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15 Oct 2010

Please, Eltonites, get up, stand up to recieve one of the most renowned producer... Ladies and Gentlemen: Stuart Epps!!!!

Hello Eltonites, today is a very special day on the blogsite. He's been on Elton's side since he was Reg trying to be Elton, and Elton trying to be Reg. He knows everything about Elton's life, about Elton's career, because he lived it on the first persona. Hope one day he find the time to write a book, not only about Elton, also about his own life. Don't forget that Stuart Epps worked with the most recognized artist of the panorama. A gentleman, a funny and amazing people, a talent himself, please, an applause to the one and only, the incredible: Stuart Epps!!!!!

Hi Stuart, finally we've got together, you're a very busy man indeed, I understand it, but I have so much expecting to be with you, chattin' about everything, you let me, of course. This kind of inerview gonna be very different as the ones Jack Rabbit use to do, but hey, it's a pleasure to be here with you. Let's start, then.

What attracted you to music? And how you became interested in recording? You had a band and used to sing too...

I have always loved live music, and when I'm producing I like the excitement of trying to capture that live emotion on tape. It doesn't have to be a rock band, it could just as easily be an artist with a great voice or a guitar player, but in my opinion, there is nothing better than being in a studio when everyone is getting fired up about the music and capturing that moment on tape for all time. I suppose that's how I first became interested in recording. When I was eight, I was given a tape recorder and used to go around recording anything and everything. It never ceased to fascinate me that whatever went into the machine could be played back just as I had heard it. It was quite magical.

Yes, it is! You started work as an assistant to producer Steve Brown, who formed the DJM label. Remember when you met young Reg? And what were your early impressions of him when you saw them for first time?

I began working with Dick James, The Beatles music publisher, after leaving school at 15. One of the song-writers there was a then little-known aspiring artist called Reginald Dwight, later to become Elton John. We became friends, and I helped him recording his early demos. I then started work as an assistant to producer Steve Brown, who formed the DJM label and helped put "Elton's career into shape". Elton was playing keyboards in Long John Baldry’s band. Baldry was a pretty outrageous guy, very flamboyant. It’s amazing to think now that Elton was in his band. They did a lot of gigs together many at the famous Marquee club in Wardour Street. It was also at this time that Elton met the great guitarist Caleb Quaye.

Right! Reg and you became friends and you helped him recording his early demos. What do you remind of this Regimental Sgt. Zippo sessions? Which songs or demos do you reminded more and why?

A lot of the tracks on the album that Elton was making with Caleb saw Elton writing the lyrics which to be honest weren’t that great: “The year of the teddy bear”, “Tartan coloured lady”, “The tide will turn for Rebecca”. I think Caleb might have written some of these too. His first single on his own was called: “Baby you’re phrasing is bad”!!!!!!!!!!!! And the B side? “Witch with half strength powers”. So it wasn’t surprising that when a young country boy called Bernie Taupin answered an add that Elton’s manager put in the Melody maker for a lyricist, everyone including Elton were very pleased.

He tried everything: producing ballad pop material for mainstream acts, being with bands like Hookfoot, Bread And Beer Band, Mr Bloe...

Nothing strange about Elton’s incredible talent though. His amazing song writing and singing made me give up any idea I had of becoming a serious songwriter or singer myself. When he sat at the piano to play you a song the atmosphere was like nothing I had ever experienced and I made up my mind then that I wanted to be part of his music and help with his career if it were possible.

We were all great friends at this time, Elton, Clive, Caleb, Jeff Titmus The Mirage, Bernie and Nigel Olsson who was doing very well Drumming with the Band Plastic Penny and who would go on to be Elton’s Drummer with Dee Murray.

Caleb had his own band the Brilliant, Hookfoot that also had probably one of the best drummers of the time Roger Pope. Elton was doing some gigs with Hookfoot backing him and in particular I remember some at the Royal college of Art. I can still see the coloured oil slides on the walls, the strong smell of patchouli oil mixed with the smell of grass. Elton’s songs weren’t really what Hookfoot was about who were very much more progressive but in those days it didn’t matter as it was great for them just to play live and enjoy the atmosphere.

