A look back at the career of The Saturdays, lately seen in 4Music's Summer Scoop with McFlurry.
Giles Martin Interview
How long ago were you first made aware of the Rock Band project?
I was first made aware of it in 2007 when it was kind of rumoured. I'd seen Dhani Harrison and he'd mentioned that he'd met up with a guy from MTV, the head of MTV, Ben Toffler, and they talked about doing something. They went to Apple but Love had just opened in 2006 and I was thinking I shouldn't do another project. But Apple decided to explore the idea if it was possible or not and they sent me over to Cambridge, near Boston, to go and meet the harmonics team to see whether a collaboration would be possible.
Were you surprised that Apple were forward thinking enough to give it the green light?
I'm always surprised when Apple gave things the green light because they're very protective of everything they do but I was surprised that they got me to work on Love, you know. That was more surprising I think. But as soon as we realised we could do something that had some innovation to it, it kind of made sense and I think that for Ringo and Paul for instance, this would appeal more than just the business of their records.
They've always been like that though, haven't they?
Yeah, because it's something new. It's all music and it's just a different way of listening to it, just a different way of experiencing it. The idea of interacting with it really appeals. In fact Paul now uses a lot of the footage in his concerts. They're much more interested in something like or something like a show than another record.
You mentioned the Love project a couple of times. Would I be right in thinking your experience working on that stood you in good stead for this?
I think the experience, yeah, I mean any sort of vision, any sort of work experience sort of follows on. I think possibly the fact that I'd done that sort of gave them a bit more confidence in me working on this, which made my life slightly easier. We had the same sort of team working around it but it was a very different process to doing this because with this when you play Sgt. Pepper's you're playing Sgt. Pepper's as it sounds whereas with Love the idea was that I would change it slightly or make it different for theatrical performance. The hardest thing was separating tracks for this and making sure that you could interact with every song.
Are you referring to stems? I'm not too technical so if you wouldn't mind explaining what they are and how they work?
It's very simple; if you can imagine a series of, if you could imagine four switches, of all which should be on in order for the song to sound like it should, and those four would be drums, bass, guitar and vocals. There is a backing track that plays all the time so ignore that one for the moment. And so, if you're playing the right guitar notes on your guitar then that's on and if you don't play the right ones it's off so it makes you feel as though you're playing the guitar part, and the same with the bass and the same with the drums. So if you're playing the bass on Come Together on the game and you mess up, or you don't play the right notes, the bass has to stop. There has to be a separate stem. Does that make sense?
So the big technical problem which we had to break through is if you imagine, say, Twist and Shout, which is recorded on two tracks so all of the instruments are on one particular track and the vocals on another. To give you an analogy, it's like having a cake and taking out flour, eggs and sugar and then putting them back together again so that you don't notice. You're filtering instruments, so when you're playing Twist and Shout in the game and you muck up on the bass, the bass goes but all the other components stay the same.
Wow, ok, so it's that recent of a technological advance that's allowed this then?
Absolutely. Funnily enough, the guy who was doing a lot of the filtering became better at it as we worked on the game because it's such a technical thing.
I understand that you recorded some new sounds as well for this? What were they and why did you need to do that?
No, no I didn't actually record new sounds. I think what you're talking about is I use sounds that hadn't been heard and the reason why that is, is that I don't know if you have ever played Guitar Hero or Rock Band?
I have actually. I'm not very good at it but I have.
OK, so they all work on the format that you start off as a small band and you play bigger and bigger venues and you play in front of more and more people. The Beatles stopped touring in 1966 so we obviously couldn't do that and so we realised that we would have to incorporate studio elements. For the first time in one of these game there hasn't been crowd noise in the background, for instance on songs. So, as opposed to having dead air, I thought it would be nice to hear the sessions starting. So when you start, say, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, and the song's loading, you hear the beginning of the takes and them talking in the studio and tuning up. And then the same thing, when you finish a song, you hear them commenting on the song and for that you have to come up with thousands of different takes and audio bits, so that's what we did for this game.
It sounds like there was a lot of listening to studio banter to find appropriate stuff?
Yeah, loads. I went through every single tape. It's funny because it would be a lot of Beatles fans' dream to go through all of every single recording because I was also listening to the bits where people didn't play.
Am I right in thinking this is possibly the first Beatles project your dad hasn't actually been involved in?
No, no, he didn't do Free As A Bird. I'm sure there a few others that he didn't but, you know, he sort of popped his head around the corner. I mean, he's 83 now.
What does he make of it?
He thinks it's great. Obviously Paul and Ringo have been hands on with this but his attitude is the same as theirs. They're all so enthralled that what they did over forty years ago is still stirring up as much excitement. For my dad to be able to look back and say I signed The Beatles and I made those records is quite something. He is a part of that legacy, he's very much part of it. Someone said to me the other day, "Do you feel this is a part of The Beatles legacy?" And you go, "Well, no. The Beatles legacy was created all in that short period of the sixties and we are just offshoots of it." Paul was very much involved in making the game but when they passed him a plastic bass and said, "Do you wanna have a go playing then?", he just smiled and said, "No, actually. To be honest, I played it the first time around".
Have you heard the remasters? Were you involved in that at all or was it a completely separate project?
No, I did listen to them and they're great. They started working on them when I was doing Love and a friend of mine, Allan Rouse, is the head of it. He helped enormously on Love and on Anthology and they did a fantastic job. They needed to be done, funnily enough. It's one of those things that the CDs don't do the music justice, the CDs that everyone knows.
They were made way back in '87 weren't they?
Yeah, they were made when CDs really didn't sound very good. I remember when CDs first came out, my dad got sent a CD player by Sony and a bunch of CDs. One of them was a Billy Joel CD, I remember, and he grabbed the machine and took us off for Sunday lunch with some friends of ours. He grabbed the CD player and the CD and took it round to these friends and said, "Look this is the future of recording and they're unbreakable." He banged the CD on his knee and it broke in half!
That was a myth we were all peddled, wasn't it?
Yeah, yeah it was. It was like, "They're indestructible! CDs are indestructible."
I can't believe people actually believed that.
Yeah let's make roads with CDs!
Lastly, I read when you were working on Love, you were slightly alarmed to discover that the original Beatles masters hadn't been backed up. Is that true?
They hadn't been backed up on a good system. They'd been backed up on a Mitsubishi digital tape machine. Funnily enough I used the Mitsubishi digital tape for this game because the spoken word stuff is fine but for records it's not great because it's very different as you know and there's only one machine in the country that works now, so that's not a valid back up. For Love we had to take our source material from everything The Beatles recorded, so I decided to do it then, and it was a good way of me going through everything with my dad, you know, to ask him questions. I backed everything up on to Pro tools. So yeah it's now safe.
Well, congratulations for that if nothing else!
Well I only really did that because I thought I'm bound to get fired so at least I've done something good.
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