Note: AFTER THE SESSION has been produced as a podcast, and thus, is intended to be heard and not read. This transcript is a supplement to the original podcast, and as such, doesn’t necessarily reflect the original content or context, so we strongly encourage you to listen to the audio if possible.
AFTER THE SESSION S0_E6: Producer Michael Beinhorn
CHRISTIAN: Hey, you’re listening to After The Session. My name is Christian Cummings. I’m chilling in a room here with my buddy Patrick Heaney.
PATRICK: Patrick Heaney.
CHRISTIAN: Yeah. Do you have an Instagram account, Patrick?
PATRICK: @PatrickHeaney. That’s it. I’m a simple man with simple needs.
CHRISTIAN: I’m @Christian.M.Cummings.
PATRICK: So many dots.
CHRISTIAN: I know. I couldn’t get anything closer to my name without adding the dots and the M.
This is the final episode of Season 0, with Michael Beinhorn. Producer/musician Michael Beinhorn. I’m a huge fan of his work and have been for perpetuity, since the beginning of me listening to music. Michael’s worked with Soundgarden, Mew, Hole, Marilyn Manson, Chili Peppers, The Bronx, Social Distortion, Ozzy. You can google him for his website. I don’t have that info in front of me. But he’s just an incredible guy.
Me and my buddy Dan Bailey, who you know, who’s the drummer for Father John Misty, we both drove up to LA and recorded this entire episode at The Village. It was awesome. It’s a little long, maybe an hour and 15 minutes I think, but we go into a ton of topics, and it turned out great.
I should state, though, this is prior to Chris Cornell’s passing, so that’s not a topic on the podcast. But we did talk about his book, which is really good – available on Amazon. It turned out fantastic.
After The Session: A conversation with Michael Beinhorn. Check it out.
CHRISTIAN: Michael Beinhorn.
CHRISTIAN: Welcome to the podcast.
MICHAEL: Thank you.
CHRISTIAN: Thank you so much for coming to hang out and donating your time to this project. How are you doing?
MICHAEL: I’m terrific, thank you. How are you?
CHRISTIAN: I think we’re good. I came up here with my pal Dan Bailey, and I think our commute might’ve been – we set some sort of record getting up here.
DAN: The fastest.
CHRISTIAN: Dan’s a Session drummer. I brought him along today – well, he was kind enough to come along today to just provide the musical sidekick.
DAN: Nothing going on, you know. [laughs]
CHRISTIAN: For a change. You just flew in yesterday, right, from a big tour?
CHRISTIAN: But thank you for coming on the podcast. I’m a huge fan.
MICHAEL: Thank you.
CHRISTIAN: Certainly a bunch of your work has been very instrumental in my musical growth over the years. I just thought we’d get together and bullshit about whatever we want to. Are you working on any projects right now?
MICHAEL: I am in the process of seeing a book that I’ve written to completion, which has been a labor of love over the past three and a half years. I’ve been able to work on it intermittently while I’ve done other stuff. Happily, it’s finished, and I guess it has a street or publishing date – I don’t know what they call those things anymore – June 23rd. So I’m excited about that.
CHRISTIAN: What’s it called?
MICHAEL: It’s called Unlocking Creativity: A Producer’s Guide to Making Art and Music. It’s published by Hal Leonard.
CHRISTIAN: Yeah, that’s going to be cool. I will be in line waiting to buy that on Amazon. I’ll be in a virtual line on Amazon to purchase that.
MICHAEL: [laughs] Thank you very much. I appreciate that.
CHRISTIAN: Can we talk about the book real quick? Because I wasn’t aware of that.
MICHAEL: Absolutely. Obviously the title is pretty self-explanatory.
CHRISTIAN: Can you maybe give us a general synopsis of the book?
MICHAEL: I’d be happy to. The germination of the book was that I’ve been a keen observer of what’s going on in the creative community as it pertains to popular music, and I’ve written about it. I have a blog that I’ve written about this kind of thing. It occurred to me that there are books that people have written about record production, and they all focus, generally speaking, on technical aspects of making a record – which are very, very important.
Having that specific focus completely misses a lot of things that I think are crucial in the record production process.
CHRISTIAN: It’s so funny you say that. One of the goals of the podcast is – I’m not trying to avoid talking about gear on the podcast, and obviously it’s a podcast focused around music producers and recording engineers – but the importance of focusing on the art of making music is sometimes lost in our conversation or dialogue.
MICHAEL: I love recording equipment as much as anyone else does, although I can’t do a damn thing with a computer. [laughter] Well, sort of. I like that Reason program. That’s fun.
But to me, the hardware is the fun part of it, but still – I do feel to a great extent that the technique of record production has really supplanted the art of record production, and there have been no definitive statements about what that actually is. Or for that matter, what a description of the job of record production really is.
You see a lot of books that tell you “A compressor does this, and this is a good compressor. An equalizer does this. You need a microphone preamp if you’re going to use a condenser microphone, and these are some good ones.” And “here’s a setting I like” [laughs] which people are going to spend their twenty bucks on.
But if that becomes the focus of what is essentially an art form, you really lose the guts of it. You lose the art of it. These are tools; that’s all they are. Tools in the hand of a genius, that’s going to create a condition of genius, of great stuff. The output of that, when it’s applied to really talented people, it’s going to be brilliant. However, the very same tools in the hand of a moron who’s talentless is going to yield shit. [chuckles]
People are sold this bill of goods of “oh wow, if I use the same settings as so-and-so and the same equipment as so-and-so…” It’s like “I need big drums to get that John Bonham sound.” What’s that John Bonham sound anyway? It’s like, well, first you need John Bonham… He happened to be one of those guys – he tuned his drum a certain way, but really he could sit down at any drum kit and make it sound like John Bonham. All you’ve got to do is be good enough to set the mics up in the right way to capture that.
CHRISTIAN: Yeah. Get out of the way, kind of.
MICHAEL: Well, he’d make you get out of the way. [laughs] I just started to write down these protocols, things that I applied to my own process and stuff that I would work with artists to achieve and things that would help their ability to do their job optimally. Kind of monitoring them in a way, watching them over the course of the day, seeing what their blood sugar is like, when’s the guy starting to fade and stuff like that, like “all right, you need to eat.”
It’s really funny because if you don’t say things like that to people, you know what happens. Blood sugar is a tremendous impediment to getting good work done.
CHRISTIAN: [laughs] That’s kind of a crazy thought, that one of the very important tasks of your day-to-day operation is making sure that people are fed. And that is a very important part of record producing. That’s kind of funny.
MICHAEL: Yeah. And it seems silly, but you don’t know how many people have had to say “When’s the last time you ate?” and they’d be like “Uh, yesterday.”
CHRISTIAN: Artists tend to forget to eat too.