Steve Brown said to Elton and Bernie don’t pay any attention to Dick James anymore and encouraged they to create their own music. Elton said he was pushed into being a singer because nobody recorded his songs. And then it came “Lady Samantha” and “Skyline Pigeon”. That was the right direction that ended up with “Elton John” album, was it? “Elton John” was a good collection of songs but the dark photograph on the cover is terrible to be honest...

Elton was part of a lot of writers at the time all-trying to get somewhere. He was way above them though in talent and could turn his hand to writing anything. He even wrote a song for Eurovision called, “I can’t go on living without you”. It was because of this that Dick keep Elton on as a writer and artist when he had a bit of a clear out of some of the less talented writers who were taking up valuable studio time. A good move as it turned out. Dick was a very shrewd businessman and quite a character too. I suppose in retrospect it was all a bit disorganised in the studio with the writers all doing bits and pieces.

Elton, although a brilliant writer was writing what he thought was commercial material and his first single, “I’ve been loving you”, wasn’t that great. One afternoon in my copying room a playback session was to take place that was going to change all that. Elton and Bernie brought in Steve Brown. He had come from EMI records and was being employed as a plugger and A and R. Still Elton and Bernie liked him and Steve had suggested to them that maybe their material was too commercial and that they should write more from the heart. Steve although never having produced a record before recorded a song with Elton called “Lady Samantha”. This was a great record with a great feel. Caleb played brilliant guitar and the record had a very different atmosphere than anything Elton had previously done. It was simple but great. Steve had good friends at the BBC notably John Peel. He liked the record and played it a lot. After this great recording all opinions of Steve changed as far as I and I think a lot of us at Dicks were concerned. Elton’s second single “It’s me that you need” was released on the DJM label on May 16th of that year. It was again produced by Steve. It was a good record, great playing again. Clive played bass and I think it was recorded at Olympic studios in Barnes. The sleeve was designed by Steve and probably Dave Larkham a great artist who would design most of Elton’s early album sleeves. This was the beginning of the designing of Elton’s career proper. Anyway Steve decided he wanted to get someone else to produce this album. Steve had a meeting with a very eccentric and very handsome and charismatic arranger called Paul Buckmaster. He looked like one of the three musketeers. Curly black hair, thin moustache you know the type. Anyway he met with him I think through his manager who Steve new, Tony Hall. Paul had arranged Bowies space oddity a record Steve loved. They got on well and when Steve mentioned he was looking for a producer Paul suggested the producer of the record, one Angus Boyd Dudgeon. I guess Steve must have met with him but I don’t know about this meeting, only that a meeting was set up for Gus to meet Elton and Bernie. I think its quite likely that by this time Elton had piano and voice demos of some of the songs that were to be recorded for the next album.

Clive Franks recorded many of these at Dicks and they were superb. The new songs were almost classical and very different from anything on Empty Sky. To be honest they were different to any songs I had ever heard and I thought they were amazing. Instead of the usual, book 2 months recording time, the importance here was going to be in the pre- production. The songs had already been demo’d by Elton as I have said with these great piano and voice recordings. Now many meetings took place with Gus, Elton, Paul and Steve and I guess Bernie. Going through every song deciding on instrumentation, arrangement what musicians everything in every detail. This was an important step as it meant that the drums, bass and guitar would have to be played by session musicians that could read and not the band that played on Empty Sky hookfoot. Paul Buckmaster was himself a Cellist and cello was going to play quite a part in some of the songs. Paul played beautiful solo Cello on “The Greatest Discovery” and on “Take me to the pilot”. Instead of the fairly standard rock track that Steve had produced it featured some 10 or so Cellos coming in on the bridge and chorus, very unusual and very dynamic. Paul’s stunning girl friend Diana Lewis played moog synthesizer on 2 of the tracks. The brilliant Harpist Skaila Kanga who was at the royal college of music with Elton played on 2 of the tracks.

