Sam Gibson - The Scientist Of Sound Behind The Mission Bell (Delirious.org.uk)
Last modified: 20 Feb 2006
Author: Dave Wood
Date: 20 Feb 2006
A few months ago, The Mission Bell became the eighth studio album to be released by Delirious? Already being heralded as one of their best pieces of work to date, and with a myriad of impressive reviews from Christian and Mainstream publications alike, it is an album that has clearly captured the imagination of thousands of people. Whilst the band are responsible for the songs themselves, one other critical factor in making this album the stunning piece of work that it undoubtedly is, comes in the form of a New Zealander by the name of Sam Gibson.
Given the title of 'producer' on The Mission Bell, Sam clearly made an interesting impression on Delirious? Drummer Stew Smith commented that he brought "sense of humour, fantastic ideas and great musical touches" to the album. With an introduction like that, I set out to interview the man himself about his role as producer for The Mission Bell. That sense of humour that Stew referred to was evident throughout.
Sam Gibson comes with a glittering career already listed on his CV. He modestly declined to talk about his previous list of clients in this interview, but he is on record (no pun intended) as having worked with Crowded House, Pearl Jam and Natalie Imbruglia, amongst others. Not an insignificant resume then, by any means. I started by asking Sam how he got into the music business. "I left High School when I was 17 and did a one year SAE course", he explains. "Also I had been playing in bands and dabbling with a bit of live sound since I was 13 or so. For the next year I was a government sponsored (on the dole) surfer but soon enough I got a gig at Revolver Studios in Auckland [New Zealand], still government sponsored though. At Revolver I was thrown in the deep end and had to learn fast, which was great. At 21 I moved to London to refine my engineering skills."
Listing his personal music preferences, he says that he listens to a wide variety of music genres. "At the moment I'd say about 40% Worship, 25% Rock, 15% Hip-Hop/Soul, 10% Old School Gospel and 10% Random stuff." No problems with his Maths skills then. So when did he first become aware of Delirious? "I first heard about Delirious? when a friend was playing 'King of Fools' in his car back in 1998" he explains. Fairly soon he was being asked to do some work with the band. "I had a manager in Nashville and he introduced me to Lynn Nichols [Vice President, A&R for Sparrow Records] and he thought I would work well with the boys, so from there I mixed a few tracks for them on the 'Touch' re-release LP  then I mixed 'World Service' . So I guess the boys liked my incredibly funny jokes and thought it would be good to work with me on their next recording."
So with Delirious' familiarity with Sam's jokes, and Sam's familiarity with the band's style of music, joining forces for their 2005 studio album The Mission Bell was almost an inevitability. Talking of missions, what did Sam consider to be his mission as the album's producer? "My role is to create a CD that is an accurate representation of where the band is at musically and spiritually during the time of the recording", he describes. "As a co-producer I have an equal say with the other guys in the band, like an extra member of the band that happens to be a scientist of sound."
Did the antipodean scientist approach the album with some firm ideas in mind? "No not really," he says. "The approach of turn up at the studio and see what happens was decided upon after turning up at the studio and having a chat." It sounds fairly informal, and indeed Sam goes on to describe a very relaxed start to their morning routine in the studio. "Early start at 9:15am. Coffee at 9:20. Chat for 10 minutes, record instruments or vocals on to tape, sorry disk. Coffee, record more stuff. Lunch, chat, solve the world's problems. By this time I'm awake and we record more beautiful music". The coffee is clearly needed to sustain the long hours that follow, as Sam describes. "The boys would normally finish at tea time but after tea I would work on by myself, or with one of the boys, till 10 or 11ish"
Apparently it's all peace and harmony in the studio. "They are far too nice," says Sam with a little disappointment. "I have tried to get them to argue with each other or with me about almost anything but they don't take the bait, very chilled nice people. I don't know maybe God has sorted them out cause it's just not normal to do an entire album and the band members not have a good scrap about some insignificant detail." He then goes on to add, "I think there were so many funny moments they've all washed into a melange of joy."
Sam explains that whilst the band entered the studio with some songs already practically set in stone, other tracks appeared on the spur of the moment. "On this album some songs had been demoed and were close to finished and just needed the band to turn them into a Delirious type noise" he says. "Other songs appeared out of thin air while in the studio with the band jamming on a vague idea. Also some tracks started somewhere between the fully written and thin air so I guess I'm sounding like a pretty wishy washy vague guy, hey?" One of the studio highlights for Sam was recording 'Take off My Shoes' which he explains "was captured completely live in the studio, except for a shaker. It was a real full-on goose bump moment."
Discussing the different songs on The Mission Bell, one track stands out from the others for Sam. "'All This Time' because I like the smooth sounding frequencies" and overall he says that he is "proud of the quality and diversity of sounds on the album." When asked if there are parts of the album where he particularly hears his own influence on the band, he wittily responds, "In the good bits, ha!" before continuing "After reading some of the reviews on your site I think leaving off 'Love is a Miracle' would be a good change, hmmm..." Oh dear, I really should be careful what I write on Delirious.org.uk!
Delirious? and Sam have obviously built up a good relationship over the years, because they have already put in place plans to work together again in the near future. "I'm recording a live DVD for them some time this year," Sam reveals and admits that he wishes they'd "move closer to where I live so I don't have to travel so far if I work with them again!"
Before the interview ends, Sam's legendary sense of humour makes one final appearance. Asked if there was anything else he wanted to pass on to Delirious? fans around the world he says, "Never ever run with scissors". Great. Thanks for that Sam. Scientist of sound, man on a mission, and source of great advice. That's Sam Gibson in a nutshell for you.