Kubernik: Q&A with David Chatfield

As the music business has further evolved this century into the sonic entertainment industry, coupled with the digital streaming platform distribution world, young and veteran artists, songwriters, record producers, re-mix engineers, performers and content providers require legal advice, guidance, management and futuristic career planning.

There is one extremely qualified and proven multi-hyphenate manager/lawyer/producer/record label owner/former touring musician and author, David Chatfield, whose achievements and business acumen far exceed his impressive resume and the list of clients he has served and protected for many decades.

During 2022 I conducted a series of bio-regional-themed interviews with the Southern California-based Chatfield, like me, a Child of Hollywood.   It is not often that I interview a fellow native of Los Angeles. We went deep into David’s local and international music history as well as his knowledge and expertise about the constantly changing world of recording and supporting artist music rights.  

Q: What projects are you currently working on and planning for the future?

A: I have two BMI publishing companies, Chatfield Music and By Sound Image Music, and I am continuing to amass a catalog of master recordings for sync licensing. I also have two independent record companies, Harmony Records and Sound Image Records with new releases. I also have distribution for the sale of CD’s from two retro ‘80s rock groups through Retrospect Records. On March 18, 2022, I released a full album of great pop material recorded by the band, The Secrets (formed by two of the three members of The Aerovons who recorded Resurrection at Abbey Road Studios in 1969 for EMI).

The Second Single from the Album, “Don’t Say Goodbye” was released on June 17, 2022. The recordings were produced by me, with Kim Fowley, and David Carr (founding member of The Fortunes, whose hits include “You’ve Got Your Troubles (I’ve got mine),” “Hear It Comes Again” and “Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again.” The Fortunes’ hits earned them slots on dates with The Beatles in the ‘60s. Carr was classically trained at the Royal Academy of Music and arranged the Secrets songs for the cream of the L. A. Philharmonic Orchestra’s accompaniment. Fowley’s strong Beatles association is well documented. The Beatlesque pop album Secrets from the Aerovons is currently available on all streaming services and for purchase on CD from my record company, Harmony Records, contact [email protected].

David Chatfield and Tony Bennett

At the end of May 2022, I was in the studio producing the Official Remix of “Where I’m Going” by retro alternative rock/pop group Sumthing Strange. A song reminiscent of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance’, Psychedelic Fur’s “Love My Way” and Pet Shop Boys “West End Girls”. Like Bowie, Sumthing Strange is an alien presence in pop music. The group brings a dramatic sense of flair and theatricality to their music. Mastered by Maor Appelbaum at Maor Appelbaum Mastering, this remix is radio-ready, scheduled to be released July 1, 2022 on all streaming services, and is fully cleared for sync licensing. I also did some creative consulting work for Sumthing Strange’s version of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” that is being released as I write this. I am currently in co-production on Sumthing Strange’s new song “Electric Eyes” for release in late July 2022. Our plan is to release a five song EP from Sumthing Strange, all songs either co-produced with Sumthing Strange or remixes produced by me for my label, Harmony Records, on August 11, 2022. In mid-June 2022, I was in the studio with Sumthing Strange co-producing their next single, “Electric Eyes” that is scheduled for a July 29, 2022 release. A raucous rendition of a wall-of-sound song reminiscent of Depeche Mode or ‘80s Pink Floyd. “Electric Eyes” is radio ready, will be available on all streaming services, and is fully cleared for sync licensing.

In July I am scheduled to produce a remix of Steel Breeze, originally produced by Kim Fowley, (David Carr and me uncredited), with Taavi Mote engineering. The remix album will include the Steel Breeze top ten hit “You Don’t Want Me Anymore” and top 40 hit “Dreamin’ is Easy” along with six or seven other songs from that album. The Chatfield Remix of Steel Breeze’s Lost In The ‘80s album should be released on Harmony Records and distributed on all digital platforms by the end of July 2022.

