John ‘P*Nut’ Harrison talks Amy Winehouse

17 December, 2015

Writer, producer, musician and solo artist, John ‘P*Nut’ Harrison operates as something of a musical Renaissance man from his studio base in East London. Amongst his many career successes, John has produced hit singles for Dido and Faithless and has a co-writing credit for ‘He Can Only Hold Her’ on Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black album. In October John came to BIMM London for a Q&A Masterclass hosted by our Head of Music Production, Johan Englund.

John ‘P*Nut’ Harrison had a renegade start in music, working as a driver for the recording studio where his friend was assisting the DJ, remixer and producer Chad Jackson. This gave John the chance to hang around and watch a master at work. Having gotten the bug for music production, John would experiment on early work using MPC samplers, taking advantage of his own enormous record collection.

John brought examples of his sampling work to the session to play for the class, including the original Jimi Hendrix sample that helped form the basis of the track he and Amy wrote together, ‘He Can Only Hold Her’. John explained how the samples were tuned and then overlaid with new vocals, including Amy’s own lead solo which he also played for the class:

“Amy did two vocal takes, and they were both perfect. She was sitting down when she did them. And then she was like, ‘Right, let’s go to the pub!”

John’s role as producer has seen him work with Paloma Faith, Paolo Nutini, Taio Cruz, Eliza Doolittle and many others. One of the student questions was about the best way to approach an artist you’d like to work with:

“Try and go to the publisher. If they’re not at that level… just try your luck, be honest, say, ‘Hey I love what you’re doing, I’ve got this beat, can I send it to you?’ I still do that now, and why not? What have you got to lose!”

Afterwards, Felix Buenen, BA (Hons) Music Production said:

“It’s very interesting hearing how John works. Every producer has their own workflow. It’s inspiring, it makes you think how you might work differently, it’s really motivating. That’s the thing about Masterclasses, they motivate you to make your own music.”

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