Interview with Mickey Sweeney
|by Chris Groom and Judith & Trevor Watson|
|all photos at Watercolour Music, Ardgour, Scotland by Michael Bailey|
IN THE BEGINNING
Can you fill in some detail about your early days - were you a musician to begin with? Which bands did you play/work with?
The first pro studio I saw was Abbey Rd when The Sect [ I was their roadie ] recorded a song by a group called The Left Banke, the sessions producer was Tim Rice. Unfortunately a short time later the Four Tops released "Walk away Rene". What goes around comes around.
How and when did you move into the engineer/production side of music?
I had a tape recorder as a child, sound fascinated me, I would wire the stylus on the front room hi-fi out of phase play Beatles songs and record the results, later when I was touring I'd try to record gigs and rehearsals, behind a mixer thatís my place
At what point did you meet up with Alan and Lindisfarne?
After the Sect off to London, thru a friend, the engineer for the Alan Price Set, I got a job as soundman for Geno Washington and managed to swing a bass playing role for Tommy Duffy of the Sect. Next Lee Jackson and Jackson Heights because of [ex Junco Partners] Charlie Harcourt, this introduced me to the people at Charisma Records. I toured with a lot of their acts Audience, Van der Graff , ending up as the soundman for more local lads Bell and Arc when I was asked to be Lindisfarne tour manager, big change for me.
ENGINEERING & PRODUCTION WORK
Your name often appears in conjunction with Geoff Heslop - did this partnership start at Rubber Records?
Yes Impulse studio, I think the first record may have been Pete Scotsí Jimmy the Moonlight.
For Rubber you worked with Five Hand Reel and Mike Elliott; but who else passed through your hands while recording for this label?
Comedians Bobby Thompson, Mike Harding, Maxi and Mitch - Singers Bob Fox and Stu Luckley, Dave Burland, Kieran Halpin
My first recollection of your work with Lindisfarne is on the Charisma 'Live' album from 1971, which you co-produced with Roy Thomas Baker. Do you think the recording really deserves the criticism it often receives?
Absolutely! Its crap! Tony Stratton-smith sent me off to Trident studios with reels of 8 track masters recorded in the City Hall, it was an impossible task, there was no audience, an essential element. RTB did show me some tricks so it was a learning curve. A silk purse it is not.
You also worked on their next live recording - handling the "upfront sound" at the concerts that produced the 'Magic in the Air' double album. What gives this record the superior sound to the 1971 recording?
It was done properly ..
You were the producer on Alan's 'Pipedream' - arguably Alan's finest hour - was the album as much fun to work on as the pictures in the booklet suggest? (And for those of us who have never met you, which of those pics is you?)
We did the demos on a Re-vox ,at Alansí house in Barnet, a mike inside an empty suitcase for a bass drum. The recording took place over two weeks at Trident, Roy Thomas Baker on the desk He recorded Bohemian Rhapsody the same month. It was magical it was daft it was Alan [I'm behind Jacka looking Zappaesque ]
Is it your voice that introduces 'Country Gentlemans Wife' with "rolling"?
The Heslop/Sweeney partnership continued at the Morpeth-based Black Crow label - were you both involved in setting up the label?
No labels. me sound.
This period saw you working with all the members of LF, both solo and the whole band. Rod and Bert's 'Leather Launderette', both of Alan's solo outings for the label and finally 'Amigos'. Any particular memories from these sessions?
I was a busy bee, as well as working at Cluny were we did Rod and Bert and the Woody Guthrie tribute, I had sessions at Lynx studio refurbished by ACDC singer Brian Johnson. I recorded Alansí On the Other Side with the wonderful Peter Kirtley on guitar and my first album with Kathrine. About the same time I was fortunate to get a gig on the P.A. crew for the Channel 4ís The Tube.
For the 'Amigos' sessions, you share both production and engineering credits with Steve Daggett; and for many people this was the bands best studio recording for many years. Presumably Geoff had decided to take a 'back seat' by this time, so how well did the partnership work with Steve?
Steve started the record then fell ill and I was called in to finish it, so we never worked together, unfortunately.
You also worked with Rod and Ray on 'Under the Rain' by Rab Noakes. For a studio album, the sound is very 'live' and immediate on this - do you prefer to record this way in the studio?
Over the years your work has spanned folk - Five Hand Reel, Prelude, Kathryn Tickell; to pop - Prefab Sprout, the Kane Gang; to metal with the likes of Venom. How easy is it to move between different musical styles - and do you have a personal preference?
People are my personal preference, playing and saying anything they want, I try to get them heard.
What other bands have you been working with recently?
Archie Brownsíalbum Turks Head Soup and a live recording of Hogshead at the Wellwood Arms, I only work during the summer now due to my lecturing commitments at J.M.C.
Do you play any instruments yourself?
How did you become involved in producing Follow the Moon?
We met again at the aforementioned pub.
left to right: Michael Bailey, Brian Duffy, Marty Craggs, Mickey Sweeney, Les Dodd, Rachel Rhoades
Had you heard The Happy Cats before producing the album?
We spent a day in Cluny studio, did three tracks, recorded, mixed and burned to CD in a day ! Excellent engineer Tony, ex- student!
Why was that particular studio in Scotland chosen?
Martysí choice, he did a Lindisfarne album there.
What made you decide that "Dancing with Maria" would be better in waltz time?
After listening to the demo the lyric suggested it to me, it should be the last dance of the evening with your partner, what else but a waltz.
The original "Bridies Waltz" was much longer - why was it shortened?
It just didínt seem to fit with the rest being songs, better as a reprise, another side to Happy Cats.
Are there any other songs on Follow the Moon on which you advised changes?
Mainly editing down the lengthy arrangements, checking tempos etc
Did you have much input on the final interpretation of the songs on the album?
I hope so.
Are there any songs that were intended to be on the album but didnít make it and why?
I only heard the demos..
You have been spotted enjoying yourself at a Happy Cats gig - is this a regular occurrence?
Iíll be there November 15th!!!
"Who drank all the Stella?"
Please check the HappyCats website www.thehappycats.com for details about how to order their latest CD "Follow The Moon".