The Role Of a Producer

The Role Of a Producer
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I think the other deciding factor is, whether or not the person giving the advice is credible or along the lines of what you consider someone you would like to learn from.

It’s like, I can sit here and give advice until the cows come home. If someone doesn’t like my sound or mixing tactics, even if I’m credible, I don’t apply to them. There are lots of people that give great advice. But like the right producer, it has to apply to your situation.

So I think for me, as much as I love to learn and hear how someone else may handle a situation I’m involved with, it has to apply to what I’m doing.

The other aspect is, we all go into most of our projects with a vision. I think this is important because we get to create and innovate. You can sometimes have others benchmark from you. So take reviews with a grain of salt. Ever hear something from a pro band with pro producers and engineers that you hated? And the next thing you know, everyone is praising this guy?

I’ve never been a fan of numerous producers and engineers who I felt got credit for simply recording and producing the right band. How do fail with a band like Dream Theater, Metallica or Led Zeppelin? Right, you could have allowed those bands to record and release on their own and they still wouldn’t disappoint…even with demo recordings. Guys like Andy Johns never impressed me. When you are given top notch bands, the band does all the heavy lifting. He’s not had a snare drum that hasn’t sounded like punching a cardboard box in years in his sample libraries as well as the real bands he’s done.

That other guy, Kevin Shirley, I thought he made Dream Theater sound terrible and the other bands he’s worked with…how can you fail doing Rush? I mean, you only tank if the songs suck. You know Peart, Lee and Lifeson would never record crappy tones. They may not have great songs all the time and are sometimes an acquired taste, but they don’t tank from a producer. What are your thoughts?

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So true. I think you can tell pretty quickly whether someone “gets” what you are doing. They generally give clues by what they say; who they reference etc.

Haha, yeah it’s funny - everyone hates innovation until it is considered “cool” by those considered “cool” and influential.

Very much so… often in fact!

I’ve get the feeling that sometimes, these guys get a name more because of the people skills, their connections within the industry, or maybe even their force of personality more than their production chops. They kind of entrench themselves in in the band’s psyche perhaps, and the band feel comfortable having them on board, more because of the their track record of success than the actual raw musical value they bring to the project… again, total supposition based on observation.

Ah, Kev the Cave!.. yes, I have an interesting insight into his work…

I’m not familiar with his work on the stuff you mentioned, but I was really shocked by how bad “Black Country Communion 2” sounded. I mean, like you said above - with Glen Hughes, Joe Bonamassa, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian, how could you go wrong?.. but it does - it sounds bad…

On the other hand, Kevin has actually engineered one of the albums I still use to this day as a reference. The Baby Animals’ self-titled debut album. Admittedly, that was very very early in his career, and it was under the production guidance of the famous Mike Chapman, but that album sounds superb to my ears.

(Just to give some US context to this Aus band, they supported Van Halen’s 1992 US tour. Suze DeMarchi, the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist later married Nuno Bettencourt, who produced their second album).

Kevin has also been the go-to producer for the latter day albums of my all-time favourite band “Cold Chisel”. He has recorded 3 of their 4 studio albums since they re-formed in 1997. I would describe his production work with them as “workman-like” - not brilliant, but quite good. They are a live-oriented band anyway, so big production doesn’t really suit their style. That said, in 2012 there was a song written and sung by drummer Steve Prestwich which has the most amazing compressed, roomy drum sound on it.

On another occasion, Cold Chisel were asked to play for the Grand Final of the NRL (National Rugby League). This is the Australian equivalent of being booked to play the Superbowl in the US. They used the occasion to kick off a national tour. The concert was going out to an international TV audience and being being broadcast on the national FM Rock network… So they flew Kevin Shirley over from the US to mix the sound for the show. It sounded pretty amazing - a very canny move on their part.

Interesting story… I follow Cold Chisel on Intagram. Recently Chris Lorde-Alge was in Australia and he showed up in a photo they posted, socialising with them. The connection is, CLA was responsible for recording, producing and mixing the debut album of Cold Chisel’s guitarist and second vocalist, Ian Moss, in 1989, which he recorded following the first breakup of the band in 1984. It was a HUGE hit - won 7 Aria awards (the Australian equivalent of a Grammy). 2019 was the 20th anniversary of the album’s release, so I guess Chris was celebrating that with them…

…anyway, I made a comment on the post - just a throwaway joke about CLA “stealing” Cold Chisel from Kevin Shirley… Kevin actually replied to it! By his reply, it was obvious he didn’t realise it was a joke, because his reply seemed quite serious and defensive in tone…something about bands being free to work with who they want to… I replied that it was just a joke referencing both producer’s histories with artists and that I genuinely admired some of his work.

…So… interesting guy!.. he obviously has the capability to produce fantastic sounding stuff…but his work is a little patchy.

As I said above, it’s interesting that he has the trust of all these major artists and has become their go-to producer… From our perspective as listeners with an ear to production values, I think we’re only focusing on half the story of what is actually happening in the upper echelons of the music biz. As you know a BIG part of working with artists is the ability to get along with people and make them feel at ease and confident about the art they are making… maybe that is more of a factor than we realise.

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Great post, and I agree. I’ll check out some of that stuff you posted. Super busy over here. Will try and stop back with more of a reply. :slight_smile:

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Getting along with the artist is a huge part of being a successful producer. Joe B is a perfect example, both as a solo artist and with BCC. I think Shirley does a serviceable job in both cases, which to me implicates he made the egos work together with Joe B and Glenn Hughes. In BCC the job was probably more people skills than production.
Joe B is an enigma; he has amazing chops, but is completely derivative. He admits to it, which I admire. He is an astounding player, but his influences outweigh his personal voice on the guitar,. That is problematic for a producer, in that Joe is going to be Joe no matter how much you polish it. His fans don’t want to hear anything different. I am a big fan by the way.
Sometimes the producer’s role is to, in the words of Ray Charles, “Let it do what it do” and get out of the way. You need a name, a track record, and a lot of people skills in those cases. Nice living if you can get it.

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Yes, I think a producer takes on different roles depending on the personality makeup of the band. I would imagine a superstar band like BCC being a bit of a mind-field to navigate. Could that possibly be that may be the reason why BCC2 suffered sonically? The people stuff got more attention than the sound? I guess it is possible - nevertheless, it was very successful, so who am I to criticise?

Yeah, Joe is like a guitar-actor-historian. An amazing player with the absolute perfect tone for every different circumstance. I was really excited to see him live when he toured down here a while ago, because his live videos always seemed so great. I must admit, I was disappointed. I don’t know if I saw him on an off night, but he just seemed to be going through the motions. Mind you, that same weekend I had just seen Jeff Beck play, (so good I saw him twice!) so perhaps he suffered by comparison.

As far as his relationship with Kevin Shirley: It’s a pretty deep an abiding one that seems pretty intrinsic to Joe’s career. This documentary I came across a while ago really delves into the synergy they have:

Seeing Jeff Beck live (twice, no less) would make anything pale in comparison.
I have had the privilege of seeing Page (twice in the early 70’s with Zep of course) Clapton (about 10 years ago) Hendrix (probably 1970) and Jeff Beck at the House of Blues six or seven years ago.
Without getting too dramatic, Jimi was the most explosive, but Beck live and up close was astounding.
That group of four is the Mt. Rushmore of electric guitar.
Jeff Beck is better now than he was 40 years ago.
I saw Joe B live a few years ago too. Very precise and accurate blues and hard rock player.
Jeff Beck just goofing around on the guitar is like seeing the source of guitar music. Lots of great players wouldn’t have even picked up a guitar without his inspiration.

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