MICHAEL: Yeah. Your voice is failing because your body is starting to fall apart because you didn’t put food in it. It’s not being fueled.
But it started with things like that, and then it began to go deeper and deeper into actual methodology – which I realized as I was writing, I’ve never seen anyone write this down, and wow, I wish that I’d had this on a lot of recordings that I did.
I began to apply a lot of experiential stuff, like recollections of projects that I’d worked on. I didn’t want to turn it into like: “When I worked with so-and-so of such-and-such, and one day they said to me ‘wow, this is great,’ and I said ‘I know,’ and that was really good because we spoke and I talked to him.” I just wanted to make it as general as possible and not really dwell on that aspect of things, because to me I think being able to illustrate a methodology – the way I might work, for example, could potentially jog someone else.
For example, when you’re dealing with a person’s music and you’re in the stage prior to actually recording it, in pre-production, and you’re listening to it and you’re thinking to yourself “What the hell is this person going on about?” or “What does this mean? Is this real?” or “This is amazing” or “Wow, that transition going from this section to that section just sucks, but I know how to make it better” – all these mini elements.
But I try and break them down and categorize them and really demonstrate them in a way for someone to look at them and not only employ what I might’ve written down, but to allow that in itself to be an exercise to maybe jog their thought process into going “I might think this when I listen to a piece of music, or I might think that, or something else might come up. How do I feel when I listen to this piece of music?” Using that as a barometer to detect if you feel that something that an artist is doing is – if you want to use values – good or bad.
CHRISTIAN: It’s hard to define good or bad, but yeah.
MICHAEL: It’s interesting though, because to me, good or bad registers as a sensory thing. It doesn’t register as an intellectual judgment. If you take this from the perspective of using our intuition to judge things, the intuitive is a sensory apparatus. It’s not an intellectual apparatus at all. I’ve been working like this my entire life.
CHRISTIAN: Your instinct is a big part of it.
MICHAEL: From my perspective, it’s the whole part of it. Any decision – there might be an exception here or there, but I would say most of the decisions that I would make in the creative arena would be solely intuitive, down to equipment.
MICHAEL: Oh, absolutely.
CHRISTIAN: Okay, that’s interesting.
MICHAEL: It’s weird, because I get a sensory response to pieces of gear. [laughs]
CHRISTIAN: Yeah, something excites you or it doesn’t excite you. You get an emotional response from a microphone selection?
MICHAEL: I would look at a signal chain and go “this is what’s going to work.” And it would be based on “I don’t know why; that just feels right.” It’s weird, because in my mind it just sort of draws a picture for me and it’s like, okay, it’s going to go that way.
CHRISTIAN: Cool. It’s very instinctual for you.
MICHAEL: Yeah. The thing is that I don’t have formal training doing this.
CHRISTIAN: You don’t? I didn’t know that. Reading your resume, it seems like you came from a place of education or some sort of –
MICHAEL: Nah, I faked my way. [laughter]
CHRISTIAN: Hey, that goes back to Dan and I, our conversation on the drive up about winging it.
DAN: No one ever has [inaudible 00:12:34]. [laughs]
MICHAEL: Well, the fact is that no one does. I’ve heard people say some of the most inane things imaginable – people who are incredibly successful and people who you would expect “wow, this guy’s got to be a genius.”
CHRISTIAN: “He’s got it all figured out. He knows exactly where he’s going.”
MICHAEL: This guy will drop a “bomb of knowledge,” and you’ll just be standing there going, am I missing something or is that possibly the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say? [laughter] Like, I don’t know how this guy got here. Then I’d look at myself and go, oh, wait, who am I to speak?
CHRISTIAN: “Wait, am I doing the same thing?”
MICHAEL: How did I get here? [laughs]
CHRISTIAN: That’s funny, man.
MICHAEL: But I also wanted to include a little bit of experiential philosophy as well, like essays that might illustrate and drive some of the points that I was making home a bit more.
MICHAEL: It’s different.
CHRISTIAN: I believe that’s an important way to approach the conversation, man. I’m not coming from a place of your experience, but producing –
MICHAEL: Do you produce records, by the way?
CHRISTIAN: Yeah. Producing an artist is not necessarily the most logical process, right? It is very emotionally charged. I know for me, specifically my initial instincts whenever I hear something or have a feeling, I make a specific note in my head about that. The very first listening, the very first impression I get from something – a part, a section, a solo, whatever – that’s it. That has to be the right answer. It’s good or bad at that moment; then I’m always referencing that. If I start thinking about it, it’s messed up.
MICHAEL: But it depends, because you can also find yourself being influenced by other stuff too. To me, a lot of it is first listen, and a lot of it is also cross-reference. I’m not saying conscious, either. What I experience over the course of a day, it’s all sensory information and it can all be interpreted as such. Anything can happen to you over the course of the day that you can cross-reference against something if you choose to look at all things that you’re encountering as abstract information.
So the experience alone can affect or jog something inside of you, something that you might not have come across before. A lot of times I will be I guess in stasis or whatever over something that I cannot sort out for the life of me, and then I’ll just trip over something, over the course of –
CHRISTIAN: And it’s like “oh, wow.”
MICHAEL: Yeah, it’s crazy.
CHRISTIAN: Discovery, yeah.
MICHAEL: Because you don’t know where the “aha” moment – I don’t like to use that term much because it’s oft-used – but you don’t know where it’s going to come from. That’s one of the cool things about it. That’s one reason why it’s fun to employ time and pressure to a recording, because I find that I’ve been able to get really terrific results that way.
CHRISTIAN: Is that something you do pretty often in your process? Time and pressure, where you say “we’ve got to have this done by then.” I mean, I’m sure it’s different for everybody.
MICHAEL: No, I mean like having enough time to actually deal with all the potential creative stuff that might come up. That’s helped a lot of records along that I’ve worked on that weren’t quite where they needed to be. It’s been very interesting. I find that rushing people along is very constraining, actually. I know that there are a lot of people who like to work very fast. I actually love working fast. The only problem is that I guess my version of fast is different than other people’s. [laughs]
CHRISTIAN: Well, Pro Tools and digital recording has changed the process a little bit from how it was prior to being able to just hit a button and be right back to a spot in the song. You’re not necessarily spending time rewinding tape or cueing up things or stuff like that. That changes the speed at which people expect things to happen.
MICHAEL: Yeah, it definitely doesn’t hurt.
CHRISTIAN: Do you still record in analog?
MICHAEL: No, I haven’t done that for a while. I’d say the main reason is probably budgetary. Although even if I had the opportunity to, I would probably turn toward DSD instead of analog tape. I mean, I love analog tape, I have to say.
CHRISTIAN: I know of your super analog, your 8-track 2-inch machine that you have. Is it just one of them or a couple of them?
