September 1, 2010
Glitter and Diamonds: Interview with…Steve Anderson! (Part One)
When she is in the moment, literally it’s like magic flying about all over the place and on stage. It simply doesn’t get any better.
Steve Anderson is a pop nerd’s goldmine.
Known today as a songwriter, a producer, and a musical director (amongst other job titles), Anderson’s career actually took off in the late ’80’s as a remixer, acting as one-half of the popular remix outfit, Brothers in Rhythm along with Dave Seaman.
Working out mixes for some of the most popular artists of the time including Cherrelle, Sister Sledge, and Loleatta Holloway, Steve Anderson quickly began carving himself a comfy niche in the pop industry. Yet one of the most important milestones in Anderson’s career came with eventual introduction in the early ’90’s with a certain Kylie Minogue.
Beginning with Minogue’s self-titled 1994 record and continuing all the way to Aphrodite, Steve Anderson has worked intimately co-writing and recording the internationally cherished diva for nearly twenty years. He’s been responsible for the arrangement and production of many of her hits (“Confide In Me,” “Did It Again”), as well as continuing to serve as the musical director of every tour she’s done since 1997’s Intimate and Live.
As time went on, Anderson soon began taking a hand at penning tracks for a variety of MuuMuse’s most celebrated acts: From Atomic Kitten to Holly Valance, to the legendary Miss Britney Spears.
Since then, the talented producer has only continued to busy himself with work. Anderson is currently in the midst of planning Minogue’s massive Aphrodite Tour as well as executive producing Christophe Willem‘s upcoming studio album. At the same time, he’s been eagerly involved in the launch of two up-and-coming acts: Elouise, a classic crooner who brings to mind yesterday’s greatest voices (Judy Garland, Dusty Springfield), and The Ultra Girls, a new girl group rooted in Spice Girls-esque pop for the sake of pop.
Needless to say, Steve Anderson is a busy man.
As a result, I was delighted when I found out that Mr. Anderson was willing to answer a heap of questions I’d prepared for him, along with several questions submitted by Muusers. A dream!
So without further ado, please read on to see the first part of the interview.
Steve: It’s so wonderful to finally speak (or rather, e-speak) to you. I’m a huge fan of all of your work. I know you must be painfully busy…here’s hoping these questions are at least somewhat different than the usual lot!
Lovely to speak to you too – I love your blog and as you probably know am very passionate about new music so yours is one of the first I always check out to find it.
Of course you’ve become well known for your arrangements and productions as a musical director, but you truly got your start within the industry through your own remixes (along with Brothers in Rhythm) during the late ’80’s. How did you begin making a name for yourself as a remixer at the time?
I worked for a company called DMC who were a DJ subscription service providing DJ Only exclusive remixes every month. It started off as mega-mixes and remixes from acapellas going on to full multi-tracks, which is where I had my apprenticeship working on records I would never have been able to if it wasn’t for DMC and getting a reputation for remixing. Obviously Dave Seaman worked there too, which is how Brothers In Rhythm started.
You also began working with Kylie ever since the deConstruction days on her self-titled record from ’94. When did you first meet? Was it, as one might say, love at first sight?
I think we first met when she came to DMC studio to work on songs for the first deConstruction album. David and I had prepared a few ideas. One was “Confide In Me” which she recorded a guide vocal for–most of which ended up as the final vocal as it was stunning.
Since then, you’ve amassed loads and loads of unreleased material. One of the most intriguing times in Kylie’s career came during the Impossible Princess era, which found her taking many more risks in terms of sound and style. The recording for the album took over two years…there’s a lot of material from that era that never crossed over to the public. Do you think there are any plans to allow the songs to see the light of day?
I don’t agree that everyone needs to hear everything. If there are songs that haven’t been released, it is either because the songs weren’t good enough or they weren’t taken to the level production-wise that would allow them to be seen in the best light. The only exception is probably “You’re The One,” which we did take to final production, and a song called “At The End Of The Day” from the 1994 album. The rest are purely demos.
However, I do hope that the songs we recorded for the White Diamond soundtrack are released properly one day (all the Blossom Dearie related material) as I am incredibly proud of that work, and it includes some of Kylie’s finest ever vocals. She actually just performed one of them (“Try Your Wings”) at a show with Rufus Wainwright in the US.
One of my favorite Kylie songs–and really, favorite songs of all time–is “Confide In Me.” Can you tell us more about the process of writing and recording that song? Any interesting back-stories or inspiration for the number? I get chills every time I hear it to this day.
As always with the really good ones, it came very easily. I was working on a track idea, David had a bunch of lyrics scribbled down and there on its own was this phrase: “Confide In Me,” which I thought would be a great chorus. David is an excellent lyricist and a bit of a poet, so there were always stacks of lyrical ideas, but this one seemed to work best repeated.
The vocal is pretty much what she recorded on the day. We did the demo and all the guitar/keyboard solo stuff is one take. We added the intro and real strings when we were mixing it at Sarm West with me playing their beautiful Bosendorfer Grand Piano and some backwards guitar, and David playing whatever it was on his Dictaphone in front of some stereo mics, as well as some other atmospherics.
In actual fact, I would say that the club mix of the song probably took 3 times as long to complete than the original record, but we did have a habit of going on a bit of a journey with those, plus the luxury of having the artist around to re-sing bits of the song.
Speaking of, did you hear the Hurts cover of the song? What’d you think?
I love it and love Hurts. I think they are such an important band. Everything they do has a real sense of style and quality about it, and the videos are stunning. I also really liked the version by Aston from Australia which is totally orchestral and amazing.
