mixer I engineer I musician
While the average music fan probably
doesn't know his name, they are most certainly impacted by his work.
Neal Pogue has put his own unique touch and polish on numerous songs
and albums for artists such as Pink, Mystikal, TLC and most notably
the recent Outkast release SpeakerBoxx/The Love Below, for which
he won a 2004 Grammy Award. But long before he was an integral part
of the success of Outkast's smash hit "Hey Ya!," he was
a musician just trying to make his way in the logjam of artists
and entertainers known as Los Angeles.
Raised in Roselle,
New Jersey, Pogue decided at 20 years old that he and his friend
were going to take their two-man band, The Bopsys, to L.A. to make
it big. In 1984, the pop music scene was enormous and they found
it difficult to break through. The band seemingly stagnating, his
friend made the choice to call it a day and return to New Jersey
and normal 9-to-5 life. But Pogue knew one thing for himself: He
was not going to quit on his dream and go home.
He took a job
at a warehouse in Southern California while he tried his best to
latch on to touring acts as a drummer. His dream of becoming the
next John Bonham or Neil Peart still very much alive but slowly
fading, Pogue noticed an advertisement in the newspaper one day
for Sound Master Recording, a local school for audio engineering.
At that time Pogue didn't consider engineering as a possible career
option, but thought that if he learned the craft on the other side
of the recording studio glass, he could record his own demos.
NPogue with SSL
through his technical education, he bought his first four-track
recorder, followed by a keyboard and a bass guitar. He tinkered
with these instruments and laid down demos for himself, slowly realizing
that engineering was something he could not only do, but do very
from Sound Master Recording and then began looking for an internship
at a local studio. The 1980's engineering scene was quite crowded
and cluttered, but Pogue was able to get an opportunity through
a friend that knew Michael Jackson's brother Randy, who owned a
studio in the area. The King of Pop's sibling took a liking to Pogue
and brought him in, making him the second engineer for the new album
by Jackson's band, Randy and the Gypsys. Pogue at that time was
working with Richard Cottrell, who helped to get him started in
Randy and the Gypsys' mixing session at Larrabee West in West Hollywood,
Pogue was offered a position by Larrabee's owner Kevin Mills, who
ironically had rejected his request for a job early when he was
fresh out of school. After getting Jackson's approval to do so,
he accepted the job. It was 1988 and Pogue was now working with
the likes of Taavi Mote, Alan Meyerson and Keith Cohen, climbing
his way up the industry ladder.
By 1990, Mills
persuaded Pogue that he was ready to leave Larrabee and begin working
on his own. He had proven to be a quick learner indeed. Pogue began
mixing records on spec, with his first offer coming from Jeff Lorber,
a player in the jazz sector who was then beginning to move more
into R&B remixes.
As Pogue mixed
and tracked for more and more producers, he naturally developed
more contacts, eventually catching on with Bobby Brown and Organised
Noise. He followed Brown to Atlanta to work at Soundscape Studios,
which Brown later purchased and called Bosstown (it later became
Stankonia after Outkast purchased the studio in the mid-late 1990's).
While working in Atlanta, Pogue's career really started to take
off as he met members of R&B sensation TLC, as well as future
hip-hop legends Outkast.
In 1993, he
began work on Outkast's initial effort Southernplayalisticadillacmusik.
Shortly after the album's release in 1994, Pogue was tracking and
mixing on TLC's popular 1995 album Crazy Sexy Cool, which featured
the mega-hit "Waterfalls." This was followed by what many
consider to be Outkast's best album, Aquemini, with Pogue mixing
about 95% of it.
Pogue had also
worked with Toni Braxton and Goodie Mob while in Hotlanta, but as
the century turned, the music scene was drying up down there and
it was time for him to return to his industry beginnings in Los
Angeles. It was 2002 and Andre 3000 was starting to come to Pogue
with new tracks for Outkast's upcoming, soon-to-be Grammy Award-winning,
album SpeakerBoxx/The Love Below.
One day Andre
picked up Pogue in his rented BMW Mini Cooper so they could travel
around the City of Angels and listen to his ideas for the album.
Andre played the demo version of "Hey Ya!" that he had
been working on, and Pogue instantly identified that as the track
that would shine on the album. In the months following, he prodded
Andre relentlessly to finish up the second verse and deliver him
the future hit single. Andre had previously wished to release "She
Lives in My Lap" as the first single, but Pogue correctly thought
from the label to deliver a finished product, Pogue worked diligently
with Andre on "Hey Ya!" as well as six other tracks, including
"She Lives in My Lap," "She's Alive," "Prototype,"
"Take Off Your Cool" (featuring Grammy Award-winner Norah
Jones), "Spread" and "Vibrate." The result was
a Grammy Award-winning album and a Grammy for Pogue, whose tireless
efforts were finally recognized by the Recording Academy.
In 1996, during
his stay in the dirty south, Pogue joined partner Walter McKennie
to form Fulton Yard Unlimited, a diverse production company which
currently produces the upstart Atlanta-based band Mama's Moonshine
has most recently completed the new album for Tahiti 80, a pop/soul
act whose work is scheduled for release in the United States in
copyright 2004 studioexpresso