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Published on April 21st, 2013 | by Alan Cross

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Steve Lillywhite: Stories from a Mega-Producer

Me and Steve Lillywhite, Yellowbox Studios, SingaporeEarlier this month, I had a chance to hang out in a Singapore studio with producer Steve Lillywhite.  The man’s resume is outrageous:  U2, The Killers, Peter Gabriel, Rolling Stones, Simple Minds, Psychedelic Furs, Siouxsie and the Banshees–more than 500 albums in total.  He’s also the guy who helped the Pogues finally crack “Fairytale of New York.”

He was in Singapore as the guest of the Ministry of Culture.  Four leading local bands auditioned for him and he selected one–The Sam Willows, as it turned out–to work with in the studio for three days.  I was there as a song called “Glasshouse” got the Lillywhite treatment.  As he drew more and more out of the band, the transformation was astounding.  It was a master class in record producing.

Steve took the final tracks back to LA for mixing, so I haven’t heard the final result.  But I am in contact with the band’s manager and she promises to offer up the recording for posting as soon as it’s ready.

Meanwhile, Steve took the stage in LA at an ASCAP conference and told some terrific stories.  The one linking Joy Division to U2 is especially good.  This is from the Hollywood Reporter.

“U2 was going to do their first album with a producer calledMartin Hannett, who produced Joy Division and was part of that dark Factory Records sound,” the English producer and five-time Grammy winner told the audience at the ASCAP Expo in Hollywood on Friday. “He did their first single. Then Ian Curtis committed suicide and all of a sudden, Martin Hannett didn’t want to go and do the U2 album. Luckily enough, I was no. 2 on that list. So thank you, Ian Curtis!”

The group of aspiring producers, songwriters, and performers assembled in Ballroom 1 of the LOEWS Hollywood Hotel groaned loudly at Lillywhite’s tasteless joke, but he quickly won the crowd back over: “I didn’t make him commit suicide! I was just in the right place at the right time.”

There’s also a good story about Morrissey.  Read on here.


About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.



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