In late July 2022, I will be remixing Evan Beigel’s Emotional Waves EP which featured singer/guitarist Mikel Japp (“Marmalade” and wrote songs for Paul Stanley, KISS, The Babys, Michael Des Barres and others.) The EP was originally recorded by Taavi Mote under my direction. The Chatfield Remix of Emotional Waves will be released by early August 2022 on Harmony Records and all digital platforms.

I am helping my friend Tony Moore spread the word about his great new single, “Let Your Heart Begin to Sing” released on June 3, 2022 “as a tribute to his mother whose dementia inspired him to write this song for her.” The song and video are available at  https://youtu.be/Cd50-XRGajg  and all streaming services. It is a catchy pop tune with positive and inspiring lyrics that has already been picked up by Caffe Nero for their in-store playlist and has been played in every Caffe Nero in the UK repeatedly in pre-release.

Tony began his career in music as a keyboard player in the band Iron Maiden and became the keyboard player in Cutting Crew (“I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight”) in the mid ‘80s. Tony has been awarded the much-coveted Gold Badge award for services to the UK Music Industry and was the sole inductee in the Music Managers Forum Roll Of Honour in 2004.

I am working the new Keith Chagall album Sail On Betsy Ross released on Spotify on June 18, 2022 (coincidentally Paul McCartney’s birthday.) This record received an early review by Paul Zollo of American Songwriter whose first descriptive word for the album was “Stunning.”  Zollo writes; “It’s as if Brian Wilson and his band teamed up with Paul McCartney and his band…Linked musically to both the past and future – the timeless with the timely – these are songs and tracks of richness and moment…Especially now, in these dissonant times so teeming with chaos and distortion, the sound of real voices unified in harmony is especially welcome, and nourishing. It’s the sound of authentic human triumph, of music over noise…the music of The Beatles, Beach Boys, Eagles, The Band – is resplendent sounds of humans in harmony…The title song is beautifully Beatlesque, as is “Mr. Lennon”, while “Senator Please” resounds like the best Eagles song they never sang…The photographs are by the legendary Henry Diltz, who captured iconic cover images for so many classic albums...Sail On Betsey Ross follows boldly in that tradition, and stands as a love letter to rock & roll and the expansive spirit from which it came. An album for the ages.”

I’m working with Ronnie Laws and his publishing company assisting with his new EP release that is now streaming on all platforms. Ronnie Laws is the most sampled and synced artist of all time. Laws’ new tracks are cleared and available for sync. Laws has agreed to a new record deal and we are in final negotiations with the label as I write this. I continue working my By Sound Image Music BMI publishing catalog and Sound Image Entertainment’s wholly owned masters are available for sync licensing. Sound Image’s popular recordings of “The Storm” and “Brickyard” are available on Retrospect Records. The label has informed me that the last production run of CDs for those two bands is now sold out and Retrospect is taking orders for the next run. By early July 2022, the songs from the Sound Image artists’ master recordings will be available on all streaming platforms.

David Chatfield and Rick Wakeman at Rock the House Awards

I just finalized deals for writer/producer Taylor Sparks for the licensing of 7 songs to Def7 Music Group for BMG Production Music. Sydney Alston, Taylor Sparks and I are in discussions to revive our production company, the United Music Group, and are doing A&R for an upcoming in-house project featuring modern California Country Rock ‘80s style with lots of guitars and harmonies. Authentic voices from the Southwest anyone? We are looking and listening for you.

Q: Before attending college you still continued playing music.

A: When I graduated from Grant High School I went to the University of Southern California, where, in my second year, I auditioned for the USC Trojan Chorale, the school’s popular music production entity. I also auditioned to write concert and record reviews for the USC Daily Trojan with a review of Cat Stevens at the Shrine Auditorium. I passed both auditions and music performance was again central in my life and I had a recurring entertainment column in the USC Daily Trojan. I also toured as a musician with a Jesus Christ Superstar production capped by a performance at the Greek Theater while at USC.

Q: You graduated from USC.