MICHAEL: I had a pair. I don’t have them anymore. One was actually a 16-track machine that had the 8-track heads on it. But the problem with that is that if you don’t have a recording studio and it’s sitting in storage, which mine eventually were, you also have to apply a tremendous amount of maintenance time to those things, because they will break down on you like crazy.
CHRISTIAN: And that’s the last thing you need in the middle of a session, right?
MICHAEL: It happened too many times. The first time I broke one of those machines, I’d actually purchased it, had the heads built, and had the system shipped to Paris, France to start a recording, cold. I had no idea what this thing was going to do. It was just on a whim. I was like “I know this is going to be great… I think. I hope it wasn’t stupid of me.” [laughter]
CHRISTIAN: What kind of machine was it? What were the 8-tracks?
MICHAEL: It was a Studer. They were both Studer 800s, but they were Mark I.
CHRISTIAN: Highly modified once you’re done with them, obviously.
MICHAEL: Well, not the electronics. The only things that were modified in the machine was there was a time code reading device that was retrofitted into the system. It was PAW; I don’t remember what that stands for. I think it was the only system at the time that would convert the SMPTE code into Studer machine code so it would run the machine. The guy who built the heads, John French, who is sadly deceased –
MICHAEL: Yeah. I felt like I was pretty darn clever coming up with this idea, like “wow, two machine tracks, make them bigger and fuller and more low-end and everything!” But John actually was the innovator, because he said “I’ve got an idea.” Because you’d have to give up one of those analog tracks for time code. He built the head stacks with a center track between 4 and 5 that had rails on it on either side that was specifically for SMPTE. It was this teeny little track.
CHRISTIAN: That’s brilliant. Tiny little bit of real estate just for the SMPTE.
MICHAEL: Tiny little real estate, but it was insulated from the audio tracks. Whereas if it had been an audio track, if there was a transient – and obviously you’re going to use a machine like that for drums first, which is all the transients in the world – the transients are going to knock into your SMPTE and cause the machine to lose lock. So having the insulation around the guide track meant that it was completely impervious to any bumping.
CHRISTIAN: You’ve got to have two of them, probably, to do what you want to do.
MICHAEL: You don’t, but I had to. After I heard the way this thing sounded, I was like “I have to get another one of these!” [laughs]
CHRISTIAN: Would you fit an entire drum kit on one machine, or would you spread it across a couple of machines? Different all the time?
MICHAEL: When I heard what this machine – I got the Mark I because it’s two speeds, but they’re not 15 and 30; they’re 15 and 7.5.
CHRISTIAN: Whoa. Were you working at 15?
MICHAEL: Hell yeah. [laughter]
CHRISTIAN: That takes a lot of guts, Dan. That does.
CHRISTIAN: Well, I don’t know, on this machine maybe not.
MICHAEL: Seriously, once you’ve heard a machine like that with tracks that are that big – I was told that these are the biggest audio tracks on any multitrack machine ever.
CHRISTIAN: I could see that for sure.
MICHAEL: Once you’ve heard a machine record and reproduce a program, drums, in a big room with subwoofers, in a room to amplify the drums at 7.5 ips –
CHRISTIAN: It’s just monstrous.
MICHAEL: A Studer, no less, an 800. To me, that’s my favorite tape machine ever built.
CHRISTIAN: Yeah, I think a lot of people would agree with you.
DAN: I think I just added to my bucket list. [laughs]
MICHAEL: Everyone in the room who heard this when it was finally playing back was just absolutely in awe.
CHRISTIAN: So you would get frequencies way down there, for sure.
MICHAEL: We had to obviously limit the two mix. The engineer I was working with, Paul Northfield, he produced a pair of 1176LNs across. He didn’t like that as much as the – actually, I think he used it with the SSL compressor, but we had to hit the two mix really hard, because if we didn’t it would’ve destroyed our monitor.
The low frequency response was so extraordinary that we’d be playing back music on a pair of NS-10s and people would come in and go “That’s really good. Where’s your subwoofer, though?” You could hear straight down, probably below 60, 50 hertz. Out of a pair of small nearfield. Crazy.
CHRISTIAN: Wow. Just for listeners, and for you, Dan, if you don’t know this, the slower the tape machine goes – what’s the best way to explain it? The low frequency response is extended. And then you have maybe a lower head bump as well, right?
MICHAEL: It’s even amplified. When I saw the frequency response graph that came with the head stack, Fletcher from Mercenary Audio – who worked with me on the project and introduced me to John –
CHRISTIAN: I’ve met him. He’s a character.
MICHAEL: He’s terrific. He was like “Yeah, but look at the high frequency response at 15.” I was like, “But look at the high frequency response at 7.5.” He’s like, “It’s tapering off.” I was like “Yeah, but the low frequency response is insane. I don’t care.”
CHRISTIAN: Kick drum for days, Dan. Kick drum for days.
MICHAEL: Anything that I’m losing in high frequencies, I can get back just by rolling in high frequencies. Anything that you lose in the lows, you’re not going to be able to get that back at all, no matter how much low frequencies you want to roll in. But the highs, if they were recorded, you can always amplify that. Even airs that may not show up, if it’s somewhere in a graph like that, you’ll be able to dial it in.
CHRISTIAN: Were you using Dolby with this?
MICHAEL: No, not Dolby.
CHRISTIAN: You just hit it hard, you got plenty of real estate.
MICHAEL: You couldn’t really hit it that hard. I made a lot of discoveries with this.
CHRISTIAN: Yeah, you were kind of paving the way on that.
MICHAEL: It was funny, yeah.
CHRISTIAN: But now it’s gone. It’s gone. Well, times change and things have to evolve. Are you working in Pro Tools now?
MICHAEL: Reluctantly. I think I might go back to Nuendo. I don’t know if I’m feeling Pro Tools. I like native better, obviously. But I don’t know. Again, if I had the budget to work with, it would be DSD.
CHRISTIAN: I was saying earlier that we don’t really get into gear too much on the podcast, but I want to ask you some gear questions now. [laughs] You’ve got my gear wheel turning. Obviously the tape was a big part of your process, and now you’re moving forward from that.
MICHAEL: I only did it on two records, though.
CHRISTIAN: Which records?
MICHAEL: I did an Ozzy Osbourne record and a Social Distortion record. Unfortunately the way they were mixed, it doesn’t really give you the full length and breadth of what the machines can do. I didn’t think that they gave a really good showing.
CHRISTIAN: I can see a mastering engineer getting in there and saying “Eh, I’m not so sure.”
MICHAEL: The mix job wasn’t that great. It wasn’t the mastering engineer so much. I think it really demonstrated to me that, again, you can have all the best of intentions at the creative stage of the project, but they can be thwarted anywhere along the way by someone who – well, I’m not going to say –
CHRISTIAN: Didn’t share the vision you had, maybe.
MICHAEL: Exactly, yeah.
