As one of the country’s top producers, as well as an engineer and accomplished musician, Darryl Torr runs ‘Openroom Productions’, a music production company operating from RP Studios (now RBF) in the SABC complex in Johannesburg. Our fears of interrupting a recording session were unfounded – we had a good laugh when our phone-call found him soaking up the sun on Llandudno Beach while on tour with his band ‘Pilot’. He sounded somewhat surprised at the feeling of sunshine on his deprived body, but was obviously glad for the brief respite in studio-time despite the heat of the Cape summer.
Torr has been in the music industry for over ten years now, a journey which started with running away from high school in his matric year and returning to Joburg to follow the dream of music. He joined a band named ‘Biscuits’, with members Sean Outim, Brendan Outim and Mark Buchanan, all of whom have moved on to prestigious positions as top musicians in the South African industry. After leaving ‘Biscuits’ Torr continued working with bands and producing, leading him eventually to his present job at the SABC. A look at any of the RP Studios releases will more than likely credit Torr, a testament to his impact on South African industry.
He was keen to elaborate on the true nature of the process of producing. “It’s far more than just sitting in the studio all day. An important aspect of producing is the process of meeting with the bands and their record companies to establish the direction that any given recording will take. It’s hardly a case of just walking into studio and recording blind – doing that will leave you with a wasted recording.” He added that this is one aspect of recording that is frequently not given poor attention, especially by burgeoning bands. “Decisions about the market one is playing for need to be settled long before one enters the studio, as do decisions about the style of radio that one will appeal to: if it’s commercial then one needs to approach the recording in a certain way to maximize the chances of getting airplay.”
As the bassist for ‘Pilot’, a South African band on the brink of big things both here and abroad, he gets the opportunity to express the musical side of himself in a different way. “It’s important to be able to appreciate the dynamics of a band as a producer, and one of the best ways of doing that is by actually playing in a band.”
The social aspect of the job is one of the positive aspects that Darryl values. “Working with bands all the time, one gets to make important relationships that often last. I’m sure that when spending upwards of 12 hours a day with hairy, smelly musicians, it makes sense to be a friendly guy. He also warned of the dangers of burning out when going systematically from one album to the next – surely a danger when spending so much time in studio.
So look out for Mr. Torr – on T.V., in the studio, on the credit list of a bunch of S.A. rock/pop albums, on stage and wherever the music’s good and the sunshine not too strong.