On My Radar: Gary Hilton
The Co-Founder of GAS Music talks classic albums, the majesty of David Byrne and the need for 'real stuff'.
What the advertising idea with the best music/sound design you’ve seen recently?
With music central to this, I’d have to say the two recent iPhone adverts Shot On iPhone and Behind the Music. The first relying on the behind the scenes secrecy and intimacy of the artist pre-performance. The Behind the Music spot illustrates just how wonderful classic, black and white photograph shouts silently at us. Notwithstanding the array of musical icons, but the shot selection is artful class.
What website(s) do you use most regularly?
We have a secret selection we trawl to track and benchmark the industry and our business, the central site being shots – this gives us all the industry insights and news we need!
What’s the most recent piece of tech that you’ve bought?
Sonos; having resisted for so long, we have recently extended the home and within the refurbishment came the Sonos system, complete with Amazon, Spotify and Apple Music, all considered ‘evil’ in the realms of ‘real music production and appreciation’.
Having said that, the futuristic world of music command and deliver continues to bring great joy. Yes, I still love the tactile nature of holding a vinyl record and its sleeve, and the warm effect of analogue sound. The beauty and relevance of artwork is intrinsic to the listening experience. Statistics for streaming are heavily weighted in back catalogue/heritage tracks (over 70%) and this, coupled with the fact we are still buying physical music, means it’s going to stick around. We need real stuff!
What product could you not live without?
I need music, so anything that delivers music to me, hence my B&W theatre speakers, my iPhone/iPod and now my Sonos.
What’s the best film you’ve seen over the last year?
Isle of Dogs; brilliant animation (which some movies are still getting by with in the absence of a decent, if any, storyline) and a great story and cast. Some brutal clips and a splash of humour. As I write, I wonder how the film industry will be feeling responding to the release of Tarantino’s Once Upon a time in Hollywood. Will he be back to form? Will the stain of Weinstein be unwashable? And how will the legends of De Niro, Pacino, Pesci, Keitel and Scorcese have fared with The Irishman?
What album do you think everyone should have listened to?
I firmly believe that we have a soundtrack to everything, from every aspect of growing up, life at home, at school, first kiss/fight/win and loss, love and death. Even the memories of waking up, the dawn chorus, the sound of the sea, the crunch of sand under feet or the first bite of an apple, traffic or an open field, the sound of the crowd and the silent sound of fear. All of which musicians take and then return to us as pieces of music, songs.
The albums which deliver a little piece of the human experience and, as such, and in my humble opinion, the albums everyone should listen to have to contain the greats; Bowie’s Hunky Dory. A Beatles album. (Did Elvis make a great album?). Bob Marley. Marvin Gaye. The rock of Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and the cross into The Sex Pistols, Nirvana, the yobbos of Oasis, or the art rock of Radiohead, Talking Heads or Captain Beefheart?
What albums have caused a change? Never Mind The Bollocks, Sgt Pepper, Pet Sounds, Kind of Blue, Autobahn, and where do poetic yearnings and politics sit?
I’d like everyone to listen to The Doors' American Prayer; it has orchestral, rock, jazz and pop. It was recorded in '69, produced and released in ’78, seven years after the death of Jim Morrison. His vocals and poetic, prophetic mumblings beautifully stitch together this wonderful piece.
As a safety landing, I’d add Revolver by The Beatles, Dark Side of The Moon by Pink Floyd (an architectural, aural sculpture) and, for recent times, High Violet by The National is a modern classic.
What’s your preferred social media platform?
This year has seen me fall out of love with most platforms, as my/our digital echo chambers have become deafening with the barrage of ‘brexit-baloney’ and Trump-ettes. With regards to the latter, even Stewart Lee’s quip: “If Walt Disney was searching for the name of a cartoon fart, it could only be Donald Trump”, is losing its joy! So, for now, my preferred platform is one which quickly and efficiently gets me to a face-to-face meeting! Back to a simple texting..!
What’s your favourite TV show?
Of recent times I’ve really enjoyed Killing Eve, because I like the journey from empathy to sympathy to cringe to laughter that I get to ride on each episode!
Long term favourites worth mentioning are Lost, a brilliant, mangled, never-going-to-end-neatly story of human evolution and ending; Breaking Bad, again the ever-so-watchable evolution of a loving madman we’re all rooting for, and finally the forever enduring Match Of The Day!
Who’s your favourite music artist and why?
David Byrne [below]. A constant since first hearing the Talking Heads in my early music gathering years which, for me, was the late 70s and early 80s. Hearing Psycho Killer and then Once In a Lifetime, whilst at the same time getting my ears around The Sex Pistols, The Stranglers, The Specials, Chic etc. was the most joyful time.
Seeing David Byrne doing his thing up close on the recent tour; creative expression, singing songs of murder, loss, disjointed-ness, different rhythms and textures, sometimes singing sometimes rapping, was so pleasing.
What gig has most inspired you recently?
The National at The Castlefield Bowl, Manchester. Having now amassed a great back catalogue, remained true to themselves and avoided radio/media sell out, they put on a wonderful performance. They all walk on unassumingly, lead singer with pint in hand (and a grey beard), said a few hellos and, with no fanfare, tripped into the set. There were highs and lows, crowd surfing ballads, beer sharing, sing-a-longs and a ‘band-audience’ bond so tight as I’ve never experienced before.
What’s the most significant change you’ve witnessed in the industry since you started working in it?
GAS Music is now in its fourth year of trading and we now have the benefit of having produced some work with a great cross section of agencies, and have a relative grounding in the workings of the industry. Hence, it is exactly the same across all commercial entities: profit and client retention and satisfaction.
So, for me, the change we have experienced is the widening fear of losing a client which is reflected in the creation of ‘safe’ work. Work that is so prescriptive, which has high production values but no real soul or battered heart! I want the industry to get brave again, take risks, tell the client not to worry, to trust us and raise the bar, to get creative again, breathe some art and some magic back into our ads!
If there was one thing you could change about the advertising industry, what would it be?
Take more risks, get back to shaking things up, get creative; why give a presentation when you can give a performance?
Above: GAS Music's tribute to classic UK ads of the past.
Who or what has most influenced your career and why?
My dad, with these wise words:
"Always something from something, never something from nothing."
"Focus and you can do or be anything you want."
"Afford a dream from time to time."
And my friends: the ones who support and the ones blazing the trails.
What’s your karaoke song of choice?
This can only be answered in a one from three format which consists of a brilliant pop classic, the mutterings of a mad preacher and one with the greatest ever lyric: “I need you more that want you, and I want you for all time!”
Pet Shop Boys, West End Girls
Talking Heads, Psycho Killer
Glen Campbell, Wichita Lineman
Tell us one thing about yourself that most people won’t know.
I have a black belt in karate.