Reading this interview was so much fun that we have very little to add or takeaway. Kurt Herman and Tima Reece (also Herman) have a track record that speaks for itself and we can do nothing but celebrate their great work as a unit at the forefront of BluBerry Entertainment. We love the fact that they have established for themselves and others a business which is a quiet sanctuary for good music and great entertainment value. You might feel that you have only seen them in the background of late (think shows such as The Voice and Idols SA) but their diverse accolades prove that impeccible art and artists are like chameleons, adapting to their surroundings and making beautiful things. Let’s hear from Kurt how their production story unfolded with time.
What made you decide to be a music producer?
My earliest memories are of when I nagged my mom for a tape recorder for Christmas! I made my first mix tapes on those…but I really became interested in music production while touring in Germany during the latter part of 1998. I was really fortunate to have met and be mentored by a mix engineer who worked with Level 42, and was completely hooked after that. When I moved back to Cape Town, I offered to work for free at Digital Forrest Studios in Constantia, in exchange for studio time. It was so rewarding because there were not many studios around back then. Even though I was signed to Universal Publishers as an artist, it was John Fishlock who gave me a break, which kick-started my engineering and co-production career with Nadine Hoffveld for her Kaapse Draai album.
When did you get started in music production?
I started getting into the production side in early 2001. The creative and technical bug bit me hard and soon I was offered to record a soundtrack for a feature film. Unfortunately, the investors for the movie pulled out, but I got the chance to produce and learn some new techniques for artists like Redd Angel, Eclipse, Jag and Emo Adams. After 101 was signed to EMI, my interest became obsessive!!
Recording with Jedi Masters, Pete “Boxsta” Martin (Tima Reece, Jessie J, Arrow Benjamin) and George Vardas (Tima Reece, DJ Jazzy D, Dr Victor) was life changing. I probably drove them nuts with my gazillion Q and A’s…Pete’s Glitch like futuristic approach for groove versus George’s razor sharp skill for hooks was the best schooling ever!
Soon after that I got signed to EMI publishing and started the journey to find my sound. It was also during this time that Tima and I started writing and producing together. Our first stint on a song called “Do You Know” got the attention of Alicia Keys and Yolanda Adams who shortlisted it for a possible collab. Of course, back then my booth was our clothing racks covered by the duvet, and a laptop which could only allowed me to record in Cubase SX with a maximum of 4 tracks at a time! We started our company Bluberry Entertainment and used our gig money to buy that insatiable thing called…gear. Hello… my name is Kurt and I am a Gear Porn addict. Our first start for our company was for an All Girls Finishing School in JHB, and of course true to murphy, our 8am booking for studio time in what was literally our second bedroom was a classic miss! Our client literally sang us awake outside our window. ”Kurt and Tima wake up”…”Kurt and Tima wake up”. Ya…those late night gigs hey. Fortunately they were very forgiving.
Which artists or clients have you produced for?
I am still humbled by the clients who choose to work with us. As a small team at Bluberry Entertainment we get the privilege to work with some incredible people. Llewellyn George, Andrew Baird and Tima Reece have been a major part in the success for these projects.
Tima and I were invited as Vocal Producers for “The Voice” and “IdolsSA”. In a similar capacity Llewellyn and I shared the opportunity to produce shows like “The Luther Vandross Tribute Show”, “Supreme Divas” for the Joburg Theatre and “Miss South Africa”.
This platform gave us the opportunity to write, work or produce for the likes of Anatii, Khuli Chana, Emtee, Loyiso Bala, Lloyd Cele, RJ Benjamin, Mango Groove, Graeme Watkins Project, Danny K, Neville D, Kabelo…all I can remember right now…oh lol…and the new Tima Reece album, 9.
Do you use hardware, software or a hybrid approach?
I started in the hardware and software world at around Pro Tools 5.
Now, I think technology has caught up so much that you don’t need a lot to make great music. So far I am enjoying my hybrid setup running Prism Orpheus Converters with some Avalon Pre’s and UAD, Steven Slate and Waves mixing plug ins. Sometimes I sum stems into my SSL Bus Comp and run them back into Logic X or use the Neve 1073 Unison Pre’s on my UAD Apollo 8 just for some color. For monitoring I like to mix mainly on the Unity Audio’s, Sonodyne’s or my NS 10’s depending on how much the tinnitus is acting up…
What advice do you give your recording artist clients most often?
We really just try to get out of the way of what the artist wants and what the song requires. Sometimes we need to be reminded that in order to achieve what the client wants, we must be prepared to do what hasn’t been done. This most of the time means much more than hitting the record button. Preparation is important, but sometimes the conversations to get them prepared is what’s needed. Sometimes it’s a counselling session. Each process is different, so allow yourself to be comfortable so that we can help you find the magic. I prefer this approach even when the deadlines are hardcore, because once its printed, its forever.
Mention a few career highlights.
Had some great moments on tour and some performances over the years. Loved touring and sharing the stage with Usher, Alicia Keys, P. Diddy, Atomic Kitten, John Legend, Craig David.
Had a few hits on radio but am still surprised at the longevity of my biggest hit Lady Soul – DJ Jazzy D.
Which upcoming projects can we look forward to hearing you on?
We are really excited to release the upcoming Tima Reece project. It’s the first offering since her hits “You Should Know” and “My Body’s Crying”. We are launching Nov 30 at the Joburg Theatre. The album 9 will be available on iTunes etc from the 2nd December scheduled with her first single and video release.
As a kiddo who grew up listening to Tima Reece on the radio, I’m very excited about the album 9. I’m personally hoping for Rnb infused pop but with so much life and music experience under her belt, I readily anticipate whatever Tima and Kurt have to offer with this record.