How involved is Kylie in the writing process? Does she write lyrics or provide certain themes for inspiration?
On anything I have ever written with her, she provides all the lyrics, and of course the muse to do something superb in the first place. She is an incredible lyricist, from saying something simple perfectly (“Love At First Sight”) to going to the darkest place without a hint of pretension (“Too Far”) and summing up the healing process with pure joy (“No More Rain”).
Out of the wealth of unreleased material you have with your artists, are there any songs in particular that you feel were truly missed opportunities for the artist? For Kylie, or any of the other artists you’ve worked with in the past.
Not really. I don’t think the creators of music are ever the ones who know what would do best commercially, as we like things for different reasons.
Do you think there are any misconceptions as Kylie Minogue as an artist?
The biggest misconception is whenever anyone has a go at her voice, which always annoys me as she has the most recognizable tone–complete power mixed with beautiful subtlety. [It’s] pretty much pitch perfect and has the one thing that so many people don’t, which is believability. Every vocal I’ve ever recorded with her, I’ve ended up using one take with maybe a line from another, but its all there. When she is in the moment, literally it’s like magic flying about all over the place and on stage. It simply doesn’t get any better.
You know I’m also an over-the-top obsessive Britney fan. You wrote perhaps one of my favorite Britney songs, “Breathe On Me,” for her fourth studio album. How was your experience working with her during the In The Zone sessions, and how did the song come about?
Unfortunately, I never actually got to work with her myself. We wrote the song during a session at Metrophonic with songs specifically aimed for her. I had one I worked on for ages that I thought would be perfect, and the idea for “Breathe On Me” was literally done in an hour on the morning of the session to have something in my back pocket in case the other writers didn’t like the other idea–which luckily they didn’t! Again it came together really quickly, and pretty much the demo we did ended up being the finished record. Mark Taylor from Metrophonic (who produced it) kept all of my programming and recorded a superb vocal from Britney on it delivering the record for Sony.
You’ve also written a song called “State of Grace,” which was originally recorded by Britney, and is now known as “Entre Nous Et Le Sol,” performed by Christophe Willem. Do you know why Britney’s rendition didn’t make Blackout, despite it being one of the greatest songs written during that era?
“State Of Grace” is one of my favorite songs I have ever written. Again Britney sounded great on it, but it just wasn’t to be. In a way I am glad as it was my introduction to the amazingly talented Christophe Willem, which lead on to me being his Musical Director and now producing his next album. Everything happens for a reason.
You’ve also got several new projects in the works. Elouise is one. What have you been working on with her?
I’m currently working on a new show called “Stardust with Elouise,” which opens at The Tabernacle on September 11th, as well as finishing up producing her new EP which is out in October, and an album which will be out early next year.
The show basically came about as there are so many well loved songs that people simply can’t sing anymore unless you go to a Barbra Streisand or Shirley Bassey concert, so we thought we would put them all in one show celebrating female performers including Judy Garland and Dusty Springfield. We hope the show will go on to do more dates as the setlist is incredible, and you just don’t get singers like Elouise anymore.
She’s a real old school belter but with complete believability and vulnerability too, especially on songs like “The Winner Takes It All” and Judy Garland’s version of “As Long As He Needs Me,” which are both in the show alongside her version of “Stardust” and countless more. There is also a multimedia element to it with some fabulous video montages and backdrops put together by Robert Hanlon. It’s a really special show.
And then there’s The Ultra Girls, an up-and-coming girl group. How has that come about? What are they like?
I love those girls. They are so funny, but hard working and great singers/dancers too. They are managed by a friend of mine. Initially the idea of another girl group didn’t appeal to me, but when I met them I realized they didn’t want to be the next Sugababes or Pussycat Dolls.
Actually they loved pop music and were more comparable to the Spice Girls/Atomic Kitten with a hint of early Madonna, which I honestly think we need at the moment. I have written and produced some songs for them along with Sarah deCourcy, Aaron Sillis and Jason Beitel are choreographing, and Terry Ronald is working with them vocally so its all a close team and we are all 100% supportive of them.
Will they be releasing something soon?
I would say early next year for sure. At the moment we are getting the groundwork done and making sure everything is in place, plus doing some private appearances and shows. Their first actual appearance was Party In The Park in front of 50,000 people, so…good grounding.
Have you got any other artists you’re currently writing or recording with?
I am executive producer for Christophe Willem’s new album, which is very exciting, as it means I get to ask amazing writers for songs as well as collaborating [with] some myself, including Karen Poole, Hannah Robinson, Jamie Hartman and Lisa Greene. Hopefully the album will be out middle of next year. It’s sounding amazing already.
I’m also really thrilled Parlophone are releasing my mix of Kylie’s “Get Outta My Wa” I did for the album launch at Pacha.
I work a lot with Westlife who I love, we just did an acoustic show for 02 which was really special, and I have a very close creative relationship with Mark Feehily from the band including some songwriting which I hope ends up on their album.
Last and by no means least, we are relaunching our fabulous Hurly Burly Show which, for people that don’t know, is the burlesque spectacular William Baker and I created with Miss Polly Rae and was without doubt one of the most fun and fulfilling experiences of my career. The new show is bigger and bolder than ever, so as soon as the details are finalized, you will be the first to know.
That’s all for part one of the interview. Keep your eyes peeled for the second half next Tuesday–you’ll find out about loads more Kylie including more on her unreleased tracks (“You’re The One”), songs that didn’t make the cut in concert, developing set-lists for tours, an unreleased Britney ballad that Anderson refers to as “stunning,” more reader submitted questions, and much more about Elouise and the Ultra Girls.