Bruce Swedien Interview

Thursday 1 April 2010
by  James B. Cote, Marc Salama, Pier Alessandri
popularity : 72%

Los Angeles, Sept 25, 1990, interviewed by Marc Salama, James Cote.


- Q1 : Please, tell us a little about your beginnings ?
- Q2 : And how was recording at that time ?
- Q3 : What kind of music would you record at that time ?
- Q4 : Were they going wild ?
- Q5 : What was your relationship with these moguls, I mean how was it in the music business ?
- Q6 : And when did you use your first multi-track ?
- Q7 : And now how many tracks are you using ?
- Q8 : Which means every time you record a voice or an instrument you lay it on two tracks ?
- Q9 : But getting back to microphone technique ?
- Q10 : Let’s go back to your relationship with Quincy Jones and what happens in the studio? How do you work together ?
- Q11 : What does it mean like make it a little spicy ?
- Q12 : Where is an incredible cast of characters on "back on the block". how long did it take you to record that ? How did you manage to get all those people to work in the same direction ?
- Q13 : And so tell us some stories about you and Quincy in the studio ?
- Q14 : What happens at the end of the session ?
- Q15 : What about your drum sounds ?
- Q16 : Do you use a click track when you work ?
- Q17 : And you remove the drum machine and put the drummer on it ?
- Q18 : Could you describe a typical session with Michael Jackson ?
- Q19 : Can you tell us more about how Michael works and how he relates to the people working with him ?


Q1 : Please, tell us a little about your beginnings ?

I was born and raised in minneapolis and...in minnesota...and been associated with music all my life. My mother and dad were both professional musicians and ...so i’ve had that input all my life. my mother sang with the minneapolis symphony women’s chorus and the minneapolis symphony at that time was under the direction of anatole doraty and as a 10 or 11 year old I used to go with my mother to rehearsal and to this day I can never forget that sound. it gives me goose pimples thinking of it. Hearing the women’s chorus singing Mahler with the Minneapolis symphony is an...it’s just incredible and I think that made a big impact on my sonic mental bench mark. It’s certainly impacted on my work. Also my mother and dad were...I was really lucky. They were totally supportive of my efforts as a kid with recording and equipment cause I damned near burned down the house about five times and had to drill holes through the wall for speakers from the ceiling and inviting all sorts of musicians to the house at odd hours to record them. never a word, never a question or anything. It was absolutely incredible and to carry that a step further. One of my real idols early in this industry was bill putnam and he founded a university recording in chicago and then later came out here in california and founded. U.R.E.I. united recording electronics industry manufacture. Some of the greatest innovative equipment that we had at the time. But bill was a marvellous recording engineer. He was a pioneer, many of the early techniques we use to this day. For instance, Bill Putnam literally invented echo or reverb. Artificial reverb, the way we use reverb in the studio to this day, in his invention and...so I was ...all I talked about as a kid was Bill Putnam this and Bill Putnam that. And so my folks were, my mom and dad were in Chicago- Bill was based in Chicago and universal recordings studios was at that time on Ontario street, 111 East Ontario. So my mom and dad were in Chicago on business and they stopped to meet this guy I kept on talking about. Bill was a warm wonderful guy. He took them in the studio and they sat in the session with the Harmonicats and...there’s a name from the past well "Peg O’ My Heart" by the Harmonicats. Bill Putnam used reverb for the first time, he had a speaker in the stairwell and a microphone and...That was a big deal. It sounded so different and made such an impact on me as a kid. He became one of my real idols and later a mentor. Well anyway, my mom and dad went to the studio and met bill and he took them in and sat with the section and told him and my mom and dad told them there was a kid that was dying to start recording and everything. So a few years later I called bill and bill said come on, we’ll get you a job. In the meantime I had done a lot of recording in minneapolis, classical recording, a lot of choir recordings and some r&b and even recorded Tommy Dorsey band- the year? Oh boy...I think it was probably some of the last recording he did. It probably had to be 1954-55 something like that...now maybe earlier. I was just out of high school...I was going to the university of Minnesota. Just gotten married and I was running the recording department for schmidt music company in minneapolis. They had a wonderful studio and er...later about 1954-55 I bought that studio and the business from schmidt music and built my own studio. I bought an old theatre in minneapolis on the south side and converted it into a recording studio. Incidently it is still a world class studio, still a recording studio. We were so poor that for acoustical treatment we couldn’t afford acoustical treatment. We couldn’t afford acoustical tire. We used egg cartons and glued them in the ceiling. Bea & I, my wife, for weeks would sit and stick glue on these things. We posted them everywhere and the studio sounded wonderful.

