London producer and drummer extraordinaire Rich Cooper isn’t one for following the conventional route to success. But that didn’t stop him making it in one of the toughest industries out there.
During an impressive career as a music producer that started straight after quitting school post-GCSEs, he’s worked with some of music’s biggest names, from Paul McCartney to Kanye West. Not something many people can say.
He’s also produced some of Britain’s brightest young talents including folk popster Lucy Rose and indie rock band The Mystery Jets.
We caught up with the studio wizard to see how he reckons it can all be done again, by you.
1. How did you know you wanted to work in the music industry?
I was always in bands growing up and I always ended up being the one trying to record whatever we were doing. I built up a very basic recording setup and then began to record my friends’ bands in their rehearsals. It kind of spiralled from there.
2. How did you get started?
I left school after finishing my GCSEs and thankfully knew this was something I was really into. So I moved to London to study at an audio engineering college in Islington. I was hugely lucky to be offered a job by the studio manager at the now closed down Whitfield Street Studios before I finished the course.
3. What’s been the most important moment in your career so far?
I’ve had quite a few really cool moments, but I actually think the most important thing was meeting my manager Lucy and going freelance. When I worked for studios, I had the honour of working for some of the greats – from Paul McCartney to Kanye. I’ve learned something from each artist and can now put that into play in my own projects. Lucy’s incredibly passionate and supportive, and very good at all the social side of stuff that I’m not great at. She’s definitely opened up a lot of doors for me. Working with her has made a huge difference to my progress.
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4. Talk us through your day…
5. What are the best things about doing what you do?
When you’re working with someone really incredible and it pushes you to up your game. You get that exciting buzz where you just want to keep working all night.
Also the feeling when things get released is still cool. Sometimes there can be months between finishing a record and it going out, so when its finally out you get a sense of completion.
6. What are the worst?
Having to work all night when you really don’t want to.
I guess the worst thing is when you’re on a different wavelength to the artist. That difference of opinion can get tricky. Thankfully that doesn’t happen much at all though. I guess it’s a producer’s job to adapt to the person they are working with so they can get the best out of them.
7. What do you think people don’t realise about your job?
Admin! A lot of it involves keeping track of budgets and hitting deadlines. It’s not all the glory of sitting behind a mixing desk. There is so much more that goes into producing a record, even coaching artists out of mental breakdowns.
8. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
It’s just as important to say no as it is to say yes. If you say yes to a project for the wrong reasons, it’s always going to be the one that didn’t work out.
Even if the artist is massive, if it’s not right for you, your style of working or even your schedule (you never know who you could potentially be losing the chance to work with), don’t do it. In the long run, the risk of a project going wrong is much worse than just turning it down.
9. What advice would you give someone wanting to get into music?
10. Have you ever had a moment of self-doubt? What happened and how do you get through those?
Totally, I used to a lot. It would usually happen during a time that I was particularly stressed for whatever reason and that would manifest itself in me doubting what I was doing.
It always helped to remind myself that if I’m happy then the work I’m doing will always be better. Thankfully those moments have only ever lasted a few days at a time.
11. What are your career goals?
Just to keep working with awesome people. I want to get back into playing music live again, so striking a balance between that and studio life would be great.
I’d love to move out to the country and build a studio that people can come out and stay at while recording.
Check out Rich’s full discography and recent projects at his website here.