Of course as soon as planning started for the album it was obvious that this wasn’t going to be a cheap album to make. Gus wanted big backing vocals so I just rang all of the best male and female singers, which included Roger Cook And Madeleine Bell from Blue mink also Dusty Springfield, Sue and Sunny and Kiki Dee plus maybe a few others. The tracks were recorded almost live, so in the first week most of the album was done. What I heard when Gus played back the album was without doubt the most amazing sounds, musicianship, arrangements, vocal performances, backing vocals ect ect I, Steve and in fact everyone else who was connected with the album had ever heard. Gus also liked to have the volume at ear shattering level, which obviously made it even more amazing. Well, Gus was now God.

Elton and his new band, comprising bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson, went on the road promoting the album in concerts like Krumlin Festival, the Knokke Festival in Belgium, where he won the music contest, or some gig in the prestigious Marquee center. Which are you nicest memories of this caravan days? And how Elton develop his stage persona before he decided being big on stage?

Elton is probably the most self determined person I have ever met and his energy for succeeding in whatever he attempts to do is quite amazing and sometimes frightening. What he did now came as a big surprise, to me at any rate. He started rehearsing his new band up at Dick james studio with Nigel Olsson on drums and Dee Murray on bass. That was it. Dee Murray who was the bass player with the Mirage was playing amazing bass, some of the time playing chords, I had never seen this before on a bass and he had a huge sound. Nigel Olsson who had been playing in the pop band Plastic penny had a massive Kit, soon to get more massive and was playing brilliant solid rock as he still is today.

Elton is without doubt the best and most distinctive pianist I have ever seen. It wasn’t easy in the early days to amplify a grand piano or even to make sure a good one was available at the gig. His style and technique though sounded amazing with this line up and without guitar, had plenty of space to come through. It was great to hear the orchestral tracks from the album turned into these huge rock tracks. Elton and his new band started gigging in the UK. There were some great venues in those days. The roundhouse chalk farm, often run by DJ Jeff Dexter who became a good friend and went on to manage the band America. He used to come into DJM from time to time to get acetates cut.

The Marquee in Wardour St. and the country club in Belsize Park where Elton was to play soon, a gig that nearly went very wrong. The one early gig I remember most vividly though was apparently the first gig he played with Dee and Nigel. This was at the revolution club at the end of March of 1970. This started out like a fairly normal gig as I had seen the guys rehearsing so i new what to expect. The audience were a little bit better and more receptive. However toward the end of the gig Elton was I think doing a new song “Burn Down The Mission”. It then went into a bit of a rock and roll medley. This was different and I wasn’t quite sure if I was into it yet. I really cant remember the songs he did could have been Beatles get back or Jerry Lewis my baby left me. Anyway he suddenly stood up from the piano stool and stopped playing, got a tambourine and was whacking it on his bum. I was feeling very uncomfortable now and a bit embarrassed to be honest. I though, what is he doing! He’s going to blow it. As I looked around the audience though I could see they were getting into it and the atmosphere was changing. This was the first time I had seen Elton lift the audience to another level.

So, how could Elton had a band without a guitarist? Why it was not Caleb Quaye?

Although Caleb was one of the first people to recognise Elton’s talent, they were very different personality wise. Also Caleb’s band Hookfoot had a record deal and Caleb wasn’t keen on them getting known as Elton’s backing band. He had his own dream to follow and so their split at least gigging wise was inevitable.

How it came up the idea of the flamboyant costumes Elton wore in his performances? Did he used to wear lots of different glasses those days and outrageous clothes? One you reminded in particular for its originallity?