Q2 : And how was recording at that time?


It was wonderful...one track it was mono and...as a matter of fact when I started at schmidt music company we didn’t have a tape machine. What we had was a control room...traditional control room with a console. Here in the glass studio, but behind the console were two disc cutting lathes and the sound went from the studio through the console onto the disc cutting lathes and this was a very big western electric recording console at the time which at the time had seven mic inputs. And if I remember I think it only had four microphone inputs but...anyway what happened later was Bill Putnam and I talked and he had built the studio universal at 36 East Walton in chicago. Studio a was completed. He was using it and recording marvellous thing and he told me studio b is going to be ready in a few months and why don’t you come here and work here and he said we’ll get you a job at RCA for a year waiting for studio b to be finished so that I could work in it at universal. Anyway, while I was at universal I got to record the Chicago symphony and many wonderful projects that were great. But so then about 1957 I started working at universal and kind of under the wing of Bill Putnam. He had incredible sense about what I need to know. So i’d be working in studio b doing commercials or records or whatever, and in the evening i’d spend my time hanging out with bill in the big studio while he was recording big band dates or whatever he was doing and finally we’re doing, - I remember like it was yesterday- Bill was doing Stan Kenton. had the band set up. It was smoking. It was sounding ridiculous and I had set the mikes up for him and I was er...you know, testing everything. He made a couple takes of everything and he left. I guess he had already told stan what he was going to do and everything. He just left and I guess that was my baptism of fire and I was absolutely terrified. I don’t think i’ll never forget that day. But it worked out great, sound good and that was the beginning. That was about 1957. Then still at the universal this incredible studio in chicago in 1958, Quincy shows up. We’re doing for mercury records, we’re doing dinah washington. We did an album and Quincy wrote the arrangments and a guy by the name of Jack Tracy produced this project but Quincy wrote these incredible charts and I think it was evident at that time that Quincy and I could make beautiful music together because we liked each other a lot. We think alike and our tastes are alike in a lot of things and...So we did Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughn and everything about that time, about august 1958. I was about 22 and Quincy was about 23. Quincy was vice-president of Mercury records at that time and probably the youngest if not one of the youngest executives with a major label. He was probably the youngest executive with a major label in the industry. So we spent a lot of time together. probably for the next 2-3 years doing mercury projects. We did something for norman grands and...can’t think, a bunch of different labels.

Q3 : What kind of music would you record at that time?


Well it was kind of be-bop oriented but we did "what a difference a day makes" dinah washington. That I never forget. Dinah coming in with her fur coat and her entourage and everything, it was just a wonderful experience. It was very exciting. It was part of the entertainment industry and music and... I’ll never forget some of the albums I did was not with quincy but count basie band for roulette records...I did a lot of work with Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Jack Teagarden...recorded all these bands. The wonderful thing that was impact with my sound shaped, my sonic personality more than anything was the fact that these guys at that time they loved the recording process and Quincy was probably the most into the actual recording process. He loved it and wanted to know all about it - wanted to take this new thing and wanted it as far as we could. 
But Count Basie for instance, I did an album with Count Basie and Joe Williams. It’s called "nothing but the blues" it was on roulette records and I don’t know if it’s been re-released on CD but it’s an incredible album. and i’ll never forget those days. It was august. Hot in Chicago, hot, humid, bugs er..you name it! But what we started to do was to get the band warmed up and ready to go. We were going to record the band after they played the gig. So they were playing at a club locally in Chicago and they’d play...I guess they would finish at one in the morning or something like that. They would leave the club and come to the studio and we’d start the sessions at two in the morning and work till six in the morning and that was...well...but here’s the thing that makes those sessions really stand out in my memory. Not only were they wonderful musicians but about half of the people from the club followed the band into the studio and you can just picture this...this was universal studio in chicago, studio a large, beautiful sounding room. I bet the room was oh, it had to be about 80 feet long, about 50 feet wide with a 30 feet ceiling. Just incredible sounding. bill putnam designed wonderful mikes. Anyway, I had the band set up as I usually did and all these people start showing up. Well, we set chairs on the outside of the studio ground, the perimeter of the studio and everyone is talking and i’ve asked that the saxophone section play a little bit so I can get a level and everything and they’re carrying on. What were we drinking? a cold duck! was some kind of champagne or wine or something or cases of that and...

