The story of Machine Head begins in 1991 in a tiny rented space adjacent to the beach in Venice, California. A tiny monitor, a dat recorder, a synthesizer and a drive for perfection were the only tools available at that time, but Machine Head founder, Stephen Dewey already knew enough to more than max their potential.
Although a major music enthusiast, Dewey's childhood fascination with the manipulation of 'sound' has enabled his passion to evolve from the very basics into the fully realized entity that is today's Machine Head. The history of the company mirrors his own…
Born in Australia, and raised in the UK, Dewey knew early on that his future lay in the audio sandbox. As a youngster growing up in rural England, his first recordings were made on his mother's old Baird tape recorder, which was bigger than he was.
As a teen-ager he was to be found recording and editing sfx for the school drama productions as he dreamed of working in a recording studio On leaving school, he joined the sound department of a film lab; not quite the recording studio, but he bought what is now a legendary synthesizer, an EMS Synthi A and improvising with it and the film sound machines began to create sonic collages in between film tasks.
Finally an opening at a studio presented itself and Dewey stormed in. After a period as lowly assistant, Mick Ronson anointed Dewey as an engineer. “My take on engineering was unconventional, basically I had little use for the rules, being more interested in creating weird, new noises,” remembers Dewey, “ The proper drum and guitar sounds were not very interesting to me - but I loved what I was doing by turning the knobs the wrong way ”. This was the mid '70's and the term “sound designer” was yet to be coined. But the times were changing, and there were other creative minds interested in emerging technologies, and in pursuing and creating original, offbeat, experimental sound environments, particularly in music. Dewey's freelance schedule super collided him with a like-minded cadre of sonic alchemists.
“I worked with the Thompson Twins for a very intense five or six years,” recalls Dewey. “Our styles of working were so familiar - shunning a dogmatic old-school approach to making music - we immediately hit it off”.
Both on tour and in the recording studio, Dewey was indispensable as the Twins' technical guide and sound smith. He continued learning how to apply the new musical technology, such as the Fairlight, towards creating the sounds he heard in his head. The knowledge and experience gained during this time were to prove invaluable when subsequent relocation to the US meant starting out on his own, independent projects.
Working with prestigious synthesizer company, Fairlight, as West Coast Product Specialist brought Dewey to the attention of emerging film composer, Hans Zimmer. Zimmer was working with Ridley Scott on the movie, " Black Rain ", and when Scott needed some abstract sounds for the soundtrack, Dewey was called in.
The soundtrack was a huge success and was nominated for an Academy Award that year. Stephen was the obvious choice for sound collaborator for Scott's next project, the now-legendary commercial for Nissan called “Turbo Z Dreamer”. “I was incredibly scared,” Dewey recalls, “part of which was because I had no idea what Ridley was talking about most of the time, however he liked my take on his fantastical spot.”
Dewey's next film project Adrian Lyne's notorious sound design showcase, the moody "Jacob's Ladder" followed by "Sneakers", directed by Phil Robinson. His reputation as a sound design expert was by now flourishing in the world of advertising, too. This period saw the genesis of Machine Head as the home of several composers and sound designers working together to forge the company's reputation as an innovative and unique boutique. Film soundtracks remain at the heart of Machine Head's day to day activity, and today the team consists of a diverse and high caliber group that are able to tackle a broad range of disciplines, from remixes to game and film scores, and more recently Dewey personally stepped forward as a performer. His solo music, visual and spoken word project, Overheard had its premiere at the Natural History Museum's spectacular event entitled LA Live! Dewey's unique performance piece accompanied by composer Tobias Enhus and the Supernova String Quartet took place on May 15th 2004 at the NHM's Jean Delacour Auditorium in support of the LA: Light. Motion, Dreams exhibition (on display through January 2005.)
The awards for artistry are many (there is a long list) but the rewards and recognition go beyond honors, statues and certificates, Machine Head, quite simply, has an uncanny knack of delivering the goods day by day, project by project and note by note on a level of unparalleled quality. The MH environment is such that clients consistently seek comfort there, knowing that their work is in the best possible hands, eyes and ears in the industry.