guess. Pretty much.

TWR: Would that be the target you’d set yourself?

ND: Yeah.

TWR: The Carpet Crawlers 99 track…

ND: Yes…Nothing to do with me, your honour.

TWR: Appraently there’s a verse missing from the video…

ND: So I hear.

TWR: Was there a verse missing from the audio that was mixed or…

ND: I didn’t mix it. I have not mixed that track. It’s nothing to do with me. It isn’t actually remixed for the DVD. We faked the 5.1 on that one.

TWR: How do you fake 5.1?

ND: There’s a box…You put the sound into it and it can do...it’s called an unwrap. It does lots of calculations on the sound and puts some mono stuff up the centre and delays and makes sort of phase things and sticks it at the rear. So it’s just a bit of a fake that one. It’s the only one that isn’t done properly. I don’t know how they decided to chop out...maybe they chopped out the wrong verse, I don’t know.

TWR: Did going back over the We Can't Dance and Calling All Stations tracks bring back any memories?

ND: Yeah, it was good actually. I was surprised…there were things on the tape I’d forgotten…like at the end of No Son Of Mine there’s a big low piano that I hardly used on the original mix. I hardly used that in the original mix and I used it quite a lot on The Video Show ‘cos I think it’s really good. So it was quite nice to see things like that. The other song that I think has turned out really well is Shipwrecked. I was a little disappointed with Shipwrecked at the end of Calling All Stations but I actually thought The Video Show mix is better and the video is very good…things like that were sort of quite nice find.

TWR: Was it hard to re-create the sounds and effects used on the original versions of the albums?

ND: An odd thing that I couldn’t get as good is in the instrumental of Ripples. There was a fantastic flangey effect on the hi-hat and I had Dale getting all the pedals out of the barn trying to find which effect they used. I think that the original effect that they got was much better than the one I tried to copy. Generally I tried to get everything right but. I really tried to get that one right but I don’t think I did it quite justice. Finding things like that actually fills you with fear when you think ‘Oh God, what box did they use for that?’

TWR: I take it none of these things were written down at the time?

ND: No.

TWR: Were the notes rather sketchy for every master tape then?

ND: Notes…what notes?

TWR: Are you saying you didn’t keep notes for your sessions?

ND: Hey…my stuff’s pretty cool. Nowadays there’s recall.

TWR: In Los Endos, about halfway through the song, the sound seems to fold in on itself…

ND: Yeah, they do a mono thing, don’t they?

TWR: Yeah.

ND: We did that…again, I think.

TWR: Did you deliberately recreate that?

ND: Yeah.

TWR: Why?

ND: ‘Cos they wanted to do it, that’s why I suppose…

TWR: Right. It just seems strange I suppose…it sounded like they sort of ran out of tracks and had to comp something down…

ND: No, no, no…it’s an effect so they can sort of go wide again afterwards.

TWR: It’s impressive when the string bit comes in…

ND: Right, yeah. That was the reason that it did that. That’s something you notice when you’re doing a A-B’ing along the way. You hear things like that.

TWR: Which song or couple of songs have you found most challenging to remix?

ND: Mama. There’s so much pressure on that song for me now. That probably would be the hardest one. Most of them have been easy.

TWR: There’s not actually that much going on in Mama...

ND: Yeah, I think that’s part of the problem. I think that people want more out of it than actually exists, if that makes any sense. There isn’t that much on the tape. I think people’s mental impression of the song is different to what the reality is, if that makes sense.

TWR: What was the effect used on the Linn Drum machine for the Mama drum pattern?

ND: It was a mic’d up guitar amp. The (Linn) drums were sent out into an amplifier and then that was distorting it and then mic’d up in a room and that was used…there’s nothing like a reverb or anything.

TWR: So you did that again this time round…?

ND: No, no, that’s on tape.

TWR: I’m gonna put in a question now that Alan’s asked me to ask you. It’s regarding something to do with the Calling All Stations promotional material…

ND: Right.

TWR: There was a rehearsal that fans were allowed to attend right before the beginning of the tour at Bray Studios. And at this rehearsal there was a CD given out with some tracks on…some live tracks. There were only a few hundred pressed. Do you know anything about this?

ND: I don’t. What tracks are on it? I don’t know anything about it. Sounds quite collectable.

TWR: OK then, moving on...We’ve heard from good sources that work has started on digitising the soundboard tapes of live material. Have you had anything to do with that?

ND: Nope. It’s Geoff. Geoff’s doing it. He’s got lots of cassettes and he’s loading them into Pro-Tools and he’s listening to lots and lots of different versions of the same thing. I’m sure he’s loving it!

TWR: Did it get confusing working on The Platinum Collection and The Video Show at the same time?

ND: Not really because I didn’t think of them as particularly differently. I mixed them in 5.1, made a stereo of them, and whether they got used for the video or the DVD wasn’t really relevant. The division was after I’d finished with them. Obviously we had to do more tracks because, as I said, we went back and did stuff for the CD that we hadn’t done for the DVD, but there’s no difference at all in the way I treated them.

TWR: So the two track song that end up on the DVD, for those people who don’t have surround systems, is the same two track as on the CD?

ND: For the ones that are remixed, yeah. They’re both identical.

TWR: A good while ago, when you were working on The Lamb, your mate Dave apparently came in and took a few video shots of you in action at the desk. Are there any plans to do any of that again?

ND: I think there are plans to do a bit more of that, just for the website and stuff, yeah. I don’t want so much of me on it really. I like it when there’s stuff in the studio and. I think that’s quite interesting.

TWR: Regarding your section of the forum...how do you find the time to post?

ND: I switch the computer on a lot. I’m quite an internet nerd really. It’s just one of the sites that I go on to and if there’s a good question for me I’ll bother to answer it.

TWR: Is anything new happening to the website that you’re aware of?

ND: The Genesis website?

TWR: Yeah.

ND: It’s dreadful…I think Bill's going to get it back again and that’ll be loads better. It’s such a shame that the main website is appalling at the moment. I did tell them. As I say, I’m a computer nerd and I did say that the website is appalling now. In the scheme of things the last couple of years have actually been quite busy, since the Invisible Touch DVD, we’ve had a Tony Banks classical album, we’ve had a Mike & The Mechanics album, we’ve had work on The Lamb, not released yet, but we’ve had work on it, we’ve had greatest…you know, The Platinum Collection and DVD, and all that stuff… It’s needs to be updated regularly otherwise people just don’t listen to you. It seems stupid that through all that time the website was just sitting there like a big old lemon, doing absolutely nothing. The forum’s generally very good...

And with that, the interview was drawn to a close. Thanks to Nick for taking the time out to speak to twr.