Peter Collins, 4.16.04

RB: So my first question is, what do you look for when you are evaluating a potential project?

PC: I guess I look for an element of originality, whether I think it offers something that is not already out there, something that’s going to be fun to record.

RB: That’s a pretty broad brief. I think that’s probably based on how long you’ve been in the business, right?

PC: Yeah (laughs). It’s been a long time. In the early days it was very much more cut and thrust. I was managed by Peter Waterman and he would just pick the projects for me. He pointed me in the right direction.

RB: That was a pretty successful period for you.

It was a very successful period for me in the early 80s when I was doing British pop. When I started moving into making more serious albums like Nik Kershaw, Waterman didn’t really get it so I had to start making more judgments on my own about what to do. And of course it helps having gurus around. In the rock world I had Cliff Burnstein and Peter Mensch from Q Prime. I was doing a lot of rock acts right through the 80s and into the 90s. I could always defer to Cliff Burnstein and Peter Mensch who managed Def Leppard and Metallica to name a few and they would give me the skinny as to what they thought of any rock bands I had been offered.

RB: And the good thing about that I imagine is it’s not just musically, but they would have an insight into how committed the label is and so on and so forth.

PC: Exactly.

RB: Do you find that it’s been important, figuring out what the pecking order at the label is with the artist?

PC: It’s vital because I’ve had and I’m sure you’ve had the situation where you turn in a fantastic record and whoever is in charge of pushing the buttons doesn’t happen to like that particular act that you produced, even though they’re signed to their label and you’re dead in the water. It’s happened a few times. There’s also that wonderful old situation where you do an act for an A&R guy he gets fired in the middle of the project and somebody inherits your project and, again, it’s dead in the water. They didn’t sign it, they’re not going to get the credit for it if it’s successful, so you’re sunk.

RB: It’s a major problem and it seems to me it’s only getting worse with all these mergers and shrinking of labels and so forth.

PC: I’ve relied very heavily on my manager, Andy Kipnes, who’s clued in to record company politics and has done a very good job of keeping me safe from those traps.

RB: Do the projects usually come through the managers or do they come to you directly and you hand them off to the managers to negotiate?

PC: I don’t actually rely on my management to come up with work. They are very good at networking generally on my behalf and if there are several projects to do Andy is great at helping me pick the right one to do. And helping strategize where I want to be five to ten years from now and what we need to do to get there and pick the appropriate project to do that. And also he can steer me in the right direction if he senses there’s a need for my particular talent or ability in a project that’s looking for a producer. If you’re not very good at self-promotion, you’ve got to have a manager.

RB: You think you’re not very good at self-promotion?

PC: Appalling!

RB: Most producers aren’t that good possibly because people who are attracted to producing are behind the scenes kinds of people.

PC: I saw Mark Hudson at the Bluebird the other week he was in the round with some national songwriters. This guy was funny and he had great repartee with the other, but more important, he had a multi-colored beard. He claimed to have just had sex with a bag of cheerios or something. That’s the kind of guy who can really put himself out there combined with great talent as well.

RB: It’s a matter of playing to your strengths and minimize your weaknesses, right?

PC: Yes, Exactly.

RB: How far in advance are you usually booked up?

PC: That’s a good question. These days, not that far. Last couple of years have been different. It’s been fairly project to project. I really don’t like to be booked too far ahead.

RB: I never did. I felt like it was going to compromise me down the line.

PC: That’s right. It’s much better to be light on your feet and be able to jump into a situation. You know what the business is like, they get a young band and they want to jump in right away. It’s often the producer that can get in first, they don’t have to months and months to get in with him. If there’s several producers in line for the gig the one who’s most available sometimes has the edge.

RB: Do you ever worry with any of your managers that you have been with that you could be competing with another client for the same work and that could cost you work?

PC: I tend to adopt the ostrich mentality about that.

RB: (laughs) Because you know it’s a reality but you don’t want to think about it. As long as you don’t know about it and as long as you’re still working it’s not that much of a problem right?