Elton was always wearing different cloths even in the early days, noddy shirts, big long afgan coats, he loved to shock with his cloths and of course when he could afford to go a bit mad with it he did. It was all in good fun. He would dress to make you laugh or to impress. He was actually a very shy guy so it was some sort of way of getting over your shyness. If you dress like Father Christmas you're going to get a laugh. But when he started wearing all those outrageous clothes that was embarrassing as well, but it was all his idea, he just wanted to outrageous and be like all his rock 'n' roll idols.

Why you were his personal assistant in the 1970 US Tour? How it was for you, Elton and Bernie being in America for the first time?And what could you explain about the Trobadour concert, when Elton’s star was born?

At aged 18, I was asked to be Elton John's personal assistant on his second American tour in 1970. I'd never even been to America before. I'd turned up at the airport with Elton, with the band, to now go on a three-month tour of America so it was pretty crazy stuff. We didn't have limousines at that time, just normal hire cars and the gigs were 300-seater theatres, so no massive halls or anything. It was new to all of us, we were all youngsters in the States and it was an amazing eye-opener, especially for Elton. And Elton really took off, specifically in LA at the Troubadour where people like Bob Dylan came to see him. In America he knew that this is the place where he's either going to do or die and make it or not. So his thing was I'm just going to get noticed here.

The Elton john album was released in the states on July 22nd and on August 26th Elton and the band played the first of a week of concerts at the now legendry Troubadour Club in West Hollywood. Prior to this an amazing character called Norman Winter was employed to handle the press for Uni records. He wore a ten gallon hat and was really into any sort of publicity that he thought would get Elton noticed. Steve, Elton and the band and crew were met at the airport by a red double Decker London bus which didn’t really go down well. Too much hype. What the US promotion did do whether it was Norman’s or the record company’s idea was to get some very big names and of course the press to the gig. Also in only a couple of months release the album had got round to a lot of the Hollywood music business and they obviously loved it and were looking forward to seeing him live. I kept in touch with Steve regularly on how it was going and I must admit I obviously would have loved to have been there. Neil Diamond introduced Elton at the show, which was probably because he was also on the Uni label at the time and like everyone he loved the album. It must have been strange though to have heard these big orchestral arrangements, harps etc and then to see just 2 other musicians on stage for the gig. What took place though was just the perfect situation. Expecting a rather sedate English folk singer what they got was quite different.

Elton was performing the songs that they had heard and liked but was giving them all this extra power with Nigel’s huge drums and Dee’s brilliant playing. The reviewers and the public alike couldn’t believe Elton’s originality and diverse musical styles all executed brilliantly and with so much power. Anyone who thinks that Elton’s appeal is due to his outlandish costumes should also take note that on this tour he was bearded and wearing Jeans and a tea shirt. In some ways being back in England for me had its rewards as Melody Maker the biggest of all the music papers at that time gave Elton his very first headline. It read.. DYLAN DIGS ELTON with a great photo by Ed Caraff who was to take many great Elton pics.

Following his success Elton was back in the states at the end of October which included 2 nights at the legendry Fillmore west. In San Francisco, with The Kinks. He then did a live broadcast in New York which also became his first Live album called 17 /11/ 70.or when it was released in the states 11/17/70. He also played 2 nights at the Fillmore East in New York for the Legendry promoter Bill Graham supporting Leon Russell. To break America you need to spend a lot of time there. That means you have to love it and the people. It’s no good playing a few major cities and think that’s going to do it. Elton’s tours were at least 3 months long and he would also do all the promotion that was required. Of course the fact that the Americans loved his music obviously helped. He sang in an American accent and they also loved his Quirky ness and took to his showmanship, which harked back to the rock and roll artists of the 50 ‘s.

Let’s talk about Gus Dudgeon, the renowned recording industry producer. You helped him to build the famous Mill Studios in Cookham, in 1974, what it had to be, and it was, one of the best studios in the world. How it was to work with him? And what made Gus so special?

