As former front-man and bassist for The Baggsmen, who achieved national success and recognition in the early 2000’s – Tony Buchen started out his burgeoning career by simply recording his own band. His determination to achieve the right sound for the hip-hop trio quickly had him learning the engineering trade ‘on the job’ until he felt in control of the studio and, he says started to use it as an instrument in itself.
In those early days, while Tony was recording some of his projects as a producer at Sydney’s now defunct Electric Avenue studios, former owner and legendary engineer Phil Punch provided some guidance:
“He was an informal mentor to me from the engineering perspective, showing me the ‘Abbey Road’ school of engineering: learning how to use gear properly, then breaking every rule possible to create original textures and sounds.”
By 2005, Tony had notched up an impressive back-catalogue of projects with artists such as Bluejuice, The Church and Blue King Brown. Since that time, Tony’s experience as a musician and skills as a producer have continued to resonate with the broad spectrum of artists he has worked with and his career has gone from strength to strength.
Recent projects include mixing John Butler’s ‘Live At Red Rocks’ (2011 ARIA Nomination), producing an EP for NZ artist Gin Wigmore which has been met with a stellar reception there (certified Platinum, released on Motown label in the US), scoring a spot in triple j’s Hottest 100 of 2010 with ‘Dog’ by Andy Bull (feat. Lisa Mitchell) and receiving critical acclaim for his work with Melbourne hip-hop artist Phrase, who’s new album ‘Babylon’ eschews pre-fabricated beats and sampling for scratch-made, live tracks with 60’s garage rock and 70’s soul stylings.
Lately, Tony has been hard at work in the studio with cinematic art/rock group WIM, a brand new indie/vintage-soul band The Preachers from Sydney (both recorded by Tony in LA) and a score for new film from director Andrew Adamson (Shrek/Chronicles of Narnia/Prince of Persia) entitled ‘Mr. Pip’ which was recently recorded in Bougainville with Tim Finn.
Tony Buchen’s role as a producer and mix engineer extends to the international realm with his extensive work in the US as well as New Zealand, which over the years has seen him build great relationships with variety of studios and people, including renowned producer Bob Clearmountain (Paul McCartney, The Who, Rolling Stones, Roxy Music), members of Beck’s studio/touring band and long standing association with legendary musician Tim Finn (Split Enz, Tim Finn Band) amongst many others.
“I like producers that have something to say, rather than just straight up engineer a record. I do a lot of string and horn arrangements and my records so I naturally love producers like Jon Brion and Ethan Johns. Nigel Godrich is incredible and I respect the discipline of his approach – always very pure and never throwing too many ideas into a 3 minute track. I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with musicians in LA who do a lot of work with these guys and have learnt a lot from their experiences.”
Regardless of whether the recording is digital or tape-based in nature, Tony’s penchant for vintage 60’s tube gear ensures an eclectic mix of vintage analogue mics, pre-amps, compressors and effects always make an appearance to give the sound true character. His hands-on approach to production stems from a desire to achieve the very best from the artist.
“Generally I’m a very involved and engaged producer, but always trying to draw the best out of the musicians and feature the basic essence of what they’re trying to say as a musician, rather than imposing another approach on them”.
Far from just working as a producer, Tony’s background and continued work as a bass player and live performer has been of great importance to his style of production and the experience carries over into the studio.
“I think being a musician and performer has helped me to see things from the recording artist’s perspective. I know the feeling when your heart rate goes up during a particular section of a song and what that can do the way you play your instrument. My job is to harness that energy when it translates to a performance that sounds out of the ordinary and put it to tape so lots of other people can experience that emotional ride.”