PC: That’s right. There’s a lot of people out there, everybody’s got to work I think there’s enough work to go around if you are good at your gig. It doesn’t really bother me. Even though Andy has got loads of great clients I genuinely feel that he is looking out for my interests. When the right project comes up for me, he’ll recognize it and put it my way.

RB: I think the good thing from your point of view is that you occupy your own space now. The worse thing is to be so generic. A generic alternative rock engineer producer or something like that.

PC: The fact that I’ve done such a wide range of styles of music allows me not be put into a particular bag.

RB: Do you find that a problem? I’ve found that people in the industry are narrow in their knowledge. Somebody who only does rock may have no idea what you’ve done in another area. Do you think that hurts you or helps you?

PC: I think that generally it helps. I think producers who have character, such as the hair band producers in the 80s who had enormous success got tagged as hair band producers and when Nirvana came along they were out of work.

RB: That was one of those sea change moments that happened over night in 1989. It was Guns and Roses that really started it. Everyone was like corporate rock is dead immediately when Appetite for Destruction hit the streets. But Nirvana was the final stroke.

PC: Fortunately I was able to move on and not get that tag. I’m still tagged a little bit with that Rush and Queensryche as 80s rock. But I was able to do a few bands like Suicidal Tendencies and bands I did for Lars Ulrich in the late nineties which allowed me to move out of that. I’m about to do a young twenty year old Canadian rocker who’s really earthy sort of Cream and Jimi Hendrix. So I think I was able to avoid that tag. I kept everybody guessing by doing a lot of acoustic stuff with the Indigo Girls, Nancy Griffith, Beth Nilson Chapman. It keeps it somewhat fresh for my perception.

RB: I think that’s very true. Do you think there’s a conflict between doing young, first time, unknown bands and big name artists? In a way doing big name artists is safe and in a way it is less safe. What’s your take on that?

PC: It’s definitely less safe to have a high profile failure (if you do a big artist) and it fails. Early on in my rock career I made the mistake of doing a Billy Squier record and Billy had already peaked and that nearly killed me career wise and spirit wise. It was a very difficult record and a very high profile failure. Fortunately Rush hired me for a second album immediately after and I got to redeem myself. If that hadn’t happened, god knows, that could’ve been the end of me.

RB: There are some producers who always seem to work on high profile acts and don’t always make the biggest albums that those artists have. I guess the trick is catching them at the right part of the curve.

PC: I’m not very good at judging that. That’s where you have to lean on management.

RB: In the studio, where do you feel your loyalties lie? With the label or the artist?

PC: Always with the artist actually. I’m always there to make the record for the artist. And if I make that record where the artist is really happy, chances are the record company are going to be happy. Of course they always want the hit single. But I’ve always seen my job as making the artist really thrilled with their record.

RB: How much do you get involved in the budgeting stuff, how seriously do you take the budget?

PC: Interesting question. When I worked in England, and I don’t know if it was the same for you, the word budget was never mentioned.

RB: So true. It was a stone cold shock when I came here.

PC: I came to America and suddenly budget and how much is it going to cost. Since I’ve been in America I’ve had to be aware of budget. I’m very fortunate that I have a team of people at my management that take care of that. They work with me and ask me questions, “How much is this going to cost, how much is that, how long do you think this will take and how much are the rentals going to be?” Those sort of questions which in England I never had to consider, but now I do. What’s odd to me is that the budget’s have got less and less as the years have gone on. In 1987 I did Queensryche. The band hadn’t even gone gold. On the previous records to the one that I worked on they were at about 150,000 (units) or something. My budget was $320,000. This was for a band that had two or three albums out, were nowhere near gold and we struggled to bring it in for $320,000.

RB: I know I remember spending half a million dollars in the middle of the 80s no problem at all. With bands that were just going gold or platinum. Nothing like these days.

PC: To get a budget of $320,000 now would be almost impossible.

RB: It always galls me that the whole album gets done for less than the cost of one single video.

PC: That’s always bothered me as well. I did a record for one of the GoGos and the label drove me crazy to keep the budget under $200,000. Then they immediately spent more than $200,000 on a video.

