Two UK musicians who have been in Berlin long enough to become part of the fabric of the scene are Cameron Laing and Andy Pegram. Cameron has recently signed a publishing deal with Universal Publishing and Andy’s band Herdwhite is going great guns too. Now they’ve come together to offer production, songwriting, arrangement and mixing services for bands in Berlin.
Andy Pegram was for a short while part of Bunny Suit and contributed greatly to the recording of the Bunny Suit EP which landed them the deal. Since they found that they complemented each other so well in the studio – Cameron comes from a more conventional songwriter/pianist background, while Andy started off with electronics and engineering – they decided to continue the partnership and have formed their production team with their own studio – called White Rabbit, of course – where they are offering Berlin musicians and bands not only more conventional production, mixing and mastering services, but also help with everything from arrangements to songwriting to general creative input.
With their unique blend of technical and mixing knowhow together with their remarkable musical abilities, the two seem to have hit on a winning combination. We caught up with the two and discussed the project.
indieberlin: So why did you decide that it would be such a good fit between you?
“We’re both songwriters and arrangers and mixers and producers of our own music, but still with different skill sets.”
Andy Pegram: We come from different places, we have different skill sets, different passions. We come from different backgrounds. I’m from more of a technical background, studying …….. and getting into the electronic side of things, mixing and mastering and all that kind of thing, and moving more into music over the past 6 years and becoming a songwriter. Cameron has done the opposite…he started as a songwriter and comes from a much more musical background, and learnt the technical side along the way, and we meet somewhere in the middle.
“We ended up giving each a lot of advice on songwriting and arrangements.”
Cameron Laing: That’s how we hooked up in the beginning with my band Bunny Suit, we needed someone from the electronics end of things that could take care of that for us, and it was evident in the end that we had a lot of the same skills but also a lot of complementary ones. We ended up being both good at the same jobs…we’re both songwriters and arrangers and mixers and producers of our own music, but still with different skill sets. So you’re working in the same team but still have your areas of special interest and ability. We ended up giving each a lot of advice on songwriting and arrangements.
Eventually it became quite an obvious thing to say, well we actually use each other a lot when we’re working on records and we both work a lot for other people too, so why not put it together.
“We see it as a creative service by musicians for musicians.”
Andy Pegram: So we’re a two-headed beast, with between us a large chunk of technical knowledge and a large chunk of musical knowledge and I think that’s sometimes what they want because their projects will shift between the two…”can you make this shine a bit more, can you give me advice on lyrics, can you master this…”
Cameron Laing: …or “can you compose something, I’ve got a ukulele and a voice and I want drums and bass on it…some piano…”
Andy Pegram: We see it as a creative service by musicians for musicians. Although that sounds like, you know, we don’t know how to use a mixing desk, but of course we do…
we’re essentially producers for people. What level of production the artists want is up to them.
Cameron Laing: I think it’s a case of people – artists – asking themselves what they need for something.
“The song is there but they want the drums to for example sit more behind the vocals…to find the frequencies to push something backwards.”
We’re essentially producers more than anything, but a producer can be someone who writes parts or arranges songs…some people will say, we want an extra chorus here, we want to move this bassline to the end…and a producer can also be someone who sits behind a desk and takes care of details and so on.
So we’re essentially producers for people. What level of production the artists want is up to them.
“Music has in many ways become more complex, the sonic aesthetic is increasingly important.”
Like Andy said, if someone needs purely to make something work, if the song is there but they want the drums to for example sit more behind the vocals…to find the frequencies to push something backwards…we can do that kind of thing. Also interesting for us is to be a part of the creative project – singers and songwriters who know they’ve got a gem in there somewhere, but it takes someone to find it and polish it a little bit…that’s possibly more where we see ourselves.
“The killer chorus has been done many times before, and there’s other ways of making music now .”
It’s got a lot to do with how things have changed in the last fifteen years…we’re primarily songwriters, and as part of songwriting, because music has in many ways become more complex, the sonic aesthetic is increasingly important because, you know, the killer chorus has been done many times before, and there’s other ways of making music now, which means that arrangement has become increasingly important.
So as songwriters we are by default also arrangers now and because of the digital age – it has many faults, which we musicians of course love to moan about – but on the plus side we don’t have to spend thousands of euros going to a studio to record a take, cutting pieces of tape and stitching them together and so on…so we’ve learnt to record our own music, because we can.
“We obsess and listen and analyse and over-analyse, put in twenty hour days for months on end.”
And because we can, it’s our product. And because it’s our own project, we obsess and listen and analyse and over-analyse, put in twenty hour days for months on end into these songs to learn everything that you can possibly learn about production…because it’s meant the world to us. All of our experience as producers has come from working on something which has meant everything to us. And because of that, it kind of makes sense to offer to other writers who are maybe struggling to find a few ideas here and there, or maybe people just don’t have the right equipment, our help.
“We have access to nice studios and microphones and pianos and all that kind of thing.”
Because we have access to nice equipment, we have access to nice studios and microphones and pianos and all that kind of thing…or if it’s just that you have this gem of an idea but you don’t know what to do with it…going to a mixing studio, they’ll mix it but not give you any creative advice.
indieberlin: Any clients so far?
Cameron Laing: We’re recording an EP for a band at the moment actually, Ariance…they listened to Bunny Suit songs and they said, we want to have a bit of that. There’s something there…a flavour…that they wanted to have. It’s quite a good example of someone hearing something that we’ve worked on before and saying, I want a bit of that.
And there’s an Australian singer-songwriter, she came to us with just some basic songs, and we ended up putting drums onto it, piano, some extra guitar, I was writing basslines…I ended up doing all the instruments based around the acoustic guitar recordings that she came with. So we’re happy to perform on things…
Andy Pegram: It’s better than, you know, going online and finding a producer. Our output, the songs that we’ve written, say what we can do. We don’t need buzzwords and we don’t need adverts. I’m quite happy with the samples we have available.
indieberlin: Can people hear anything?
Andy Pegram: We have a website up and running at the moment, really simple wordpress job, and it sounds good. Whiterabbitmusicproductions.com.
“One thing that makes you unique is ideas, and I think that’s the strong point with us.”
Cameron Laing: I think we have to be realistic…in Berlin there’s a million people mixing and doing this sort of stuff, and there’s always going to be people – in any line of work – who know more than you do, have better things than you do, etcetera, but one thing that makes you unique, that you can say is mine, is ideas, and I think that’s the strong point with us. We have enough technical knowledge between us and great equipment, a lot of experience, but the biggest thing is, if people like the ideas that we have, we are first and foremost creative people. We’ve given our entire lives to developing songwriting.
White Rabbit Music Productions can be contacted through their website www.whiterabbitmusicproductions.com.
Check out the band Herdwhite here.
Noel Maurice is one of the founders of indieberlin. Originally from the UK via a childhood in Johannesburg, he has been resident in Berlin since 1991. Describing himself as a ‘recovering musician’, he is the author of The Berlin Diaires, a trilogy detailing the East Berlin art and squat scene of the early 90s, available on Amazon and through this site.