A: Bachelor of Arts in Political Science USC. Law school University of LaVerne. Certificates from USC Law Center in the Practical and Legal Aspects of the Music Business, two music business courses with Don Passman at USC. At UCLA Music Business Extension I took Personal Management from Ron Weisner; Concert Promotion from Jim Rissmiller, and Radio Programming from Jeff Pollack and Rick Carroll.

After I passed the bar, I was ready to find a band and put into practice what I had learned throughout my life. So, the day I was sworn into the California Bar I signed up for Music Business courses at USC Law Center and Music management school at UCLA. Ron Weisner was the teacher. Each week as the class read chapters on how to find, develop and manage a band, I actually did it…acting out each step as I was being taught.

By the end of the class, I had signed a band, met Kim Fowley, created a production vehicle to raise money to record masters in famous studios and deliver finished product to the major labels that made it high up on the Billboard Charts. I got an A in the class. In the concert production class from Jim Rissmiller, he had us each do a concert promotion at the Country Club in Reseda. Mine was Missing Persons…it was a sellout.

Q: You were poised and prepared somewhat for the music business…

A: I became an attorney with a desire to be deeply involved in the music, television and motion picture industry in Southern California as a creative businessman. When I was approached to do a project that I believed in, I pursued it. As a lawyer I studied the practical and legal aspects of the music business. I met Kim Fowley David Carr and Taavi Mote, because I recorded and produced music independently (at Major studios including my studio run with my partners that included Saga’s Jim Chricton and Producer Pat Regan), and because the music I did was the real music you heard on the radio.

 I became a 35-year member of the Recording academy (in May 2022) because I have developed artists from all over the world, I have lectured internationally, and because I picked genius mentors, and because I took all that knowledge and made high ranking contacts in the music business, I have a uniquely deep and thorough knowledge of the music business.

Q: Can you comment on your mentors Jerry Heller, Al Bunetta and Kim Fowley.  

A: Kim became my artist development and producer mentor and Jerry Heller (Journey, Crosby Stills & Nash, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who, Black Eyed Peas, Above the Law, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Dr. Dre), and Al Bunetta (Robbie Dupree, John Prine, Steve Goodman) were my management mentors. Seymour Stein of Sire Records told us at Midem that if you want to do something in music, find a mentor, or two or three of them. From Jerry Heller I learned how important discipline was in managing artists. I learned to keep my eye on my artists and use my intuition to determine how to get the most out of each artist. I was taught how to delicately (or not so delicately depending on the circumstances) guide artists through their development and hone their talents. He taught me how to fight the tendencies of highly talented artists and motivate them. He introduced me to some of his artists and let me watch him work in his office for weeks on end. What an education that was.  

Al Bunetta taught me the importance of the song. The song is the most important thing and the performances of the artists enhance them. Al took me under his wing because he, and his brother Peter, loved the music I had done with the Secrets. He took me to recordings and even photoshoots of his friend, Glen Frey, and I had Steve Goodman drop in on my birthday dinner with Al. Sometimes Peter would run into the office with a new unpolished gem to listen to. Peter’s son, Julian Bunetta, wrote hit songs for One Direction, Fifth Harmony, Jason Derulo and others… “hit songs” is in the Bunetta family bloodline. I ended up doing what Al taught me to do, all phases of the music business from artist development to operating a label all centered around hit songs. 

Kim Fowley taught me about hit song structure, how to arrange songs and how to work with a band in a rehearsal studio to make their songs better. He taught me record production. He taught me discipline in the recording studio. There were no drugs or alcohol in any of our sessions. It was serious work for us. He taught me how to get the best out of every musician and how to improve the performance of the lead singer. (He once went out to Hollywood Blvd and found a sexy girl for the lead singer to sing the love song to.) He taught me to be inventive in coming up with unique sounds and he taught me the importance of utilizing extremely talented engineers. He taught me how to manage and control the recording sessions. I learned musicians were fragile and need support while they are under the unforgiving microscope of the recording studio. 

