“We had to be ready to record anything at any point”: producer Fraser T Smith on the making of Dave’s award-winning album Psychodrama

UK grime star Dave hit the headlines again this week. Not only did his debut album Psychodrama win him the Mastercard Album of the Year award at Tuesday’s Brit Awards - having already won the 2019 Mercury prize - but his politically-charged performance at the ceremony was widely regarded as the evening’s standout moment.

Much of the album was produced by Fraser T Smith, who also worked on Stormzy’s debut Gang Signs & Prayer, and he’s been speaking to our sister site PSNEurope about how the album was made.

“Dave typically creates ideas on the piano, and I’ll sometimes sit down the other end of the keyboard, adding bass notes or chords, or will grab a guitar or bass or be playing on the Akai MPC4000 or Ableton. We record everything,” says Smith.

“On a technical level, we had to be ready to record anything at any point, so it was important that our recording chains were optimised for this. We used my Sony C800 microphone on Dave’s vocals tracked through a UTA mic pre, summit TLA 100 compressor and then the UTA Unfairchild compressor.

“I love the clarity of the C800G. It doesn’t work on everyone, but for Dave it’s great. The Summit compressor is very punchy, and adds something in the high end which I love, and the Unfairchild just smooths things out, making everything we run through it sound immediately expensive and expansive.

“On the piano, we’d use my Neumann KM84s - it’s a dark-sounding Kawai piano, so these mics are perfect - bringing out the detail without colouring the sound the way that a pair of Coles 4038s might.”

You can read more about the making of Psychodrama on the PSNEurope website.

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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