In this article, In Focus profiles one of South Africa’s most well known composer/producer/musician, Rob Schröder.

Ron Schröder
Gauteng-based Robert Schröder, who started his musical career as a member of a pop band at Pretoria Boys High playing piano and guitar, is today one of the best known South African composer/producer/musicians.

How did it start and what road has Schröder travelled to get where he is today - a sought after composer of almost all facets of music including commercials, feature films and indeed rock operas.

“After leaving school and in spite of my musical interests, I embarked on a career in accounting.  It was while I was doing my articles that I was offered a recording contract with EMI. It was not a difficult decision to make!  I left in my 3rd year of accountancy in 1970 and joined EMI in their publishing department.

“During my time at the company, the first hit record by my band ‘The Attraction’ was Scooby Dooby Dum Dum Day which went to number 4 on the charts. Shortly after this, I started the MFP Springbok Hit Parade series of records with Ken Talbot. They were initially produced and arranged by myself, and later by David Gresham. We did four albums a year on a royalty basis.

“A lot of well known musicians were associated with this series, including Trevor Rabin and Mutt Lange, the most successful producer of all time whose list of artists include AC/DC and Def Leppard. He also co-produced and married Shania Twain.

“It was during this time that I was re-acquainted with Roy Bulkin, an old school friend who was then singing and doing a lot of commercial work. In 1978, we formed Robroy Music and based ourselves at the RPM studios in Johannesburg. We continued doing music and I produced, among others, Richard John Smith whose hit record Michael Row the Boat Ashore was No 1 on the Springbok hit parade for a record-breaking nine weeks.

“I also composed the music for the rock opera Ancient Mariner, which featured Oliver Reed as the narrator on the album and Michael York on the one hour television show.  I also composed a lot of music for commercials, and worked with Ashley Lazarus on numerous cinema ads including Peter Stuyvesant, John Rolfe, Paul Revere, Courtley Satin Leaf and I also won a Craft for Mercedes futuristic cars.

“In 1987, we moved to Audio Lab which was part of the Video Lab in Blairgowrie. We built Audio One using Eddy Veale of Abbey Road Studios fame. We had a deal with Video Lab - we owned certain of the equipment and they built various items for us.

“You know there is a famous Quincy Jones line - ‘There is a certain kind of magic’ pertaining to recording studios - well I believe there is magic in Audio One.”

Schröder composed the soundtrack for three international movies in the 80’s, including Merchants of War and The Bottom Line.  While he was composing, Bulkin did vocals and hustled the agencies. Schröder also produced songs for Bulkin, including his hit Twinkle Toes. In 1988 Schröder signed Mango Groove and recorded their first three albums. In 1991, Ringo Madlingozi was also one of the signings, and has become the most successful male singer with his contemporary Xhosa music and Multi Platinum hit Sondela.  Schröder also bought out Bulkin in the same year.

“The business now is commercials and selected artists,” continues Schröder. “On the commercial side, Lorraine Shannon joined as composer/producer. Lorraine is a virtuoso pianist, achieving distinction and bursary in her final grade eight exam with the Royal School of Music, and was then featured soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra, as well as an accomplished singer and composer. I also have Andrew Stansfield, who is the recording engineer, programmer and sound designer. He has won Craft awards for Volkswagen Beat and Playstation War, as well as a Vuka award for Best Professional Recording for the Animal Anti-Cruelty League Hang Dog commercial.  Miguel Loureiro, former drummer with top rock band Evolver, has joined as engineer/sound designer.”

Schröder himself is no stranger to awards. His portfolio includes Loeries Grand Prix for Virgin Atlantic Love Story and Allan Gray Beautiful, Gold Loeries V W Beat, Mercedes, BMW, Coca Cola, Audi, Vodacom, Capitec, Standard Bank, ICC Mandela, Chicken Licken and numerous silver and bronze awards. Internationally, he has won Gold Clio's for Nike Train to Win, Doc Martins Lacy, International Film & T.V. Gold - Opel Kadett and the Festival of New York London International Awards Hunters wild life documentary.

Schröder concludes: “I am here to stay. I enjoy my work, and I love what I am doing. I truly believe that Audio One is the best recording studio in the country, and artists such as Ringo will only work there. Even agency people claim that you can hear the difference with work out of this studio. The lease agreement with the facility is still in place with Video Lab until February 2010, and I am certain that future developments will not affect the studio.”

Schröder lives in Pretoria and is married with three children.