RB: It really annoying. The only other thing I can think of is that the film industry is highly unionized. The other thing is that when it’s time to make the video they have a perception of whether the album will be successful or not and when we start producing it’s just vapor, it doesn’t exist yet. Do you get involved in the writing at all?

PC: Not really. One of the reasons I don’t is because I don’t ever want the artist to feel if I pitched an idea I would ask for publishing. I want to feel free to offer suggestions melodically or lyrically and I consider that part of my production gig. Obviously if I wrote a couple of stanzas or wrote a whole bridge or something I’d accept writing but basically I do not consider myself a writer/producer.

RB: I’ve always taken the same tack. But if so you do throw in ideas, you’ll change structures and suggest melodic changes and things like that?

PC: I will. In most cases I try to get the artist to make the changes and I’ll tell them I think that line is melodically bland and it needs a better tune there and get them to come up with it and I’ll yes/no it. Or that section needs a bridge, that B section doesn’t have enough tension in it. Get it out of them rather than saying why don’t you try this and sing them the part. If I have to do that I can do it, but I really try to avoid that.

RB: I think that’s right. They may start to feel that you are angling for a piece of the action rather than make a better record.

PC: I think that compromises your credibility as a producer.

RB: I think so. A lot of people don’t think that though. Do you tend to find the material or do you work with artists who already have material?

PC: I mostly work with artists that do write their own material.

RB: And you prefer that?

PC: I do. You know the search for a song and assembling material is so, so difficult and time consuming,

RB: Did Pete Waterman do that when you worked with him?

PC: He did. He was great. He has golden ears. One of his really, really strong points was picking the songs.

RB: Do you find most A&R people to be helpful and knowledgeable about music?
PC: That’s a tough question. There’s a handful that are, but most are not. The few music junkies out there are few and far between.

RB: What do you look for in an A&R person Do you like someone who knows the lingo and can speak frequencies and music terms like bridges and verses and choruses or do you just want someone who knows music inside and out, what are the qualities that make a really successful relationship?

PC: I like a very strong opinionated A&R person. I don’t like wishy washy A&R people. I like them to be on my side and come up with ideas, but not to insist on their ideas. To be part of the team. Somebody who can be respected by the artist and myself. It’s wonderful when you work with an A&R person you respect. I find it a great help to have somebody outside of the studio who can make useful comments.

RB: Do you send them rough mixes on a regular basis?

PC: I try not to. Unless it’s really, really required. I’d rather have them come down to the studio and check it out and if there’s anything wrong we can solo instruments and deal with it on the spot. But I hate rough mixing going out as I’m sure you do.

RB: I always did. It’s one of those dichotomies because on the one hand you want to keep them up to date because otherwise you are always worried that the hammer is going to fall at the end of the project. But the worse thing about rough mixes is that they might play them for someone else.

PC: They always do.

RB: When they are sitting there in the studio you can change the balance and discuss the issues.

PC: That’s the way for me, to get the A&R person in there and break it down. Also when you do roughs and people have them they get used to them if they love them and then you are sunk when you come to mix the thing.

RB: Do you feel OK about the financial deal you get from the labels? Artists are always bemoaning the fact that they aren’t making any money but you don’t hear producers talking about it very much. How do you feel about the way producers get treated?

PC: I think we’ve been historically one of the most privileged lots going. Getting a royalty and a big fat advance in the old days. We didn’t have any overheads, come and go as we please. An artist typically has one shot at this, we have multiple shots. And we have a royalty stream coming in as well. We’ve been very privileged.

RB: Does it bother you that when a song gets played on the radio we don’t get paid?

PC: That does bug me, it always has done, that really bugs me.

RB: One thing that I think about is that if you are dealing with a four or five piece band the producer gets more than the individuals in the band. How do you feel about that?

PC: I have felt that it’s unfair particularly because they’ve got one shot in their chosen career. But it’s the nature of the business, it’s always been that way and I always thing that they’re going to make their money from liver performance and merchandising.

RB: Not only that if you make their first album platinum they don’t have to use you on the second, third or tenth albums. Their negotiating power gets greater as they go along until they get to the point where a band like Pink Floyd doesn’t have to pay a royalty at all. I’ve guilted over that for a long time (laughs) and that’s how I’ve justified it.

