I had been working at Townhouse in London as the newest assistant. In other words, I was making tea! Apparently, I was very hyper and had lots of questions about “the art of recording.” I had been put on a few sessions but was told to stay very quiet and never got any of my questions answered. Then out of the blue I got put on a session with Steve Lillywhite and Hugh, who were making an LP with one of my favorite bands, XTC. The assistant had gone ill, and I was the replacement. I couldn’t believe my luck!
Not only was Hugh an amazing engineer, but he also took time after the session to answer all of my questions: mic positions, how gear worked, etc. He then asked me to be the assistant on his first proper gig as a producer, on what became Phil Collins’ Face Value. I’ll never forget sitting at the back of the room in Studio 2. Hugh had just gotten Phil a huge drum sound for a little song called “In the Air Tonight” and he signaled for me to push Record. We waited patiently as the song rolled on. About two minutes in, not a note had been played, and we both were thinking, when is Phil going to play something? Then suddenly, du-dum, du-dum, du-dum, du-dum dum DUMM! I almost fell off my chair! Need I say more?
— Nick Launay, engineer/producer