CHRISTIAN: How do you keep so focused and persistent and battle those things so consistently from the beginning of the recording process to the finished record, where you’re just battling against hurdles and problems and things that could potentially derail you? Is it just focus?
MICHAEL: You mean like technical things?
CHRISTIAN: Technical things, personality things, any kind of hurdles. I’m trying to think of the best way to even frame this question.
MICHAEL: Each one of those are different questions. Personalities and individuals –
CHRISTIAN: That’s a whole other conversation.
MICHAEL: That’s one aspect of this process. Technical stuff is another. If you’re talking specifically about the sonics –
CHRISTIAN: I guess I’m asking more about mindset. It seems to me that the more I speak to guys that I admire, such as yourself, about their process, they all have the same mindset of “no, everything matters, and I am going to strive for not losing too many battles, as much as I can, from the beginning to the end.” You may make compromises, but you learn where to make those compromises. It seems like a lot of these amazing producers that I’ve met, or recording engineers, they just work really hard at not allowing things to squeak through that are mediocre. How’s that? Is that an apt description of maybe your mindset?
MICHAEL: I think so. I think what you’re speaking of really references having an overall vision for the project. Seeing an image in your mind of what that is and recognizing that it’s your job, it’s your duty on the project to maintain what that vision is. Now, you can’t really share that with anyone else – not even the artist on the project – because they can’t see what you see in your mind.
As a producer, over time you start to find that that image, every time you get near the music, every time you get near the process of working on this particular project, it becomes more and more clear. At the same time, you have to be flexible enough and able enough to be able to…
MICHAEL: To turn on a dime if the process wants to go anywhere else. See, the thing is, as a producer my job is essentially to preserve what I’m getting from somewhere else. This is information that I’m not formulating on my own. I always feel like I’m being guided. I don’t believe that this is me and my ego trying to speak through this process at all. If I did, I think that it would be a far less satisfying thing to do.
CHRISTIAN: Endeavor, yeah.
MICHAEL: I have an image in my mind. When you say image, you can’t really define what that is.
CHRISTIAN: Absolutely. How do you quantify that?
MICHAEL: It could look like a building, it could look like something on a horizon. You could call it any number of things, but it’s something that I see constantly while I’m working, and I can’t really shake it. And it has an emotional resonance to it.
CHRISTIAN: Do you establish that vision really early on, like right out of the gate?
CHRISTIAN: Is it pretty obvious to you right out of the gate?
MICHAEL: It’s generally really obvious. Usually it happens better if there is something already emotionally compelling about the artist’s work. Sometimes there isn’t something specifically emotionally compelling about the artist’s work, but there is a sense of potential about what the artist can be, what they’re going to turn into. A lot of times I’ll try and find a way to be able to articulate that to the artist so that they can at least get some insight into what I’m seeing and what I would like to try and capture. I can’t always say “we’re going to do it this way” – although sometimes I will, and I’ll draw diagrams for them and try to illustrate it the best way I can.
But it’s a really nebulous, really abstract principle. To me, the whole process, a lot of it winds up taking place in the abstract. I find myself trying to get sounds – I like to use synthesizers for a lot of stuff to process instruments and things. You ever mess around with that? Like analog synths?
DAN: Starting to more, yeah.
MICHAEL: It’s fun, man. It is.
DAN: It seems like a rabbit hole.
MICHAEL: It’s a rabbit hole, but if you have the right stuff and if you get used to the tactile aspect of it and what this does if you move that a little bit that way –
CHRISTIAN: That tactile thing is a big part of that experience.
MICHAEL: Oh, so much fun.
DAN: Turning a real knob.
MICHAEL: It’s so much fun. Knobs are so important.
CHRISTIAN: There’s a joke there somewhere.
MICHAEL: Yeah, I know.
CHRISTIAN: We’ll just go right by. It’s too easy. [laughs]
MICHAEL: Yeah, too easy. Thank you for not taking the opportunity.
CHRISTIAN: I kind of did, I guess. [laughter]
MICHAEL: But I find myself in situations where I’m getting a tone or getting a sound or something like that, and my brain’s just gone. It’s not there at all. My brain’s not functioning, but I have an innate sense of what it is that I’m doing. I don’t feel at that point that I’m necessarily in control of what’s happening.
And I don’t want to be in control, because if I try to enforce my sense of “I’ve got to be running this,” then it turns into shit, and all of a sudden something that could be coming from someplace else – it’s going to be a million times better than anything I could come up with, with the minimal intellect I’ve been blessed with. [laughs]
CHRISTIAN: Dan, as an experienced drummer, do you find that the more you’re thinking about what you’re doing, it gets in the way?
DAN: Oh yeah. I always find if you’re trying to get drum sounds or something, I’m always very aware of when it’s not right. Like you put a snare drum up and it’s like, nope, that’s not the drum for this room or this sound or whatever the part is. But yeah, you have to kind of get out of your own way and let it happen.
CHRISTIAN: As soon as you’re mindful of what’s happening, then you’re out of the experience.
DAN: Yeah, the producer and the engineer and the artist say “we want this kind of thing,” and when you find it you just have to be open to let yourself find it. If I go “You know what? That’s my favorite snare drum. That’s going to be the drum on this track,” then I’m already shooting myself in the foot. It may be totally awful. Or it may be great, but not where the producer and the artist want it to be.
CHRISTIAN: Right. A lot of less experienced drummers than yourself that I run into that are struggling with say playing to a click track, one of the biggest issues they have is actually thinking about the click track, listening to the click track. Don’t listen to the click track. You’ve got to be on it, but you’ve got to also forget it’s there.
CHRISTIAN: Where do we pick up from? We were talking about the tactile function of knobs there.
MICHAEL: And also the innate function of trying to find things and letting yourself be guided towards them, which pertains completely to sensitivity and intuition. Again, those are two things that don’t have any basis in intellect at all. For me, if I’m producing a record, those have to be engaged constantly. I just try to remain open to whatever is happening in that particular space. That also goes back to having a vision about something.
Now, I can formulate a set number of ways to satisfy what my perception of that vision is, but again, like I was saying before, I have to be ready to turn on a dime in case something else comes into the mix that changes that, that says “no, you’re not going to go left today; you’re going to make a right.” Instead of resting on my laurels and going “dammit, no, I’m going to do what I want to do this time!” – I’ve seen how that works, and the outcome is never attractive. You have to let it roll.
It’s funny because sometimes it takes you into really scary places. Having worked on records where, for example, musicians weren’t able to cut it, it can be really tough. But at the end of the day, in my position I have to recognize that I was given a specific role to follow, and I have to do my best to satisfy that. Not just for my sake, but for the sake of the project.
CHRISTIAN: Can you think of any specific instances that you’d like to talk about? You can dodge this if you want. I’m just throwing it out there.
