In a pub tucked away in a back street of London, a record producer and a fan sat in a beer garden and talked. These are the bits that got recorded.
OI: Pedro Ferreira is responsible for an awful lot of ‘Permission to Land’. It’s all your fault, isn’t it? Well, the bits that 4 lads didn’t do…
OI: So how, when and why did you get involved?
Pedro: It was more than 10 years ago, that’s for sure! I started working for a publishing company called Rondor Music, working in the studios. My first session was with (at the time) Empire, the band before. That’s the first time I met them. Dan was working at Rondor and Justin was published by them. I did quite a lot of work with Justin recording adverts.
OI: Going back to the jingle days?
Pedro: Yeah. We’d spend all night in the studio smoking loads of cigarettes – we both smoked at the time. We recorded the Tango one, and Ikea.
OI: They’re very famous with Darklings.
Pedro: So that’s when I met them. 1997-98, around then. We became quite good friends, because I was working at the same place as Dan and Justin was popping in all the time. Then they sacked the singer, Paul. I knew Justin could sing, because I’d heard him and always thought he was really good. For ages we tried to persuade him to be the singer. He didn’t want to, he refused. In 2000, Justin decided he was going to be the singer – got persuaded. This was a process – everyone talks about the New Year’s Eve thing. That’s when he finally agreed, but me and Dan, we were on him for a while. They couldn’t find another singer for Empire, and Justin would have been the perfect singer. After that we did quite a few sessions at Rondor. They were quite indie then. That evolved into The Darkness.
OI: You did a lot of crewing for them, didn’t you? That’s when I first met you. You were pushing a flight case and we were demanding the return of a stolen feather boa…
Pedro: It all just happened. We were all at Rondor, who got closed down – bought out by Universal, who closed the studios down and we all kinda got the sack. I ended up buying gear from them and set up my own studio. That was where we recorded IBIATCL and LIOAF. I was going to see them play at the Barfly and the sound was always shit! It was like ‘Fucking hell, I’LL do the fucking sound! ‘ Next thing I know, I’m doing the sound. Then they said ‘WE have to go up North’, so I said I’d go with them. Then Sue asked me to tour manage them. So all these things just sort of happened. I was only meant to be in the studio and next thing I know I’m doing sound at Knebworth, and still tour managing.
OI: So when it came round to doing this album that we’re on about, was it a foregone conclusion that things would carry on an you’d do it?
Pedro: We were just having fun!
OI: Did they formally ask you to do it?
Pedro: Yes! 2001 was when I set up my studio. It was a particularly bad year for music. I thought it would be really busy, and it wasn’t at all. It gave me a lot of time for them. That’s why I ended up spending the whole of 2001 developing their sound, the whole year. Recording IBIATCL, LIOAF and LOTR – another version that we ended up not using on the record. We re-recorded it because it was really slow. All that time we spent in my studio, I didn’t have any clients. Perfect for them! It was good, because it gave me time to do their tours, sound, walkabouts, everything – it was fun.
OI: You were steeped in Darkness.
Pedro: Yeah, we had a lot of good times.
OI: When you finally came to actually record PTL, did everyone come in with a really clear idea of what they wanted? Or did it evolve a little more?
Pedro: Basically the whole thing was a process, at least for me, anyway. That year, we developed their sound, that’s all we did. They were a bit indie to start with. My background is rock music and Justin and I would have a lot of chats and laughs about AC/DC and rock. If you like, that year was pre-production, recording the record versions of IBIATCL and LIOAF. Once we’d done all that, it was time and we decided ‘Let’s go and record an album’. I’m sure you know about the IKEA advert and how it gave us enough money to go to the studio and all that. I’d been to the Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire before and really liked it, so I got in touch with them and they gave us a good price. We went over for a couple of weeks – less than that. We did do 3 weeks proper pre-production before that which was good fun. Justin got the nipple piercing – I’ve never seen someone in so much pain ever in my life. During that 3 weeks in Hackney, Jo Whiley played IBIATCL. It was the first time we’d heard it on the radio, especially Radio 1. We all left the rehearsal room because the was not radio – it was underground so the radio wouldn’t work, no wireless back then! Someone called us to say that they were going to play it in about 10 minutes. We ran out of the studio and found an internet café with radio – ‘We’re on Radio 1, we’re on Radio 1!’ They played it and we were like kids. It was brilliant – good memories. That was our 3 weeks.
