Chris Allison

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For the police officer, see Chris Allison (police officer).
Record producer and Sonic360 Label Owner Chris Allison.

Christopher John Allison (born 1961) is a British record producer and founder/head of Sonic360 Records.

His work has been associated with artists such as The Beta Band, Coldplay, Walter Becker, Kinky, Plastilina Mosh, Emmanuel Jal, The Wedding Present and Shack.

Influenced by a range of musical styles encompassing rock, jazz, hip-hop, electronic, world and Latin. In his career spanning 1984 to the present, Allison has worked mainly as a record producer and label owner.

He is also well-known amongst fans of the band Shack for having the only copy of their album Waterpistol following a studio fire allowing it to be released.[1]

Early professional years - Sarm Studios, Fairlight programming (1984-1987)[edit]

In 1984, Allison fresh out of College was thrown into a hive of activity at Sarm Studios, London, home of Trevor Horn’s own label ZTT, it was the height of Frankie Goes To Hollywood mania both in the studio and on the streets with the ubiquitous ‘Frankie Says......’ t-shirts. Regular artists in the studio were 80’s icons Frankie Goes To Hollywood, George Michael, Pet Shop Boys, Art of Noise and Propaganda. In November 1984, Studio 1 at Sarm West was the venue for the recording of "Do They Know It's Christmas" by the members of Band Aid in support of relief efforts for the 1984–1985 famine in Ethiopia.[2][3][4]

Although working in the tech department Allison got to assist on a number of studio sessions and seeing the potential of new computer instruments such as the Fairlight and Synclavier, instruments that producers Trevor Horn and Steve Lipson were championing, Allison set about learning to programme these new ‘gods’ of the studio. He left Sarm and became a freelance Fairlight programmer working in London and Europe on music for a wide roster of clients including Iggy Pop, The Triffids, Spear of Destiny, Elkie Brooks and the Emmy award winning TV series ‘Kingdom of The Ice Bear’.

Production career – The Wedding Present era (1987-1991)[edit]

Allison got his first production break in 1987 producing the Wedding Present’s ‘My Favourite Dress’ EP.[5] This immediately became an indie hit with John Peel championing and giving it a #6 entry in his 1987 Festive Fifty.[6] Of the same year he produced the Wedding Present’s debut album ‘George Best’ which racked up a further 4 song entries in the festive 50.[6] The ‘George Best’ album and accompanying EP’s were such an indie success that RCA snapped them up and Allison went onto produce album number 2 'Bizzaro’, which went on to sell 100,000 albums and garner a further 5 entries in John Peel's festive fifty 1989.[6] A UK singles chart entry at #33 for the song 'Kennedy'[7] and the album ‘Bizarro’ itself reaching #22 in the UK album charts.[7] Allison went on to produce other Peel favourites - The Flatmates (#2 indie hit with ‘Shimmer’), The Pale Saints and Ned's Atomic Dustbin.[6]

Production career – The Shack era (1991-1998)[edit]

Showing his versatility as a producer Allison moved away from indie guitars and on to the psychedelic folk/rock of Liverpool band Shack and the album ‘Waterpistol’. Brothers Mick and John Head were a writing force to be reckoned with, influences ranged from classic pop to jazz and folk.[8] Things didn’t go too well, as Allison recalls: “Mick could never finish anything. I’ve never worked with anyone like him, but he’s a songwriting genius and one of the most gifted artists I’ve ever worked with.”[8]

Allison recalls that Head would disappear for days on end during the recording, so he took drastic steps. “I locked him in the studio and told him I wouldn’t let him out until he’d done five vocals. He was furious and wasn’t used to working without a few drinks, but the results were amazing.”[8] And he says all this with genuine warmth; Head might have been a trial to work with, but he was capable of greatness. Just after the recording and mixing was completed in 1991, Star Street Studio burned down taking the masters of Head's opus with it. The Ghetto record label then folded which heralded the end of Shack. Since then no new material has been released by Head and little heard of him.

After the recording Allison meanwhile had taken off to do his Jack Kerouac in the US and had with him his producer's copy DAT of 'Waterpistol' but in a cruel twist of fate had left it in his hire car. When he returned and learnt of the fire he miraculously managed to track it down through the hire car company. But everything lay dormant until German Indie Marina rang Leahy's office and said it wanted to release the album. So in 1995, one of 1991's best records was released, a tour-de-force of timeless pop songs that sounded as fresh as anything heard that year.[9] Waterpistol became a cult classic with the likes of NME, Select, Q, Time Out, Vox, FHM, Uncut and others all championing it as a bona-fide classic.

