Keith Grant was the legendary senior engineer at Olympic Studios and recorded nearly all my scores in the ’80s and early ‘90s. He had a mantra, which was that “nothing should get in the way of the music” – meaning if the performance was there, the moment was right, the wax was hot, it was his job to capture it. When he liked a take, he would ring a bicycle bell that was stuck on the side of the mixing desk.
I began writing scores with a pencil at a piano and then, little by little, made the change to using computers, samples, and sequencers. But for me, like Keith, the gear mustn’t get in the way of the music. Part of that is to do with familiarity and how one works fastest. I still use bits of equipment that are ridiculously old and other things that are very new – all of which are there because they don’t get in the way of me writing. The biggest challenge for anyone with all this equipment is not allowing its sounds to be the trigger for writing and instead exploring an idea in one’s head, so I also still use a pencil.