If you’re going to do it, do it properly. That’s the maxim that has served guitarist/producer Paul Stacey, from Parkstone, extremely well for more than 20 years and built him an impressive CV that includes Oasis and US rock giants Black Crowes, as well as current indie-pop darlings The Kooks, New Zealand melodic rockers the Finn Brothers and James Lavelle’s dance institution UNKLE.
He’s currently producing promising young rockers Purplemelon whose highly-crafted sound channels classic rock, funk and pop influences from The Beatles and Stones to Average White Band and Stevie Wonder.
“These guys are incredible musicians and the average age of the band is only 20,” raves Paul. “What impresses me is the sheer craft of their songs and their actual musical ability.”
As the band’s debut album, Henry’s Rocket takes shape, Paul is under no illusions about how hard it will be for them to break.
The band is even being followed by a film crew shooting a documentary about their road to stardom. Or obscurity.
“When it happens for Purple-melon it will have to happen big for them, which is possibly why America will take to them more easily,” says 44-year-old Paul.
“It’s not that I don’t like the indie scene, it’s just I’m getting a bit bored with it. It’s symptomatic of the age – the media in general, television shows, celebrity. Ten or 15 years ago it was all about mediocrity, but now it’s somehow got below that.”
And Paul has seen enough of raw ambition, celebrity excess and the fruits of success to know what he’s talking about.
Having cut his teeth on the local jazz scene with twin brother Jeremy, a drummer, he took session gigs wherever he could from hotel lounges to Poole Arts Centre jazz club. The Staceys then started picking up recording sessions and making a name for themselves beyond the area – Paul played on Elkie Brooks’ 1989 album Inspiration.
“The local music scene that we grew up in was all about a high standard of musicality,” says Paul. “Even the singer-songwriter guitarists could cut it, it was a really good environment and that’s what I’m reminded of in Purplemelon.”
In the early 1990s, Paul and Jeremy joined local singer/guitarist Paul Holman in Lemon Trees, a new band formed by future Robbie Williams hit songwriter, Guy Chambers.
Completely at odds with the prevailing grunge sounds, the band disbanded in 1995 having left behind an album (1993’s Open Book) with plenty of musical clues as to Chambers’ future success.
“It was a learning time and it was always great working with Paul – he’s a great musician and a lovely guy,” says Paul.
“I mean, if fame is what you want you can work hard at it and probably get it, but I was always more interested in the music. That’s not to say the little bits of fame I’ve tasted I haven’t liked – it’s a bonus, but it can be a nightmare as well. I’ve always shied away from that.”
When Oasis came calling they were after a keyboards player to appear on stage with them – Paul ended up touring with them and playing guitar and engineering on 2000’s Standing on the Shoulder of Giants album, co-producing the Familiar To Millions live album and playing keyhoards on the Heathen Chemistry album; earning the nickname Strangeboy along the way.
Being around Oasis and cutting the mustard in that charged environment leaves its mark and out of it Paul is glad to have emerged with one of the closest friendships he has in music.
It was Noel Gallagher that recommended him to the Black Crowes when guitarist Marc Ford quit two days before the band was due to go on tour in 2006. Paul subsequently hung his guitar up and produced the band’s critically acclaimed Warpaint album which made the top five in America.
“I’ve nothing but respect for Oasis, they’re in a league of their own – they’re not indie, they’re huge. They go for a simple thing done well – that’s the vibe anyway, but so many have tried to copy it and failed. They are extre-mely good at it and they taught me a lot about another side of the music business that you just don’t see playing in jazz bands.”
Never mind Noel and Liam Gallagher and their legendary fallings-out, was there ever any sibling rivalry between Paul and Jeremy?
“We only ever wanted to make a living out of music and that’s what we’ve done. If anything Jeremy is probably better known than I am because he has fans in America. They always say if you’re going to get good at something get good at drumming – really good drummers are always in demand, but you don’t see many ads for an able guitarist.
“That’s partly why I got into the production and technical side of music. Sometimes though it’s hard to switch it all off and just listen to a song – it’s like if you play rock for a long time you struggle with jazz and playing jazz all the time gets in the way of playing rock.
“I’ve been a bit of a jack of all trades I suppose, but most of all I’m still a music fan. What I’ve learned as I’ve got older is that the music you keep coming back to – like The Beatles or The Who – is completely believable. As musicians, both Jeremy and I have always strived for authenticity and that’s what goes into the production work as well whether it’s a young band like Purplemelon or a well-established band like the Black Crowes. It has to be real.
“Well, that’s my theory anyway.”
• First published in Bournemouth Echo.