RB: Do you do individual tracks or only whole albums?

PC: Mostly whole albums very occasionally for a movie I’ll do an individual track. Very rarely these days do I go in just to do a single. I have done it and I can do it. That’s how I first got started in England in the early eighties and the pressure is phenomenal. It’s not really cost effective to do that these days. I’ve gotten out of that I try to incorporate the single in the body of the album. In the case of Brian Setzer we finished the whole album in two weeks and then Tom Whalley came up with a song as the single and we went in and cut the single in a couple of days and striped it on. That’s a very nice way to do things if that can be orchestrated.

RB: Do you mind having your albums mixed by other people?

PC: It’s not a problem. I do like to be there. I don’t particularly like Fedexed mixes during the process. Often there’s just not the budget to fly me out to where the mixer is, but I do like to be there. Not being an engineer I always have to have an engineers mix it.

RB: I imagine over the years you’ve made lots of your money from royalties.

PC: Yes, but with downloading it’s dwindling. But it’s still not bad. Your question about the criteria I have when choosing an album to record is whether I think they have the potential to be royalty-bearing artists for me. The ones that are going to be catalogue artists and go on for years and years. I’m fortunate in having a few of those and I’m sure you are.

RB: It’s an interesting point because you’re better off producing artists that will continue to do well even after you stop producing them than you are producing someone who stops doing well when you stop producing them.

PC: Yes, correct.

RB: Which is interesting because from an ego point of view it would be better if they disappeared of the face of the earth after you stopped working with them (laughs) but from a financial point of view it’s much better if they go on.

PC: I’m always pleased if they have another big hit even if somebody else produces it because it reactivates your catalogue.

RB: It’s so true. Hopefully you have the greatest hits cycle come around just in time. (laughs) Did you envisage when you got into producing that you’d be able to keep doing it for this long and how long do you think you’ll realistically be able to keep going?

PC: In England, as you probably know, at 30 you’re an old man.

RB: That’s why I moved to America.

PC: I had a conversation with Peter Waterman when I was about 31 or 32 and I was like Peter, how much longer can we possibly be having hits like this? I thought I had outlasted the usual boundaries for having hits in terms of age. He said ‘oh mate we can keep doing this forever.’ I didn’t really believe him but of course we’re both still having hits in our fifties so he was right. I honestly didn’t believe him I thought it was going to go away very quickly. I thought by time I’m 35 I’m going to be toast in this business.

RB: I don’t think any of us factor in was that we are boomers and so the economy moves with us really. It’s very cool. I feel bad for those who were born in the 70s.

PC: We’ve been very very lucky. (Puts on old voice) We’ve seen the golden years Richard.

RB: Have you ever felt that you lost a job because of your age?

PC: I felt that particularly in England, but a lot less in America. I get a lot more respect here. I can work with bands that could be my children. While I don’t feel like one of them I don’t feel there is a huge barrier separating us culturally or musically actually. For me in the States it’s not a problem. England is has always been very different. I know with managing directors of major labels in London there is an unspoken rule that when you hit 50, you’re gone.

RB: That’s a reason I moved to America because I thought I would be over if didn’t make the move.

PC: For me it was just serendipity that I came to America it wasn’t by design but boy am I glad I did.

RB: What made you want to produce in the first place?

PC: I was a singer songwriter in the sixties in my teens and I had a deal with Decca as an artist. I went in the studio and I realized in the course of making that album I wasn’t really interested in being an artist I was interested in being in the studio and the actual process of making a record. That’s what totally captivated me. It wasn’t getting behind the microphone and feeding my songs into machines that was particularly of interest to me. It was the atmosphere in the studio and the whole process of making records thrilled me. In those days all the producers then were very, very powerful people. They all smoked Cuban cigars, everybody held them in great reverence. One of my first job in a business was as an assistant to the producers at the Decca studios in West Hampstead. I was able to see how they wielded power in the studio and that’s what I wanted to be.

RB: How did you get that job as a staff assistant?