Q4 : Were they going wild?

No, no, that’s the differences. We’re having a great time and the band is playing a little lick, rehearsing a little bit and everything. I never had a real chance in those days to have a good level or anything. Count Basie would stand up to give the down beat and boy that tape would better be rolling because the performances are incredible and there is not one sound from any of those people on those tapes the minute the band was playing and the tape was rolling. They all sat down and not make a sound. It was magic. But yet, you can feel the electricity in the room. and it was before the days there was no vocal booth or anything. The band is set up in the middle of this huge, Gorgeous studio and a globo or an isolation flat and Joe was there singing on my u47 that I still have and use on michael jackson to this day and this incredible sound. And I used the tapes that I made during these. I ran a seperate tape machine of stereo mix from those dates in another control room so that I would have a tape, I used those tapes in my master classes and lectures and...they sound just incredible and it was such fun but that was a wonderful time for me to experience that - kind of interesting, others thought these bands, Kenton bands for instance or woody herman or whoever I literally learnt microphone technique by experimenting with these fantastic bands and musicians. And they were into it, they were up for it. If I wanted to - to try another mike or if I wanted to put a mike in the kick drum or in the high hat or something...) so I learned microphone technique by er..by experimenting with count basie, with Woody Herman, Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton, Putnam. Yeah so what was incredible I think to me at that time was how a lot of the musicians in the bands that I worked with were so fascinated by the recording technique and would put up with me trying to experiment with different sounds and different er...microphones, trying different things. What a wonderful thing for me to literally grow up in the studios with basie, Ellington and Jack Teagarden and Woody Herman and Stan Kenton, learning microphone technique with these guys. It is fantastic and I....another kind of interesting little thing was record moguls in other words, The people that ran record companies at that time didn’t think there was much of a future in stereo and I remember one guy, I won’t name him but he was a big executive with a major label, said that stereo was to him like taking a shower with two shower heads and er...ha! ha! ha!. Shows you how silly they were thinking. But they had no trust in the future of stereo, and they wouldn’t pay for a tape. they wouldn’t pay for extra machines or whatever. So I did it on my own. anyway we had a seperate control room. we had to disguise it. We had to have a seperate control room for stereo in the back part of the studio so that the record moguls wouldn’t think they were paying extra tape or something like that.
So anyway, I made those tapes and I kept them all in that room and there’s some wonderful moments there.

Q5 : What was your relationship with these moguls, I mean how was it at that time as far as the music business?


Well..it was kind of funny. engineers didn’t get credit on record labels and we were kind of looked on more as mecanics and...so on..Which was the furthest thing from the truth. And of course it bugged the day lights out of me because I was kind of a rebel. I was very young at that moment in the industry and I wanted to experiment with stereo because I knew there was something new and...I knew that stereo wasn’t merely coming out of one speaker and something different coming out of another speaker. I knew that we could reproduce the sound of music and the feel of music more emotionally by stereo. But the people...the recording industry executives didn’t want to hear about it. 
So I went on and experimented with it without them knowing about it. I had ambience mikes set up in the studio and I was learning and to this day i’m so thankful that I went ahead and did that, and you know that kind of took us forwards abit and...a few years later, stereo began to be important. In the mid-60s we started messing around with a thing called stereo record which was a big breakthrough.

Q6 : And when did you use your first multi-track?


