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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Aug 2019 > LEO ABRAHAMS

LEO ABRAHAMS

Sensorial, textured production is a hallmark of Leo Abrahams’ approach. Across collaborations with innovators such as Brian Eno and David Holmes to his co-written film-soundtrack work, through to the records he’s produced for the likes of Editors, Ghostpoet and Regina Spektor, Leo is creatively driven by a hunger to experiment and discover new sounds…

MT INTERVIEW

From a young age, Leo Abrahams has lived and breathed music-making. He’s channelled this passion into a prolific yet unpredictable career as a producer, collaborator, composer and solo artist in his own right. His behind-the-desk work has seen him sculpt records alongside the likes of Regina Spektor, Editors, David Holmes, Frightened Rabbit and David Byrne as well as the legendary Brian Eno, who – as Leo reveals in our conversation – first encountered Abrahams in a fittingly random way.

Leo’s own compositions, collected across nine solo albums, are layered and textured behemoths of sound, with his distinctively emotive guitar playing often to the fore. Leo is happy to traverse a variety of studios depending on the needs of a particular artist, yet tends to work from both his home studio and Coronet Street Studios in Hoxton, located (almost secretly) beneath a piano store. Which is where we meet Leo…

MusicTech How did your interest in music-making begin?

Leo Abrahams I got obsessed with the record player when I was three. I used to put the same records on over and over again, which must have driven my parents mad. I think that’s when they realised I had a bit of a thing for music. After that, when I was around six or seven, I would sit on the edge of the carpet and pretend to play the fringe of the carpet as if it were a piano. Just trying to give them a hint that maybe they should buy me one!

I studied for a year at the Royal Academy of Music in the hopes of becoming a classical composer, but I soon became disillusioned with that course and took up a role as touring guitarist in Imogen Heap’s band. That was for her first album, in the early days of her career, so we’d end up playing in pubs to tiny crowds, or sometimes no one at all. But it was enough to make me realise that was probably the way I wanted to go.

MT So at what point did you become involved in the production world?

There’s different strands to it. I went to school with Jon Hopkins and he and I were in Imogen’s band together, and then we started working for various songwriters and producers just as session guys.

Imogen took me one night to a club called The Kashmir Klub, there was a sort of open-mic night there. A lot of people who went on to be quite big started out there. Ed Harcourt was playing that evening and at that point, he was unsigned. I really loved what I heard from Ed, so I just went up to him and said: “Do you need a guitar player?”. He invited me to meet him the next day for an interview. We met on Kensington High Street and his first and only question was: “Do you like Marc Ribot?”, to which I answered: “Yes!”. And then he just said: “Okay, first rehearsal is tomorrow.” So once I started working with Ed, I started doing string arranging for both him and other people on his label. I did some string arranging for Starsailor. I think because I’d been to music college, people just believed that it would be alright for me to take on that job. In my early 20s, I caught the very end of the period where record labels would invest and support bands financially; I was really lucky to see that. So even though I wasn’t a producer at that stage, if it hadn’t been for the retainer that I was on with Ed Harcourt for three years I might have had to get another job. But luckily, that saw me through. Once that era had passed, I had enough contacts and work lined up that I could make enough to get by.

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