As the producer of Supergrass’ debut album, the Mercury-nominated `I Should Coco’ – an album that entered the charts at Number 1 and stayed there for three weeks, becoming the biggest-selling debut on Parlophone since The Beatles, and featuring the Ivor Novello Song Award-winning hit single, `Alright’ – Sam Williams made quite an entrance with his first major label production.
The son of two guitar teachers and brother of world-renowned classical guitarist John Williams, Sam Williams was born and raised into a world of music.
His father Leonard Williams was a jazz guitarist and founder of the Spanish Guitar Centre in London’s Charing Cross Road.When he decided to sell the business and relocate the family to the cliffs of Cornwall to open a monkey sanctuary, Sam found his house full of monkeys and musical instruments.
“It was the most incredible place to grow up, and there was a strong feeling of complete creative freedom.
Since that time, writing playing and producing music has been Sam’s life. He got his first studio session aged 16, playing bass for Kid Strange of The Doctors Of Madness. Through his brother, John, Sam became friends with Nick Flowers, son of bassist Herbie, an iconic figure to Sam for his work with T-Rex, Lou Reed and David Bowie.
“Herbie used to take me along to sessions with him when I was 16, and I would sit there quietly watching people like Al Kooper produce. My brother John took to me to a lot of film sessions at studios like Air and Abbey Road. I learned so much hanging out on those sessions. Most of all, I began to realise that great production had a lot to do with great arranging.”
Back in Cornwall, Sam began working at the legendary Sawmills Studios, set in a beautiful creek, accessible only by boat or walking down an old railway line when the tide was out.
He was soon signed as an artist to the studio’s own Dangerous Records label and began recording and producing his own and other bands’ songs in earnest. “ Sawmills was like rock n roll university for me. From 18 to 21 I really cut my teeth there as a songwriter, musician and producer.”
From here Sam moved to Power Plant Studios in north London, signed by producer Robin Miller.
“Robin was an incredible guy who really helped me grow by giving me complete freedom to write and produce my own music. I based myself in Studio 1 where all the Kinks and Faces stuff had been cut and didn’t come out for six months !”
Through Tony Cox, who originally owned Sawmills Studios, Sam moved to Oxford, attracted by the vibe of the local scene, in particular Ride, and saw it as a perfect place to put together his own new band, The Mystics. It was here that his fortunes completely changed.
‘I knew I had to produce Supergrass from the moment I first saw them. Many of my favourite records had been made by independent producers who worked outside the record companies to develop artists that they really believed in, and now I was finally in a position to do the same thing in collaboration with Sawmills Studios as a production base. There was a sense of urgency and momentum making the record – I just wanted to capture that pure energy and rawness and print it as fast as possible. For me as a producer it was the realisation of everything I knew about producing, arranging and recording ”
‘I Should Coco’ was released to widespread critical acclaim with Sam being hailed as a “back room genius” by the NME.
Around the same time, The Mystics had found themselves signed to Fontana. When Sam wasn’t in the studio with Supergrass he would be touring or recording with his own band, but when The Mystics split up he bought a converted chapel in Oxford and set about building a studio of his own in the basement.
“I was frustrated with having to book studios all the time. I always loved the sound of the original classic American studios like Sun, Motown and Stax – really simple and raw with just a few mics and a lot of room sound. Templesound is based on the musical vibe of those studios but with a contemporary mixing and control area. Because I designed it and I know the room so well I can guarantee hitting a mix right every time here and that makes a big difference.”
Sam’s next band project was The Animalhouse, a group he formed with Mark Gardener and Loz Colbert, from the recently split Ride.
“ Ride were the band that had first drawn me to Oxford and it felt very natural to be playing with Mark and Loz. It was a very challenging album to record, combining band performances with sampling and orchestral elements. It was a great feeling when it went to Number 1 in Japan.”
Sam went on to produce bands like The Noisettes, The 22-20s and A Silent Film, as well as co-writing with and producing Plan B and Francesca Belmonte [Tricky]. He was recently reunited in his partnership with Gaz Coombes of Supergrass, co writing, playing on and producing his debut solo album, the critically acclaimed ‘Here Come The Bombs’ and recent single ‘One Of These Days’.
“I have a big appetite for working on new music and exploring new areas and thats recently lead me into composing for film and TV, alongside writing and recording my first solo album. I will always want to work with other people as well as continuing to create my own music, I love the variety of working with different artists in different genres as every record requires something different. Most of all I try and make sure it’s great fun and an exciting ride with that sense of creative freedom I felt when I started.That’s how it’s meant to feel and I try to make sure I never forget that.”