Gus was a perfectionist, whether mowing the lawn or mixing Joan Armatrading. I'd been at Dick James Music studios for two years and was an Elton John convert. When Gus arrived, bloody hell! Gus made the production amazing! From Empty Sky to Elton John is a great leap, like chalk and cheese, thanks to Gus moving in. He had a military strategy. He used to say that the structure had to be this way, that should be that way.

It was Gus's dream to one day produce the best studio in the world. He bought this old Mill property in Cookham and it was only supposed to take six months to build but it took two years to build. At The Mill Stuart I’ve worked with lots of emerging artists, including a young Chris Rea in 1978. We'd listened to his demos and very much liked his songs and his voice. That was one of the first projects we did, an album called Whatever Happened To Benny Santini. There's a song on there called Fool If You Think It's Over, which I was lucky enough to sing on, and that became a big hit. I worked on and off with Bill Wyman for about 20 years. What's funny about Bill, it was that he very fastidious about writing everything down. Maybe it was his way of keeping sane, but he would keep a record of everything. So when we were working together he would have a pad next to him. Even one day, which was when I thought 'this has gone too far', he picked the phone up and was obviously talking to his wife. Then he went over and wrote over on the book 'wife rang, 2.30pm.

You were there, so I am always wondering how you reminds John Lennon’s guest apperance on Madison Square Garden with Elton, back in 1974?

On the 28th November 1974, it was the most amazing gig I have ever witnessed. He was very shy and quiet surprisingly. The gig started with Kiki as usual and then Elton came on and was going down better than ever. The audience were going berserk and you couldn’t imagine it being better or the audience being louder. I was standing at the stairs with John and some others, as he was about to go on. He was petrified, really very nervous. We couldn’t really understand it this was the guy who had played Shea Stadium in the biggest band in the world, how could he be nervous? But it was some time since he’s been onstage and he really didn’t know how the audience would receive him.

As Elton announced him he said, oh well he we go over the hill, in the way that only John Lennon could say that as if he was going to war. Of course we all rushed to the front to see him come on. The audience in a millisecond were on their feet screaming. The sound was like nothing I had ever heard at a gig. It was like pure white noise and stayed at that pitch for what seemed like half an hour. It was like it was never going to stop.

They did “Lucy in the sky”, “Whatever gets you through the night and as a big surprise, “I saw her standing there”. This was the first track on the Beatles first album and John wanted to do it as it had been Paul singing the lead. I had never seen the Beatles live. This was for me the best thing ever. I couldn’t take my eyes of John. The building was literally vibrating and looking at the huge PA, which was hanging from the Roof, and bouncing up and down I was worried the whole place would collapse. It has been hailed since as one of the most amazing gigs ever.

Gus was in a mobile recording it and backstage everyone was crying with the emotion of it. What a night. After the gig there was a party at the Waldorf Astoria. I was standing at the table when Uri Geller said to John that he should draw a picture and he would copy it sitting opposite him. Uri copy’d John’s picture exactly even got the scale of it, which was of a rowing boat I think. Wish I had it now!

(silence) God!!!!

“A Single Man” was recorded at Mill Studios precisely. After “Blue Moves” it seems Elton needed a break... and changed the band, the production team and even the lyricist. Elton had problems selecting the songs to go on the album, he decided “Song For Guy” to run out, for Clive Franks and you surprise. Was it difficult to release a follow up album, really? What Elton had found in Gary Osborne?

Gus was busy with his new discovery Chris Rea and Lindisfarne and he had a great run with Elton albums so I don’t think he was that disappointed. It was great to have Clive there and we had a good time making that album. It was also great to be working with Elton again and he was in good form although not working with Bernie the lyrics were a bit strange again. Hello campers being one of the songs. Luckily it didn’t make it on the Album. Elton and Clive asked Paul Buckmaster to write the string arrangements. Seemed obviously like a good idea and Clive had a meeting with him weeks before recording was due to start to give him plenty of time to write the scores. If I wasn’t the night before the string session it was pretty close Paul told Clive that his cat had tipped ink all over the scores and they were ruined. We think that was a story he made up. So he and Clive were up all night sorting out the string parts literally the night before the sessions. As it turned out they were great so all was okay.