OI: So when you went to Lincolnshire, you were very ready.
Pedro: Yeah, I’m very particular about all that. I wouldn’t go to spend money on a studio without making sure everyone knew exactly what they were doing. Specially when you have a limited amount of money, you don’t want to waste it faffing about figuring out what to play next.
OI: Was there any disagreement on how to do things?
Pedro: No, not really. There are always the usual ‘creative arguments’, always going to be. We were pretty much on the same wavelength. It was mostly in pre-production. The recording went quite smoothly -everyone knew what they were doing and they did it, you know? We had a great time at the Chapel. Then we came back to London and finished off the vocals. I mixed it at the Roundhouse and the boys came down about twice during the whole process. I would send them the mixes, so they were fully aware of what I was doing. It was good to know that they had full trust in me.
OI: How much did you have to change to get the live sound in the studio? That album is known for being quite raw.
Pedro: I was quite focused on capturing the performance more than polish it up too much. In my opinion that’s where The Darkness is. Go and see them live and there’s this energy that they transmit, which is the brilliant thing. I really wanted to capture that. I made sure I recorded them live and technically I did things that at the time that were quite new. I recorded it to tape, then put it onto protos ,to get the best performance out of that without cut and paste. I don’t like to do that. It was very much trying to get ‘The Darkness’ on record.
OI: Them on stage without the little things that go wrong, and people like me going ‘AAGGHHHH!’?
Pedro: That’s the fun part!
OI: A live album would be great – people would really like that.
Pedro. I think so. They are amazing live. And I think we captured that. We spent a lot of time developing the sound but I really wanted to get that performance out of them. You can really feel that in ‘Permission to Land’.
OI: Yes. What everyone loves about PTL is that it’s as good as you can possibly get to a stage performance without being there.. You can stand at home and jump up and down, if you have it loud enough.
Pedro: That’s the best compliment! Job done!
OI: You cannot stand and listen to ‘Stuck in a Rut’ without joining in and scaring the cat. With singing and dancing!
Pedro: I listened to ‘Black Shuck’ the other day, one of my favourite tracks. It still makes me smile, and I’ve heard it probably a million times. Between all the preproduction, recording and live gigs I’ve done, I can safely say I’ve heard it a million times! I don’t think I was able to listen to PTL for a while after it I mastered it. I was listening to it live every day anyway! I just couldn’t put it on. But that’s the good thing about it – I listened the other day and thought ‘Wow – it’s cool!’. Specially when I remember Dan and Frankie doing the backing vocals, that was quite good fun.
OI: Always great when you remember ‘Hey, I did that!’ Money constraints aside, was there anything that you wanted to do that wasn’t possible? Ideas you had that you thought’ I just can’t make this work’?
Pedro. I’m sure there were a few though I can’t remember any. We did all that we set out to do. There was a clear picture in my head of all we had to do. I remember our first dinner in Lincolnshire and I was obviously very quite and focused on what I had to do – trying to figure it all out. Dan asked me ‘Are you alright? Are you not happy to be here?’ I was very happy to be here! But suddenly the sheer weight of everything we had to do in such a small amount of time – WOAH! But, we worked really hard, I didn’t sleep much, I don’t think. We had a fantastic time, and it all got done. On budget.
OI: Nothing you’d have done differently id you’d had more money?
Pedro: The last mix I did, Dan was there at the Roundhouse Studio and I think we finished about 6 o’clock in the morning, it was daylight. We were waiting in the lobby for a cab and I remember sitting there, both of us knackered, looking at Dan. I could think of about a million things I could have done or would have liked to have done if we’d had the time and the money. We didn’t, but I was really happy. It’s always the same, there’s always something you’d like to fix, get a better performance, a better mix, but it all turned out alright. Not bad – not bad!
OI: Did you use any technical whizzy tricks? (technical term)
Pedro: Nothing, just a whip.
OI: A WHIP? Who needed it the most? Along with Justin’s legendary singing in the nude… I know a lot of people whose entire decade would be justified by that!
