A peak into the mind of John Hampton

A Creative Oasis

If you think about it (not too hard, I hope!), there are two types of  “brain-flow” in the world:

The first would be the analytical brain-flow. It exists in those who can look into a situation, analyze all potential elements of the event, and  from those observations deduce a probable outcome. This type of person is usually good at managing people, running large corporations, directing traffic, etc. They bring you things like Kraft Foods, war, even some ugly cars,  to name a few.

The second would be the creative brain-flow. Those that can completely fabricate a situation within (and outside) the bounds of his/her own mind, and then find a way to bring this fabricated vision to others… through the senses. Within this group you get painters, musicians, authors and screenplay-writers, etc. They bring you things like The Firebird Suite, Whistlers Mother and humor, to name a few.

And it seems everyone possesses varying degrees of both of these “brain-flows”.  Albert Einstein probably had equal talent in both arenas. He analyzed properties of physics and then created the less obvious (i.e E=mC squared) from these observations. He also said that he thought God had a sense of humor.

Architects appear to have equal amounts of both as well. They can design a building that is a true  masterpiece (or horror show!), then relate how to put it together to others more analytical.

But to be able to let the mind free up and do what it does best, it seems a special environment is needed; a place to let the mind go and not have to think  about much else for periods of time, allowing a creative thought time to gain a life of it’s own. In this environment one could be surrounded by trusted people to bounce ideas off of.

And finally the artist will commit the creative thought to some form of “hard copy”. This environment can give the artist a situation that usually produces results with more sustenance; results hard to find when the thought process gets interrupted again and again for one reason or another. Many times, this “art-sandbox” will determine the creative quality of the end result.

Poor creative habit leads to poor artwork, including music. The listener rarely gets interested in a not-so-creative performance of the arts, a lot of which is brought on by not-so-perfect creative habits. A creative oasis is hardly sustainable in a place where interruption and/or lack of collaboration is the order of the day. Nor is it sustainable in an environment that lacks the best tools with which to capture the creation. I mean, imagine doing a valve replacement on your car in a place where only a pair of pliers and a screwdriver is available. Or having your spleen transplanted in your “well stocked” kitchen. Creative genius needs a creative oasis.

Too many times I’ve been called in to fix a record that the artist (bless his pointed little head) was left alone with, and the only person happy with the end result was … THE ARTIST! When the artist hears his creation, he usually LOVES it. He usually hears something that an objective, casual ear just simply does not hear! They will sit with me as we “remix” the work, everyones hopes riding on the nonsense that my ear will fix the problem. Artists say things like “Man Hampton, don’t you just LLLOVE that augmented 9 chord resolving into the root?  I LOVE that!” Well, first off, what the hell is an augmented 9 chord, and a root is like a carrot or something, right? THEN, when I can finally “touch” the spot referred to, it is so incredibly complex that I need a slide rule to make sense of ANY of it! That type of creativity just doesn’t tug at my heartstrings … and it turns out the listener feels the same.

So what makes a “recording studio” better than Bill’s spare upstairs bedroom? I personally believe it starts with dedicated people who were built from the ground up to make records, driven mostly by their love of the creative process.  And the gear that studios use. Most of today’s plug-ins and physical equipment are simply an attempt to make the user think that he/she is using that same gear. But even an average ear could hear the differences between the original gear and the gear made for the “home studio” market. For me it’s best to never draw that kind of comparison. I just try to look at a Fairchild 670 plug-in or a “Blue”microphone as a new piece with it’s own sonic properties.

Other than that, I still believe that what studios have to offer is superior to a ProTools set up in a spare bedroom. Great for demos, but I think records will be better if they are put together by the folks built from the ground up to do it. They LOVE doing it!

Next question?