interviews

Hitmakers: Rick Nowels reveals the secrets behind The Power Of Good-Bye

Rick Nowels has scored hits with everyone from Belinda Carlisle and John Legend to Lana Del Rey. Here, the Sony/ATV songwriter recalls how a brief encounter with Madonna led to The Power Of Good-Bye... When I worked on The Power ...

The Aftershow: Johnnie Walker

A British broadcasting institution for more than 50 years, Johnnie Walker recently launched the Radio 2 Rock Show. The DJ, who started his career on pirate radio before joining BBC Radio 1 in 1969, discusses the magic of drivetime and looks back on a career that’s included encounters with angry Bay City Rollers fans and ‘nice bloke’ Lou Reed... My big break on pirate radio… “Was on a ship called Radio England. When the chance came to move to Radio Caroline, I couldn’t get there fast enough because it was the station that I really loved. It was the first pirate and the one I always wanted to be on. Having a 9pm to midnight show in 1967, the Summer Of Love, it got a pretty big audience. I was playing a lot of Stax Atlantic - Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett. I just thought night-time was brilliant for soul and R&B.” Eric Clapton nearly ended my Radio 1 career when… “I tried to play Layla when the album [Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek And The Dominos] first came out [in 1970]. I put the needle on and thought, ‘This is just so brilliant’. But my producer said it was too heavy for an audience at that time. I had a one-hour show from 9-10am, sandwiched between Tony Blackburn and Jimmy Young. One of my regrets is that I didn’t just go ahead and play it anyway. It was quite a long time before it eventually came out and became a hit single.” I’m a radio DJ who prefers albums to singles... “Radio 1 was very much based on a Top 40 singles format, although there was some great music coming out on albums in the ’70s – Steely Dan, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac. I liked to incorporate album tracks on air, but it was a struggle at times.” I helped save Lou Reed’s career... “I was interviewing him once and he said, ‘I left The Velvet Underground, released a solo album, my career was a bit in the dumpster’. But he said some DJ in Europe started playing Walk On The Wild Side over and over. I said, ‘Yeah, you’re talking to him’. That was quite a controversial pick as Record Of The Week, which some people thought Radio 1 shouldn’t have been playing. But it was fantastic, and it still sounds brilliant today. We bonded over the joys of motorcycling – when I told him I had a Harley-Davidson, he gave me a hug. He was actually a nice bloke but he just didn’t much like talking about his music.” Bay City Rollers fans demanded I apologise when… “I sounded a bit bored that they were still at No.1 with Bye Bye Baby. The record ended and the Radio 1 switchboard was jammed with angry Bay City Rollers fans. So I said on air, ‘You can love them all you like, just don’t expect me to love them – I think they make musical garbage’. It just came out. So that was on the front of the red tops and got me in a bit of trouble.” I really love the Drivetime slot... “I had a great seven years doing that show on Radio 2 [until 2006]. The idea was that Terry Wogan got everyone up in the morning and off to work, and I would then get them back home with, hopefully, a smile on their face. It’s got to be a mix of informative chat and music. Sometimes I’d get emails from people saying they had got home and pulled into the drive, but ended up staying in the car because they had to listen to the end of it.”

'He might be the best producer in the world': Mumford & Sons on fourth album Delta

Marcus Mumford has no hesitation in lavishing praise upon producer Paul Epworth for his work on Delta. The multiple Grammy winner and three-time BRIT Awards Producer Of The Year holder, who has collaborated with artists including Adele, The Stone Roses and Rihanna, has worked with the band since Easter. “He might be the best producer in the world,” says Mumford. “He’s felt like a mate as well, it hasn’t felt hierarchical in any way. Everyone’s idea counts, everyone gets a chance to say however they feel about anything and we’ll work on it accordingly and that has just been amazing. “The studio being set up in such a way that everything’s always plugged in just means that, creatively, you can always try an idea really quickly and it won’t stunt the creative process. It’s a really cool studio, so it might be the best studio in the world as well.” “The marriage with Paul Epworth has been fascinating and I don’t know whether we would have collaborated with him as well 10 years ago,” says Ben Lovett. “It’s like a lot has lined up in the right way to be making Delta now, you can’t imagine making a record at a different time.” “He’s been a massive creative part of this album and certainly pushed us to places we’ve not been before,” adds Winston Marshall. Markus Dravs (Sigh No More/Babel) and James Ford (Wilder Mind) produced Mumfords’ previous three LPs. “I’ve been quite astonished by their musicality and how focused they’ve been,” Epworth tells Music Week. “Across the whole album we’ve found quite an interesting sound that’s very true to them as a band, probably closer to Babel than Wilder Mind but it definitely feels like we’ve found some new ways to do it. “The main challenges involved taking a band predominantly known for essentially acoustic instruments and finding new ways to spin it without it sounding like it’s been dressed up for the sake of it. “Sometimes it’s what you don’t do that’s the hallmark of being a good producer,” he adds. “So with some of the demos I just said, ‘We don’t need to change that,’ which says a lot about the strength of the songwriting and arrangements. “They’ve got very cool musical tastes and they’re very culturally aware and there’s been a desire to try and reflect some of that in the way we’ve set about doing stuff. It’s been an amazing process.”  

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