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Thursday, 26 July, 2001, 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
Pop producer Pete Waterman quizzed
Pete Waterman forum
To watch coverage of the forum, select the link below:

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A man responsible for 21 UK number one records, Pete Waterman's name is familiar to almost anyone with a nodding acquaintance with pop.

A DJ since the early 1960s, Waterman is best known for his 1980s partnership with producer-writers Mike Stock and Matt Aitken.

Stock, Aitken and Waterman became the pop success story of the late 1980s, launching Rick Astley, Mel & Kim, Kylie Minogue and others.

Pete Waterman, now on his own, replicated this success in the late 1990s with his protégées Steps, whose 1999 album Steptacular hit number one.

Now Waterman is to be a judge on the new reality TV Popstars show this autumn and is launching his new act, Betabox, on the world.

Is Pete Waterman a pop genius or a calculating manipulator? How will pop history judge his achievements? What is the secret of his continuing success?

Pete Waterman took your questions in a live forum.


Highlights of interview:


Newshost:

Michael Rhodes, Sheffield, UK asks: I bet you have been asked this a million times, but is getting an artist launched down to luck or is there a little bit of information that you could release without giving the whole game away?


Pete Waterman:

In truth, luck is a factor that you can never discount. Talent, at the end of the day, is what you need. But getting that talent to somebody's notice takes a certain amount of luck. You have got to have a good artist, a good song and a good game plan but you certainly will need luck to get it past the front door - because everybody has heard every gimmick you've ever thought of.


Newshost:

He also wanted to know if it is true that you funded your first deal with your credit card?


Pete Waterman:

Yes. Nowadays, independent record companies - the way we started - are not unusual but way back then, you couldn't do what we did. We made dance records and what we did to pay for one, we paid on one credit card and when that credit card was due, we paid it with another credit card and we kept doing this until such time as the first money came back.


Newshost:

Jens, Örebro, Sweden asks: Did you believe that Stock, Aitken and Waterman would actually be so popular as producers when you first started out?


Pete Waterman:

Yes, I think they did. Now that sounds arrogant and it is not meant to be. I think that sometimes in your life you do something and you just know. There is a real feeling that you have found something - you don't know what it is and certainly at the time it is not tangible - there is no proof that it is going to work. But I never doubted that the three of us would work. In fact I sold everything that I owned to put into the venture.


Newshost:

Was there a particular chemistry between you?


Pete Waterman:

Yes, I think there was. Mike Stock was the first guy I had ever worked with who could tell me why I liked certain chords. I could play my record and he would work out why the chords worked and we could have a discussion about why something musically worked the way it did and I had never worked with anyone like that before. Also Matt Aitken - this is back in 1984 - 85 - his knowledge of modern technology at that time was fantastic. He could read a computer manual and working out what that computer could do. We take technology now for granted but we were right at the cutting edge when technology really was crude - it looked great to us but it was crude.


Newshost:

Johan van Slooten, Urk, The Netherlands asks: What is your relationship like with Matt Aitken and Mike Stock nowadays?


Pete Waterman:

I don't have a relationship.


Newshost:

What was the reason for the break up?


Pete Waterman:

What you discover in life is that some relationships last for ever. I think that working relationship, when you are partners or in business together, they never last. There is a finite period when you are working and striving to win - when you have won - the cup is never as important the second time around.

One of us went and bought a golf club, one bought a boat, one bought an aeroplane, one went motor-racing six months of the year. There was so much money that music wasn't as important any more and it always was for me. I didn't want to do any of that so I was left in the studio on my own.


Newshost:

Going back to Jen in Sweden. He goes on to ask: Was there any artist you would have liked to have worked particularly that you didn't?


Pete Waterman:

Johnny Matthis.


Newshost:

Why is that?


Pete Waterman:

One of my favourite artists is Nat King Cole but he died unfortunately before I was ever a record producer. To me Johnny Matthis had probably the next greatest voice to Nat King Cole.


Newshost:

Steve in Liverpool, UK asks: Is it true that Madonna wanted to work with you back in 1987?


Pete Waterman:

Yes. We did work with Madonna - we worked on Material Girl. But at the time we were so busy. People have to accept that when you know somebody and you know them personally they are never as famous as they are when you don't them. We were in this amazing time when everything we touched turned to gold and everything she touched turned gold and we would bump into each other at television shows but it was never taken seriously.


Newshost:

What was Madonna like in the early days before she was famous?


Pete Waterman:

She was a kid with an attitude. She had a very strong view of the marketplace. One thing that Madonna has been quite brilliant at is judging and marketing herself in the marketplace. I have never seen anybody invent herself as many times as Madonna - she is absolutely brilliant at looking after Madonna. She doesn't need a manager - she is better than anybody.

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Newshost:

Andrew, UK, London, UK asks: If you were offered to produce Oasis, would you accept? How would you influence their musical style?


Pete Waterman:

No, because I think there is certain people you can't work with. I don't mean that in a derogatory way - they do what they do brilliantly and they don't need me. Oasis do what they do and they do it quite brilliantly. In those sorts of situations what I do as a writer and producer doesn't work - you would have nothing to do.


Newshost:

Richard Lush, Sydney Australia asks: Do you subscribe to the theory that the song is the most important ingredient to a hit record rather than the production or the film clip


Pete Waterman:

I think I am very opinionated on this. There is only one thing that matters and that is the song. I have had hits where in truth possibly the production could have been better - maybe even the artist could have been better - but the song was magnificent and the song has absolutely carried the hit.


Newshost:

Millie, Warrington, UK asks: What advice would you give to someone wanting a career in pop music today? What is the best way to get a break?


Pete Waterman:

I not being funny now but I was hoping that you wouldn't ask me that question. I think the industry is about to change and I think it is changing in ways that we can't see yet. We are going through a huge turmoil within the record industry - nothing to do with Napster and it is nothing to do with piracy - it is to do with the global economy. It is about the way that digital distribution is changing. So people like the BBC for instance are looking at music in a completely different way from the way we have looked at music for the last 50 years.

So if somebody said to me right now - what will I do - I would say forget it and go and get a job somewhere that is safe. I am not saying they shouldn't try but I am saying the odds are so huge. For example, if I launch an artist today, I must put £1 million on the table. You seriously have to think as an independent company about investing £1 million in a new artist but that is what it now takes.


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