Another near disaster happened on this album concerning the track that became a classic for Elton. Elton apparently had written this song the same day the office boy at rocket records had been killed on his motorbike. He was only 17 and his name was Guy. During one day of recording Elton kept playing a bit of a piano piece and saying that he wanted to record it at the end of the session. We finished late but Elton said it wouldn’t take long to put the part down. Gus had a Rolland rhythm box and Clive and Elton set up a pattern to fit the song. I put on a spare piece of multitrack tape and Elton started recording the piece. It was quite unusual and had a few changes and Elton kept making mistakes. He would get a minute in and then make another error, which was now really annoying him. I said he wasn’t very patient and that included patience with himself. It was getting quite late now and he new that Clive and I had a long day and were tired. Still he’s definitely not one to give up so he kept going. On one take he was about 2 minutes in and no mistakes. I looked at the tape machine and realised that I hadn’t got anything like a full reel on not thinking it was very long. I figured it should be okay but was a little concerned. Elton was now 4 minutes in and still playing verse after verse with middle bits and all sorts. Now when I looked at the reel, it wasn’t looking good. This was the first time Elton had got this far without a mistake. If the extremely unthinkable happened and I ran out of tape before he finished my life wouldn’t be worth living. In fact I would probably save Elton the trouble and kill myself. The piano track was sounding really good and a drop in or edit wouldn’t be acceptable. So the only thing to do was pray to the God of Ampex that we would be Okay. Every time it looked like it was going to end he’d go into another bit. I was really sweating now and so was Clive. The take up reel was looking like it only had a few feet left on it and Elton wasn’t showing any signs of stopping. Just as it looked like I was dead he played an outro and the last chord. As the last chord died away the tape ran out. Clive and I nearly died anyway from relief. I’ve never told Elton this and I don’t think Clive has.

You also collaborate in “Ice On Fire” and “Leather Jacket” sessions.

Ice on fire was going to be a double album but finally it became Ice on fire and Leather Jackets. Gus certainly wasn’t going to, making this album that he wanted to get Grammy awards for. Similar to the first album he was going to use different musicians for different tracks. This was I think late 1984. My wife was pregnant and this was going to be a very busy time to say the least. Every week for several weeks we had a different rhythm section coming in. This included the bass player and drummer from Queen. The drummer from Simple Minds. Dave Mattocks who had played with fairport in support with Elton all those years ago. Also different guitarists including Nik Kershaw. Even a duet with Cliff Richard. For everything on this album Gus was taking even more care than usual and when he was doing the keyboard solo with Fred Mandel on Nikita it seemed to go on for weeks. People were going off on holiday or having babies only to come back and find Gus was still working on the same solo. As it turned out the time spent was very worthwhile as everyone now knows this was a hit and became another Elton Classic, whereas some of the other tracks have been forgotten. Nikita also featured George Michael who was mates with Elton and popped in to sing. He really took over the vocal session I remember and I thought Elton was going to go mad. But on this occasion Elton seemed to like his ideas and went with it, as did Gus. So weeks went into months on this album.

Elton was in a funny mood at this time and would just come in, lie on the sofa reading, eating occasionally laughing and seemed oblivious to Gus who was getting very fanatical on this album and I couldn’t see how it was ever going to end.

You approached the plan to bring Chris Rea to the “Duets” 1993 project. That changed the record company’s old idea to release a compilation of all existing duets, right? Also, that was the last time you worked with Elton? Have you been in touch with him after that?