MICHAEL: It’s funny because it’s something that gets lobbed on me a lot.
CHRISTIAN: Obviously I was doing a little research before we got together, I was reading your blog and some stuff like that, and that’s old news. You haven’t been through that too much, have you? Or is that something you’ve been through quite a few times? [laughs] I have no idea.
MICHAEL: I know so many guys who’ve actually made more records than I have who have done it more and actually would do it as a matter of course. My attitude has always been we have to use the person who’s in the band unless they can’t cut it, and then we absolutely have to get someone else.
On the particular project that a lot of fuss has been made about, which was Hole, I was told beforehand by the band that “we will work with you under one condition: that you cannot fire our drummer.” It was funny that that was the sole condition that they put to me at the time.
CHRISTIAN: Because they already kind of sensed that this drummer –
MICHAEL: Well, because I’d done it on a couple of other records. But at the same time, if you look back historically, it’s like well, I did that on the record with Soul Asylum because the drummer ran out of gas after four songs, and we were on a tight deadline. At that point he had red light fever, so what are you going to do? When I worked with Soundgarden I didn’t have to do that because Matt Cameron is a stud.
CHRISTIAN: He’s a maniac.
DAN: He’s a monster. [laughs]
CHRISTIAN: I’m a drummer, and he’s like top five.
MICHAEL: Can you even imagine? Right?
CHRISTIAN: Can I ask a question about Cameron? Does Matt Cameron do rim shots when he plays the snare drum? We were talking about this on the drive up. Do you remember?
DAN: A good friend of mine who played for The Wallflowers for years did a couple tours with The Wallflowers and Pearl Jam and swears that he does it. Which is a feat of –
CHRISTIAN: Because the snare drum, the back beat is so monstrous.
DAN: The sound he gets out of the drums naturally is pretty fantastic.
MICHAEL: He’s well-schooled. He’s just one of those drummers who’s the perfect convergence of everything that you want in a drummer. He’s got great feel, he’s got great technique, and he knows how to hit. He also knows how to play with the drums. He understands dynamics.
CHRISTIAN: He knows how to extract the tone.
MICHAEL: His worst passes are better than so many other people’s passes. And it’s amazing because Matt is a real musician in the sense that when you hear him play, you can really tell the great takes from the bad ones because you can tell that he wasn’t focusing. You can hear him on a take that’s mediocre and go “He’s not there. His brain’s somewhere else.” And then when he hits it, it’s like “Oh. Oh my. Well, we’re done. Thank you, Matt.” [laughs] He would tear it up.
I remember when we did “Black Hole Sun,” he did three or four passes on that one, and I just remember – I think the one that we used was number two or number three, and I was pretty sure. And then when he did that [drum fill] right before Chorus 3, I was like “I don’t know that he’s going to be able to do that a whole lot better.” [laughter] I don’t know that it’s even humanly possible, because the timing was impeccable. It had all this flare and pump, and it was just like oh my God, this guy is just strutting. It was so exciting. I got this tingling sensation all over my body.
CHRISTIAN: Oh, I’m hearing the fill in that section of the song in my head as we’re discussing it.
MICHAEL: It’s so dramatic. And he totally came up with that fill, too.
CHRISTIAN: In the moment?
MICHAEL: No, he’d been working on it in rehearsals, and he did it a bunch of other times when we did the other passes, but that was the one. It was just like “oh!”
CHRISTIAN: You get asked about that record a lot, I’m guessing.
MICHAEL: It happens.
CHRISTIAN: In all honesty, that’s one of my favorite records of all time.
CHRISTIAN: But I’m not going to ask you about it.
MICHAEL: Good. Thank you.
CHRISTIAN: What I want to ask you, though, is – again, you can dodge this – what would be one of the most memorable records that you’ve done that people haven’t given enough attention to? What would you say? Quite a few, or could you just pick one?
MICHAEL: That’s got so many layers to it, that question.
CHRISTIAN: Because you’ve traversed a couple of different time periods in the music business where record sales were in this zone and more people paid more attention to this thing.
MICHAEL: A lot of what went on on some of the recordings that I did are also things that people don’t talk about. In hindsight, they’re fascinating events. That’s sort of a tough one to answer. I can remember discrete moments in time which are really personal to me, where I’d be sitting listening to playback at the end of the night, and I’d just feel like I was being transported someplace else. I was like “God, I wish I could share this feeling with someone else, but I can’t.”
CHRISTIAN: That’s got to be such a magical place to be, to be sitting in the control room by yourself, listening to work you did at the end of the day with no one else around, with whoever it may be – Soundgarden or Mew or whatever. Having this feeling of “wow, this just happened on my watch, and I’m excited about it.” Feeling so proud, and kind of emotionally overwhelmed.
CHRISTIAN: That’s cool, man.
MICHAEL: I’m so grateful because I’ve had that experience so many times. On some records it would happen on a regular basis. Working on that Soundgarden record, it was really tough because those guys didn’t really get along so well, and I don’t think that we jived all that well either.
But at the same time, I’d listen to what we would do at the end of each day and I’d be like “Oh man. This is as satisfying as anything I’ve ever listened to.” I’m not going to dare compare it to some of my favorite records; I think that would be very – it’s not cool. [laughs] But I would listen to it and go, I just am so incredibly fortunate to be in the midst of this right now, to be doing this. And I’m so happy, and I continue to be happy –
CHRISTIAN: You had the opportunity – well, you created the opportunity for yourself, but you’re there and you get to have that experience, and that’s a very unique experience. In the world, in the universe, that is a really unique experience.
MICHAEL: It is, but the biggest part of it for me was that at a certain point I began to recognize that these statements were things that infiltrated other people’s lives and had a profound effect on them – emotionally, mentally, even physically in some cases.
What I owe in this case, my responsibility isn’t even to the artist; it’s to the project as a device to be able to reach out to people who are going to listen to this and communicate directly with them. That is my responsibility and that is what I owe people who have put me in the position to be able to do this. That’s always been my job, and I felt, and I do feel, that I have to do these things for people who are going to hear them because it has to enrich other people’s lives. It has to be something that is for the benefit of others, that can broaden someone’s existence. Because if I feel that I’m making art – and I would like to think that I am –
CHRISTIAN: I would say you are.
MICHAEL: Thank you. But that’s the function of art. It’s there to enrich people’s lives. It’s there to make their life fuller, more whole, have more depth. For them to realize that they’re not a bunch of automata running around with these dry, boring functions that have no meaning beyond trying to maintain whatever crappy little bit of real estate they have underneath their feet. There’s more to life than this, and that’s what art is supposed to show us all. Even if that “more” exists in here or in here. There’s a tremendous spiritual component to the whole thing. I feel funny using the term, but what the heck?
CHRISTIAN: But it’s applicable.