PC: In those days labels owned their own studios and they groomed people to become staff producers. Gus Dudgeon, Peter Sullivan, John Burgess, Ron Richards, George Martin, all those guys came through the studio systems. And I was destined to become a staff producer when it all started going pear shaped for Decca financially. If you remember Ken East took over and he started rationalizing all the jobs there and he told me that I could take a desk job or quite. So I quit before actually becoming a staff producer. But I had already taken a bite of the apple by that time and I was on my own writing jingles and whatever I could do to stay in the business. I used to fund my own productions flog them at Midem. Eventually a small label called Magnet hired me as a freelance producer in 1979. And it was with Magnet that I had my first hit as a producer. And from that time onwards I’ve never had to fund another production. Since then I’ve always been hired as a producer.

RB: Was your first hit Pass the Dutchie?

PC: That was my first number one. My first hit was Rockabilly Rebel by Matchbox in 1979.

RB: That seems like a major loss to me. CBS had a producer training program as well Columbia actually. Like the Decca program they didn’t train people as just engineers, they trained them as producers didn’t they?

PC: Yeah, and what a wonderful system that was. You could actually train as being a producer. And unfortunately that doesn’t exist anymore. You either become a producer by default or they usually come up through engineering these days.

RB: What sort of things did they teach you in the program?

PC: To be a producer? They don’t actually teach you anything. You just by osmosis. You get little jobs to do. Maybe a field project in Ireland. Or they get you to do one album track with an unknown artist.

RB: And what sort of skills do they require to hire you as an assistant staff producer?

PC: Usually kind of nepotism. In my case, I had an uncle in the industry who gave backhanders to my boss, at Decca to hire me.

RB: That’s funny. But fortunately you’re a songwriter. You were an artist. Do you think that’s your skill in being in the studio?

PC: That kind of got me in in the first instance. I was a Decca artist coming into a studio full of musicians and string sections for my music, but two weeks later I was there making tea and gofering for some producers. I think that the fact that I had made some sort of impact as an artist within the Decca system gave me enough feel to the A&R guys that hired me to say ‘well I want to actually be put this guy n the studio to be my assistant.’ In those days Decca was at the Albert Embankment and the studios were in West Hampstead. I was based in West Hampstead and my boss was at head office. He like having a spy down at the studios to let him know what was going on. I performed a few suspect duties for him as well which will one day be reported in my memoirs.

RB: What do you actually think a producer does? Because I think there are very few people who know and understand. I mean, you’ll get offers for things and say this isn’t what I do.

PC: Most people don’t know what a producer does. The producer is there in the studio to channel the creative energies and focus the sometimes disparate talent that are around into achieving a finished recording. And bring out the best in everybody and creating an atmosphere where people can be creative and free to perform to their. Create an atmosphere where people can function and make decisions where decisions need to be made. It doesn’t need to be democracy sometimes in the studio. The producer needs to show leadership and get the project from A to B in a given amount of time. And with a given the budget it’s his responsibility ultimately. To be a sounding board for the artist to interface between the artist, the engineer, the label, and the A&R person. I think we have to be chameleons we have to adapt to whatever the recording situation requires. A record producer is very similar to a movie director.

RB: In the book I say that a producer is like a blank tile in Scrabble—it can be whatever you need that’s missing. Sometimes you get a call for a project and you know that no matter what you do your are not going to be a good fit for that project. You turn those projects down usually.

PC: Yes. I’ve had a few of those. But often I’ve thought that I’m absolutely not right for this project and my manager has really pushed me to do it. I’ve been surprised he was right somehow something I thought I was completely wrong for I turned out to be completely right for. Sometimes we’re not the best judge of what’s good for us to do. Waterman used to do that. He often used to throw me into situations that I didn’t think were right and nine times out of ten they weren’t. (laughs) On the odd occasion he got a really surprisingly good result. Because it was so wrong it threw up something that was quite different.

RB: You’ve moved from one genre to another and that really fascinates me. Is it your perception that there’s a fundamental underlying truth that applies to all forms of music?

PC: That’s a bit complicated for me Richard. (laughs)

RB: (laughs) Well, when you are producing something like Pass the Dutchie and then Rush and BonJovi or Leann Rimes and Elton John. Those are incredibly different projects there has to be some common factor that you can get your teeth into where you can say this music needs this without having to have some major in depth understanding of that form of music.

