News September 20, 2017

Producer and engineer John French, “creator of Australian rock sound”, passes

Producer and engineer John French, “creator of Australian rock sound”, passes

John French, engineer and/or producer of some of the greatest Australian classic albums, passed away in a Melbourne hospital this week. He was 75.

French emerged as Chief Engineer at Melbourne’s TCS Studios, Channel Nine’s recording and production facility in Richmond where performers would pre-record their track before appearing on its TV shows.

During its down time, he and fellow engineer John Sayers started recording bands.

French, whose musician father refused to let him become a muso, turned his love of music to studio work.

This coincided with the early ‘70s pub-rock explosion.

He worked with Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs, Daddy Cool, Spectrum, The Dingoes, Skyhooks, Goanna, Renee Geyer, The La De Das, Madder Lake, Mark Gillespie, Co.Caine, Blackfeather, Not Drowning Waving, Stylus, Joe Dolce, Ross Hannaford and Dave Warner From The Suburbs, among many others. 

He also worked on the soundtracks of surf alt-culture Morning of the Earth and the biker flick Stone.

Shane Howard of Goanna said, “He created the Australian rock sound, it was a very prolific period and he worked with the best of them.

“He was an excellent engineer, the best I ever worked with, and it was because he had great music taste and an artistic temperament 

“He knew how to get the best out of everyone he worked with.” 

Despite a laid back demeanour and a wicked humour punctuated with an infectious laugh, French’s sense of perfection often lead to clashes in the studio.

In one famous case, rduring the making of Most People I Know, Billy Thorpe reached over during an argument and punched him on the nose.

French set up his own custom built mud brick studio Fast Forward.

Melbourne engineer Karen Hewitt, who later went on to work with UK-based acts, had a stint there recording Goanna and Men at Work, previously called Fast Forward “the best in Australia. John was an amazingly talented recording engineer. 

“From him I learned how to give recorded sound depth and space, and to translate what producers and musicians wanted.” 

After Fast Forward, French went freelance, worked mainly out of Metropolis Studios (formally Bill Armstrong Studios).

In the 90s, he gave up the music industry, and moved io Central Victoria and became a painter.

He co-hosted a weekly show Fast Forward on local radio station 94.9 MAINfm where he regaled listeners with stories of the acts he worked with.

French fell ill in the last six months needing surgery. Earlier this week, complications set in, and he was rushed to Alfred Hospital where he died.

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