You hear about so-called ‘super-producers’ all the time in the world of indie, these mystical studio-bound knob-twiddlers who are supposed to be able to sprinkle fairy dust on anything and make it sound good. The reality is that the vast, vast majority don’t make everything sound ‘good’ – they make everything sound like they want it to sound like. It takes someone far more skilled and talented to make each and every band and artist they work with to sound utterly different – and that’s why Peter Miles is such a sought-after producer among the UK underground.
The one common thread running throughout all his production work – from the earliest scratchy hardcore demos to The King Blues’ second album (see the vid below) which pretty much went about as mainstream as it’s possible to get – is that every single album sounds like it’s the best piece of music that band could make. Plus, as you’ll see if you click below, the albums he’s produced are some of the best undiscovered gems of the last decade.
He first came to my attention with the long-lost split between Friends Of Ed (now called Farewell To Arms) and Drink Drivers Against Mothers, and I was struck by how utterly nasty it sounded. The DDAM side in particular was a condensed blast of rage that somehow felt totally natural – no metallic guitars dialled up or glossy power chords layered over the top to make it sound heavier.
I mean, check out the range of his stuff – Captain Everything!‘s ‘Buena Vista Bingo Club’ was a bubblegum thrash opus that sounded both cheekily melodic and headspinningly punky at the same time; Sonic Boom Six hardly stay in the same musical place throughout the course of a single song let alone a whole album, so for him to make both ‘Arcade Perfect’ and ‘City Of Thieves’ sound like no other band on Earth is something of an achievement to say the least. He turned Crazy Arm from a band with decent songs into a snarling alt.rock beast who sound like Queens Of The Stone Age playing the Band covers.
Chronicles Of Adam West‘s ‘We Walk Unbalanced’ was an early shot in the arm for Holy Roar and managed to sound like actual war, and I found myself loving Fall Of Efrafa‘s two masterpiece’s, ‘Owsla’ and ‘Elil’.
I’ve written about Efrafa before, but I can’t get over quite how stunning those albums are. Pete’s also producing their third and final record ‘Inle’ which promises to be… well, I don’t know what the hell it’s going to sound like. ‘Owsla’ was a fearsome crust-punk battery but ‘Elil’ was an ornate, terrifying post-metal symphony, so the only clue we have about what the next one’s going to sound like is that it’ll be SKULLCRUSHINGLY BRILLIANT.
Then there’s the two records from another of the UK’s brightest hopes, Failsafe. One of the reasons they won so many admirers early on was that their sound was almost impossible to categorise on ‘What We Are Today’ (was it post-hardcore? Punk rock? Melodic hardcore? There was even a dab of ska in there in among the slabs of guitars and slices of synths…) and that was handled delicately and sensitively in the studio – what could’ve been a cluttered mess instead turned out to be an impressively bold statement.
Buzztone (RIP chaps) might have failed in their attempt to crack the UK but that’s not for lack of a quality record – the later material they recorded with Pete was as good as techy melodic hardcore gets, and Pete’s continued relationship with Howards Alias lasted for that band’s lifespan as well as feeding into his playing bass in Skylar, another much-underrated outfit. And The Steal! It’s not like they’re one of the best old-school hardcore bands ever, is it? Oh, they are? Damn.
So Peter Miles, we salute you. It’s fair to say the UK’s music scene would be a whole lot less awesome without your talents and input.
And now over to you: who are your favourite producers, UK-based or otherwise? If you’re actually in a band and you’ve recorded with someone awesome, who was it? Why were they so good? And for listeners and bands alike – what makes a good producer?