PC: I see what you are saying. As long as you are generally appreciative of music and one has fairly broad taste it doesn’t really matter what the music is you can apply your production principles to whatever it is.

RB: Do you find that a lot of it is instinct? Do you have rules of thumb that you apply like the

PC: Usually, I have Attention Deficit Disorder, so the thing has got to be interesting to me or I will lose interest very quickly.

RB: That’s probably your biggest asset.

PC: It is as a record producer. There are few things I like to make sure I’ve got. I like to have musical signatures. A lot of people when they are making records forget that it’s not all about the vocal. There’s an opportunity to get musical hooks in.I’m always looking for musical hooks and how to weave them in. I do like B sections and I do like bridges. I’m necessarily a stickler for conventional song form, but I do like some of those traditional elements of pop songs. They can be disguised in all sorts of ways they don’t have to be really obvious but I do like set-ups to choruses and I like things to shift gear dramatically at some point. I don’t like linear material. I think you can apply those sorts of principles to any sort of material you are working with.

RB: What do you think is the most important element in producing? Is it the singer, the song, the artistic direction? How would you rank the factors?

PC: It’s all about the song in pop music. Even if it’s a concept album, it’s still about the songs and the music.

RB: You think everything revolves around the song? What comes right after the song in importance?

PC: For me, vocals are really important. That’s what is speaking to me. I want to be totally involved with the vocalist.

RB: Has technology changed the way you work?
PC: Yeah, obviously with protools if I’m working with an artist who wants to get very microscopic over tuning, timing. Where they are not doing that believe me, I’m on 24 track analogue.

RB: Is that because you like the way it sounds

PC: I like the way it sounds. I like the discipline of getting it on 24 tracks. And I do it with no slaves. If we have to I’ll do some internal bouncing. I keep the drums to 5 tracks and maybe one room track for ambience. Bass will be on one track. I’m just going to commit.

RB: I love that. The other way you keep all your options open all the time and I don’t even know how people know where they are.

PC: I don’t like options, I really don’t. I had a big struggle with one artist who loves options. She was going for it with a limited budget and we were continually at odds because she wanted the options. I would say ‘let’s commit, do you like it or do you not like it.’ If you don’t like it or if you’re iffy about it then let’s not have it let’s erase it, it doesn’t need to be there.

RB: I completely agree because once you have options you don’t know what you are building on once you make a decision the next thing you do relates to what you decided on. If you don’t make a decision the next thing relates maybe to the thing you didn’t decide on. It’s very confusing to me working that way. I could not work like that.

PC: I think a lot of guys coming up haven’t had that experience and so they record a lot of stuff and that’s why it takes so long.

RB: I think that’s absolutely right. Do you record in exclusively in commercial studios or do you work out of a home studio?

PC: I don’t have my own studio I hire studios. I like going in and being the client and saying hey this isn’t working get it fixed.

RB: I agree. To have your own studio is a nightmare?

PC: I would think it is. I’ve always avoided it. You must get very stale in your own studio. I still like the thrill of walking out of my house and going to a studio.

RB: Why do you think there are so few women producers?

PC: Because men like to curse a lot. (both laugh). Guys like to be guys in the studio and if there is a woman around it’s inhibiting.

RB: That’s a very good point that you can’t curse or fart or burp or whatever in the studio.

PC: Even if they do, it makes it uncomfortable for at least one person in the band.

RB: I’ve worked with bands who have refused to have a female around even on crew because they feel guilty doing whatever they’re up to. I don’t know why it doesn’t make sense at all.

PC: Let’s face it. Women are so so different.

RB: They are.

PC: If you have a bunch of guys in the studio it’s definitely going to dampen down the atmostphere a bit. And if she’s beautiful or sexually attractive, then everybodies hormones are going nobody can function properly anyway.

RB: That’s really true. That’s interesting. I’ve heard all kinds of theories. I’ve always expected there to be an explosion of female engineers, but it never happened, did it? There’s a handful.

PC: Trina Shoemaker’s one of them. Trina made her name with Sheryl Crow.

