Moist Leg, Fontaines DC … Kylie? The bizarre world of post-punk superproducer Dan Carey

Dan Carey’s studio is notoriously hectic at the very best of instances, however right this moment takes the biscuit. The air is thick with hangovers, the tabletops strewn with empty champagne bottles and Carey’s head has been freshly shaved bald. His new musical venture Miss Tiny, a duo with Warmduscher’s Benjamin Romans-Hopcraft, performed at Pratts & Payne in Streatham final night time, earlier than stumbling the brief stroll again to the studio with a number of choose buddies within the early hours.

As we retrace these steps again to the venue, Carey rightly strides by this patch of south London as if he has been granted particular civic freedoms, such has been his position in establishing it as a hub of different music tradition over the past decade. In an period when it has been more durable for conventional music scenes to solidify, Carey has been the lightning rod for a growth of agitated, prodigious post-punk bands which might be sure collectively not simply by time and place, however by an aesthetic that was honed to a big extent by Carey himself, quietly, behind the manufacturing desk.

Carey, 53, runs the influential unbiased report label Speedy Wunderground (alongside engineer Alexis Smith and supervisor/A&R Pierre Corridor). He has 4 Mercury prize nominations to his identify to this point, and Fontaines DC, Squid, Black Midi, Moist Leg, Goat Woman and Black Nation, New Highway are simply a number of the bands which have acquired the signature Carey manufacturing stamp.

“Most of my thought goes on the way to seize what persons are really like,” he explains between sips of a hair of the canine Guinness at Pratts & Payne. “One factor that usually strikes me is you’ll watch a band taking part in dwell they usually’re completely mindblowing, and then you definitely hear them on report and it’s simply not the identical. There are numerous video games you possibly can play and methods you should utilize [as a producer] to make individuals really feel comfy or to really feel underneath stress.”

One such trick is that Carey will power a band to decide to recording three tracks back-to-back, and if any errors are made then all three can be wiped from the grasp tape. He believes it engenders the identical tightly centered mindset that bands mechanically carry out with on stage. “It actually sharpens everybody’s nerves,” he says. “It simply creates that little little bit of pressure you want.”

Dan Carey with Natasha Khan (AKA Bat for Lashes) working on their side project Sexwitch in 2015 in Carey’s studio.
‘There can be no lunch break throughout recording and mixing days’ … Dan Carey with Natasha Khan (AKA Bat for Lashes) engaged on their aspect venture Sexwitch in 2015 in Carey’s studio. {Photograph}: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

It’s that very urgency that has, underneath Carey’s supervision, come to outline the south London guitar sound. Carey himself traces the inception of his relationship with the scene way back to his manufacturing on the 2012 debut album by Brighton psych rockers Toy. The 70s German motorik flavours on that report chimed loudly with Carey’s personal style and he determined it was a lane he wished to comply with additional. His fame rapidly grew as every new band he labored with wished to emulate the one which got here earlier than. It finally reached what Carey describes as a “crucial mass” round 2018, by which period south London, notably his Streatham studio and the close by Brixton Windmill venue, had change into pilgrimage websites for a sure sort of arch, esoteric new artist.

The roots of Carey’s success might be traced again additional, although, to an ill-fated report take care of Virgin on the flip of the millennium that culminated with How Issues Work, an LP he recorded underneath the moniker Mr Dan. He was signed on the top of the downtempo-producer-as-artist fad that gave us Zero 7 and Moby, and whereas he loved the lavish provisions on supply – his studio, additionally colloquially dubbed Mr Dan’s, was partially constructed with the advance on the album – it quickly grew to become clear he was an excessive amount of of an outlier for it to really work. Additionally, “it got here out on the day that the 9/11 assaults occurred,” he says. “Even I didn’t need to discuss my album.”

Restricted gross sales meant his label felt largely the identical, and he was dropped. “My cousin was crossing the street the opposite day and slipped over on one thing. She picked it up and it was a CD of Mr Dan, simply within the gutter in Bathtub. That about sums up what Virgin considered it.”

He however remained on the decision checklist for songwriting classes for pop royalty. “I didn’t know what I used to be doing, so I’d say to them, ‘Have you ever heard this?’”. Carey makes a strangulated howling sound adopted by a number of cavernous bass booms. “They’d be like, ‘Aaargh, my ears’. So as a substitute, I’d strive one thing regular on a piano, and that was when typically they’d have an interest.”

One among his extra restrained and chic ideas was authorized and earlier than lengthy he was sitting reverse Kylie Minogue producing the sultry, seductive pop basic Gradual, a UK No 1. Carey takes pleasure that the completed monitor strictly adopted the longer term Speedy Wunderground golden rule of solely that includes 4 sonic components at anybody time, reflecting on the expertise as “100% optimistic”.

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His credit score additionally sits on tracks with Sia, Lily Allen, Will Younger and extra, however Carey subsequently retreated from pop, producing indie mainstays resembling Franz Ferdinand and Bat for Lashes, then working with younger and hungry bands. He established Speedy Wunderground in 2013, starting the label’s acclaimed Singles Collection, 7-inch releases from largely unknown new artists that Carey personally selects and produces. The singles should adhere to a strict 10-point doctrine that displays the Carey ethos, with an emphasis on fast turnarounds and a rejection of sonic muddle (“There can be no lunch break throughout recording and mixing days”; “The core of every track can be a dwell take recorded at midnight with smoke and lasers”).

Miss Tiny, AKA Benjamin Romans-Hopcraft and Dan Carey.
Miss Tiny, AKA Benjamin Romans-Hopcraft and Dan Carey. {Photograph}: Holly Whittaker

Carey’s current work away from the manufacturing desk has included being a part of the group Scottibrains and making the music for Kae Tempest’s sensible run of albums, however he feels one thing particular is going on with Miss Tiny. He and Romans-Hopcraft have been buddies since he produced the latter’s band Childhood in 2012; their first EP collectively precedes an album anticipated subsequent yr. Carey describes it as “the best-sounding factor that has come out of the studio”, its taut, brittle guitars and deep, nodding rhythms stuffed with joyous combustibility.

At a time when music communities are extra simply solid on-line than in sweaty basements, Carey and his friends have already solid their legacy. Returning to his studio, he climbs over final night time’s particles to get to his condo upstairs, whereas workmen shuffle previous round him. Amid the chaos, he’s having a brand new sound desk put in: a contemporary set of instruments able to seize the following iteration of the Dan Carey universe.

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