David J. Taylor

David J. Taylor

From Grey Skies to Green Acres

by Lorena Kelly

August 25, 2009

David J. Taylor sits across from me wearing a black T-shirt that pronounces, “My life is a soundtrack”. David has a penchant for statement Ts, and I have to smile at today’s selection.

 David has been a freelance record producer/engineer/mixer/arranger/songwriter/session player for over 15 years, with producer credits currently numbering around 70 - including Despistado "The Emergency Response", Sylvie "I Wish I was Driving" (2003 WCMA nominee for Independent Album of the Year), The Fates " 'til we have faces", Kim Fontaine "Morning Pages" and “Life Happens”, Geoff Berner "Light Enough to Travel", Jasmine Whenham “8640 Days”, Morgan Mayer “iF i Ruled The World”, Ricasso "Suck it Up", Fight the Monster "Meat Hotel", and Johnny Hatch "Hot Traxx”. He brought home a Western Canadian Music Award for Producer of the Year in 2007, and was nominated again in 2008 for his work on Ultimate Power Duo “We’re In Control Now”, Smokekiller “13”, The Rebellion “Time”, Lyn McGinnis “All Over the Map” and Glenn Sutter “All You Need”. He’s also recently worked on projects for Julia McDougall, Jon D'ehm and Ray Whitton.

Although he started his life in Calgary, David was soon living in Vancouver and working himself up the ladder in the music industry. Apprenticed at greenhouse studios (whose iconic history includes Queensryche’s “Silent Lucity”, kd lang, Paul Janz, Aerosmith, Skinny Puppy and Trent Reznor, in addition to Bob Rock’s work with Skid Row, London Choir Boys and Cher), he was trading work for late night studio time and touring with his band Big Cookie, doing publicity for other artists, and freelancing as a guitarist/keyboardist. He recalls the pivotal moment when he one day approached a punk band (Green Room) and offered to produce them. He explains, “My band was not impressed that I chose to use my studio time up working with them, instead of on our own project…and in the midst of having it out, I remembered saying, ‘This is what I wanna do with my life!’ ” The next band would come to him, and eventually he’d realize that he couldn’t be be both a lowly runner and a producer at the facility. From that day on, he would continue to develop his production skills.

One day in ’99 David and his partner Russ paid a visit to Regina to visit family; “I took a walk on Scarth Street and it reminded me of Calgary, where I grew up…I love the sunshine and sky, and I said to Russ, well let’s move here! He laughed - but we came back a second time. I grabbed a phone book and just looked up “music”, literally photocopied some resumes, and started delivering them cold.” He got three callbacks immediately. So with no hard prospects, but some possibilities, they left Vancouver with “$500, a car and a cat!” For the first six months David travelled back and forth as he finished up work in BC. Fast forward, he says, “We’ll be here nine years in April, and now we own this great farm in Milestone. I have no regrets about (the decision to move here)…except for January this year when we got snowed in for the third time and it was ‘minus lots’!”

He explains that when he arrived in Saskatchewan he probably would have considered himself equally an artist and a producer. His band in Vancouver, Big Cookie, had released four albums, 25 tours, put out videos, and he performed with Biffy Perdu and on other side gigs…and once settled in Saskatchewan, he played with bands including Whyte, Dollar Store Mary, Generals and Majors, and numerous sideman roles…plus as a prolific solo artist, has toured and released 13 albums!

As a fresh Saskatchewanian, David picked up live sound work with GV Audio, and any other jobs where he could, eventually landing a part-time gig at Talking Dog Studios that would turn into a nearly nine-year affiliation. At the Dog he honed his skills as a foley fx recordist (recording recreations of foot stomps, crashes, etc), doing audio post-production for TV and film, and music supervision (selecting and licensing music that synchs to images). His credits include such productions as renegadepress.com (seasons 1-4 Global/APTN - 2004/2005 Gemini nominee Best Overall Sound, Dramatic Series), Corner Gas, Just Cause, Little Mosque on the Prairie, Moccasin Flats, films Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story, The Englishman's Boy, Betrayed (2003 Gemini nominee Best Overall Sound, Dramatic Program), Surveillance, Walk All Over Me, Shot in the Face, Six Figures, and Don't Cry Now. Last year while doing foley on the feature film Surveillance, shot in Regina, he hit it off with filmmaker Jennifer Lynch (daughter of David Lynch). One piece of music in the film wasn’t working, and a co-worker suggested using David’s original tune “Liar, Liar” instead. It ended up being perfect, and the film debuted at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. It’s in European release now, and will be in the U.S. this June. He laughs, “Things just kinda happen.”

