Meet the Producers Part 2: The Auteurs
The people behind the scenes who make the music sound good.
Web2Carz Senior Writer
Published: September 16th, 2012
hat does a music producer do? It’s not an easy question to answer—their roles depend on the musicians they’re working with, the type of music they’re producing, and their own personal style. They can be so deep in the process of writing and recording that they essentially become members of the band (as Brian Eno did when working with Talking Heads and U2), or they can be so hands-off that all they do is record a band as-is (Steve Albini takes this approach, and even eschews the title “producer”—albums he works on say only “recorded by Steve Albini”), but having the right producer can mean the difference between a classic and a catastrophe.
With that in mind, we thought we’d shed some light on some of our favorite producers, and we asked some of our friends in the industry to share their thoughts for our far-from comprehensive look at some of the people behind some of our favorite music.
Click here to read Part 1 of this series.
But it’s his work as a producer that has given Eno’s musical ideas their greatest exposure. He has produced records by bands and musicians as disparate as Devo, Ultravox, James, Laurie Anderson, Coldplay, Grace Jones, Paul Simon, Talking Heads, and U2. He also collaborated on albums by David Bowie, Genesis, John Cale, Robert Fripp, Robert Wyatt, Harold Budd, The Neville Brothers, Depeche Mode, Massive Attack, Sinead O’Connor, and Iggy Pop.
Eno’s approach to production tends to be more collaborative than most producers, with Eno suggesting approaches to songwriting, lyric writing, and instrumentation. Eno’s presence is most strongly heard on the records he produced for Talking Heads and U2. His influence on both bands dramatically altered their sounds, and his involvement led them to create music that was more avant-garde and more experimental than typical rock music.
“Brian Eno has always impressed me for his amazing way of using technology
Although the band’s biggest albums—Fleetwood Mac (1975), Rumours (1977), and Tusk (1979) were credited to various producers and the band as a whole, it was really Buckingham who shaped the sound of those records. He didn’t receive a separate producer’s credit until 1982’s Mirage, but his influence on the band’s sound is undeniable.
“I tend to admire obsessive producers, and Lindsey Buckingham seems to be
Rodgers went on to become one of the top producers of the 1980s, working with Diana Ross, Debbie Harry, David Bowie, Duran Duran, Mick Jagger, Laurie Anderson, The B-52’s, INXS, and David Lee Roth.
Rodgers’ productions are always slick, but never overproduced. In a 2006 interview, Rodgers said that the role of the producer was to “see the artist’s vision with clarity, so that when they’re going off the path you can get them back. If the car is going straight, you don’t have to steer. To me the artist always has the final word: it’s their picture on the cover of the record.”
Although best known for producing Joy Division and New Order, Hannett worked with a host of other artists during from 1975 up till his death in 1991. Hannett worked with the Buzzcocks, OMD, U2, the Stone Roses, Magazine, Happy Mondays, The Psychedelic Furs, and others, usually working with bands early in their career—he produced the debut singles for The Buzzcocks, OMD, and Psychedelic Furs, and produced the second single for U2.
His work on Joy Division’s two studio albums, Unknown Pleasures and Closer, remains his best known, and his unique recording techniques were dramatized in the 2002 film 24 Hour Party People.
He also developed the soundtracks for the films The Big Lebowski, and O Brother, where Art Thou?
His deep knowledge of American roots music, and his experience as a musician (he’s released seven solo albums) have made him one of the most sough-after producers alive.
“I had the opportunity to work with T-Bone Burnett almost 20 years ago.
"I worked David Kahne him from around 1996 till 1999 on many projects. He has such a powerful but chameleon-like personality. One minute he's putting his foot down and taking a my-way-or-the high-way position, and the next he's adding the grooviest little sensitive guitar part to a love-song that just makes the track. Intimidatingly intelligent, musically gifted, and possessing a deep and dark sense of humor. The guy is tireless (just take a look at his discography), and that is a good thing for bands and artist everywhere...because he is out there doing it right. It was a privilege to work with him."