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 Princess Stomper

Producers that make (or break) the band

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Of course, tastes vary. I always regarded Mötley Crüe as bland and overproduced, and Def Leppard’s Hysteria as unlistenable. There was very much a fashion in the 1980s for music to be so polished that every shred of roughness was eliminated, including any “personality”, spontaneity or energy. For me, that kind of suffocated excess is typified by the records of Jim Steinman. What’s fascinating to me is how there’s so much bluster and emotion and so little impact and power. Underneath the overwrought veneer, the music is desperately flaccid and weak.

Just as punk in the 70s was a reaction against the overbearing chart music of the age, grunge developed as a rebellion against the likes of Meat Loaf. Jack Endino’s discography is characterised by stripped-down, bare bones recordings in total contrast to the glam rock that was popular at the time.

Endino’s work doesn’t sound sloppy – it’s more like radio “session” recordings in terms of clarity – but it’s not full of double-tracked vocals and multitudes of effects. It gives an impression of what the band would sound like playing live on a good day.

I found it ironic how (comparatively) overproduced Butch Vig’s Nevermind was, given its grunge ethic. Like everyone else, though, I didn’t really care.

(continues overleaf)

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13 Responses to Producers that make (or break) the band

  1. Darragh June 22, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    No space for Steve Albini or even Rick Rubin?

    Bob Rock is the the devil as far as I’m concerned. He’s like McDonalds – food easy to get and consume but it’s unhealthy to eat in large doses.

  2. Nate M June 22, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Hahaha, Bob Ezrin! I would love to see a “Some Kind of Monster” style documentary about KISS recording “The Elder”

  3. nomadiqueMC June 22, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    yeah i was hoping for a bit of a look at rick rubin too. such an aloof, hands-off guy who’s talent seems to be (if i can delve into the wank for a moment) helping flailing artists to ‘find themselves’ and make career-saving albums. with artists as diverse as Metallica, Johnny Cash, and the Dixie Chicks, certainly the sound isn’t the same, but the rubin effect is obvious. but it doesn’t work for everybody of course – Slayer were notably disappointed to never see rubin until the mixdown, only to have him make comments about photos and album sleeves, not the tunes.

  4. Princess Stomper June 22, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    I did consider Steve Albini and Rick Rubin, but they didn’t really fit into the context of the article, i.e. I thought there were better examples in the ones I picked. Perhaps another article. 🙂

    I’d say Bob Rock is more like Burger King – I’d never eat at McDonalds!

  5. Joseph Kyle June 22, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Great article! I too was expecting to see Albini and Rubin, but it’s no big loss, either. Another good example is Todd Rundgren. Notoriously difficult in the studio, but produces excellent work, and even those who hate him at the time oft don’t argue with the finished results.

    Also interesting is the choice of “River Deep, Mountain High” for Spector’s work, as it was a puzzling failure for Spector, and he quit producing for a few years after it bombed…

  6. Roger Nelson. June 22, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    I was going to mention Todd, he made one of the worst sounding records ever in Patti Smiths Wave. Overproduced and flat. My two idols coming together seemed like a masterstroke but wound up a damp squib. Whoever produced Saxons debut seemed to insist that the drums sounded like wet cardboard being hit by knittting needles. And what of Eno? Managed to make U2 sound half decent (not Lanois, he likes adding layers of syrup).

  7. Matt June 22, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Rubin should be a therapist – not a producer. Yes, he helps bands re-invigorate themselves but the guy knows next to nothing about sound design and, as a result, ninety per cent of his output is equipped with horrendously bland (Red Hot Chili Peppers Californication) or just outright incompetent (Metallica) production.

  8. Matt June 22, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Martin Hannett?

  9. Darragh June 23, 2011 at 8:06 am

    Matt – Death Magnetic was actually quite good in Metallica terms. I thought Rubin did a good job here.

  10. hannah golightly June 23, 2011 at 9:05 am

    “Darragh says:
    June 22, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    No space for Steve Albini or even Rick Rubin?”

    Also, I don’t think Linda Perry did Hole or Courtney Love’s solo stuff any favours whatsoever… but 4non blondes was great and what she does for Pink and those pop stars with rock poses works, though I dislike it immensely. I don’t like what Phill Spector does all that much. I also dislike what producers in general have done to metal (emo etc)- it’s so clean and glossy it’s suitable to bring home to meet your parents. There’s more edge on a Timbaland record than in most of it. Makes me sick… it’s like it’s had it’s balls neutered and that does. not. rock.

    Anyone know any good alternative lo-fi producers working in the UK right now that I should be aware of?

  11. Everett True June 23, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    …what really struck me was how vital and exciting the Endino-produced stuff still sounds compared to most of those bands/albums who went straight for the contemporary radio-friendly studio sound.

    He’s also one of the nicest and most interesting fellows around. Weirdly enough, I never really knew him at the time. We only got to hang out from ’98 onwards.

  12. hannah golightly June 23, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    where does he live Everett?

  13. Scott Creney June 23, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    Always thought it was interesting that John Cale produced the first albums by the Stooges, Patti Smith, Jonathan Richman, Squeeze, and Happy Mondays.

    As far as I know, he never produced anyone’s second album.

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