Well, very early, probably in the late 50s. I guess: I used my first multi-track or what you would call a multi-track, a machine in the late 50s recording ellington’s band and basie’s band and it was a 3 track. It was a 3 track on half inch tape and it was used for as a tool to rebalance the relationship between the lead vocal or the solo instrument and the band. so the track one and three were the stereo mix of the band and was balanced and the centre track or track 2 would be the vocal by itself so we could change that relationship, that value between the vocal, the lead vocal and the solo of the band and it just worked out great. Then we - i’ll never forget it - somebody asked me about that yesterday. So the next step was 4 track.
So we...i’ll never forget at universal we got our first 4 track tape machine and we sat around for about two days, what year? It must have been 1959 or 60. Anyway, we got this beautiful ampex and instead of 3 tracks it was now 4 tracks and we stood around for two days staring in that machine trying to figure out what we were going to use the extra tracks for. But pretty soon we figured it out. Oh well, we can put precussion on it or we can do something and it went to 8 tracks and then we figured it out, we can do some over-dubbing and these other wonderful things and the 16 track came along and 24 track, 32, 48..and so on.

Q7 : And now how many tracks are you using?


Like "back on the block"? Well, there’s one song on "back on the block" called "places you find love" and and there’s 90 tracks of audio use to produce that piece of music, three 32 track tape machines are rolling and there’s little, tiny little filigree parts in there but it goes to make up for this overall image. Plus one thing in my type of work, I use an awful lot of tracks because I love the sound of real stereo recording. So most of my recording work is...done in stereo pairs as a matter of fact - I’ll tell you a funny little story - we go through 8 track, 16 track the next step was 24 track. I’ll never forget the day. This must have been a sound mark in studios in chicago, never forget the day when I saw my first 24 track and everything. I thought to myself: "my god! a 12 track stereo". That is literally the way it hit me the first day I saw it because the way my mind works is I always think of things in stereo pairs or trying to retain the polar response of the sound source. It’s very important to me because you know I think it’s an important part of the emotional value of the instrument.

Q8 : Which means every time you record a voice or an instrument you lay it on two tracks?

Yes, except - I always tell my students there’s only one rule in music recording: there are no rules! That is the only thing to remember, there are no rules. there’s no wrong way to do anything and as long as it elevates the emotional value of the music and accomplishes drama or theatre or enhances the music, there is no wrong way. I don’t believe in that...you want to know the technical values and so on...so you can make the most of your equipment and take it the furthest. But I don’t believe in any such thing as the wrong way because i’ll push everything to the absolute edge to see what it’ll do. and some people see what I do as certain devices sometime and they’ll just shrink back in horror, especially if they’re technically oriented or something, because i’m a little bit oriented technically. I’m not certainly like my pal george massenburg who...he’s the guy I go to when there’s a question, a technical question that I have something deep, something really deep that I need an answer to, I call george. Now frequently I don’t understand what he tells me but he is the guy that knows. George Massenburg is incredible and he’s made such a contribution to this industry.

Q9 : But getting back to microphone technique and so on...


Stereo pairs is to me very important but I will also record single tracks when I want, what I call a point source image. In other words, if you want to have a sound source come from the sonic field in one specific spot then I will record it monophonically and it will come from a point source so...you know, there is no hard and fast rule to that. What I don’t believe in though is what I call two channelled mono. some people record what they think is stereo and is merely 2 channel mono and there’s a big difference. The first thing you have to remember is to try to preserve the polar response of the sound source is in many cases the upmost by importance and by that you try to mix it in such a way that the informations that come back from the speakers retains as much as that sound field value as you possibly can.

Q10 : Let’s go back to your relationship with quincy jones and what happens in the studio. how do you work together?