MICHAEL: It is. And living in a secular society, our spirituality is really found most deeply in art. That’s where it is, and that’s one reason I feel that we have so much difficulty now, because there’s less and less of that now. Less and less art is being made that actually has that kind of intense emotional resonance to it.
CHRISTIAN: Do you have an opinion on why that might be the case?
MICHAEL: Yeah. I think that there’s a lot of reasons for it, actually.
CHRISTIAN: Do you want to get into that discussion and share some of your thoughts on that?
MICHAEL: It’s a fairly long discussion, but yeah. I think a lot of it pertains to money, I think a lot of it pertains to how the business has taken popular and co-opted it into something that had a degree of expression to it, and it’s now become something that is almost exclusively commoditized. It’s seen exclusively as a commodity, as are all things.
MICHAEL: It’s consumable, and it also is a signifier for other things. It represents other things. It is devoid of its capacity to be able to communicate the meaning and the intent of the person who created it. It is now a device to be able to apply a sense of reality, a perceived sense of reality, to something else that doesn’t necessarily have to do with it. It’s an advertising tool. It communicates a lifestyle that you can associate with another commodity.
Being treated like that – and also, when you look at bands or artists who aren’t at the same level as a major label artist, they are being forced into the same mold of having to treat their music exactly the same way. And I’m talking about even indie bands or stuff like that, who have to think “what’s my brand?” and things like that.
CHRISTIAN: “How do I market myself?”
MICHAEL: “How do I market myself?”, because they realize – and unfortunately there is some truth to this – that if they don’t get some kind of access for themselves, some way to be able to have people see them, they will not get through. Because no one gives a shit, because it’s a sea of millions of people waving their arms around like this, and the person who gets seen is the person who waves their arms a little differently or maybe has a nice set of boobs, I don’t know. [laughs]
CHRISTIAN: That can’t hurt.
MICHAEL: No, it can’t hurt. But the thing is, having thousands and millions of people on Twitter and wherever – I mean, everyone tries to do it. I’m not immune; I’m on social media too. It’s become an inescapable fact of modern living, especially if you need to do something that isn’t defined inside a 9-to-5 job, like a standardized structure of “this is how I earn my living.” Otherwise you can be the most talented person in the world, sitting in a garret and no one hears your music, and you just kind of die of consumption and that’s the end. [laughter]
These are realities that have to be considered as well. But along the way, the meaning of what music is as a modality in and of itself is completely lost. That’s kind of a short-form summary. It goes a lot deeper. Historically you can see how this has gradually been happening over time.
CHRISTIAN: Do you see any cycling back the other direction at any time in the not-too-distant future?
MICHAEL: I don’t believe in cycles. I feel that things happen, that there are natural events and things do repeat. I don’t see a repetition of anything in this case. I think that we have hit a hard reset button on the whole thing. On the creation of music and on the creation of art, we’ve hit a hard reset button. I don’t know exactly when it was, but this is Year 1. Whatever happens going forward is going to redefine everything.
CHRISTIAN: The art, completely.
MICHAEL: Yeah. And I hope it redefines the art before it redefines the business, because everyone is talking about the business and no one is talking about the art at all.
CHRISTIAN: Amen to that. [laughs]
MICHAEL: It is disgusting. Man. It’s fucked. Sorry.
CHRISTIAN: No, it’s fine.
MICHAEL: I get really, really passed off about this.
CHRISTIAN: The art is at the root of everything you have done, and the projects that you’ve been on that are my favorite and some that I hold near and dear to myself, the root of what makes that so great is the unpolluted art form that I get at the end of it all. So I absolutely cherish that experience, and I understand where you’re coming from that that feels like it has been polluted in some way, shape, or form on occasion, when I’m thinking about it.
Some of your artists, some of your projects, they’re coming from a place of complete “I don’t give a shit, I’m going to do what I want to do,” and they’re completely connected with their art form. And then you manage to get that translated onto a piece of recorded media and I get to enjoy it. That’s it.
MICHAEL: I’m glad. It’s an obligation to follow that – to try and follow it, because there’s so many forces that work against that too because it’s completely antithetical to the way people make records now, right? When everything has to be done systematically. The use of Pro Tools, the strength of it isn’t in the fact that it’s a recording device; it’s the fact that you can edit things.
DAN: It’s a repair.
MICHAEL: Thank you so much. I couldn’t have put it – very well said. But it’s a mechanism to repair people’s inability to do their own fucking job. [laughter]
No, seriously. The best records, to me, are records that were made by people who were working their asses off trying to get a feeling across, trying to get an idea across, just using every fiber of their being to do this. If you hear people who aren’t trying – and by the way, I have nothing against machine music at all. I think that it’s there, it’s valid. There’s got to be space for it.
CHRISTIAN: And there are some guys doing some brilliant stuff, I think.
MICHAEL: Brilliant, yeah. It’s just it doesn’t have to be everything. It’s easy to make records like that. There’s no overhead involved; the record companies don’t spend money on making records anymore anyway. They’re just great big clearing houses to broker deals between their catalog (which they’ve rendered completely worthless) and Toyota or someone like this now, or the NBA for their halftime shows.
But there’s a point where people – it’s really interesting, because in the middle is artists. We suffer from like 20/20 myopia. [chuckles] It’s really tight tunnel vision here. Then there are the businesspeople. They exist in their own illusory tunnel vision world too – which by the way is completely asynchronous.
MICHAEL: Totally asynchronous with ours. Then you have the audience, who are basically – at this point, I guess they’re the ones who are making out the best, certainly, because they don’t have to pay for what they don’t want to pay for. And to a certain extent – this doesn’t sound good, but why the hell should they?
At the same time, I meet so many people who are not involved in music or recording in any way, shape, or form who ask me “What the hell is going on? Why is music so shit now?” These are people who are actually concerned about this.
I did this thing last week – do you know what the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards are?
CHRISTIAN: No, I don’t. It sounds cool. I’m going to google it.
MICHAEL: It’s connected to the Tribeca Film Festival. They have an awards ceremony every year for people who are leaders in disruptive innovations.
CHRISTIAN: Sounds right up my alley, man. Punk rock innovation.
MICHAEL: It’s interesting, because the guy who coined the term – I wish it was punk rock. This guy, Professor Clayton Christensen, he’s a brilliant man. He’s head of business or law at Harvard. He came up with the concept of disruptive innovation, and he was trying to study the causality of changes that take place in systems, generally pertaining to business, that are slowing down or performing under par, and then they get hit with an innovation or something like that.
He was finding that these innovations would seldom come from inside, but they would always be from the exterior of that structure, and they would come from the bottom up. They would come from out of nowhere, and they would essentially completely destroy the fabric of whatever industry or whatever it was and completely change it. Obviously not to the benefit of the people in the industry, but to the benefit of people who needed to use or gain access to the particular service or good.
