Hugh Padgham at PPL Industry Insight

On November 15 industry great Hugh Padgham joined staff at PPL to share his experiences as a prolific producer and sound engineer, as part of the internal PPL Industry Insight program.

Over the course of almost two hours he talked through his time pioneering the gated drum beat on Peter Gabriel’s ‘The Intruder’ and popularising it with Phil Collins’ ‘In The Air Tonight’, as well as other career highlights,  including his time with The Police and working on David Bowie’s ‘Tonight’.

Joined by his long-time manager Dennis Muirhead, Padgham explained how his career truly began, recounting the days of being a tea boy at London record labels in the early years of his working life. Having worked in music since leaving school, Padgham has been active in the industry since the 70s.

“I originally wanted to be a bass guitar player, and I played in a band at school, but you know when you get that feeling that you’re probably not as good as you’d like to be at something? Maybe you love football, but you weren’t really good enough to get into the professional team, that’s how I felt. But because I was interested, and read, and did science subjects at school, the sort of juxtaposition between music and recording seemed like a really natural fit for me,” Padgham said.

He explained that before he finished school he had already paid a visit to a studio and decided that working in one was what he wanted to do.

“I was just very single minded, I didn’t have a Plan B at all. Plan A was get a job in a studio. I didn’t aspire necessarily to being a producer at that time, my aim was to end up as the chief engineer of Abbey Road Studios or something like that.”

Padgham has now had a career spanning more great musical moments than most, but that doesn’t mean he is always appreciated. Citing a wife that doesn’t like big speakers, and a teenage daughter who didn’t know what a bass amp was, Padgham is nostalgic for the days before computing and headphones changed music consumption. Though he acknowledges the benefits of streaming and is an avid Spotify user himself, he states that it just isn’t the same experience as picking up a record.

“We grew up with looking at record sleeves in those days, and that’s how I learnt about who was a producer, what was an engineer, who played on the records, and I really miss that now. I am totally in love with streaming and the convenience of how we listen to music now. But I would never have found out the information I knew then, now,” he says.

“I think if you go onto Spotify you might see a little bit of information, but I was a real anorak. I learnt so much about information, and it really peeves me still now that there isn’t that information that can be recorded onto digital files as metadata or whatever it might be called. That’s how I got interested in the whole studio thing. I knew who the musicians were, who the studios were, who was playing on it.”

Muirhead and Padgham have had a long and fruitful relationship with PPL. Recalling the day PPL started paying performers as a highlight, Padgham said that as a producer “it was really amazing to be regarded as a performer on those records.”

The value in hearing from industry stalwarts such as Hugh Padgham cannot be underestimated. PPL staff benefit from having the opportunity to take part in the Industry Insight program to improve their understanding of the music business beyond rights and royalties.  

Photo L-R: Sarah Mitchell (Head of Member Services PPL), Dennis Muirhead FRSA (CEO, Muirhead Management), Hugh Padgham (Producer), George Bacon (Account Manager, PPL), Kerry Adams (Performer Relations & Development Manager, PPL)