RB: So she doesn’t have that problem. They are talking about the kinds of things that women talk about in the studio. I suppose that is what is going to happen as more women start succeeding in the industry there will be more female producers.

PC: I think so.

RB: Final thing really, with credits and stuff. Have you every gotten into any arguments over credits with somebody sticking an associate producer, additional production, co-producer, executive producer etc?

PC: I used to get really het up about that but it doesn’t bother me anymore. In my younger days it really used to bother me when people would do that. I remember fighting with the Indigo Girls who wanted joint production credit on the second album I did with them. I let them have it but it didn’t sit well with me. A couple of albums went by and I didn’t work with them. Then I started working with them again and they didn’t even go there they just gave me the full production credit. I guess they realized it didn’t really mean that much. Their chosen profession was artist and my chosen profession was producer and they respected that. Their input was what they needed to be inputting as artists. But at the time that they insisted on the coproduction credit they were in the development part of their career and they wanted their audience to know that they were very hands on the way the record sounded. Which of course they were.

RB: Well they get more secure as they go on don’t they?

PC: Yeah they became a lot more secure nad it never came up again. In the old days when the engineers credit turned to ‘Mixed by’ instead of ‘Mix and the producers were left out of it. That really annoyed me.

RB: Do you still have issues with that?

PC: No I don’t, I’m just beyond it now (laughs).

RB: You’re at the point where it’s not affecting your career so you don’t care.

PC: Yeah, I’m too old to care about that sort of thing. When I was younger the credits were so important to me. The credit is still important to me but there are more important things in life to get het up about.

RB: Well they probably were at that point because that was what built your career, your credits. Without those credits you wouldn’t have a career. Credits are your career.

PC: The first time the engineer did that behind my back, I picked up the record and saw ‘Mixed by’ I was livid.

RB: Have you ever had a mix person try to stick in an additional producer credit?

PC: Never had that.

RB: How do you feel about executive producer credits?

PC: No problems at all.

RB: And what type of person usually gets the executive producer credit?

PC: A&R guy. Manager sometime. Head of label.

PC: When I got Andy Kipnes as a manager he sat me down and said where do you want to be five years from now in your career. He figured out a plan of what sort of projects I would need to do to get there. I think that was extremely helpful figuring out a plan, rejecting certain projects because they didn’t fit in the plan.

RB: Can you share any of that plan. Were you able to stick to the plan.

PC: Pretty much. It was a mix of young cutting edge bands. He said ‘it doesn’t matter how many records you’ve sold. Nobody in the industry cares about that. It’s how cool was the last artist you worked with.’ The cool factor in those days and I’m sure it’s the same today was the most important thing. So he said ‘we’ve got to try and pick stuff that is cool. It doesn’t matter about sales. We can do the Bon Jovis occasionally but if you want to stay working and stay cutting edge it’s got to be young and it’s got to be cool.’ He helped me in the selection of those sort of acts.

RB: That’s a fascinating insight. I always used to think I’m not the most outgoing gregarious sort of guy and maybe I have a bad personality or something but I always felt like I was as good as my last hit. I never felt the industry had any major loyalty to me at all. So I was always panicking about sales and worrying that the next one would sell as well as the last one. I think that what you just said is absolutely right, knowing what I know now it is actually more about the cool. I’ve seen guys who have worked for thirty years with virtually no hits but they have always managed to do these hip cool bands. And the next hip cool band comes along and wants this guy to produce them and he doesn’t get paid huge amounts of money, doesn’t get huge royalty payments, if any, but he’s still working and still making a living doing what he loves to do.

PC: Yeah. Sadly that’s what it’s all about.

RB: Well it’s not sadly. The trick is to figure out what the rules are. That’s what the book is about. It’s to try to help people figure out the rules and the smart ones will observe them.

Additional Producer Interviews
Arif Mardin
Lauren Christy
Linda Perry
Peter Collins
Daniel Sheehy
Peter Ganbarg
Wendy Page
Sandy Roberton
Katrina Sirdofsky
Jim Hall
TAOMP title image 2
by richard james burgess
Bill Laswell