Airbnb is a good example of this. They actually got an award at this thing on Friday.
One thing that was interesting is that this guy is also saying that these principles need to be employed ethically. They need to be used with care, because there’s a lot of throwing the baby out with the bathwater going on. Progress is cool, moving forward is cool, and “hey, I made a million bucks doing this” is cool too, but it’s like, all right, what’s the cost at the other end though? What are you doing that’s also potentially going to damage other people and their businesses and their lives? How do you replenish the balance, maintain this?
CHRISTIAN: An equilibrium.
MICHAEL: At least be conscientious of it. One thing that I noticed was that when they gave out the awards, it was basically a lot of guys getting up like this, like “I’m a badass, I’m doing this for the good of the people, and I’m a billionaire too.”
CHRISTIAN: “Oh, P.S. I’m a billionaire too. I’m doing this for the people – P.S. I’m making a shitload of money as well.”
MICHAEL: That’s right, and “I’m going to be hanging out with three escorts this evening, all weekend long.”
CHRISTIAN: For the people.
MICHAEL: Yeah, for the people. The people paid for them too. [laughter] But when he came out to speak, Christensen, he comes out to speak, he’s the only guy who makes sense. He really addresses the ethics and talks about where all this came from and stuff. Everyone’s leaving the place talking about “who was that old fart up there?”
CHRISTIAN: Not giving him the respect maybe he deserves.
MICHAEL: But what was really interesting is in the midst of all this I had to do a panel on music with a couple of other people, and at the end of it, so many of the people who came up to me – some of them had nothing to do with music at all, and they were all like – I’m not saying this because I’m so wonderful or something, but they said that something that I had said had really jogged something in their minds. They were like “I recognize that the music is so bad, and I’ve been wondering if it’s just me or why this is happening.” They were very grateful that someone would actually take the time to make points, to try and explain to them what exactly is going on.
I think that the complaint about this has gone far from “oh, you’re just an old fart, you don’t know anything about new music.” Because I’ve gotten that a lot too, but a lot less recently. Do you find that you have to deal with that too?
DAN: I’m 33, so I don’t feel…
MICHAEL: You come from a youthful place of having to buy records.
DAN: Yeah, I was the first generation to ever record on tape, to buy a CD the day it came out. I’m right at that edge. If you’re much younger than me, you probably haven’t done that because you had Napster and you had whatever.
It seems like the democratic nature of the way you can make music now is both good in that some people that maybe wouldn’t have had a shot otherwise get a chance, but also bad that now the good things that are happening are in this sea of mediocrity. Getting seen, it’s like, do you make a YouTube video?
CHRISTIAN: How do you elevate yourself above?
DAN: How do you recognize actual transcendent talent now, if it’s covered in a sea of boredom?
CHRISTIAN: Fuzz. Noise.
DAN: Yeah, regurgitation. [laughs]
MICHAEL: If you can make something that stands out, though, that really stands out – to me, there was a certain point where I would tell people, there’s a space for people to come along, to make a truly transcendent record that will be an emotional statement that you could drive a car through. Now, to me that space is the size of several interstate freeways lying side by side that you could drive a bunch of jet planes through. It’s that crazy, because no one has come along to make that statement.
I am always using this as a reference, especially to people who say “the album is dead, no one needs to make records anymore because the public doesn’t give a shit”: all right, four years ago there was an artist named Adele who sold 22 million records because people resonated with that record. And you know what? It wasn’t even that great. But it doesn’t matter, because what she did as an artist is what an artist is supposed to do. You know what I’m saying.
DAN: It’s not so much the songs. It’s her talent.
MICHAEL: She’s a communicator. She spoke to people in a language they understood. She was on a wavelength that anyone could tap into and go “I get this.” It’s visceral, it’s immediate, it hits you hard. It doesn’t matter if the record is bad or if it’s good; it says something specific. She’s the last person to do it, and I would say at this point she’s probably going to be the last person at least in the next span of time that’s going to be able to sell double –
CHRISTIAN: Quadruple platinum.
MICHAEL: Yeah, exactly.
CHRISTIAN: Do you think the biz has kind of bottomed out?
CHRISTIAN: It’s still got a little ways to go before it gets to the bottom?
MICHAEL: A little? At a consistent rate of 20% a year, I don’t think we’ve seen the end by a long shot. The thing is that they’re trying to play both sides of the field, and the more data that comes out, the more obvious it is what’s going on. They talk about streaming and they talk about companies like Spotify like they’re the devil, but at the same time they each own 3-5% of those companies.
If you want to go to war with someone, then go to war with them. If you want to just engage in a bunch of useless posturing that you know is just that – that it is meaningless, you’re just talking out your ass – then you’re going to lose credibility. And people are starting to see this.
CHRISTIAN: Do you feel that Spotify is the devil?
CHRISTIAN: Do you think what they’re doing is fair? Ethical?
MICHAEL: Well, I think that that’s a very subjective question. From my own perspective, I think that Spotify is basically a bunch of businesspeople who saw an opportunity.
CHRISTIAN: There’s not necessarily, at the root of that, anything wrong with that, right?
MICHAEL: When it pertains to corporate logic and corporations in general, I think that they function by an entirely different sets of rules than people do. So to apply ethics or morality –
CHRISTIAN: Isn’t that relevant.
MICHAEL: Exactly. I don’t think there’s any relevance to it at all. I feel like a corporation is sort of like a city-state or like a kingdom that’s got a moat around it, and they all function – they’ve got their own culture, their own individual corporate speak, their own mission statements. I think that they’re all smart enough to be able to incorporate terms and language that resonate with people like us, or people in the public.
They’ve learned the lessons of history as well. They’ve learned how to navigate around appearing to be monopolistic. It’s harder for the public to look at a company like Google and say “oh shit, that’s a monopoly” as opposed to the muckraking journalists in the late part of the 19th century who pointed at Standard Oil like, “That’s a fucking monopoly!” [laughter] “You guys are killing people with your monopoly!” and got it broken apart.
But Google are performing a service for the people. No different than Standard Oil, but they framed it in something else, and they’re using their media to their best advantage. I feel that they have no ethics. They have no morals to speak of.
CHRISTIAN: It’s just amoral.
MICHAEL: I think that they’re completely amoral.
CHRISTIAN: It’s not that they lack morals or have morals; they are amoral. It’s irrelevant.
DAN: Just non-moral. [laughs]
CHRISTIAN: Yeah, non-moral.
MICHAEL: To me, from what I’ve gathered, in a lot of cases it’s the equivalent of having sociopaths running things. I think a lot of these guys actually are kind of like that. They simply don’t care, and if you happen to get in their way it’s just like “psh, I have to get there; you’re in my way.”