Well, Quincy and I work together from 1958 for...a couple, three years. Did a lot of wonderful projects in Chicago: Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughn, several other things too and then Quincy went to europe, he went to France. Then after that he moved to new york so we lost track of each other for quite a few years and then in 1975 we hooked up again - my god, that’s 15 years ago - we hooked up again and we did the brothers johnson for a&m, so we did the brothers Johnson, Lesley Gore and George Benson. You know we did Quincy albums and of course we did Michael Jackson and...i think the way Quincy and I work in the studio - one of the things that’s really important to me is that we have a lot of fun while we’re doing it - and I think it shows in the music and we both love good food. A lot of our conversation, a lot of the way we describe musical values we use culinary terms and so on...and for instance Quincy will say: "ok that sounds great but add a little spice to that sound or add a little garlic salt or something" and instinctively i’ll know what he’s talking about. 
Also a lot of people comment when they see quincy and I working in the studio that we don’t talk much, and we really don’t. Now that you know, when you really think about it and we’ve been together so long that a lot of it is just like a sixth sense and we know how each other’s minds work.

Q11 : What does it mean like make it a little spicy?


Well, it means add a little bit of high end or if it’s spicy you might want to harmonizer in it or add a little special effect to it or something. But the music will tell you what garlic salt means and what it needs. If I learned anything about music or anything and the values and the ethics of music it’s from quincy. Esthetics of musical quality. Because if you think about it - who is there else like quincy? I mean he’s totally one of a kind. There’s no one!

Q12 : There is an incredible cast of characters on "back on the block" how long did it take you to record that? how did you manage to get all those people to work in the same direction?


Oooh boy! Actually it was fun there’s something like a 150 tracks of drums involved in that production of "back on the block", of the title song "back on the block". It’s...there’s an african set of drums, there’s a rap set of drums and there is a 7 or 8 different set of drums and of course I had to sort all that out and do what I call premixing of some of them, and all the different sounds and characters and the treatments. It requires a lot of home work and a lot of soul searching to make it all fit. But I think it works rather well.

Q13 : And so tell us some stories about you and quincy in the studio.


Yeah! well, we have so much fun and every now and then quincy will make lunch, that’s fun! It takes quincy 45 minutes to make a chicken sandwich - he’ll get the chicken have it sent over from greenblats(?) or somewhere and get roast chicken and get the mayo and then he’ll order the bread and the whole thing. He’ll take a little piece of bread and spread the butter and mayo on every little square inch. he goes about that just the way he does with the music. Every square millimeter and then the chicken has to be all torn apart and fitted just right and everything. so it’s great fun and...other..you know the musical integrity is total. it’s just fantastic. Stories, fun stories about quincy are about he’s not knowing how to drive a car. Quincy never learned how to drive a car. I mean literally he cannot drive a car and so when Quincy moved from New York to Los Angeles Quincy said : "Now I have to learn" and he must have been 40 or something." I must have to learn how to drive a car because in New York, it doesn’t really matter. You know you can get around". So he came to california, to Los Angeles and went to a driving school, he signed on for 13, all the students went through the 13 week course and passed and got their driving license except Quincy. And finally at the end of the course (and quincy had tried and tried, he really wanted to get through the course) the man that ran that driving course took him in the back room said "Quincy you can’t drive a car", and gave him his money back. But the up shot of the whole thing, the thing that really makes it cute and Quincy-ish is Quincy said "I can’t get it together because the stop sign don’t fall on the down beats". ha! ha! so that’s that! quincy doesn’t drive so I end up driving him home a lot. Also he got his own car but he has somebody to drive it. So he’s safe!

Q14 : What happens at the end of the session?


