I got a lot of positive feedback from the interview I did with Liam Killeen last time so here's another great one that will leave everyone with some new perspective and valuable advice. My good buddy Rob Laidlaw won't require much of an introduction here because the first question of the interview will explain who he is and why you should seriously consider what he has to say. So without further ado (I always wanted to say that), Rob Laidlaw!
1. Tell us a little about your musical history and how you fell into the roles of producer/songwriter and studio/touring musician.
I started playing and writing at the age of 14. I started on the six string guitar and picked up the bass at 18. I was signed to my first real record deal at 19 with a band called New Regime (RCA). We toured extensively through Canada ourselves and opened for major acts (David Bowie, Platinum Blonde, Level 42, Billy Idol, Cheap Trick, etc). After three years and two CDs we were dropped and I started touring as a side man with major Canadian acts (Lee Aaron, Kim Mitchell, Alannah Myles, Honeymoon Suite, Rough Trade etc). In 1998 I had come off a world tour and was burnt and needed to recharge. I invested in some ADATS (digital multi-track recorders) with an engineer friend and we started our own production company. We worked with all kinds of indie bands and serious majors. In 2002 I wrote and produced RCA recording artist Blaise Pascal and had three top-10 singles, a JUNO Songwriter of the Year nomination and tons of film and TV placements. In 2004 I was offered an in-house residency at a major downtown Toronto club and began booking and playing there every weekend. This was a great experience as it afforded me the opportunity to hire some serious 80s and current acts, i.e. Mike Reno (Loverboy) Jimi Jamison (Survivor) Joe Lynn Turner (Deep Purple/Rainbow) the Trews, Steriogram, Blue Rodeo and many more. The 80s acts have lead to great corporate gigs that I still play with to this day.
2. What specific things do you look for in an artist before you’ll work with them?
I look for originality and innate talent. I, like you and your partners, often develop young up-and-coming artists who won’t have experience, but ultimately there has to be a spark, and that is something some people are born with. You can’t fake the ”it“ factor.
3. Are there any common weaknesses you’ve seen among bands you’ve worked with past and present?
Yes there are several, but the most common I have seen is live chops vs studio chops, two very different things. Live players can get away with being fairly good players provided they aren’t completely messing up. The studio on the other hand is all about precise, clean execution with a great feel!! i.e. playing ahead of the beat, playing behind or right on top of the beat. All very important skills that require years of practice and dedication.
Songwriting is a very important skill and a muscle that needs to be exercised all the time. I have seen many bands/artists who think 4-8 minute tunes are the shit, yet they listen to contemporary pop/rock radio and wonder how artists who aren’t as good as them get airplay. There is a formula that exists for songwriting and it works! It's not rocket science. Use the tools available, listen to what goes into constructing a hit or a great song and analyze it. This is the MUSIC BUSINESS! Start with the tried and true examples right in front of you. Access radio or the internet for bands that have it right. It's called pop music because the masses deemed it popular. Having said that, there are always exceptions to the rule and rules are meant to be broken, just don't kill yourself beating a dead horse. LISTEN!
4. We’ve seen bands waste months, or even years, focusing their energy on the unimportant. What kinds of things should they be focusing their attention on to maximize their time?
Bands should spend time collectively working on their songs, live presentation and surrounding themselves with a solid team i.e. producer, management, booking agent, label (indie or major) and hustle their asses off every day. You can’t expect someone to work harder for you than you will work for yourself. PERSEVERANCE AND PERSISTENCE ARE PARAMOUNT!
5. You’ve had a lot of studio experience through the years. What advice would you give to bands to best prepare them for the recording process?
The first record I got to play on was as a sideman. Live I kicked ass on this project slapping and ripping my way through songs. The producer came out and said, "Hell ya! You can play on this record." I spent three fmailto:f%23$%25$%23@!ing hours trying to lay down a basic bass pattern and the producer said, "Thanks dude, but no thanks, you're wasting time and money." I went out and bought a doctor beat drum machine and wood shedded three hours a day for two months, had another shot and nailed it. I never went to the studio again without having my shite together as a player and my gear in top shape. So, long story short, be prepared musically and arrangementally with your songs, 'cause once the light is red, if you're not ready, you're dead (not literally).
6. You’ve played bass for countless platinum-selling artists. What are some of the common characteristics that could and should be adopted by up-and-coming artists who are serious about having a career?
Killer songs, killer live show, killer attitude and don’t take no for an answer. Alanis Morissette was a 10-year overnight sensation. It takes time and the right timing for awesome careers to take off. Work harder than everyone around you and be wise. Surround yourself with people you admire and respect.
7. What projects are you currently involved in?
I am working with a new band from Ajax called 48 Calibre (great pop/rock),
Erica James (Rick James' niece), a killer soul/rock project, Platinum Blonde's new project and I'm heading down to L.A. and Nashville for writing and developing artists in the coming months.
8. Are there any new artists out there that you’re interested in working with?
Ya there are several. It's an exciting time in the industry right now. Everyone has access to more and the world is getting smaller and communications stronger. I am always looking for new and talented people, ya got any for me Sean ol buddy ol pal??? Thanks, and anyone interested in connecting can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.