One of the things that led me to make ‘Our Daily Bread’ was a phone conversation with a baker. It was thirteen or fourteen years ago now. I was working at the BBC in Oxford and the title of ‘baker of the year’ had gone to a baker based in Abingdon for the second year running.
Talking to him I was utterly struck by how someone could want to throw themselves, heart and soul, into doing something ostensibly so simple, so very well. It must have made a very deep impression because the memory of that conversation and the sense I came away with of the nobility of his aspiration stayed with me for ten years before I started to think about making a programme about bread.
That baker was Dan Schickentanz of de Gustibus and he features in three episodes of ‘Our Daily Bread.’
I’m reminded of that conversation because I’ve just spent two days in the studio doing the final mix and edit of the five programmes. Now I think of myself as a pretty handy editor of audio. As a young teenager I was music mad and, with the band I was in, spent as much time as I could afford in studios recording our songs.
The friend who taught me to play guitar (well actually he spent most of our lessons reminiscing about life on the road supporting Black Sabbath and the like) was a record producer. I absorbed every tiny tidbit about recording.
Radio brought together my background in journalism and my experience in recording. I’ve always enjoys that part of it. So knowing what I do about sound recording and production I think I was able to appreciate all the more fully just how good the guy who did the final mix on ‘Our Daily Bread’ is.
There are a few annoying things about Pez – or Peregrine Andrews as he properly is. Firstly when he told me that he’d bought a pair of rather nice studio monitors 20 years ago I did a double take. He looks about 30. He’s 43. Secondly he doesn’t just own the one pair of nice speakers that sit in his very nice studio in his very nice and rather large West London flat, he’s building up a collection. Lastly he’s blisteringly good at sound engineering.
Aside from all that he’s really great. It was a real joy to watch someone do what he did so very well.
Meanwhile, on the big red sofa at the back of the studio sat Alan Hall. Alan, who has executive produced the series for Falling Tree, more or less embodies all the virtues of the people who lead me to work in radio.
He has a laid back efficiency that means stuff gets done on time but without any angst (he even seemed to quite enjoy riding through Wednesday’s crazy rainstorm, so I doubt there’s anything that happens in radioland that can faze him). He’s been very trusting during this whole process. I kept him posted as the recording came together but he was happy that I seemed to be on track. He’s been supportive. If he felt any he’s kept any (perfectly understandable) scepticism in check and, when I dug my heels in over something that he’s probably right to have suggested get pulled from the mix, he sucked his teeth and was nice about it. Thanks Alan, you’re a good man.
He’s also got an excellent pair of ears, not in a Legolas or Spock sort of way, more in a good judgement about radio sort of way. He was right, a lot, when it came to identifying stuff that could be cut. Most of the programmes were edited to 14’30″ or more (as much as 16′ in one case) but all of them benefitted from being trimmed.
That was particularly true of the third episode, about Faith. It threatened to turn into ‘The Rabbi Jonathan Romain Show’. That’s largely because Jonathan is such a good speaker and came out with so many gems (I’m convinced that somewhere someone is training rabbis in stand-up. They have great comic timing and that ability to balance humour with poignancy and pathos that carries a moral message so well) that it was hard to lose any of him. But lose chunks we did without sacrificing too much information – albeit a few choice witticisms did disappear.
So with Pez and Alan acting as part midwives, part guardian angels, ‘Our Daily Bread’ was brought into the world. I haven’t listened back properly with all the cuts but I’ll wait a few days and then do so. I am excited. Slightly nervous, but excited. I think it’s the best radio I’ve made. You’ll be able to judge in just over three weeks’ time.