Charles Reeves interview: MUSIC OF THE PAST, MUSIC OF THE FUTURE

It seemed like musician, producer and recorder Charles Reeves still hadn’t recovered from his several sessions with … Paul McCartney as he exclaimed: “It was kind of surreal! I was standing like ten feet from him on the stage…!”

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Charles, 46 years old, looking young in his jeans, is the founder of Sublime Studios, located in an old house in Essex Road, Islington. When I rang the first time, he opened the door within a second, a warm smile on his face: “You’ve managed to find your way? Great!” is how he welcomed me into his musical universe.

 Charles is a complete and impressive musician who plays many instruments and has worked with characters like Ray Charles, OMD, Radiohead, Grace Jones and members of the Rolling Stones to mention only a few.

 But how has the boy from Georgia, USA, come all this fascinating way?

 He always wanted to work in music: “I was thinking about music all the time”. Even though his parents weren’t enthusiastic, he managed to follow his teenage dream: “They still don’t think it’s a real job, even though I’ve been doing it for more than twenty years, they keep asking ‘Are you still doing music’ ?” Charles Reeves plays several instruments, but confesses preferring bass: “I have a strong bass element in my music”… before adding in a laugh “It still looks like a guitar, and I could still get the girls…!”

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 One of Charles’ strengths is that he knows what he wants. After finishing his musical education in the Vienna conservatory in Austria, he began to play in bands back in America. He won a contest and was offered a recording session in a studio. Not pleased with the result, he decided to create his first own studio in NYC!!!

 Word of mouth spread and he soon began to meet “heavy weights” of the music world. One of the main clients of his studio is the group OMD who discovered the quality of his work while he was mixing a show, and decided to collaborate with him for their next tours.

He also worked with Grace Jones: “Grace is sweet!!” And had the chance to mix the last Ray Charles’ show, which he described as “an amazing, privileged experience”.

 Not so impressed in his natural manner: “Well, when you work with them, you realize that they are just human beings!”

 After working in NYC as chief engineer of Manhattan Center Studios/Hammerstein Ballroom and in parallel running his own studios, Reeves was called to help a British singer and song-writer who was recording in London: “It was in 2004, and was supposed to take six months but it took so much time that it lasted 2 ½ years…  So I bought a house, and then this place just two feet away became available, so I bought it and made a studio”. Of course he also kept ashore in NYC and still collaborates with American artists.

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Charles loves London: “I’ve always loved to work in London; it’s my favorite place in the world… But I can’t stand the weather!” For him, the music industry here has more human vibes: “NYC is all about hip-hop; it is not really my thing”. NYC is also more competitive than London: “People meet each other; are friendly, but when you watch them shake hands, you realize there’s always an edge…It doesn’t need to be competitive, it just needs to be creative”.

 One thing about Charles is that he prefers working by himself, and likes to joke about it: “I’m a hermit!” He concentrates on his own style, which he describes as a mix between electronic, folk and original/organic music.

 Charles’ London studios reflect his personality: cozy, warm, and professional. They are fully equipped with digital dashboard, piano, bass, guitars, electronic instruments, and two studios downstairs. One specificity is that he mainly uses vintage material: “It has a certain sound, and people are looking for that kind of style”.

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 He has regular clients, which is key for this job: “Loads of clients are coming back, and I don’t advertise my work at all, it is more about people who say ‘Oh I’ve worked with this guy, you should contact him’ ”.

 But he recognizes that it is not a secure job: “it’s a terrible way of living, I’m fortunate but it’s super risky”.  As in any industry, this year has been harder: “Recession has affected everybody; the music industry had changed, people now tend to record at home because it’s cheaper, […] but I honestly don’t think it’s a good idea. We get a lot of material sent here which has been recorded at home, and it takes a long time to repair, it would have been cheaper to come directly to the studio…”

 As Sublime studios are located in the heart of Islington, I asked for his favorite places there: “I particularly like Camden Passage with all the shops… and White Chapel market!”

He also pointed out that Islington is great for music: “There is quite a big music scene around here, and a lot of Americans, which is a total coincidence!”

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 Charles has many projects for 2013.

First, offer proper tutorials: «I love teaching, […], I’m trying to organize something for after Christmas, even though it’s hard to combine with touring! My goal is to be a music mentor, as it is a tough business; I try my best to help young bands”.

He also plans to tour around the world, in particular with OMD, but it is not all: “I’m also working on my new CD, which is absolutely different from anything I’ve done before”.  After being asked if he thinks of any collaboration for this project, he replies laughing “knowing me, it will probably be only me!”

 Sublime studios are definitely a great reflection of Charles Reeves’s talents, which he combines with his experience to create new sounds and to support young bands, one foot in the past, the other in the future…

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So I hope you enjoyed my first interview, and a BIG thank to you Charles if you are reading, I truly appreciated your help! In my next post I will talk about this interviewing experience, as it was totally new for me! See you soon,

Liz x

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