Stuart Epps

Tributes to Gus from friends and colleagues

Stuart Epps

Engineer

Gus and Elton was a complete marriage of talents. I never saw the likes of it with any other artist Gus worked with. It was quite something to behold, really. He was not only a great producer, and a great comedian, but he was an incredible captain of the ship, in terms of getting everything together in the studio. You knew you always were in incredibly safe hands. He was in charge. He actually did wear a captain’s hat sometimes.

I can see him now ironing his socks and his jeans. Well…everything. He’d iron everything. He was totally meticulous. One of the highlights when I worked with Gus at a studio other than The Mill was Gus’s lunchbox. Sheila would make up these lunches for him. She was equally meticulous. She’d actually wrap everything in silver foil and paper and stuff. We all used to sit there. No one could eat, because we’d just sit there looking at Gus and his lunchbox.

Gus’s world was the studio. That was his absolute world, in the same way as the stage is Elton’s world. Gus’s days were 18 hours long, typically. I remember one day we couldn’t work. I can’t remember what it was — some electrical fault or something. Gus rang me up and said, “I don’t know what we’re going to do.” I said, “Well, have a day off!” And he said, “Oh…” He never wanted to take any time off. He just loved it. The studio was the place he was the happiest, really.

The Mill was the most technologically advanced studio for its time. When Gus decided to build The Mill, he wanted it to his own specifications. He went over to Miami, and he met with sound guys and soundboard builders and said, “I want this and I’d like that.” All the things that he’d been frustrated with in other studios, he wanted to put right for his. Any bit of technical advancement, he would always be straight on it. He would go to the most extreme lengths. (Elton’s Manager) John Reid used to say that Gus’s theme song should have been “I’m Forever Blowing Budgets.”

When we first heard what Gus was doing (on the Elton John album in 1970), he became an instant golden hero. He took Elton’s songs into a realm that none of us ever imagined was possible. In fact, those recordings were the best recordings that any of us ever heard, on every level. It was like a Beatles’ situation; the sound, the production, the arrangements on the album, were just phenomenal. We’d been with Elton a couple of years before that, and we all liked his stuff, but that’s when it exploded. We just thought, “This is what we’ve been waiting for. This is what should have been happening ages ago.”

I just wish he was still here. People like that just don’t seem to really exist much anymore. His humor and his parties…and of course his work. I miss him very much.

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