There are not many musicians in the world who can boast a resume like that of Brian Auger. A staple of the jazz and rock scene in 1960s London, arguably one of the most exciting times in modern music history, Brian has worked with artists ranging from Rod Stewart and Tony Williams to Led Zeppelin and Jim Hendrix-as well as a memorable recording session for the Yardbirds’ hit For Your Love.
“That was a strange thing,” Brian laughs. “I got a call from Paul Samwell-Smith [to play on the track]… He said, ‘We want an intro and then a really heavy comp to drive it along.’ No problem. Then I looked around and said, ‘Wait a minute where’s the organ?’ He said no, they don’t have an organ here. I look further and go, ‘Well, where’s the piano then?’ He said, ‘No, no, we’ve only got this.’” This turned out to be a double-tier harpsichord. Wondering if they were joking, Auger nevertheless took a few minutes to work out a part and finished the session in two hours. “I remember walking back to the Tube to go home thinking, These guys are really kind of crazy-who in their right mind thinks that they’re going to be able to sell a pop song with harpsichord on it?” He stops and laughs. “Boy, was I wrong!”
Auger started playing piano at the age of three, experimenting with the pianola the family-owned. His father’s cupboard was full of classics-Moonlight Sonata and Liebestraum, marches such as Stars and Stripes Forever, and ragtime. His brother and sisters loved Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra, as well as George Shearing and many other jazz piano players, creating a rich musical education for the young Brian Auger.
Early in his career, Auger found himself a highly in-demand performer within London’s burgeoning jazz scene, playing with members of Duke Ellington’s band, Count Basie’s band, and others. Today, Brian Auger continues to work with major artists in the music industry (most recently a European tour with a giant of Italian pop Zucchero), as well as touring extensively with his own project, Oblivion Express, in which he is joined on drums by Karma Auger, his son and the band’s producer and engineer. The father-son rhythm-section duo behind the prog-rock band has been working together since Karma joined in 2005.
To Karma, the idea of playing the drums came as a sudden epiphany. “One day I woke up, and I remember just going, ‘DRUMS! That’s it. Why didn’t I think of this before?’” He bought a kit and practiced between six and eight hours every day. His godfather, Steve Ferrone (Average White Band, Eric Clapton, Tom Petty), found out he was playing drums and had his roadie restore Karma’s entire kit, from hardware to heads. Karma went on to study recording and engineering at the LA Recording Workshop, then became his father’s roadie during a tour with Eric Burdon of the Animals.
“That was a really amazing start in music because at the time there were no cell phones, there was no GPS, none of that. My dad said, ‘We’re doing this tour in the United States-go rent a van.’” Karma rented a van, picked up the band’s equipment, and Brian handed him an atlas and said, “See you in Kansas City in three days.”
“So I jumped in a van and drove halfway across the country,” Karma explains, “and I started setting up equipment and really learned the trade from the ground up. That was an incredible education, and my education has continued like that. I pride myself on knowing the whole business, the technical side of things, the logistical side of things, the management side of things, and then of course the playing side and the music side. I wear a lot of hats.”
“Hats” are as important in the industry today as, in the past hundred years, Karma points out. “I think the guys even back in the day who had more of an organizational head or were surrounded by people like that tended to do better. I’m not saying everybody needs to have a Ph.D. in touring and logistics, we’re all different-just surround yourself with people who know what’s going on and have their moral compass straight.”
An especially important quality when a band is on the road as much as Oblivion Express. The band has toured the world several times over, and Brian and Karma never leave their sound to chance. “In my case, I like to control as much [on tour] as possible because so much of it is out of your control,” says Karma. “So I like to bring an entire set of microphones with us. Audix was that final piece of the puzzle for us in terms of controlling our sound every night and having a super consistent sound-having it be exactly the way we want it every time.”
“We play internationally, and we always take Audix with us,” adds Brian. “We’ve tried them against everything else, and the reason we bother to carry all those mics is that they give us a certain sound no matter where we play. Whether it’s a huge hall and we’re playing to 5,000 people or if we’re playing to two or three hundred in a club, every night we know we’re going to get our sound. We know exactly what we want and we get it with Audix.”
D6 Dynamic Instrument Microphone
i5 Multi-Purpose Dynamic Instrument Microphone
MicroD Miniaturized Condenser Microphone
SCX1HC Studio Condenser Microphone
SCX25A Studio Condenser Microphone
OM5 Dynamic Vocal Microphone
D1 Dynamic Vocal Microphone
OM5 Dynamic Vocal Microphone
CX112 Studio Condenser Microphone
OM7 Dynamic Vocal Microphone
For more on Brian and Karma Auger and Oblivion Express, visit www.brianauger.com.