CHRISTIAN: “Sorry.” [laughs]
MICHAEL: Spotify is very interesting because it is a business that’s not built on selling a commodity. It’s built on using someone else’s commodity through their delivery device. It’s also interesting because it’s a big corporation that has not yet proved how it monetizes, which is really, really interesting.
CHRISTIAN: How can you grow and grow and grow and become such a behemoth? Well, it happens actually quite a bit right now.
MICHAEL: So much of that is perception. In fact, it’s all perception. It’s what we convince you we are instead of what we really are. Spotify just went for 400 million dollars’ worth of new funding. This is to inflate their value. People are getting all upset, “Spotify is worth $8 billion now. That’s worth more than the whole recording industry. How dare they!” It’s like, what are you getting so upset for? A) It means nothing, B) it seems that they’re angling to do an IPO, that they’re trying to inflate for that. It doesn’t matter how much they’re worth. What difference does it make? But again, perception.
CHRISTIAN: At the end of this discussion that we’re having right now, it all boils down to – I’m looking at you, Dan, and people you’re playing with, and you as a producer, and maybe myself – all being able to sustain ourselves to exist in the capacity of making art for other people. And at the end of this conversation, the bad news is that it’s exponentially more difficult right now to do what you love to do and to deliver art to people in the form of music than it was maybe even as recent as 10 years ago.
I think that’s the problem with the situation. Obviously I’m simplifying it right now, but I will go forward saying that it is a bummer, and it is sad. [laughter]
I just recently last week had an experience with a kid who’s 26 and I think he’s really brilliant, and he was like “Yeah, I’m not going to do this anymore because I don’t see any future in being able to sustain myself. I have other goals and other things that I’d like to achieve in my life, and this is not compatible with them,” whereas maybe a few years ago it would’ve been. It’s a bummer. [laughs]
DAN: I come at it from a selfish place of being a sideman. That means artists have to tour constantly to make money, and that means I get to pay my bills with my week rate when I’m out on tour. Granted, no one’s making double scale anymore playing on the record, but the fact is if you’re playing with an artist that likes to be on the road and that’s how he’s going to promote, like I am, then it’s not the worst thing in the world.
So for venues, for booking agencies, for artists, for monitor engineers and front house engineers, that world will be there. Actually, tickets are selling, at least in the world I’m in, really well. Because if you play for an artist that you have to go see – there are still a handful – like we were talking about St. Vincent. Just saw her at Coachella. Un-fucking-believable. Seeing her in person is like, I’d pay $45 to see that every year. Easily. Because she has songs, she has performance, and she’s doing something with the whole package that needs to be seen.
So in the touring world, it just means you have to bring something that’s worth seeing. You have to have the songs, you have to have the production. From being a touring musician, the studio musician part of me is bummed out; the touring musician part of me who likes to travel, it’s not the worst thing in the world. Especially when you get to work with artists you really like and enjoy being around. You get to see songs – if you’re doing 60 dates, you get to see them grow over the 60 dates and stuff like that.
CHRISTIAN: As a footnote to that, you were playing with someone who’s very artistic.
DAN: I’m playing with someone you have to go see. Josh Tillman is a force of nature that you have to see in person. I’m very happy to be supportive of that.
CHRISTIAN: Yeah, you’re in an awesome situation right now. [laughs]
DAN: I cannot complain. He’s a great boss.
MICHAEL: Excellent. That’s fantastic.
CHRISTIAN: He’s a good boss. Very talented guy. Well, we’re getting towards the end of things here, but is there anything you would like to talk about on the podcast before we finish?
MICHAEL: I wanted to answer and perhaps rebut a little bit of what you said about it being a bummer.
CHRISTIAN: Obviously I’m oversimplifying. I’m doing it on purpose.
MICHAEL: And I’m not disagreeing with that either. These are egregiously bad times as far as being creative and doing music and recording go. I do feel very strongly, though, that if the greater community of artists is able to organize, to join together and to not be divisive or feel divided by the forces that be – because so much of us feel that we’re at the effect of record companies and this one and that one, and we can’t get past these barriers.
Really look at what is there. There is still raw talent that needs to be harnessed. The only thing that’s missing from that equation, really, is how the harnessing goes on. To me, one of the most important things, one of the most valuable things that’s missing from the equation right now is artist development.
It’s crucial, and it’s something that no record company has worked or applied to their artists, I would say probably within the past 20, maybe even 30 years. They simply don’t do it anymore. It’s something that they eliminated. A lot of these companies fired their most important employees who were actually staff A&R, who were very, very talented, some of them, at what they did and actually had good ears. Could hear an artist and know what the capability was and knew how to talk to them, even if they were the slimy record company guy.
There needs to be a resurgence in development. It’s going to be an independent module. It’s not going to be something that you can find in a record company, and there are going to be people – myself included, by the way, because that’s really where a lot of my focus is going right now – who are going to treat development as something in and of itself.
But the thing is that it’s not just a business undertaking. It’s something to help build a stronger artist community so that we have artists – because again, there are so many talented people out there. So many. Even people who are signed to big deals, who deserve to have the opportunity not to develop in a way where I tell you what to do or having the time and the pressure variants applied to them, so that they can grow organically.
If I push you a little bit and show you something that you’re doing or that someone else has done from a perspective you’ve never taken before, what’s that going to do to your perspective on what you do? How is that going to change you? What if that sends you home and makes you write a song that you never even imagined you could write before?
These are things that matter, and stuff like that is going to help jumpstart the artist community again. I feel very strongly about that. A lot of what I’ve written about in my book pertains to artist development as well. I really, really want to try and put as much focus out there on this as being a crucial part of a recording project and a crucial phase in an artist’s growth.
CHRISTIAN: Right. Makes perfect sense. So your book’s coming out when, again?
MICHAEL: June 23rd.
CHRISTIAN: Hal Leonard.
CHRISTIAN: Where is Hal Leonard stuff available? Everywhere, right? Amazon, bookstores, wherever?
CHRISTIAN: Their website, I’m sure.
MICHAEL: Their website, yeah.
CHRISTIAN: Anywhere books are sold. I get them all on Amazon, personally.
MICHAEL: Yes. Eventually when my website is all fixed up, it’ll be available through mine as well.
CHRISTIAN: Cool. What’s your website?
MICHAEL: Just michaelbeinhorn.com.
CHRISTIAN: And people can learn about you via the Google.
MICHAEL: Yes. “The Google.” [laughter]
DAN: The evil Google.
MICHAEL: The Goog. Exactly.
CHRISTIAN: Google’s a verb now. It’s pretty cool. [laughter] Thanks so much for lending us some of your time. I know you’re a busy guy.
MICHAEL: My pleasure.
CHRISTIAN: We really appreciate you coming on and talking with us.
MICHAEL: Pleasure. Thank you.
CHRISTIAN: Thanks a lot.