Producer, engineer and mixer Chris ‘CT’ Tsangarides spent his last decade living and working at The Ecology Room studio overlooking Kingsdown, a pretty hamlet on the Kent coastline between Dover and Deal.
CT was one of the sonic architects of ’80s music, working on key albums by Killing Joke, Depeche Mode, Gary Moore, Magnum, Japan, Bruce Dickinson, Judas Priest and Thin Lizzy.
He also had a unique perspective on the excesses of the era’s hard rock scene, recently telling Classic Rock magazine:
I was lucky enough to be looked after by Zomba Management who also had (major producers) Martin Birch, Mutt Lange and Tony Platt. Battery Studios (in Willesden, North West London) was our home. Any piece of equipment, any mic, you could have it. It was all, “Oh, we’ll go to Barbados to record the bass drum.” It got silly. I think we did disappear up our own jacksies…
People would put on 18 tracks of guitar doing the same thing because “it’ll sound mega, man.” Well, it didn’t. Because you’ve still got the same frequency spectrum. So the more you put on, the smaller it sounds…
You couldn’t mix a record unless you had 500 bits of outboard gear. There was this thing called the Aphex Aural Exciter. You used this machine on your final mix and they’d charge you something like £75 for every minute of song. And all it did was make everything sound really toppy. Pointless. But it was like, “You’ve got to have one of those…because they’ve got one!”
One of the nice things about putting together this website is finding out about some important – though often unsung – characters who pop up in the credits of many a classic album.
Alex Sadkin is just such a figure. You could probably write a history of 1980s music purely from the perspective of producers. Perhaps it was the decade of the pop producer.
There was certainly a lot of turd-polishing going on, but on the flip side it was a chance for someone to establish their own sound, hopefully in collaboration with a great artist or band.
In the early ’80s, everyone was pretty much using the same fairly limited (but very expressive in the right hands) equipment, so it was a question of being as original as possible.
Though he died at the age of just 38 in July 1987, not many producer/mixer/engineers of the early ’80s had a more distinctive sound than Alex Sadkin.
He worked with James Brown, Grace Jones, Bob Marley, Sly and Robbie, Robert Palmer, Talking Heads, XTC, Thompson Twins, Foreigner, Simply Red and Duran Duran during his short life.
His productions are full of colour and detail, usually featuring multiple percussion parts, kicking bass and drums and a very characteristic, super-crisp snare sound.
Alex’s first gig in the music biz was as a sax player in Las Olas Brass, a popular Florida R’n’B outfit, alongside future bass superstar Jaco Pastorius.
Jaco and Alex had gone to high school together, and Alex later became the house engineer at Criteria Studios in Miami where Jaco recorded the demos for his legendary 1976 debut album.
Sadkin then engineered James Brown’s ‘Get Up Offa That Thing‘ single and also worked on Bob Marley’s Rastaman Vibration album, which brought him to the attention of legendary Island Records owner Chris Blackwell. Sadkin quickly secured a new gig as in-house engineer at Island’s Compass Point Studios in Nassau on the Bahamas.
This was where it really all began for Sadkin – an amazing melting pot of talent passed through the Compass Point doors including Talking Heads, AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Tom Tom Club, B-52’s, Robert Palmer and Will Powers AKA Lynn Goldsmith.
But his first bona fide producer credits were alongside Blackwell on Grace Jones’ stunning trio of early ’80s albums (Warm Leatherette, Nightclubbing, Living My Life).
Sadkin was now a name producer with a trademark sound and considerable rep, and as such started to attract significant attention, sometimes of the negative variety – legendary NME scribe Paul Morley even took agin him for some reason in a review for Thompson Twins’ ‘Hold Me Now’ single. It probably meant Sadkin was doing something right…
Later in the decade, though his work arguably became more anonymous (but then so did a lot of post-1986 pop), Alex’s career went from strength to strength, producing some big albums such as Robbie Nevil’s debut, Simply Red’s big-selling Men And Women and Arcadia’s (admittedly fairly dire) So Red The Rose.
Sadly, Alex Sadkin died in a motorbike accident in Nassau on 25th July 1987 just before he was due to begin working with Ziggy Marley.
He had also just recorded some demos with Jonathan Perkins, later to front criminally-underrated early ’90s act Miss World. Robbie Nevil’s song ‘Too Soon‘ and Grace Jones’ ‘Well Well Well’ are dedicated to Sadkin’s memory, as is Joe Cocker’s album Unchain My Heart. Gone too soon, indeed.
In which freelance writer Malcolm Wyatt jealously guards his own corner of web hyperspace, featuring interviews, reviews and rants involving big names from across the world of music, comedy, literature, film, TV, the arts, and sport.