Yeah well...he’s got a great...yeah rob temperton, that’s another one that never learned to drive a car so you should see these two guys when we’re done with a session; maybe two or three in the morning and you know they put this sad little face. And you know these guys are masters of this, making you feel sorry for them, so you have to drive them home. but i’m always happy to drive quincy home. 
Oh yes! About Quincy driving a new car? Ok! Another great driving story about quincy that just tickles me and just tells you a little bit about quincy’s wonderful character and this silly personality is: Quincy bought a new car and so we’re at the studio one morning getting ready for the gig, and quincy comes rolling into the control room and says: "come on guys!" I think rod temperton was there and...i can’t remember who else, herbie hancock and says: "come on guys, I got my new car. Let’s all go for a ride!" of course we all knew about quincy’s ability or non-ability so we looked at each other in horror, so we figured we should go along with it anyway. 
So we go out to the parking lot and there’s quincy new beautiful shiny car. So he hops in the driver’s seat, hooks up his seat belt and motions for us to get in the car. of course, the first thing we try to do is fasten the seat belt, we’re worried. So he starts up the car...hum, hum!!! turns up the air conditionning, go it blowing it freezing, cranks up the stereo and everything and we sit there like that for a while, turns off the stereo, turns off the air conditionning, stops the motor, turns around and looks at us and says: "happening, isn’t it?" and we never left the parking place! ha! ha! That is such fun but that shows you...You know a little bit about Quincy, we’re always having a good time. Quincy is one of those guys when he comes in the room it changes. His presence is felt without saying a word. going anywhere with quincy is a real party. He loves french wine, I mean what’s not to love but...I’ve been travelling with quincy, I’d be in new york or wherever, working on a picture or a record or something.He’s found some bottle of french wine that he loves and holds it like this...and I’ve been with him getting on an airplane and his holding this god damn bottle of wine but you’re not allowed to do it! But of course being Quincy they let him do it and lunch comes and he has his little bottle of wine and finishes it up. I think it tells you a little bit about Quincy’s personality.

Q15 : What about your drum sounds?


I record a lot of my own drum sounds mainly kick and snare and i’m sort of a frustrated drummer. I use to play drums and so I know how to make the drum sounds, initially I can’t play in time or anything but with modern technology we don’t have to. so here in my little studio at home i’ll bring in a dozen of drums and spend a day or two recording them on digital tape and I then transfer them digitally into my drum machine and i’m very very careful with these sounds. They’re...they’re recorded the way I want them to sound and I try to make them fit in the music. And I did play several of the drum sounds on quincy’s record and er...kick and snare. 
I can’t remember exactly each song but...I do an awful lot of that and I absolutely love it. And I don’t believe in stealing other people’s sounds, not for any reason that I don’t want to sound like other people and because I know they steal my sounds and i’m happy and flattered that I hear my drum sounds on everybodies elses, not everybody but a lot of other people’s records but... For instance the drum sounds on "man in a mirror" on Michael’s "bad" album is me playing a snare drum and I repitched it once I tuned it up, recorded it digitally and on top of that I put the sound of a great big pair of plywood squares being babted together and mixed those two and that what makes the snare drum sound in "a man in a mirror" and then the kick drum in "a man in a mirror" is a big noble and cooly kick drum that I recorded and put in my sampler and then played it as part of the tracks. So that worked out really well and to me that shows where digital technology is a definite tool and we really make good use of that. I still use analogue of course a lot in my work. I have a 16 track 2 inch machine that I use for recording drums and percussion because I love the sound of it. it’s just fantastic and one of the things to me, i’ve always tried to listen to this little voice right here! Quincy calls it my belly button and that little voice which says: "don’t record that on digital, it isn’t going to sound right" and so...as a result I haven’t been able to give up my analogue machines, I still use analogue recording 16 track, I use it for drums and percussion and 24 track, I do a lot of vocal recording and orchestral recording on 24 track. Then what I do is transfer that analogue recording to digital and from that point on, then manipulating the sound and the music is easy and wonderful. And what digital does, well at that point of this process is so dramatic and so wonderful is that there’s really nothing to talk about, nothing to discuss on that stand point. 
But a lot of times digital recording on the human voice for instance I really don’t like what it does. I almost never record voice direct to digital, it has a..i don’t know if it’s the artifacts that are acquired during the process, but it doesn’t sound right to me. So I have learned, and i’ll tell you something, this is something i’ve learned from quincy: trust my instincts! Listen to that little voice and don’t use, don’t cerebralise the music too much. Because it has to communicate, if music and the sonic field that we create or that I create in pop music, if it doesn’t communicate, if it doesn’t say something to you what good is it? You know, we don’t make this music for scientists. They don’t buy records!

Q16 : Do you use a click track when you work?


Sometimes, a lot of times we’ll...I’ll use a drum machine instead of a click track so that it’s not so clinical and not so mechanical sounding.

Q17 : And you remove the drum machine and put the drummer on it?