Q Magazine recently included it in the Greatest Album Stories Ever (April 2012).[8]

Allison went on to work with another Liverpool favourite The Real People. The track ‘Believer’ was a UK singles chart #38 entry produced by Allison.[10] 1998 saw Allison producing the album ‘Slain by Urusei Yatsura’ by Glaswegian band Urusei Yatsura with song ‘Hello Tiger’ reaching #40 in the UK Singles Chart.[11]

Production career – The Beta Band, Coldplay and Kinky Era (1998-present)[edit]

The Beta Band came to Allison’s attention in 1998, thanks to Parlophone A&R Miles Leonard. Leonard was a Shack ‘Waterpistol’ fan. He asked Allison to produce the ‘Los Amigos del Beta Bandidos’ and ‘The Patty Patty Sound’ EP’s, that were later included in their entirety on the ‘The Three E.P.'s’ UK album chart position #35[12] and this led to production work on the album ‘The Beta Band’ UK album chart position #18.[12] Newly signed Beta Band stable mates Coldplay’s early recordings were produced by Allison. ‘Things got off to a productive start. The first track we worked on was ‘High Speed’, which ultimately proved good enough to make it onto the first album. Allison describes it thus: ‘You’ll notice it is quite a bit different to other tracks, because there are other sounds going on in it: we wanted to mix a soundscape in with the classic rock sound on that particular track. To give it a slightly different perspective I guess, with the full willingness and understanding of the band. I thought ‘High Speed’ was a really good marriage between the classic rock sound and the new sound that were developing out of it, something that was more atmospheric’.[13] ‘Don’t Panic’, ‘See You Soon’ and ‘High Speed’ were featured on the ‘The Blue Room (EP)' and ‘High Speed’ also featured on the Grammy award winning album ‘Parachutes’ with the album reaching #1 on the UK Album Charts. Allison’s version of ‘Don’t Panic’ is a more atmospheric version than the one that appears on the album Parachutes. There is also a wonderfully atmospheric version of ‘We Never Change’ which has yet to see the light of day. In December 1999 looking for a new challenge Allison took off to Monterrey Mexico to produce the ‘Juan Manuel’ album for Latin America superstars ‘Plastilina Mosh’ signed to EMI Mexico.[14] On his travels he discovered early Sonic360 signing and Mexican electro/funk/Latin artist Kinky, whose eponymous album was also produced by Allison.[14] The album was nominated for a Latin and US Grammy at the 45th Grammy’s.[15]

Label owner Sonic360 (2000-present)[edit]

Chris Allison is Owner and CEO of music labels Sonic360, Sonic360, Inc., Sonic360 Music Publishing and Sonic360 Music Publishing America. Sonic360 is distributed by Fontana/Universal.

Allison launched Sonic360 in June 2000. It excels in breaking new musical boundaries, predominantly but not exclusively marketing and promoting non-western artists to a western audience. Sonic360 has its headquarters in London and a subsidiary in the United States, (Sonic360 Inc).

Artists that have signed to the label include Mexican electro-funk rock outfit Kinky. They signed an exclusive worldwide deal with Sonic360 in the summer of 2000. Kinky's eponymous debut album was nominated for the Best Rock Album award at the Latin Grammy's (2002) and Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album at the US Grammy's (2002). Their follow up album, Atlas was nominated for numerous awards, including Best Alternative Music Album at the Latin Grammy's (2004).

In August 2007, Sonic360 signed ex-Sudanese child soldier turned conscious hip-hop star Emmanuel Jal. Sonic360 hired the talents of Neal Pogue (Outkast, Talib Kweli) to additionally produce and mix the ‘Warchild’ album. It was followed by a 90 minute documentary [War Child’, premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and won the prestigious Cadillac Award at the Tribeca Film Festival. His Autobiography is published by St. Martin's Press. Jal performed an electric set at the Mandela 90th Birthday in Hyde Park, London. He was presented to the stage by an enthusiastic Peter Gabriel, calling him a young Bob Marley in the making.

Summer of 2008 included one of Sonic360’s proudest releases - from legendary Steely Dan man Walter Becker. Over the past 38 years, Becker and his long-time collaborator Donald Fagen have released 10 albums under the Steely Dan moniker. 'Circus Money' was Becker’s second highly anticipated solo effort, produced by Grammy® Award winning producer Larry Klein.

Selected Discography[edit]

P=Produced / E=Engineered / M=Mixed / R=Recorded

References[edit]

  1. ^ Liverpool Echo - Entertainment - There's more to singer/songwriter Michael Head than famous fans
  2. ^ http://www.sarmstudios.com
  3. ^ http://www.trevorhorn.com
  4. ^ Sarm West Studios
  5. ^ The Wedding Present discography
  6. ^ a b c d The Peel Sessions – Ken Garner. BBC Books. p203
  7. ^ a b http://chartarchive.org[dead link]
  8. ^ a b c d 20 Greatest Album Stories Ever: Waterpistol by Shack – The Album That Nearly Went Up In Flames. Q Magazine April 2012.
  9. ^ Music Week, November 1995.
  10. ^ http://chartarchive.org[dead link]/r/19596
  11. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 577. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  12. ^ a b http://www.chartstats.com
  13. ^ Coldplay, Look at the Stars by Phil O’Brien.
  14. ^ a b http://allmusic.com/artist/chris-allison-p170041/credits
  15. ^ http://sonic360.com/about/