May 01, 2013

A short interview with Dave Harries, sound engineer of the "Macbeth"'s soundtrack.

Dave Harries was the sound engineer of TEB's "Macbeth" soundtrack recorded at George Martin's Air Studios (London) in the second half of 1971. Quite accidentally, surfin' on the waves of the Web I've been so lucky to meet him, he's been so kind to accept a short interview about his past... 
Here's this Special Thing.

                              Dave Harries on December 19, 2011 (photo by David McSherry)

Describing the Macbeth's soundtrack project to the press ("Sounds" magazine) in 1972 Glen Sweeney said: "We originally were going to use a small dubbing theatre at Air and we thought we would rehearse the film score, but on the first few clips - they only sent the movie on a clip at the time, you see - things went to well that we eventually sent the dubbing theatre up and plugged it into an eight-track and it became the original film soundtrack, part from overdubbing... (...) The way we did it mainly was by viewing the clip that they needed music for and them maybe somebody would have musical idea which we would try out, and if nobody had any ideas then we would hope for the best and try again. And it worked nearly one hundred per cent. I mean, the ideal way would have been to get someone to write the whole score and hire a bunch of studio musicians to play it". Is this description correct?
"Yes, they did view the clip and then compose the music on the spot to go with each scene. We did it one clip at a time so at times to me the music can seem a bit disjointed. Roman Polanski used to come in and review the work. We sent the music mixes to Shepperton Studios to lay them up with the film as we completed them. Often Shepperton would label them wrongly so we would sometimes show scenes with the wrong music as a result. Very confusing. Roman Polanski used to get annoyed about this! We worked in Studio 4 which was designed as a dubbing theatre with film projection facilities. This notably was one of the first movies to use Dolby on the soundtrack".

How did you meet the band? Did you know them before to start the recording sessions? 
"I first met the band because they started the project with our film recording engineer Jack Clegg but he didn't like working with multitrack recording so he asked me to take over the recording along with assistant Bill Barringer".

Can you tell us your career at that point?
"I started work at EMI Studios in 1964 as a technical engineer staying there for 6 years and working with all the famous bands of the era including The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Hollies, Beach Boys and many more. I left in 1970 to join George Martin helping to set up the new Air Studios in Oxford Circus".

                                   One of the rare photo taken at the Macbeth recording sessions.

Which was your exact role in the recording process at Air Studios?
 "I was the recording engineer responsible for the sound and the organisation of the sessions. I recorded the band to multitrack locked to the picture and mixed the music down to two track magnetic. Also I mixed and edited the soundtrack album".

Do you remember which was the equipment you used for recording the music?
"I was speaking with Bill Barringer yesterday about the equipment. We think we used a Studer A80 8 track machine the a 50Hz pulse on track 8 to synchronise with the film.
We mixed down to stereo or maybe three track to an Albrecht film recorder. The projectors in that room were Phillips. Microphones mostly would have been Neumann U87 or U67, maybe an STC 4038 on drums.The whole track was Dolbied and we had regular visits from Elner Stetter of Dolby throughout the recordings".

What can you tell about the condition of the band in the studio (I mean if they were competent about playing and recording, if they used to get drugs, if they were serious worker...)? 

                                       The TEB appearing on the movie...
"The band worked very well in the studio and were very creative and constructive in forming the musical passages to accompany the film. Don't remember any drugs. At the time they weren't tolerated in the studios".

In a recent interview with myself, Paul Buckmaster stated: "Glen, Paul, Richard and Denny trusting me with my suggestions. For example, I actually wrote the dreary "Witches Song", which we played, and sang. The singing was done by the five of us; Roman wanted it to be "kind of disgusting"… We did a certain amount of overdubbing, to create a more dense texture in places, with me and Richard making clustery string harmonies… I think the End Titles is one of the better pieces in the score; Denny contributed a lot to that, and a great driving pulse from Glen! I believe Denny composed "Fleance's Song" with Paul… but we're all credited as co-writers, which was Glen's democratic, egalitarian virtue". Was the role of Buckmaster so decisive into the composing and recording process?

"Paul Buckmaster was an integral part of the band, particularly contributing to the more modern sounding pieces which were almost becoming classical musically".
What do you remember about the recording of the "Fleance's Song", probably the most known track of the soundtrack? I know that Glen and Paul hated it and it is confirmed by Denim Bridges that recently revealed me: "Glen and Paul hated that track because it didn't fit in with TEB concept. It was composed for the movie and it was composed by me alone. The words were provided to me so I, of course, just wrote the melody and chords. The turn around where I repeat the line as a sort of refrain was my trick that I often use(d) and using the minor chord was cool I think. The rest of the band improvised the arrangement in TEB style as best we could within the ridged structure. Anyway that song was the start of my demise with TEB as that's the way I wanted TEB to go".
"Fleance's Song was recorded by Jack Clegg and Bill in  Studio 2 at Oxford Circus. I mixed it with Bill in Studio 4 along with everything else. It was so good and very commercial that at the time we all agreed that it should be released by EMI as a single but the record company didn't agree".

Which was the real contribution in the studio work of George Martin?
"To my knowledge George didn't have anything to do with the recording of "Macbeth"".
Had you been involved with the film premiere in London? Do you recall something?
"Didn't get an invitation to the premiere".

Have you got any stuff, photos or something else about that experience that you wish to share with the Archive's readers?
"Unfortunately I don't have any pictures or anything. I will do some research however.
I hope that the above is of help.
All the best, Dave Harries".

Dave Harries (on left), after receiving his Lifetime Contribution Award in 2009 from Sir George Martin and Ken Townsend (on right)

no©2013 Luca Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)

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