Well there’s no rule, whatever the music wants what it gets. Amazing music, a piece of music or a song has its own life. Once it’s created and you get it started it’ll tell you but you have to listen to it. A lot of times I’ve been in a situation when we’ve tried to record a brass section or a synth part or something, and the song will just say to you: "i don’t want that!" and it doesn’t work. don’t try to force it, i’ve learned that. I just did a thing with michael where I recorded a 40 pieces orchestra, beautiful arrangments, gorgeous on a piece of music. the next day I listened to it, it sounded terrible. he took this piece of music and took it right to mgm and made it sound like a music score and it was beautiful. You know it was well performed and well conceived and everything, it sounded so...it took all the innocence away, and made it sound sophisticated and this particular piece of music wouldn’t have it.

Q18 : Could you describe a typical session with Michael Jackson?


Well, a lot of times on the songs I produced with michael, for instance,...it’s wonderful, we’ll decide on a piece of music to do and then I kind of get to work on it on my own a little bit and then give michael a tape once I get a rhythm track down and he’ll say it’s great but let’s do this.....then i’ll go back and work on it some more. so it’s kind of an in and out type of thing. Michael is so professional, so wonderful to work with and doing vocals with michael is an absolute joy. he’s got ears for days and the pitch and everything. Michael is polite and kind. You know, he’ll say: "can I hear a little more piano in the earphones please". And he’ll say thank you. this is an industry where you don’t hear those words a whole lot. So for that reason I totally respect michael and the musical integrity is so...well we usually listen to a composition and a demo and we’ll listen and decide whether or not we want to record it. so from then on i’ll get musicians in and we’ll do an arrangment and record it. Then we’ll try michael’s voice on it or try the structure to see how it feels and everything and then once we get passed that initial bare bones stage, once we get the overall structure right and it fits michael’s voice, then we start sweetening and overdubbing and finishing it. So there is a stage in there where we are still experimenting to get the right structure and the right feel so that this music with what Michael will do with it.

Q19 : Can you tell us more about how Michael works and how he relates to the people working with him?


I’ve never ran into anybody that works with michael and doesn’t regard it as a pleasant experience, it’s just great. He’s really easy to deal with in the studio because when we record vocals, there’s seldom more than four takes or five on the lead vocal. then we’ll sit there and make a couple of punches but it’s nothing. And another thing i’ve learned with recording michael is i’ll set up the vocal mike and i’ll have michael perform singing on my drum platform which is an eight foot square plywood unpainted platform about eight inches off the floor, and then michael is on that. He’ll sing and one reason is that he dances when he sings and I love to have that as part of the sound because first of all his time and his rhythm is impeccable and even when I do backgrounds, michael does little vocal sounds and snaps his fingers and taps his foot. I keep a (?) of that as part of the recording. 
One time I even made, for one of my seminars, I made a special mix of the background vocals on "the way you make me feel", took all the band out so that my class could hear all the sounds in there, and how they work in the overall picture because when you put the rhythm section in there, you can barely hear them, but they are really there, they’re an important part I think. I would hate to record him and take what I call the clinical approach and try to have it antiseptically clean or something. I think it would loose a lot of its charm. 
Working with quincy myself and michael has really been a wonderful experience because not only do we work together well, but we’re really friends and it’s a three men team and our votes count equally. That’s the way it works, it’s easy, it’s wonderful and we’ve had such a good time doing "Off The Wall", "Thriller" and "Bad". Quincy has just formed a Quincy Jones entertainment corporation so he’s off doing TV. and movies, and producing and directing. Doing things that he’s wanted to do for years. Quincy is not working on michael’s new album. 
I’m producing three songs and coproducing a couple with Michael. 
Quincy is very happy. I just spoke to him yesterday and he sounds great, he’s having the time of his lifz and happy as a pig in the mud. so i’m doing a little different too...I’m producing and doing things in areas that i’ve always wanted to be involved in. Building my beautiful studio here at home just for my projects. I won’t be doing everything here because my home is a sanctuary and I don’t want to bring all my work here, but a certain amount I want to be able to do here, really looking forward to it.


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