The Official Site of Music Producer Ian Little
Baptism Of Fire
This is the story ALL Duran Duran fans have been waiting for. Your chance to read the stories behind the bands most successful period from the eye of their producer.
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Mock-up for illustration purposes
© Tony Mottram
I grew up in South London, close to the edge of the developed suburbs around Croydon; my main passions were motorcars and art. Art won out and I went to Kingston-Upon-Thames Polytechnic where I gained a place on the Foundation course, moving into the Fine Art Painting BA course. It was a time when Conceptualism and Minimalism were the vogue, you can imagine how stoned students reacted to that.
After college my girlfriend at the time and I worked for about six months and saved enough money to go to India, the thing any respectable hippy had to do in the 1970s. I then pulled a favour from a couple of young architects I'd met at Kingston and who'd set up their own small practice. I started working for them, doing visualisations of planned works showing how the finished project would look. One weekend Paul, one of the partners, went to a wedding and met an old Public school chum, a chap called Phil Targett-Adams, but better known to the world as Phil Manzanera, guitarist with one of my very favourite bands.
That chance meeting led to me helping design and oversee the building of a state of the art recording studio. This involved me naturally meeting Phil, a dream come true. In short, once the facility was finished I realised this was the life for me. The whole story of how I made the most of that chance meeting and how it completely changed my life is in the book! The next fifteen years saw me have a meteoric rise to fame, involving the musical projects that make up the bulk of this book.
At the end of those wonderful years, I entered into a less enjoyable period where I succumbed to drug addiction, not once but twice. After defeating that devastating illness once in London, I moved to New York and spent several happy years building a small pre-production studio. Sadly that was not to last and once again, after several wonderful years, my world fell apart around me and addiction once again became my escape. Becoming homeless, I spent a winter, living on the streets until, eventually I flew back to London. On coming home, I discovered I had contracted a vicious form of Hepatitis which prevented me from doing much of anything. Luckily in the early 2010s, treatment was available and I was cured over a six month period. Since then, I've been working on various projects, attempting to rebuild my life. It wasn't easy, trying to get back into music
production proved to be almost impossible and I couldn't string together paid work. As a result I decided I would take on the challenge of recounting my life to date. The results of those efforts are Baptism Of Fire, a title that will make sense once you read the story and see the pressure I was under!
Baptism Of Fire is a book that tells the story of the time I spent working in the recording industry, in studios both in the Surrey countryside and in the heart of London, along with Paris and Basel in Europe. I also worked in studios in New York; St Louis and Los Angeles in the USA; Montserrat and Barbados in the West Indies; and Sydney, Australia. The book covers in detail recording with Roxy Music (Jealous Guy and Avalon), as well as the main focus on Duran Duran’s Is There Something I Should Know? single and Seven And The Ragged Tiger album.
Each studio I worked in was unique; even in the same city each facility had its own identity. The musicians I worked with were all distinctly individual, and like all creative people each had their preferred ways of working and establishing a relationship with me, as an Engineer or Producer. I learnt from everyone I ever worked with. I also learnt I was able to establish rapport and empathy, and in a positive way manipulate artists to stretch themselves to give great performances.
For the majority of you, the time I spent working and living with Duran Duran is of most interest. I reveal what they were like both as individuals and collectively as a band. I spent time alone with Simon in Sri Lanka first of all and then during the creation of Is There Something I Should Know? I became close to the other four members as well. In the book I don’t just recount stories of moving from one enclave to another, but also share my understanding of each of these remarkable five people. I became familiar with their personal qualities and interests, and at various times became really close to each of them as individuals.
As music lovers you will also find plenty of insights into the various ways bands and musicians go about writing songs and recording them. As a Producer I’ve been in the privileged position of seeing inspiration strike these creative spirits; and I was present to act as a facilitator, to record and curate their ideas.
During the last couple of decades, after recounting some episode or another from my past, people started suggesting to me that I write my life story. The reason I finally succumbed and created the volume you’re reading about (and will hopefully soon be reading for real) is twofold.
Firstly I realised that I had had an exceptional life. I’m not so arrogant as to have such a high opinion of myself, but the flood of people telling me otherwise finally made me realise most people don't have global #1 hit records; or work with famous celebrities and bands at the top of their game.
Secondly I realised that I did indeed have a story to tell when I stopped and considered the facts. At 25, never having worked or even been in a recording studio, I was a novice non-musician. Within three months, as part of securing a job in a privately owned, state of the art studio, I had signed a recording contract and released my first single. I had access to the latest technology available, and like one of my heroes Brian Eno, I used the studio as an instrument and put a track together - only a couple of months after first turning on a recording desk. It was quite some adventure.
The story of how I pulled off that stunt is exciting, funny and shows the single minded intense passion I employed, and the sacrifices I was required to make. That's what it took, I felt, to succeed - and it was even more extraordinary, that three years later I was Co-Producing the biggest band in Britain. Three years. It was so unlikely I even endured a lot of abuse from incredulous managers of far more experienced producers who they believed should be offered the job ahead of an unknown, inexperienced beginner like me. Looking back, I don’t think even I realised at the time just how remarkable my appointment was. I believed in myself and the ideas I had; influenced by the amazing people I'd been lucky enough to work with during those three short years. But still, it had been no time at all. Hence the title: Baptism Of Fire. For my first serious Production contract I was responsible for a £500,000 investment by EMI, and tasked with making an LP of popular music with a Christmas release deadline. Right!
It is quite a story, perhaps best summed up by recounting the day Duran Duran, their managers and I all convened at Good Earth Studio to get a phone call from the label, telling us the chart position for the first single we’d worked on together. The call came through, and it entered the UK charts at Number One. That was the start of an incredible year (1983) which once ended had also resulted in the band having their first US #1 single and a multi platinum album globally. I don’t think you can argue that the year was anything other than a huge success.
MUSIC OUTREACH PROJECT
The other motivation that compelled me to write this book was to raise the funds to create what I have called the Music Outreach Project (MOP).
The MOP is designed to provide pathways into the creative arts for young people who, having left school with little or no academic qualifications, face a future lacking in opportunities. My idea is to use techniques employed in music creation, as a template, to illustrate how anyone with a creative spirit can find ways to channel that energy into something, that with dedication and hard work could create a sense of purpose and even lead to meaningful work. Work not flipping burgers but doing something they have a passion for. Included in the book is a full synopsis of the idea that was actually sent recently to The Mayor of London. He was totally supportive, and recognised the need for such a project - but was unfortunately unable to provide any funding at this point in time.
So I decided why not ask true music lovers? From that simple thought came the idea of writing this book; which is available as a regular hardback - but also as a strictly limited number of signed and numbered Deluxe Editions. These are going to be very special indeed, and made in very small numbers (400 only) - each signed and numbered and with its own bespoke hard slip case. These copies will obviously become collectable, and are released close to the 40th Anniversary of Duran Duran's first album release. Demand will certainly outstrip supply, so to secure one of these exclusive Limited copies you'll need to act quickly before they are gone.