Producer Michael Beinhorn the art of production
by Jeremy Glazier
Acclaimed producer Michael Beinhorn, has a ever-growing resume as a music producer and is exactly the guy that you would want to work with if you were putting an album together. His personal resume includes not only that of musician and recording artist, but also as a producer on albums ranging from Herbie Hancock’s amazing album Future Shock to Marilyn Manson’s Mechanical Animals, to one of my personal favorite, Soundgarden’s Superunknown . He’s recognized a sorely under utilized area of creating an album and is now offering pre-production services to all levels of artist preparing to record an album.
My 35 minute phone call to Mr. Beinhorn was an incredible learning experience about the necessary development that is required while planning an album. He illuminated a number of aspects of the producer-artist relationship that need to be better nurtured and how his pre-production services are tackling those issues. He’s as giving with his knowledge as he is with his time and what follows will hopefully help future recording artists put out the kind of album they always dreamed of recording.
Q: What are you seeing in the recording process that prompted you to begin offering this service to artists and why is it needed?
A: One thing I started encountering was artists who, essentially, wrote their record, went into a studio, had a producer there, didn’t understand what the function of the producer was and just figured it was just gonna go a little something like this. Set up mic’s, record, edit everything, get done, mix, records out, and then tour. I was kind of stupefied the first time I started to experience this and I thought it must be some kind of crazy anomaly. Over time I began to encounter more and more artists who had no understanding of what an artist and a producer, not should be, but could be.
That there could be more to it than the producer, in the modern conception of the producer, as he’s the guy who essentially gets you sound. That’s not really a producer, that an engineer. A producer can have those skills you know… but what they offer is a discerning sense, an over riding kind of taste, and an ear for what works and what doesn’t work and also like a horse sense about it too that they can bring to the overall mix of the recording project.
And seeing that that kind of contribution has fallen by the way side, severely, and the modern conception of how a record is made is purely utility. That there is a sense of functionality about it and there’s nothing about, umm this doesn’t feel right. You get very little of that now.
Q: What is the best way for someone to get their music to you to get started?
A: Since I’m working remotely the best and only way to do it is through demo, and the good news is that most artists have their own recording set up. It seems to kind of be the spirit of the age. So they’ll generally have demos prepared and once you’ve agreed to work together, they can send them off to me and I can review everything from there.
Q: How does the song evaluation go on your end and what happens after you’ve heard the demos?
A: If you listen to a piece of music and you’re distracted, like you’re not able to pay attention, that’s usually because there’s an issue in a song that’s causing there to be that distraction. Something that I’ve noticed over time that I can, when I’m paying attention to a song, there’s gonna be a point where I’m no longer paying attention to it and I know it’s not because the song sucks, and I know it’s not because my attention span is going to wander, it’s because something about the song made me get distracted. There is something that is clashing with where the focal point of the song happens to be at that point. So my job is to go in and determine what that is and to fix it.
From that point on there’s definitely going to be a back and forth, which is gonna involve email or some kind of video conferencing. If I send ideas out via email, sometimes a little bit can be lost in translation. The whole process ends when everyone decides that the music that we’ve been working on has reached a point where everyone is completely satisfied. Unless a prior arrangement has been made my work on the project has come to an end, but if there is anything further that is requested of me, I’ll do my best to accomplish it.
Q: One thing I’m curious about is how you relate to the artists if potential disagreements arise about the musical direction during the development process. How do you handle either letting the artists idea stand, or, guiding it in a different direction.
A: It depends on the gravity of the situation. There have been recordings that I worked on where I was very well aware that I was facing, I guess you could refer to it as a crisis situation, and I really had to consider what my next move was going to be. How I was going to present to the artist, you know, how they might potentially take it and how at what point I would be willing to back off. Or, how far I would be willing to go to push the point and insist if I absolutely felt that what was happening was a detrimental nature to them.
In the case of something like what I’m doing right now it’s different because my involvement is essentially at a foundational level. What they’re doing, how they’re recording, who they are using to play their parts, that stuff is none of my concern. If I feel that an artist is doing something, or preparing to do something that I fell is going to be detrimental to them in some way, I’ll merely point it out to them and let them know that I’m there to help and here’s my suggestions but after all, it is their project. That’s their jurisdiction and their decision has to be final.
Q: As I’m sure you have many irons in the fire, what kind of turnaround do you have?
A: The schedule is heavy but, this work is really intense brain work because you have to sit down and listen to a piece of music a whole bunch of times, so obviously your going to get a vibe off a piece of music when you first hear it so, you’re going to be listening to the subtleties in all the successive listens. But the turn around is not bad. I can listen to peoples work and turn it around with a reasonable amount of speed and efficacy so it’s not like there is a massive wait list. I think I would rather tell people I can’t help them unless their time line allows for that sort of thing. I wouldn’t want to be holding people up because I’m backed up.
Q: Are there any final thoughts about what you hope to bring to the artists that may be coming to you for help?
A: I feel like there are a lot of talented people out there and they deserve the opportunity to at least see what their music and their ideas would sound like if they are able to organically grow them instead of being dragged into a system where their being told to conform to a specified genre based norm that may not have anything to do with them artistically. I see that happen to a lot of people where they start out one way and they wind up being involved with a label in some way, or a management company that wants to promote them commercially, and they slowly get transformed into something that at the end there is no appearance to what they originally were, and that’s kind of rough. That’s the polar opposite to organic artist development and organic creative growth, which is something that I promote very much.
The fact that you can contact Mr. Beinhorn via his website and have the same guy that worked with Soul Asylum, Hole, Korn, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Black Label Society, consult on your next recording project, is a game changer. His affordable, and possibly career altering advice, could very well be the step that takes you to the next level. Take advantage of this opportunity while you can and be sure to throw a little nod this way when that album hits platinum.