Producer Profile: Tony Drake

Tony Drake poses an interesting thought as we continue with our weekly profiles. Do we use the term ‘producer’ too lightly? Once having worked for Paul Bothner Music as a Roland product specialist and giving us some insights into what the first version of Protools looked like, Tony shares his extensive musical experience with us & makes us excited about honing an artistic history of our own.


What made you decide to be a music producer?

I have always just considered myself a musician. I think the term producer is a term too easily used these days, by people with very little real musical experience. Early on in my pro music career on the road, I bought a portable cassette studio, and created tracks and arrangements using a drum machine (a TR808 nogal), and  my synths (a DX7 and a Juno 60). My experiments were crazy, and some quite embarrassing, but I absolutely loved this creative process. It just kind of grew from there. Four track cassette to eight track reel to reel, then hardware digital studio, then computer etc. I guess in my case: keyboard player + experimentation +arranging+ some engineering = producer!


When did you get started in music production?

I started fiddling in about 1987. Then, from 1988 to 1996 I worked for Paul Bothner Music as a Roland product specialist, where I learned all about sequencers, samplers, recording gear, and eventually DAWs like Cakewalk, Protools and Cubase. I remember the first version of Protools. It was a disaster. Horrendously expensive, highly unreliable, and impossible to work! I hated Cubase when I first saw it, even though that is now my platform of choice.


Which artists have you produced for?

Hmmm. The Boyz, Deja Vu, Alban Petersen, Rouchelle Liedemann, Ricardo, Roeshdien Jaz, Andrew Young, The Glenn Robertson Jazz Band, Michelle Robertson, Chrystal Swanson, Esther Wilson, Tim Feder,  Eli Spiers, Russell K. Harry Curtis, Bobbies for Christ, Mogamat Jephta, DJ Keith feat Salome, Tracy Carter (Murray), Este,  Keith Ponto, Rene White, Ranate, The King’s Men, Michael Muller, SACTWU’s Own Talent, Amazing Gospel series,  Pinkster Gospel series, Gospel Sax series, Myles Bing, Angie, Selim Kagee (co-producing), Rocking Horse (co-producing), Cheree (co-producing), Paul Buckby (co-producing) and a whole bunch more I cannot remember. Some of these, it may not be completely accurate to say I ‘produced’ them, but I certainly did all the programming, arranging, engineering and mixing on them.


Do you use hardware, software or a hybrid approach?

Hybrid I guess. My setup is small and basic. I run Cubase on a PC, I record via a JoeMeek Pre-amp into a Focusrite Sapphire audio interface. I still use a lot of outboard midi stuff. The modern plugins are amazing, but I still like the sounds off my older synths and samplers. I mix it up a lot. I don’t use tape anymore.


What advice do you give your clients most often?

Less is more. Keep things simple. If the budget is tight, rather do an EP of 5 songs, than an album of 12. In fact, in this day and age, even spending R10 000 one song for Itunes, rather than trying to squeeze a whole album out for R10 000 may be a wiser option. Quality rather than quantity.Trust the process, and trust the producer. We can often hear the outcome even when it may sound odd to you at first. Just because you are paying for it does not mean you know better. Don’t be precious. Keep your distance from your material. It is easy to lose your objectivity of you get too close to your material. Oh, and one last thing: NEVER come to record if you are not properly prepared. It will be a much more expensive excercise if you are not ready. The studio clock does not stop while you work out your words or notes.


Mention a few career highlights.

  • Playing on the CT International Jazz Fest in 2010.
  • Performing in Sydney and Melbourne in 2011
  • Performing at a country festival in Nairobi. Kenya in 2015.


Which upcoming projects can we look forward to hearing you on?

  • Just finished a collaboration with Andrew Young called ‘Diamonds’
  • The new ‘Rocking Horse Album’, ‘Highway going Nowhere’ is also just out now.
  • Michael Muller’s new album, “Rain on Me” has also just been launched.
  • Nearly finished my 4th Album, ‘Restoration’ which I hope to release in time for Christmas 2016.
  • Also, look out for “Be a Man’ by Roeshdien Jaz, which will feature as part of the 16 Days of Activism against woman and child abuse later this year.


With a motto like ‘turning dreams into legacies’, it is terribly ironic and fitting that Tony and Lightway Studios kindle thoughts of heritage, voyage and future.  Aren’t you excited to look back and reflect on your own journey as well?

*Please contact us for Tony’s personal information if you would like to get in touch.


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