Interview - Ken Scott
Ken Scott is considered one of the most reputed engineers and producers in the history of rock music. He started working at Trident studios in the late 60's, working later for Queen and in the production of the legendary David Bowie's albums "Hunky Dory" (1971) and "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust" (1972). Scott later gained an international reputation with numerous works, including Supertramp's "Crime of the Century" (1974), Lou Reed's Transformer (1972), Devo's "Duty Now For The Future" (1980) and Jeff Beck's "There and Back" (1980). These are some of his memories on Trident studios and the Marquee Club during those days.
- What is the first image that springs to mind when you hear the words "Marquee Club"?
Happening London. England generally, London specifically leading the world musically.
- As an engineer, how would you describe the acoustics of the club?
I have never got into technicalities. Something works or it doesn't. The Marquee worked.
Queen at the Marquee club, 1973.
- As a member of the audience at the Marquee, is there any gig that you remember especially?
I guess it would have to be seeing Queen there. It was when Trident was first considering managing them and a couple of us went to watch them. My view now is exactly as it was then "Wow".
- It's been said that David Bowie used to sleep in a van outside the Marquee Club during his early days as David Jones (1). Before your involvement as an engineer in the recording of Bowie's "The Man Who Sold The World", do you remember seeing him performing at the Marquee?
To be perfectly honest I saw very, very few live shows at that time. I was way too busy in the studio.
- How different was the producing and music business during the 60's and 70's from how it is today?
A&R departments signed talents and then allowed them to do what they do best. Create. The record company input started in the 80's and has escalated from there. It also helped that the first album didn't have to sell a trillion albums to ensure a second album. Acts were given time to grow.
- You have said that, from your point of view, Supertramp's "Crime of the Century" would be the most perfect surround record. It's amazing how groups like Supertramp did a remarkable effort to sound onstage the same as on the album. Obviously that was a completely new concept in rock music. How much do you think that your sound and production influenced the sound of the artists onstage during the 70's?
It totally depended on the act and the record. Supertramp didn't have a "star" who would capture the audience with their charisma and so the choice was made to capture the recording at the live gig as opposed to the live gig at the recording if that makes sense. That choice wouldn't have worked for many other acts.
David Bowie at the "1980 Floor Show"
- In October the 19th 1973, you engineered the recording of David Bowie's TV show "The 1980 Floor Show", which was performed at the Marquee club in a private session for a selected audience. What are your memories of that night?
Too many for here. That finished up being the last time David Bowie and I worked together so it's bound to bring back MANY memories.
-Is this the only time that you ever recorded a live show at the Marquee?
- Tony Stratton-Smith, the man behind Charisma Records, used to be one of the most regular costumers at Trident studios. Some of the recordings where you were involved as an engineer included Lindisfarne's "Fog On The Tyne" (71) and Van Der Graaf Generator's "Pawn Hearts" (71). How do you remember the relationship between Stratton-Smith and the studios?
To the best of my recollection Tony got on well with everyone. He probably had more to do with the studio management than us lowly staff. Remember he was record company and we tended not to see the record company during that period.
- Charisma Records' producer, John Anthony, said in an interview for Mu:zik magazine in February 1998: "I decided to record Van Der Graaf Generator's "The Aerosol Grey Machine" at Trident because of Ken Scott, but then he was working only with the biggest producers, so they gave me Robin Cable who was even better". Do you remember if special treatment was given to the artists and labels at Trident?
Initial comment "Well thank you very much John". There were primarily 3 engineers at Trident at that time, Roy Thomas Baker, Robin Cable and myself. Sessions were apportioned out to whomever's "sound" would most fit the act. There were a lot of unknown producers that I worked with at that time, as did Roy, as did Robin.
- Marquee Promotions' business also included the Marquee recording studios, located by the club and run by Spencer Brooks. Did you ever work at the Marquee studios or have any relationship with Brooks and the studios?
No I didn't.
- It would be interesting to ask the Sheffield brothers if they chose that concrete spot in St Anne's Court to build Trident studios for a particular reason. Do you think that the proximity of the Marquee club to Trident Studios helped each others' business?
Other than the possibility that we all shared drinks at The Ship (I think that was the name of the local pub), I doubt it.
- Here's a tricky question for a man who makes a living from his ears: do you remember if the sound of the concerts at the Marquee was audible from St. Anne's Court or any other close street?
From St Annes Court? No. Wardour Street? Yes. Anywhere else? I have no idea.
- I have the impression that an important part of the history of music recording was being written at Trident studios and at the same, right across the street, an important part of the history of live music was also being written at the Marquee club. Do you remember ever thinking that during your work at Trident?
Absolutely not. If any of us had thought that, we would have spent so much time making copious notes and taking photos that we wouldn't have had time to be a part of it.
- What do you think about the demolishing of the original building at 90 Wardour street in the 90's?
I didn't know that it had been. That's a shame.
- Have you ever visited Wardour street again? If so, what was your impression?
Briefly and my impression was that I don't remember it being like that. I guess I was right.
(1) Ken Pitt, Record Mirror, 1972
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