Engineer In Focus: Tony Cousins

With a career in music spanning over four decades, Tony Cousins has been there, done that and cut the lacquer for the original vinyl pressing.

Tony is the man responsible for the mastering of hundreds of your favourite albums, you just didn’t know it!

If you take a look at his discography you will see a wide variety of albums by artists from across the musical spectrum. From the Balkan Folk of Goran Bregović to the Modern Pop of Robbie Williams, Tony Cousins has leant his talents to some of the most popular and genre defining acts of the last 40 years. Here are just a few from a long list of our favourite songs to receive the Tony Cousins treatment.

The Verve – Bittersweet Symphony

A song that redefines the term “Anthem”. “Bittersweet Symphony” is synonymous with the very best that the Brit-Pop movement of the 90’s had to offer. The track is lush, dramatic and epic. Featuring a melody that once heard is not forgotten living on in the hearts of indie music fans as well as the general public. Richard Ashcroft’s voice never sounded better as he dwells on universal themes of beauty, pain and poverty. The album it was taken from “Urban Hymns” took the top spot in the UK, spawning several other hits for the band before going on to sell over 10 million copies worldwide. 20 years on from its initial release Tony got the chance to revisit the project for a deluxe reissue, featuring a six LP box set containing previously unreleased material. On the first of September 2017, loyal fans from all over the world will be able to hear the classic album like they’ve never heard it before. The reissue will also allow “Urban Hymns” and it’s signature song “Bittersweet Symphony” to be discovered and obsessed over by a new generation all over again.

Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Perpetuum Mobile

Tony has always had a great respect for Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s guitarist and band leader Simon Jeffes.

“He had a wonderful and original musical mind and it worked in unconventional ways.”

 

Simon’s unorthodox approach to songwriting was best demonstrated when listening to songs like “Telephone and Rubber Band”, where its inspiration occurred whilst trying to call a friend. Instead of his friend’s voice, what he heard down the line was the telephone’s busy signal and a dial tone mixed together making a curious rhythmic pattern, so he recorded it onto his Walkman. He then used this as a backing to play along with using a rubber band as a string instrument. The track featured in this list however is 1987’s “Perpetuum Mobile”, from the “Signs of Life” album. It’s a timeless piece full of raw abstract emotion. It’s rich and warm with detailed and crisp strings providing endless musical flourishes. “Perpetuum Mobile”’s beauty still resonates to this day and is consistently used as an easy shortcut for TV and Film producers to convey awe and majesty, whether it’s in lofty documentaries on the Large Hadron Collider or future dystopian dramas such as 2017’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

Songhoy Blues – Soubour

Songhoy Blues deal in funky, gritty and dirty guitar riffs. The desert blues band have been playing music together since 2012 when guitarist Garba Touré was displaced from his home of Diré, located in the North of Mali, by Ansar Dine a Militant extremist group which banned music. Songhoy Blues started with the aim to recreate the atmosphere and music of the North and were soon discovered by Marc Antoine, the manager of Grammy nominated musical duo Amadou & Mariam, who then introduced the band to Damon Albarn and Nick Zimmer of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s who helped produce their debut record “Music in Exile”. The song “Soubour” featuring passionate and angry solos and an attitude and confidence that demands the listener’s attention.

Adele – Hometown Glory

Once upon a time there was a young fresh faced Brit School graduate from Tottenham named Adele Adkins. The precocious teenager had just a few very demos on myspace to her name before she was snapped up by leading independent label XL Recordings. Work soon began on what was to become seven times platinum selling debut album “19”. The first song Adele had ever written, “Hometown Glory”, was about where she grew up and leaving home and although it was not a commercial success initially, upon re-release it showed the world just what to expect from the young star in the making. Twinkling pianos and muted strings make up the song’s minimal backing, allowing Adele’s voice to take centre stage, laying the foundation for her future world domination.

“I remember listening to the first mixes as they came through and thinking “wow, this is going to be very good”.

 

Tony’s previous life as a bass player was also reawakened and excited listening to the album track “Best For Last” with it’s simple and powerful acoustic bass guitar accompaniment.

George Michael – Faith

When compiling this list one simple thought entered my mind: “You gotta have faith, faith faith”. Taken from George Michael’s debut solo album of the same name, ‘Faith’, has surprisingly minimal production. Featuring not much more than a killer lead vocal, acoustic guitar, LinnDrum machine, tambourine, hand claps and finger clicks, it is a far cry from the overblown and overproduced Pop music of the late 80’s.

“George was such a perfectionist so I knew when he came into the studio to finish the record it would already sound amazing. I remember the album came in on a Mitsubishi 16 bit DASH machine, which was said to be indestructible due to its fantastic error correction. The thing I was most taken aback by was the sparseness and freshness of the record..”

 

The track was a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic and with its music video helped secure his status as a musical icon.[vc_video link=»https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=

To read more about Tony’s work, head over to his bio on the mastering website by clicking here…

Book the founding father of Metropolis Mastering, Tony Cousins, for your next mastering project by clicking here, or drop an email to mastering@thisismetropolis.com