I was working with Chris Rea. I was talking to Steve Brown and he mentioned that Elton was releasing an album of his Duets. So I was aware of the original plan for Elton to simply compile all his existing duet recordings for an album, such as the Kiki Dee and George Michael hits. Steve said that they weren’t really recording any new ones just putting together the existing ones. Well I mentioned it to Chris anyway. When I came in the next day he said what do you think of this and he played me a song he’d written for him and Elton. “If I were you and you were me” or maybe the other way round. It did sound brilliant, so that day we recorded the demo with Chris obviously singing both parts. That night I played it down the phone to Steve. He thought it was brilliant too and played it to Elton. Elton was knocked out and he came over to The Mill to record the track with Chris. I think that, because of the wonderful result, Elton was inspired to seek out other artists and it became an all-new album. Chris and I also worked on Elton's only solo track, the misleadingly-titled 'Duets For One', which wasn’t a duet, just him.

Elton is well known for his immense knowledge of music and he’s a big collector of records, a big spender of flowers, cars, jewelry... Was it that so? Also he is famous for its generosity to his friends and giving expensive presents... And finally, had Elton any ritual or way to proceed before going on stage?

He was always a collector, when I first went to his mum’s house he had lots of books and african art lots of stuff he obviously like to buy stuff even then, once he started getting money he just loved to buy things. Always incredibly generous. If you went into a shop with him you wouldn’t say you liked something because he would always buy it for you, he loves to see the look on someones face when he’s bought something they love, he gets a thrill from it.

You develop a great friendship with Clive Franks, the great Clive Franks. How’s Clive?

Clive’s great on tour now with Elton and Ray. We’ve been friends with Elton the longest of anyone he knows nearly, I’ve known Clive since school and we are still great buddys. Clive who was doing the sound used to have a bit of fun with me and some nights would put a delay on my voice or make me sound like Mickey mouse for a laugh.

Kiki Dee, a fantastic singer, with a great voice. In the 70s, Elton helped Kiki a lot, he was the brother who showed Kiki the ropes, he introduced to a lot of different music. Now she has a new musical partner, Carmelo Luggeri, and you collaborated in their recent project, the album “The Walk of Faith”. In all, what you could say about Kiki Dee?

I’ve known Kiki since Rocket Records I was her personal manager in the US on many tours and with elton in 1974 big US tour. I introduced Kiki to Carmelo, it’s because of me they are working together as I worked with Carmelo with Bill Wyman and many other projects. I could write a book about Kiki, I still see her.

Your most noteworthy clients included Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, mentioned Chris Rea, George Harrison, Mick Fleetwood, Barry White, George Michael, Mark Owen, Cliff Richard, Twisted Sister, Brian Adams, Oasis, Robbie Williams, Bill Wyman apart of course Elton John, Kiki Dee, Nigel Olsson and even Bernie. Which memories have you got to work with those artists?

There aren’t big idols nowadays. There aren’t so many guitar legends in rock. Back in the sixties, there happened to emerge one here or there. Michael Jackson and Prince, on the other hand, were great artists. Today, nothing lasts much because of the world in which we live. Everything is more dispensable. The bands that make success reach this so fast and in a so great way that there is no reason to fight. The artist must have hunger for success and for producing great albums, a kind of things that can not be fueled by money and success. When I work with a band, I want to feel this determination. Sometimes, I am difficult and rude to see how people react. If they simply go away, the band doesn’t happen. If they face me and listen what I have to say, this is more important, or as important as the rest. A great musician is one thing. But you have to have personality for that.

Although you have worked with computer technology, nothing seems to be more fascinating than the original type of sounds of real instruments. You still have has an old MCI desk, if I am not wrong. What sort of music you like to produce? Also you said “The magic is in the mistakes, the things that get missed. Unfortunately, with computer mixing nothing is missed, so you listen to an album which is technically perfect and has everything there in its starkest form, but it's boring because there is nothing quirky to listen out for”. For me, you have reason.

