Welcome to Breakdown, an unofficial resource and discussion list about the innovative guitarist/producer Michael Brook. This site is infrequently updated, but contains a great deal of background info which will remain online. For up-to-date news and information, visit Michael Brook's official site and MySpace page.

Babbling Brook a compendium of articles reviews and interviews

Michael Brook Interview
from Sound on Sound Magazine
[note: what follows is only a summary]
Please check out Paul Tingen's site, including excerpts of his own music, featuring treatments by Michael Brook.

DreamFrom a beach apartment in sunny California, Michael Brook waxes lyrical about all manner of things, amongst them the beauty of the town where he's staying and the quality of a Lowden acoustic guitar that he's just found. What appears not to be on his list of favourite discussion topics is life in the recording studio in general and music technology in particular. A severe case of the high-tech blues, according to interviewer Paul Tingen.

Brook goes on to discuss the high-tech methods behind the making of two 1994/5 projects, Dream with Indian electric mandolinist U. Srinivas, and an album with Pakistani "Qawwali" singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, which was unnamed at time of writing. The latter was "a monumental nightmare" to assemble, but even with the former, Brook was occasionally wondering "'why the f**k are we doing this? Why don't we just get the musicians in, have them play some music, and record it?' Instead, there was just the two of us staring at computers. That is not fun. Playing an instrument is generally closer to what one would call fun."

Dream was recorded during Real World Recording Week in September 1992. "When I arrived at Real World to record Srinivas' traditional record (Rama Sreerama, 1994), there were so many musicians around that I thought it would be possible to squeeze another record out of it. So before we recorded Rama Sreerama, I withdrew to Peter Gabriel's writing room, called The Shed, and with a Roland S770 sampler, a DX7 and Atari / Notator, worked out some bed tracks that the musicians could improvise to. One of them was Caroline Lavelle, whom I recorded during this period at The Shed, when she improvised to some grooves." Caroline's parts were recorded direct to DAT, without a reference track, and fitted in later.

Rama Sreerama was recorded live in Real World's massive control room, with an audience present. Once those recordings were completed, Brook brought out his backing tracks, and Srinivas and violinist Sikkil R. Bhaskaran improvised across them, resulting in the basis of the title track.

The next evening, violinist Nigel Kennedy and percussionist Nana Vasconcelous were present, improvising on their own and with Brook's tracks, resulting in what became "Dance" and "Run". There was a third session, featuring Srinivas, Jane Siberry, and others, but only Siberry's vocals were used from that one. All sessions were recorded on 24-track analogue tape, but the next stage was more high-tech, with Brook employing his S770 sampler, and even fitting in some percussion played for a different album by James Pinker.

Brook had discovered earlier that Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan worked best with plenty of time to improvise and generate vocal parts, so Brook, Pinker, and guitarist Robert Ahwai improvised several bed tracks, which were formed into 28-minute long loops with the sampler and sequencer to tape. Khan improvised three or four takes to each, which provided hours of vocal material that Brook had to sort through, with no idea of the structure of the album he wanted. "Just to listen to the vocals for one track would take two hours, and then you had to try to edit that!" He ended up transferring sections to DAT as a mock-up, just so he could hear how vocals sounded with different backings. "I cannot imagine a more laborious way of making a record... one day, after a particularly long period of laborious editing, sampling, and shifting things around in MIDI sequencers, some people from Baaba Maal's band came in to do some overdubs for us. It was amazing how that instantly lifted our spirits."

Brook reckoned that he could not rule out working that way again, but maintained "I would insist that I have the right tools to do the job... if we'd had a 24-track Fairlight it would have been alright, but there was no budget for that... I really want to get away from this way of working andmake more time for actually playing music.