Tribute Albums: How to...case study...Boston!
I asked Escape Music boss Khalil Turk about their recent release A Tribute To Boston - just how does one go about setting up a tribute album and how was Escape's Tribute to Boston put together?
What lead you decide on doing a Boston Tribute album?
After recording a Foreigner tribute album Steve Morris and myself were very satisfied with the results, so I brought up the idea to Steve, How about recording a Boston Tribute? We have always been huge fans of this band since their debut, and Steve was very happy to do it.
Were there any other artists in your mind to invite to participate?
There were many artists in my mind, I had to be selective who to invite. I gathered many names of musicians, when I decided who to invite on the album, and send the invite out to all. They were all delighted to take part on this tribute, being in this business for such a long time, you meet and to know many different musicians from established names to beginners, and you have to be fair with all of them.
So Boston is the band - what's the process involved in getting a tribute started and off the ground? Do you start picking a base band, or songs, or...?
First of all we pick the songs, with Boston most of the songs had to be from their first album and so on. Then we decide who will be good on each song. Once the lead singers are pinpointed, we look for a good solid rhythm section Bass / Drums. In the mean time Steve Morris will be preparing all the studio works programming and so on - while I am getting in touch with musicians.
Who picks who will sing what track? Is that up to you, or did guys like Chris Ousey come to you with their favourites?
Usually Steve and I decide who will sing which song. Or we ask the singer would they like to choose any particular song. With Chris Ousey, Steve thought Cool The Engine - check out Tommy Denander guitar solo it smokes!! - and A Man I'll Never Be (Japan only) would be suitable for him, knowing Chris he can sing anything even if you give him a telephone directory!!
Steve Overland wanted to sing Amanda, Timothy Lewis wanted to sing Can'tcha Say. Sometimes it doesn't work. After recording some vocals if we are not happy with, we will scrap it, and invite someone else to sing it again. It happened on the Foreigner tribute and on this one too.
When did you start recording and how long did the whole process take to finish?
Steve started with the pre-productions, programming of the songs and backing tracks way back in the summer of 2001, while I was getting in touch with the singers and musicians and arranging their time schedule who was available and who wasn't.
With Terry Brock, it was excellent timing, he was over in the UK to the GODS show was very convenient. I picked Terry up from his hotel to the studio in Runcorn, and he sang two songs and all the back grounds, and harmonies in three hours, what a great singer! Steve Overland was easy too, he only lives 20 minutes on the train to the studio. The album took almost one year to finish the album. This summer 2002.
Obviously some parts are recorded in various different studios, the mix process must be quite complicated. Can you take us through that?
Yes, some of the recordings has taken part all over place , from New Jersey (Mike Walsh / Timothy Lewis) to Vancouver, Canada (Kenny Kaos, Dave Hopia and Frank Baker), and back to the UK then all over UK from Warrington to Royton Lancs (Vinny Burns, Don Airey) Bedfordshire to Sweden (Tommy Denander and Anders Rydholm, Peter Sundell from Grand Illusion), Norway (Ronni Le Tekro), and back to Warrington then to Runcorn...Wah! Well travelled album.
What Steve Morris will have to do next is send CD-R or ADAT of each song as two tracks bounce down, to the person whom had to record their parts, and all they have to do is just play or sing on other tracks available to them. On ADAT with 8 tracks, less two tracks used as bounced down. Once they've recorded their parts they will send the recordings back to us, then Steve will transfer all that person parts into the master recordings all this procedure is taken place in our own studio Ocean Reach Studio. Then we will take all the tapes to the studio for mixing. Now days everybody uses Pro-Tools Nuendo.
Who did the artwork for the release?
I have always used Chris Johns (KICK) from Crusoe. Chris is a very good friend of mine, and very talented, we have been working together for the past 5 years, and he understands my likings. He usually comes up with an idea, and then I will chop and change things around it plus re-arranging.
Obviously anyone can pick a song and sing it, but what are the technical requirements of doing an tribute album, as far as going about paying songwriter royalties etc?
Yes, anybody can pick a song and record it for sure, if the song going to be released for commercial purposes, then they have to apply for AP Clearance from MCPS London. They will grant you the license to release the song, and you will have to pay them 8.5% ppd.
Are there any other requirements needed?
As long you do not alter the arrangement or the structure of the song or the lyrics you will be OK. Once you start changing the song then you have to have approval from the songwriter.
What are your personal favourite songs on the tribute album?
My personal favourite on Boston has to be Amanda by Steve Overland. To be honest with you all the singers have done a great job, Terry Brock is FANTASTIC on Its Easy, Tony O'hora, Peter Sundell
they are all brilliant!
On the Foreigner has to be Troy Reid (Stranded) / Chris Ousey (Heartland) duet on Prisoner Of Love, and of course John Pratt on Hot Blooded (Firefly) on one of the most underrated singer in the business he is great! I love John's voice.
Tell us about the players involved on the album?
They were all excellent to work with. I would ask them back again. But of course with tribute albums you have to change musicians sometime, and use different musicians to make it more interesting.
Some are obviously Escape Music artists, others are guests. Is this a complicated situation for labels to work out?
There were no complications whatsoever, all the artists were happy to been involved. Except for one indie label their BIG "Boss" whom wasn't accommodating to pass my invite to one of their artists. I could've contact the artist directly myself since I knew the singer very well long before he was signed to this particular label. It was just a courtesy to ask the label. Next time!
Any other plans for another tribute down the track?
Yes, Survivor will be next, we have some great musicians in mind I have already asked Harry James, and Chris Child of (Thunder) who have accepted my invitations, once again Steve Overland will be on, and I will be sending invitations out shortly. I have penciled in few names already, now Tony Harnell - if you are reading this - don't you say its too late or any other excuses!!