Pedro: I just turned round and there he was, and I was ‘aaghhhh! Come on…!’ I don’t need to see that! Any time of day! We laughed a LOT about that. Apart from that technicality, everything was plain sailing! It was a bone of contention at one point, the live recording. Frankie wanted time to get his parts right on his own, but I really insisted on doing it live. It was recorded to tape, that’s as far as technicalities go.
OI: Simple is good?
Pedro: Yup. Simple is good. There’s a bit more to it than that, but essentially, yes. Apart from Justin being naked a few times, that’s about it!
OI: Apart from that, everyone had a good time?
Pedro: Chuckles yes, we had a fantastic time.
OI: Did everyone not just go ‘What the fuck is he doing?’ … but… I guess that happened quite a lot…
There was a trip to the bar and chocolate consumed, at this point. Much needed.
OI: Back on track – This album – what kind of personal and business implications has it had for you?
Pedro: It still is the best selling album that I’ve ever done. It’s still quite big even 10 years later. I have kids coming to me and telling me that they started playing guitar because of PTL and they want me to produce them and that kind of stuff. Makes me feel old! One of them is Voodoo Vegas, huge Darkness/Tokyo Dragons fans. So, I will always be the PTL producer and people will always know me for that.
OI: ‘You did that album, I want you because of that album.’ Cool. Worse things to be remembered for!
Pedro: Exactly! Definitely, even my peers, everyone appreciates the production on it, everyone comments on it, even if they don’t like the band they like the production.
OI: What I find about The Darkness is that everybody who doesn’t like them is able to pick up on something they do well. I’ve never found anyone who’s said They’re shit, they take awful photos, don’t like the catsuits or Justin’s voice, they can’t play.’ No one ever says they can’t play! So there’s always something to admire.
Pedro: Oh yes, they can play! So.. yeah, the last ten years of my life has been changed by it. On a personal level, -I met my girlfriend back then, she managed to put up with me and all the madness that was going on. Defintiely on a business level, it’s never been the same.
OI: You were saying about listening to the album again after quite a while?
Pedro: I’ve always been very proud of it. I think it was an achievement, for the reason’s I gave. The fact that it did so well, out of everyone’s expectations. We always believed that it was great and it could do well – we were prepared to give it our best shot because of that. But even when Atlantic signed them, the prediction was to sell about 60,000 copies, and the fact that they sold 5 million just goes to show. For a year after that it was all about The Darkness. Everything revolved about them. I don’t blame them for anything they did, though in hindsight they might have done things differently. I would have done. It was all too full on.
OI: Do you have an emotional attachment, like the fans do?
Pedro: I worked on it for years! I can’t do a record without being attached to it, it’s impossible to do. It’s very close to my heart, for sure. We worked so hard on it, All that time in the studio and that Dan and I spent getting a sound that was different but at the same time appealing. We put a lot of ourselves into it.
OI: Heart and soul – and most of your youth?
Pedro: Hmm.mm.. Yeah!
OI: What’s your favourite track? Do you have one?
Pedro: I thought it was always ‘Love on the Rocks’. I really liked it, even the first version we did, which was slower. I really liked the heaviness and the riff. But.. ‘Black Shuck’! It’s an absolute genius, I think.
OI: It makes me laugh, every time.
Pedro: Amazing, yeah, so I’ll say ‘Black Shuck’.
OI: And that’s not changed? Some people have said that as they’ve got older, other songs have meant more because of things that have happened.
Pedro: No, not really. I know that record inside out, but I can honestly say it’s still ‘Black Shuck’. Does opening bit You can’t beat that!
OI: It’s what you’ve been waiting for, on stage, to hear that and for the place to go wild.
Pedro: What would yours be?
OI: I’ve thought about this, and I honestly don’t have one. Every single track has got something. Sometimes it depends on mood – jumping up and down needs ‘Stuck in a Rut’, ballady mood needs LIOAF. They’ve all got the same favourite level. There are only 3 albums in my whole life I can name that can do that, it’s quite a feat. I like different ones live from in the car. The attachment to where you were and what you were doing last time you heard it live, how good a gig it was, what happened before and after…. Some songs are better for driving to because you can scream along. Some are better for housework! If you need a laugh, ‘Black Shuck’. If you’re thoroughly pissed off, ‘Giving Up’ is about right. Love on the Rocks… you HAVE to do that live ot it’s… you just don’t get the full experience. Rock Epic. You can feel it coming through the floor, not just the speakers.
