16 questions to the Producer Tommy Hansen
1) A little personal background - I understand you are Danish and not related to Kai Hansen in any form ?
I do not have anything to do with Kai Hansen, and I am not related to him in any way. Hansen is a very common name in Denmark. Yes, I come from the vikings, at least all my ancestors were Danes, as far as I know. I am 48 years old, and have been working in the recordbusiness for the last 30 years. Before that I used to play in different bands, and once did a performance in the, at that time, newly started "ROSKILDE-FESTIVAL".
2) How did you get into producing music ? Did you start out as a musician ? If so, which instruments do you play ?
In the early seventies, I was playing the hammondorgan in the danish group "The old man & the sea". We went to the studio to record our first record. This incident, that lasted for about 8 days, opened the door to a brand new - very interresting world - for me. I was hooked immediately! I went straight back home, and started to set up a very primitive studioenvirement in our bands rehearsalroom. It was very hard at that time to get hold of decent recording equipment, so I really had to improvise a lot. In those days, you could not buy a small mixer with a stereo output. Offcourse you could buy a big recording console, but the price of that was way out of reach for me - at least at that point. All that was available, was small devices with 6 input channels and one mono out. These mixers were meant to be used by livebands, just for the vocals. So I started to do some manual work in a radioplant, and managed to "smugle out" bits and pieces that later became my first homebuild studio mixer.
3) Most of the visitors of the web-site certainly don´t know exactly what a producer does. Could you describe what your part of the recording process is ?
A producer can act in many different ways. Some are very dominant - others more holding back, letting the bands have more influence on the final result. I personally always try to find a balance between these extremes. Normally the bands have a pretty good idea about what they want to do. They write the songs - most of the time - and know how they want it to come out. My job is to guide them in that direction, and through positive criticism, hopefully get them to that point. Sometimes it can be necessary to cut in the arrangements of the new songs, maybe to get a better flow, or to make the whole thing more "catchy". I remember one time during one og the Helloween recordingsessions, the band felt that some of the extreme fast songs were missing a bit. So Ulli - the drummer - said that he had an idea, some riffs and stuff, and later on he came to the studio with a rough demo. He played it to me, and I felt a strong track coming. Fore some reason I took all the parts of his song apart, and put it back in a totally new arrangement, making one little part, that he intended to be a transitionpart, the chorus part of the song. His solo part became the new verse, and his chorus became the solopart. We went on cutting and pasting for hours, and finally the song became clear to us. That song "Push" became the opening track on the album "Better than raw". The producer is very important when you start recording the vocaltracks. The feel and expression of the vocals are very important stuff, which really relies on "the feel" of it. Here you must guide the artists, and bring out the best in them. I know it is possible to improve an artist`s performance by several percent, when you "beat the shit out of them" by pressing them over the limit. It`s a tough case, because sometimes you have to bring out a lot a aggression to get the right result - and then you have to show some psychologic ability - making it possible to work on from that point, rather then just starting a fight between you and the artist. The producer is also contributing with ideas, like keyboardlines and small production sounds, that makes the record more interresting listening to.
4) Do you think it´s necessary for a producer to actually play an instrument ?
Not necessary - but perhaps a big advantage, because it is a lot easier to put yourself in the musicians place, when you know a bit about playing music. Like setting the headphones up in a good musical way, that may inspire the musicians, rather that just turning everything up loud. When you play an instrument, it is also a lot easier to show ideas, rather that just singing or humming to the artist.
5) Does producing Metal require any extra skills ?
No - I dont think so. Of course in the end, it is a matter of talent if you are good at this particular type of music. To me it comes very easy. I have always considered myself a rockperson, playing an aggressive music, long time before it ever came around as "heavy metal".
6) What was the very first record you got a producers credit for, and how do you view this experience today ?
In the early eighties, I had reached a point of having my own studiofacilities, that included a 24-track recording machine. At that time I was contacted by Pretty Maids, who comes from the same town as I do. We did their very first recordings, and it became clear to me that I had a talent for recording that kind of music. It was a good experience.