David Carr taught me how to take an ordinary song and polish it to be a gem. His years of classical education, pop-writing, performing and recording gave him unique wisdom that he shared with me on many projects. I am forever grateful. He taught me to trust my commercial instincts and if the artist under-performed in the studio, he taught me how to replace the part myself after the end of the session. In my career, I produce music and manage artists. I have written and sold television scripts, produced and directed television shows, worked with film editors (Rambo, Commando, Top Gun), worked with remix engineers, and developed talent in all media. 

Q: Where did your music production background emerge?

A: I was in the studio every minute of each recording I worked on since day one. It was my classroom and we produced hits. I learned some more about music production techniques from Jim Crichton (Saga) and Patrick Regan at Sound Image Entertainment, a company founded by Marty Eberhardt (deceased) and myself in the ‘80s. We had a nationally distributed independent record company and a production facility in the Sound City Center. Jim Crichton was our production partner for about 25 years, while at the same time recording 20+ gold records for his band SAGA. Many, many famous producers and artists came through our doors. Macy Gray ·Jessica Simpson ·Dave Navarro ·LeAnn Rimes ·Ryan Cabrera ·South Park ·Chad Smith ·Slipknot ·Raekwon ·Duran Duran ·Ozzy Osbourne ·Mr. Big ·Motorhead ·Lou Graham ·Gene Simmons ·Minibar ·Yes  ·Niacin ·Strife ·Mystic ·Phunk Junkeez ·Reach Around ·Moloko ·Rick Springfield ·The Go Go's ·Sepultura  ·Sinomatic ·Saga ·Badi Assad ·Gus Gus ·Masters of Reality ·Vin Scully · Carmine Appice ·Steven Segal ·Survivor Glenn Hughes ·Bob Newhart ·Bahamadia ·Billy Sheehan ·Denny Lane ·Stroke 9 ·Jonathan Winters  ·Spontaneous ·Rick Latham ·Louie Bellson ·Rocket From The Crypt ·Gene Loves Jezebel ·Bruce Dickenson · Bobby Womack ·Magnum ·Ty Herndon ·John Frusciante ·Ed Shaughnessy ·Rickie Lee Jones ·Flavor Flav

When I split with Sound Image, I reconnected with Kim Fowley and we developed artists that he or I found all around the world. We had regional top 5 hits with very young developing international talent who garnered critical acclaim and won regional artist of the year awards both here and abroad. When Kim died, Bambi Moe introduced me to Sydney Alston (we had both done guest lectures at her Music Business class for the University of California) and we formed one management company and a production company with Dean Dinning of Toad the Wet Sprocket and Taylor Sparks. We produced a few tracks that won some regional awards but the production company disbanded in 2017.

I worked with Seymour Stein on a band that Sydney and I managed, End off Ever, but that did not work out due to personnel problems. Then came COVID and we all took a year off. Sydney has been developing Erica Tham (best known for her role as Corki Chang on Make It Pop). I represented Sydney in his negotiations with Erika and consult with him regularly. Erika’s initial release is currently burning up on YouTube, Spotify and all other streaming platforms. There is a bright future ahead for young Erika. Sydney also teaches a Music Business class at UCLA.

This May marked my 35th year with the Recording Academy. I am a member of the Producer’s and Engineer’s Wing of the Recording Academy. The pandemic really put the breaks on things. I am looking forward to a bright new year ahead. I recently took on Ronnie Laws (the most sampled artist of all time) as a new client and am assisting him and his publishing company with his new release and another new album is in the works. I had hoped to reunite with my world-wide music business contacts at Midem in 2022, but it looks like Midem, in its current iteration, is gone. So, I will have to do a lot of traveling around the world instead of meeting in one place. I read in Variety that the city of Cannes has bought Midem, is reassembling it and I’ll see all my old music business friends at the Palais des Festivals et des Congress in Cannes in June 2023.         

Q: Can you suggest some specific rules that you apply to the careers of your clients?

A: I developed rules based upon what I had learned from my mentors that I will discuss further down. In my humble opinion, there are thousands of talented music artists around the world (it is a worldwide business now more than ever). However, 99% of those artists will not be successful because of their own self-sabotage.

