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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Mar 2019 > GARY STEVENSON


Pioneering Go West and ABC producer Gary Stevenson has seen a seismic shift in studio tech over an extraordinary production career. Here, he recalls when you could spend the cost of a house on the latest cutting-edge technology, but how those investments always (well, nearly always) paid off…

Gary Stevenson has been in the upper echelons of production for three decades. He’s worked on an incredible array of projects: from defining the slick, mid-80s sound of Go West to producing The Lexicon Of Love II, the follow-up to one of the most iconic LPs ever released. Gary has also seen it all when it comes to gear. Think you’ve spent a lot of money on equipment for your studio? Think again. Unless you were a producer back in the 1980s, we can pretty much guarantee you’ll have spent next-to-nothing compared to producers like Gary. This was a time when you could spend the price of a house on digital sampling, the cost of a supercar on digital multi-tracks, or the value of a small island on a mixing desk… And Gary did just that. Even as a teenager, he’d started dabbling with the best that technology offered at the time.

“I started just writing and recording music in my bedroom,” he recalls. “I really enjoyed that and started off with an Akai 4-track machine, where you bounced from three tracks down to one, before I then moved on through the Portastudio and 8-track phase. I loved all that; my bedroom studio was kitted out with the Roland RE-201 and a Super ‘C’ MasterRoom stereo spring reverb. I used the RE-201 extensively and can’t believe the emulations of it now. They are so good; exactly the same. I pushed that unit to the limit back then and it still makes me smile when I use the plug-in now.”


Gary’s initial ambitions were more band-orientated than studio-based, and he started playing live in a band called Sly Fox, but the limelight wasn’t as attractive as he’d initially thought… “I found I didn’t really like playing live,” he says. “If you get it wrong, you can’t go back and change it – and I’m a bit of a perfectionist like that. Plus, I didn’t really like being up there on stage, showing all I’ve got. I used to get really nervous – it was really stressful, even at 19 or 20!” By landing a guitar-demonstrator role in a musicequipment store, Gary found a job that allowed him to learn all about the latest studio gear while also meeting working musicians. “It was a dream if you were trying to be in a band and hopefully, you’d get your gear cheaper, too!” he laughs. “You would meet lots of like-minded people. I met many influential people including Dave West, my keyboard player, through working at the shop. We would work on new tunes when the shop wasn’t busy, plus the owners also allowed us to go and rehearse in the store after hours.”

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