I'm not really involved with computerised production techniques as the work I do tends to be more rock orientated and employs real instruments that you actually have to hit, bang or strum. I don't feel such instruments can be improved by using computers. Obviously, I have worked with computer technology -- I've even done a few dance projects -- but I don't have a fascination for that type of sound. The argument in favour of technology is that it speeds up the recording process, but whenever I've been in a studio and worked in this way I've never found it quicker. The one thing I would say in favour of computers is that they have opened up the business to a lot of people who can't play an instrument but have great ideas. In those circumstances I don't see using a computer as a cop-out, because they enable people to express themselves even when they don't have a raw talent.

What I do worry about, though, is that hi-tech equipment has made it hard for people to make rough demos without feeling insecure. When someone like Elton John or Chris Rea has an idea for a song, they sit down and strum it or sing it, or pick it out on a piano and get it down on tape as quickly as they can. Now it seems people feel inadequate if they don't have thousands of pounds worth of technology to play with. I often speak to songwriters who say they are working on some demos and will probably have them finished in three months. My reaction is: "Three months? What the hell are you doing?" If you've got a song, put it on tape and send it out. If people can't appreciate what you have in its rawest form, then it's probably not worth recording anyway. Some of the most successful records are made in a very short time, but usually by artists who have experience of making records. Good examples of this are Elton John's 'Song For Guy' and 'Nikita', both of which we recorded really fast but were huge hits.

Recently, I was recording a track with Kiki Dee at Real World using a string quartet, but it wasn't going well. So we ended up back in my tiny studio with just a guitarist and took it from there. We got a great guitar sound and then Kiki started singing -- it was pure magic. She sang better than I had ever heard her and we had the song down in two takes. Those are the moments I live for in the studio, because they are so wonderful.

Sure!!! Oh, could you tell me your five favourite Elton's songs in running order, for my AllSongsList?

Your song
Crazy water
Where to now St peter
High flying bird

Thanks, Stuart, really a pleasure to chat with you. You must do a book really, I would buy it, of course!!!! Eltonites, you must check out his website, is an incredible one. That's on, you will see a lot of interesting things, as his bio, his discography, the new talents he's working with, the talents to come on, everything.

Well, Jack Rabbit's been trying to bring here to dear friends of you, two special people. You know him so well, and you help the ladie so much is her starting career. Please people, come on, thanks for coming. You surprised Stuart, I see. Something to tell him, then?

Lara Franks, singer: "I was excited & pleased when Stuart asked me to sing his song 'cry no more', and I had a really good time with it. He made the song sound fantastic, and now I can't stop listening to it! Stuart is a very talented producer with a lifetime of background in the music industry, and anyone that gets to make music with him is a lucky person."

Clive Franks, Engineer, producer: "Stuart (Shwepp) Epps is a great record producer, sound engineer, musician and vocalist. He works, and has worked closely with many diverse artists in his long recording career and is one of the most respected names in the music industry today. He has a wicked sense of humour and I feel privileged to have had him as my closest friend for almost 50 years. Rock on Shwepp!!"

Thanks so much, Lara, thanks so much, Clive. I also have here two great musicians: one, canadian, you worked with him, and he's a very thoughtful person; the other italian, you worked with him too, an incredible and talented musician:

Fred Mandel, musician: "Stuart Epps, or Shweppe, is an extremely talented musician and producer. He's worked with everyone from The Firm to Bill Wyman. He is also friends with Clive Franks who played me one of Stuart's productions just recently. Really cool stuff. I met him when I was doing my first album with Elton, Ice On Fire, in 1985. You may not know this but Stuart was the inspiration for my "trumpet" solo on Nikita! Actually, he wasn't but I thought it sounded good for a minute. Great musician, producer and personal friend of Clive Franks. What's not to like!! Cheers, Fred".

Carmelo Luggeri, musician: "Indeed it is because of my good friend Stuart that I began workikg with Kiki...I have been involved with Stu on so many projects and although we are working we have had so many laughs along the way and he has instilled great self belief in him!"

Well, that's all. I really thank you for your collaboration, you're great people too, and I see that we made Stuart smile so, I could't ask anything more.

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