Pedro: I think it’s up there, and riff wise, in my opinion, it’s as good as ‘Smoke on the Water.
OI: It is instantly recognisable. Exactly whose idea was it to carry Justin for miles, with a guitar, during LOTR? Whose stupid idea was that? Though it wasn’t a stupid idea, it was really good, but…
Pedro: It did become quite stupid, yeah.
OI: He lost a shoe, not long ago.
Pedro: I lost about 2 inches!
OI: The last time I saw it properly, Dan was carrying him.
Pedro: He’s tall enough! It did become quite violent, the walkabout. I’m a strong guy, and I felt like I was going into battle at parts. I remember stamping on bodies and thinking ‘Oh fuck, I’m standing on someone!’ I didn’t have any choice. The crowds were surrounding us, I was just going with the crowd. We had people like bodyguards surrounding us, which wasn’t as much fun. It did get violent, we all agreed it had to stop. We did it at the Astoria without security, the first one, and the Homecoming. Having security wasn’t the same.
OI: I think now it’s become a much loved part of it, everyone’s waiting for it to happen. Not as violent as it used to be. He did have words with one girl on the last tour, I heard.
Pedro: We were in Osaka, the first Japanese gig we did on a mini tour, after the Big Day Out. We decided to do the walkabout, we didn’t know what to expect.
OI: Aren’t Japanese crowds fairly lethal?
Pedro: It was the funniest thing ever. I had to go and pick up Justin from a door at the side of the stage and they didn’t know what was happening. They were looking at the stage. All of a sudden they clocked us at the side. I kid you not, I had about 500 Japanese running towards me. It was dangerous, quite literally they were hanging from is. I’m trying to walk, and the guy who was doing International for Atlantic came and helped me. It was quite full on. It was then I think that we decided to use security. Was quite bruised up after that one.
OI: I remember a few gigs without it. But as soon as there was a comeback, it was reinstated. Good. Everybody wanted it. Perhaps Justin quite likes coming back black and blue? Now he’s diving off balconies and crowdsurfing, he’s getting his danger fix!
The last question, then that I was asked to ask you – what do you really think of the catsuits?
Pedro: He SHOULD still be wearing them! People always asked why he didn’t wear them going around in normal daylight.
OI: Chilly! And his trousers are tight enough, anyway.
Pedro: It’s all about the show, and the show is that. Bands go on stage looking normal, at least he was making an effort! It was different, and it was great. It always puzzles me, people didn’t need to ask these questions in the 70’s or early 80’s – imagine going to Kiss and going ‘Why are you wearing makeup and platform shoes?’
OI: Everyone was wearing it? There’s only one person doing it now.
Pedro: it’s all about the show. The Darkness understood that well. I think that’s what set them apart, you know? Not just that, obviously – musically they were miles apart. The whole show thing was important to them, especially Justin, and I think that’s amazing. I don’t think they should change that all. There’s a fine line – I used to try and show them the line and them decide that the would like to do – but there is a fine line between being cool and being absolutely fucking ridiculous.
OI: SOME have said that there isn’t such a line for The Darkness. And some don’t care about a line, they like it.
Pedro: I disagree with that. It’s all about being outrageous but without…
OI: There’s a thing about being outrageous to shock, and being outrageous tongue in cheek.
Pedro: Yeah, basically. I couldn’t have put it better myself.
OI: Thank you! We’ve never had ‘outrageous to shock’ from The Darkness, because that’s not entertainment.
Pedro: No, that’s not Darkness. It was lyrics, music, what Justin was wearing. It was good fun when I didn’t know what catsuit he was going to wear next. The big leather trousers… they were amazing.
OI: What’s nice now is that a lot of the old ones are coming out – Justin tweeted about getting some out for the November tour.
Pedro: And the flames tattoo… also amazing.
OI: That was very probably one of the best image things Justin could have done. It won him a lot of fans that had never heard a note!
Pedro: I think Justin was quite aware of this!
And with that time ran out. Mixing to do and trains to catch. We did still manage discuss my inability to throw rock horns and what the connotations of my goth horns were. They’ll never look the same again!
Many thanks to Pedro for taking a break from work and being very entertaining, brilliant company.