7) What are your fave 5 productions you did yourself and why ?
1. Helloween "Keeper of the seven keys part one" was a very exciting recordingsession. The guys were so filled up with life and energy, and everything just came out right, almost all by itself.
2. Pretty maids "Red hot and heavy" This was my first succesfull heavy metal production. Allready in the demo phase, it became clear to me that the band was gonna break it big. The songs were really happening and though the fact that the band was pretty unexperienced, and did many mistakes during the recordings, it was a very good and powerfull experience.
3. "Y" "Rawchild" This danish band that for some reason never made it at all, was a smashing sounding production. The songwriter and dynamo of the band ( Yenz Leonhardt ) had a great influence on the production. His perfection almost drove me crazy, but I had to admit in the end, that it was worth it. The final result was just perfect. I even had a personal call from Epic USA, giving me credits on the work. But something must have been wrong, maybe the time was not right, or the persons behind the band were not right, because nothing came out of it.
4."Beyond Twilight" is a very talented danish heavymetal band, pretty much based on the songwriter and keyboardplayer Finn Zierler. A very huge production, very orchestral with lots of tracks to manage. Again for some strange reason, the succes could have been bigger.
5. Helloween "The time of the oath" This record is so filled with good songs. Unbelieveable. The only complain I can think of, is actually a fault of my own. I used the compressors to heavy on this production. It was done at a time when the level could not be loud enough. Unfortunately by going to 160, I felt that the record lost some breathing space. I will never do it again - sorry.
8) Any fave bands you have yet to work with ?
I don't know if I understand this question right. Are you talking about reality or wishfull thinking ?
9) Is there such a thing as a "worst case scenario" production and did you already experience one ?
There is such a thing. Sometimes nothing works at all. You feel your energy just drops out of you, and you get the impression, that everytime you move three steps forward, you end up one step behind. I don't know what causes those situations. But it happens. Shit happens.
10) Can musicians be categorized by the instrument they play (let´s say any similarities in guitarplayers and singers) ?
Singers are all a bit crazy. Many of them are like women. Sometimes impossible to work with. But I think that you have to be a bit crazy, being a good front man. Bassplayers are generally very calm persons. They are making the depth to the music, and therefore normally very quiet and steady persons.
Guitarists can be all different types. Here you can't generalize.
Drummers can also be all different types.
11) What would the perfect metal song sound like ?
Like 7 million sold copies
12) Which other producers do you like and for what reasons ?
Being brought up in the old school, I always admired John Mud Lange, especially for his work with "Def Leppard" and "Ac/Dc" not to forget. Mud Lange is a perfectionist. He goes on and on and on, and ends up controling every beat in the music. This man must have a patience, never experienced before on this planet. Pretty much the same goes for my other big hero, Trevor Horn. He also used to impress me a lot, for his work with "Frankie goes to Hollywood" & "Grace Jones".
13) How important is the psychological part of your job in contrast to the purely technical aspects (like getting sounds or mixing) ?
Very important. If you expect the artists to do a good job and a good performance, this is the most important issue. The feeling and the "vibe" going on in the studio is the most important thing. If you try to wip the guys to hard, ending breaking them up, its not gonna turn out right. Sometimes you just have to treat them like babies, building up their self consciousness.
14) Do you think it is necassary for the contemporary musician to read music ?
15) What do you think of the current "True Metal"-Boom ? Is it for real or just a sell-out, triggered by the industry ?
Don't know. Metal allways hang around
16) You´ve been around for a while as a producer. Don't you think that during the "Golden 80ies" bands sounded more different from each other
I dont know. In the eighties everybody had to use drumsamples, and for that reason ended up with, more or less, the same drumsound. Maybe the songmaterial was more independent in those days. I really dont know.
soundwise ? Maybe due to the lack of professional technology ?
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