The 21.02.14 issue of Music Week includes a smashing 38 page special feature on George Michael. This feature includes a profile of George Michael's career to date; an interview with David Joseph, Chairman and CEO of Universal UK; an interview with Richard Manners, UK Managing Director of George Michael's publisher Warner/Chappell; further partners, and publishers and colleagues pay tribute to George Michael. The special feature is also full of stunning photographs and concludes with George Michael and David Austin paying tribute to the legendary Grammy Award-winning producer Phil Ramone.
Read an extract from the interview with David Joseph, Chairman and CEO of Universal UK.
'Symphonica' will be George Michael’s first album since signing to Universal Music and UK boss David Joseph believes it heralds the start of what will be a very special relationship.
Skipping forward a bit and heading towards Symphonica, can you explain George’s route to the Universal Group? "Well, everyone had always known each other and stayed in touch, through previous management – Andy Stephens was a friend of the company. The first interaction was around the time of two singles, which were Freeek! and Shoot The Dog (2002) when Lucian and I were at Polydor together. And they were quite big creative steps for him. I remember very well being invited down to Sarm Studios and when he played us Shoot The Dog, he gave us a lyric sheet and he was talking about what was going to happen with an impending war. As it turned out he was quite prophetic, but we know the media aren’t necessarily interested in certain artists in certain genres talking about such things.
What did both sides say they wanted and expected from each other in those initial discussions? "I don’t know, to be honest I just wanted to put a George Michael record out. If our only choice was to be in the George Michael singles business, that was fine, but I really wanted to be in the George Michael albums business. So the deal was done, it was very simple and uncomplicated deal, it was done very quickly. Then it was a question of where he was creatively and what he wanted to release".
And he’s ended up on Virgin – having previously put out Older and Songs from the Last Century on the label..."Yep, Virgin. He started at Island with us, but Ted [Cockle, formerly of Island, now head of Virgin EMI] has a great relationship with George’s team, so it made sense".
“George is incredibly intelligent.
He’s very astute. He knows what’s going on.
You’re never going to have a dull meeting”
David Joseph, Universal
Do you think there’s a chance it will be this year? "I honestly can’t say, but my instinct is that it won’t. He A&Rs himself, you’re nicely invited to hear stuff, and he listens to comments, but he’s in his own lane, we’ll play a part in the process, but it’s his album and it’ll be his decision. He’ll know when it’s ready. And all I can say, as someone who knows all his material very well, the stuff I’ve heard is beyond exciting and it will be worth the wait".
“Symphonica is a hard record to put in a box.
The only thing I can say is when people hear it
they are blown away by his voice and the breadth of material”
David Joseph, Universal
So he won’t be appearing on the usual prime time shows over the coming few weeks? "At the moment there are no plans for any promotion whatsoever, and that’s largely based around continuing to work on the new studio record. David Austin [Longtime creative collaborator] has put together the documentary I mentioned, including some lovely, intimate backstage footage and we’ll look to place that around the world for broadcast, but not necessarily at the front end of where this record falls. It won’t be the typical documentary Sunday/album out Monday. I think it will be quite a few weeks after release. But hey, things can change, I’m open to phone calls.
George is also very comfortable in his skin. He wants his music to be heard by a wide audience, but he’s confident enough to not feel the need to play the normal promotion game. Some artists need to be No.1: “I have to be No.1, what do I have to do to get there? Give me your 20 things to do and I’ll do them.” We do not have those conversations with George. At the same time, he’s an absolutely world class artist. He has delivered us an exceptional album and it’s our duty to get this to a large audience. I’m of the opinion that he’s done the work we needed him to do, he did it on stage every night during the tour that created this record".
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