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321 / Producers Series #28 / Steve Nye

Steve Nye started out as an assistant engineer at George Martin’s AIR Studios in 1971, learning his art with Deep Purple, Procol Harum, Wings, Elkie Brooks, Frank Zappa and Stevie Wonder. Moving into production he went on to partner “the most beautiful man in the world” on a journey from Lewisham to Samadhi, through visions of china, brilliant trees, Greek gods and American Folk lore.

The only information I could really find on Steve Nye, other than a Discogs discography, is that he was driven to the point of nervous breakdown (allegedly) by David Sylvian and Richard Barbieri as they reprogramed their Prophet 5 and OBX every day, searching for new sounds (which they named after fictitious instruments) during the recording of Japan`s “Tin Drum”.

The success and unique sound of “Tin Drum” undoubtedly got Nye work with others wanting something different: XTC, Clannad and Murray Head. He also mixed and engineered for Japan`s Japanese friends, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Yukihiro Takahashi of the Yellow Magic Orchestra. Nye was around for Sakamoto`s “B2-Unit” and the Oscar winning soundtrack for Bertolucci`s “Last Emperor”.

I thought that Japan might have sought out Nye for his Roxy Music connections, since he engineered “Country Life” and “Siren”, and worked on some of Bryan Ferry`s solo material. Sylvian admits the influence of Roxy, and was often picked upon by the music press for the similarity between his early vocals and Ferry`s Sci-Fi lounge lizard croon. It`s also possible that it was Nye`s connection to Karlheinz Stockhausen, who Sylvian and Barbieri both cite on “Ghosts”, that got him the job.

Another possibility could have been Nye`s involvement with the Penguin Café Orchestra. Nye met P.C.O.-founder Simon Jeffes in 1972 and played (keyboards), produced and toured with the collective between 1976 and 1988. The P.C.O. was / is a musical adventure that was conceived by Jeffes during a prolonged stay in Japan (the country). Japan`s (the band) first success had been on their namesake islands, which they toured extensively when they were still touting “Adolescent Sex” for Hansa. Sylvian is on record as being taken with the native music`s sense of “space” and “emptiness” and Jeffes, the P.C.O., and Nye definitely understood this sense of space, mixing musical traditions and creating ambience when really only Eno was associated with the word.

Oriental timbres and arrangements fill Nye`s productions and mixes, even those with The Cure, as they made dry lips sing, and his collaborations with Sylvian Post-Japan have Jon Hassell`s Fourth World smoothed out. Gamelan, thigh bone trumpets, Burundi drums. Peter Gabriel`s Real World, soaked, heavy, with sadness and regret.

“Let The Happiness In” is a lament for the Thatcherism that marked my father`s generation and so marked mine, and that now taints everything. It is haunted by colliery band brass. Police made private army, a force used to destroy union, clearing the way for the lining of politicians` pals` pockets at the expense of all else, as if that were the universe`s sole raison d`etre.

What are you gonna do with all that money?

How do you get work done without a working man?

Test Pressing, Producers Series, Dr Rob, Steve Nye, David Sylvian, Japan, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Simon Jeffes

Test Pressing, Producers Series, Dr Rob, Steve Nye, David Sylvian, Japan, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Simon Jeffes

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