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Q&A: Tony Platt, MPG Awards managing director

The MPG Awards managing director talks career highlights and updates us on the latest developments in the ongoing evolution of the annual awards extravaganza...

MPG Awards managing director, Tony Platt, talks to Daniel Gumble about just a few of his many career highlights and updates us on the latest developments in the ongoing evolution of the annual production awards extravaganza…

On March 1 of this year, the MPG Awards celebrated its 10th anniversary, and for a studio sector that is said to be facing an ever-increasing challenge from easily accessible recording software, the event appeared to be in rather rude health. As ever, the presence of supremely talented studio professionals in the room suggested that such celebrations are not only still a major attraction for the industry’s finest, but that in the face of the so-called ‘bedroom producer’ they are perhaps more important than ever.

A huge part of the MPG Awards’ success has been the work conducted by its managing director, Tony Platt. Over the past decade he has helped establish the event as a key fixture on the sector’s calendar. However, in addition to his work on the annual bash, he has enjoyed – and continues to enjoy – a career behind the desk himself, having worked as an engineer and producer for some of the biggest names in music, including Bob Marley, AC/DC and Buddy Guy, to name but a few.

PSNEurope interrupted his busy schedule for a chat about upcoming projects and some of the most memorable moments from his career to date…

We understand you’ve been hard at work in the studio. What are you working on?

Mostly tying up the ends from two projects I recorded and mixed last year. I have also been recording and mixing some new songs by students at Northampton University to submit to BBC Introducing. I have also been planning a studio at home because, since giving up the studio I shared at Strongroom, I haven’t actually had a base to work from.

You’ve worked with some huge artists over the years. Are there any that stand out as being particularly memorable?

Every album has its high and low points and you have to be careful to avoid attaching extra importance retrospectively. There have certainly been some notable buzzes – playing Back In Black once we had mixed and cut it into the running order, for instance. Then the master take of Foreigner’s Waiting For A Girl Like You, which was one of those magic takes. Of course, several times during Damn Right I Got The Blues with Buddy Guy – such great musicians and so much of it cut live.

Which projects are you most proud of?

Obviously the Bob Marley (Catch A Fire and Burnin’) and AC/DC (Highway To Hell, Back In Black and Flick Of The Switch) albums have been at the forefront. The Buddy Guy albums (Damn Right I Got The Blues and Feels Like Rain) are up there too, but I worked on most of the output from the jazz label, Dune Records, for a couple of years and this was very satisfying on many levels. An album I made with Jacqui Dankworth and her father John was a privilege to be involved with – it was the last recording he did before he died. I’m very proud of the albums I made last year with Two Tone Club and Nano Stern because, although the budgets were a challenge, we didn’t let that get in the way of the music and the results benefitted from that.

How different (if it all) is your studio process now from when you first started out?

In basic terms, no different at all. My approach is very artist centric so creating the right environment for them is the most important aspect, and not allowing the session to be compromised by technology, neither too much nor too little. On the other hand, the things that technology enables us to do nowadays weren’t even a dream when I started, so many more things are made possible. I have adapted and grown to embrace the good bits and filter out anything that gets in the way.

The MPG Awards celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. How did that feel?

It was immensely pleasing to make it to 10 years – I still remember how scary the first one was. The real achievement is the contribution it has made to the UK music production sector. We always intended the outcome to be better recognition for producers and engineers, but the strengthening of the relationship between them and the artists has been a welcome addition. This year the (overdue) recognition of so many more female producers and engineers has been another fantastic development.

What next for the MPG Awards?

Probably a bit of consolidation. We are building a solid support from sponsors, but if we were to move to another level we would need a bigger headline sponsor like the ‘other’ awards events. This is something that needs to be managed properly, as the tone and atmosphere of our event is very important and sets us apart from other events. Any changes would need to ensure the integrity of our selection process, which has been the most carefully protected aspect of our event.

What’s next for you?

Since leaving Strongroom I have been managed by Charlie Colton at Urchin Management and she is working on a couple of enquiries from very interesting artists. I want to balance my time better and that is where the studio at home comes in. Taking the travel out of my timetable is going to free up so much time.