All the while, David was busy producing and writing. He notes, “Producing is everything, and it’s nothing…for example, with Geoff Berner it was kinda just getting out of his way, to the younger bands I work with who need a hand with songwriting, instrumentation, learning how to sing in the studio, and someone to make them laugh to achieve their best takes.” In choosing artists to work with, he explains, “I sit down and listen, and then it’s brutal honesty. For me it’s a one-song litmus test…we work on one and see if it works for both of us.”

So a few years ago, David and Russ (who raises and trains show horses) sold their house in Regina’s Cathedral area literally bought a farm near Milestone, and David set up his own facility. “Hazelwood Farm is very unapologetically not a studio…I do a lot of co-writing out there, a lot of vocals. It’s a non-studio, in such that it’s not gonna impress a rocker who wants a leather couch,” he laughs.

This past November , David accepted a position at Twisted Pair Productions as a “re-recording mixer”. His job includes engineering sessions for artists and corporate clients who book the facility, mixing films and TV, composing scores and jingles, and some music supervision, in addition to the extra jobs that he chooses to sign on for as producer. In choosing those projects, he states, “(The music) has to affect me in some way. If you wanna ‘sound’ like someone else, I’m not interested in working with you. For singer/songwriters, it really depends on the songs themselves. Love the art, not the artist…I’ve learned to have a lot more patience (with personalities) and choose projects based mostly on the music; although you do have to like each other…there’s a sacred quality to the craft.”

With the move to Twisted Pair, he explains, “My day job and my night job have become the same. This is huge, in that for the first time since I quit greenhouse, I’ve got a home base for my production projects. I’ve come full circle, and it took starving, touring, being a publicist, all the other odd jobs I did, to get here!” David now has the option of doing some writing and basic tracking at either Hazelwood Farms or at Twisted Pair, and can now mix in the acoustically-designed rooms at Twisted Pair. “It’s a beautiful room,” he explains, “designed by Martin Pilchner; and the equipment is something I simply cannot offer at Hazelwood.

David loves experimenting and takes great satisfaction when quirky creative ideas work. “That moment when you nail it…when you know that scratch vocal take is the keeper, you know what works in that guitar solo, and you could hit it 55 more times but you’ve got it…that’s why I’m a record producer. Coming away from something and listening to it again and again and still knowing that it works…Music has always been very therapeutic for me, as a writer and as a producer. I want to help an artist make a record that we love.”

David also enjoys sharing his knowledge, participating as a panelist at SXSW in Austin TX (2007), Prairie Music Week 2000, the Western Canada Music Awards 2005 and 2006 and for many other panels and workshops. He currently is a guest lecturer on record production, and how it relates to the craft of songwriting, in the USCAD Songwriting Course - Extension Division of The University of Saskatchewan, and has presented to the Introduction to Multimedia Systems class at The University of Regina (on unorthodox live performance techniques).

David hasn’t ruled out doing more performing himself. And of course, the songwriting will always be there. “I’ve succeeded far beyond my expectations…when I won that WCMA I was like, are you kidding me? I had figured my lot in life was to be a rock star! (Now) I love watching my artists, seeing their shows, and knowing that I had the privilege of writing with them. Oh and PS…negotiate your co-writing splits in the moment…don’t leave it til later!”

David continues, “With everyone having the ability to record, with garage bands and laptops and super pedals, anyone can make a record. But not everyone should. The need for a producer, I think, is there more than ever; you need people to show you how to record. There’s nothing worse than a badly recorded, brilliant vocal take.” He reflects, “Making records is not easy, and it’s not supposed to be easy. It is supposed to be fun.”

Visit http://davidjtaylorproductions.blogspot.com/ for more. 

By Lorena Kelly for SaskMusic. Originally published Spring 2009.

This article is posted as initially published. For reprint/usage permission or any other questions, please contact SaskMusic.


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