"The thing is, most current songs have one section, then another. It is very predictable. I want to listen to songs from the past that are more ingenious. They sound normal but not under the hood." says Emmer. "The songs? Most have this jump in the melody; it is always the same with all these talent shows."
Emmer is not, however, looking to recreate the past.
"Though we like to refer back to what is good in the past it would be a pastiche," he says. "I am aiming at a slightly edgier thing like Brian Wilson, Scott Walker or the best of Frank Sinatra."
Emmer points to the only pop LP in Sinatra's catalog, Watertown.
"That was a very exotic album that where Frank tried to do pop in an almost Bowie sort of way." he says.
The album hearkens back to another time but, as noted, was looking to recreate rather than regurgitate the same old thing. They needed someone to help bring the crooner into modern music.
"We wanted to do it with a correct production style." says Emmer.
To this end the estimable Visconti was brought on board. Visconti has been working in music for decades. He produced some of the greatest rock LPs of the early 1970s (and beyond). His credits include Bowie LPs such as The Man Who Sold The World, Low, Heroes, Scary Monsters and the recent The Next Day. He was also producer of the classic T Rex album, Electric Warrior. He has worked with a who's who of rock music for well over 30 years as producer and musician.
Emmer says that Visconti brought knowledge of the old school ways of recording has vast knowledge of modern techniques and tools.
"He is like a mental candy store. You can ask him 'what was the bass guitar Paul McCartney used?' Any other producer would say "I'll give you that." and you'd still sound like yourself," says Emmer.
And he still knows all about plug-ins and modern software.
Order the LP on iTunes HERE.
"I've been composing, arranging and producing for a long time. In the early 80s was the arrival of first tech, synths. I learned to use it abut grew out of it, felt it was too rigid," he says. "I listened to Wrecking Crew and other musicians. What I learned is it's more to do with taking characteristics of something. I wouldn't do a Temptations song "Stephen emmer-style". I didn’t want this new LP to be a nod to past or to be obvious."
Emmer started the project looking for baritone voices. In addition to the aforementioned Gregory and Ure Emmer lined up: Liam McKahey and Neil Crossley.
Most projects have enough on their hands with one singer.
"The reason I started making instrumentals is that most vocalists are divas! The first time we got together in London was the first time we met live. Singers are used to being focused on, the center of attention." he says.
Ego left the room in this instance.
"They were all good sports and supported each other." says Emmer.
The work went smoothly and Emmer has experience working with vocalists.
"I do scoring for docs and TV shows sometimes they are vocals and have to be African or French or Italian. I am used to being a vocal coach," he says."What I liked is that they felt challenged by the melodies I wrote for them. They usually write their own. They were pleasantly surprised with me taking them out of their comfort zone.”
The first singer on board was McKahey. Emmer first heard him in a record store in Amsterdam.
"They were playing music with this great baritone voice.” he says.
When he inquired who it was he was told Cousteau, from England. Emmer tracked the singer down using the magic of the internet. McKahey had emigrated to
Australia and wasn't no longer involved in making music.
Gregory was next on the list.
"We had a mutual friend, the late Billy Mackenzie of Associates. Untouchable is a tribute to him." says Emmer.
Neil Crosby was next. He says he saw a clip on the internet
"And, again, a couple of clicks and it was "Neil, you don't know me but..." says Emmer.
"Glenn (Gregory) brought up midge Ure who was busy touring in Europe. He was headlining in Europe supporting Alice Cooper," he says. "He said 'I’d like to do this but I have no time.' I said, like a lover; I will wait for you. He took a mic and did the vocals in the closet of a German hotel."
This record was created using laptops and mics in closets but it was mixed at Abbey Road Studios.
"We used low end and high end, the past and the future." he says.
It is tough to do a tour with a project like this but shows are possible--both large scale orchestral performances and scaled down versions.