Also, in a group situation, there is a chemistry that makes a band “special” and many groups make changes that destroy the chemistry. Hit records is a team sport. In order for an artist to become successful, the artist must work with a team that magnifies “the special”. This team includes a personal manager, producer, arranger, engineer and later, both live and record promoters.

An artist who does not want to work as a team, fails to take advice from the personal manager, producer, arranger and engineer, will fail 99 times out of 100. And once you find that “magic” in the studio, it is best to not make changes to the team or the magic will dissipate.

Finding the right song for an artist is also very important. For example, one of my friends is Heather Holley, best known for developing Christina Aguilera. Heather played me the songs she had written and I fell in love with one of them called “Fearless.” In my mind, I was meant to find the right artist to perform the song.

So, after a year went by, one of my other friends, Bambi Moe (Disney, Unencumbered Productions), said that she knew of an artist on the Voice who was looking for her first single off of the show. I carefully studied the artist, Kat Perkins, and decided that she would be perfect for the “Fearless” song. Long story short, the song went to number 5 on the Itunes chart the day it was released (with the help of a supportive tweet from Adam Levine.) This song was so inspiring that Kat Perkins developed an empowerment program around it and took it to many schools in the Midwest for years. She is a successful live performance artist still today.

Q: Can you offer essential tips and rules about working with people in collaborations and career planning?

A: The most important rules:

1. Create and Maintain Positive Relationships. 

2. Teamwork. (don’t break up a successful production or writing team)

3. Courage. (don’t give up your vision no matter how many no’s you get)

4. Dedication to Vision. (work as hard to make your music as your manager does to promote it)

5. Promote in unique and interesting ways.

On every project, I have worked with a team. For example, I have been a team member with two managers and a live agent in developing a band (Andy Gould, Sterling McIlwaine, the recently deceased Steve Strange), I have been a member of several production companies recording and exploiting masters for developing artists, and I have had management partners on many other projects.

When I discover a developing artist or work with an accomplished artist, the steps may be different, but the effort and measure of success is the same. I feel that one of my most important jobs is to convince the artist that they are better than they believe they are and then create a team around them to demonstrate the validity of that conviction. In return, I expect them to give their all and be emotive on stage and in the studio.

The importance of building the artist’s team smartly is paramount. What are the qualities I look for when building a team? A team member must love what they do, have the courage to pursue our goal despite obstacles and setbacks, have the knowledge and experience to achieve the goal, and carry on working forward in a positive and empowering manner. Talent development has many aspects to it. I, and my team members, surround ourselves with experts in each area of need, be it running a label, publishing, arranging, producing, distribution, promoting, marketing or anything else an artist needs.

Courage and Dedication to Vision: When I started a management company with my great friend Sydney Alston he had business cards made that said “C&A Management, thinking out of the box.” I said to Sydney, “I don’t see no box!”  Being a personal manager has to be the hardest job on the planet. Seymour Stein says it takes a uniquely special person to be a manager. (I don’t know if that was a compliment or not! Lol.

Harvey Kubernik is the author of 20 books, including 2009’s Canyon Of Dreams: The Magic And The Music Of Laurel Canyon and 2014’s Turn Up The Radio! Rock, Pop and Roll In Los Angeles 1956-1972.   Sterling/Barnes and Noble in 2018 published Harvey and Kenneth Kubernik’s The Story Of The Band: From Big Pink To The Last Waltz. In 2021 they wrote Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child for Sterling/Barnes and Noble.

Otherworld Cottage Industries in 2020 published Harvey’s Docs That Rock, Music That Matters. Kubernik’s writings are in several anthologies, including, The Rolling Stone Book Of The Beats and Drinking With Bukowski. Harvey wrote the liner notes to the CD re-releases of Carole King’s Tapestry, The Essential Carole King, Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish, Elvis Presley The ’68 Comeback Special, The Ramones’ End of the Century and Big Brother & the Holding Company Captured Live at The Monterey International Pop Festival.