An Interview With Record Producer MICHAEL BEINHORN On His Unique Pre-Production Services He Now Offers Musicians!
With the launch of record producer Michael Beinhorn’s pre-production services, musicians and bands now have a unique and cost-effective opportunity to work directly with a seasoned recording industry professional, regardless of what stage they are at in their careers.
The Grammy-nominated music producer has played a pivotal role in the making of many of the top records of the last four decades. Some of his production credits include work on landmark albums from the likes of Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Korn, Marilyn Manson, Hole, Soul Asylum, Ozzy Osbourne, Mew, Social Distortion, Violent Femmes, Herbie Hancock, The Bronx, The Golden Palominos and Black Label Society.
His recordings have achieved combined worldwide sales of more than 45 million albums, and he is one of only a handful of producers to have two separate recordings debut in Billboard’s Top Ten in the same week, with Marilyn Manson’s “Mechanical Animals” (#1) and Hole’s “Celebrity Skin”(#9) which also earned him a 1998 Grammy nomination for Producer of the Year.
In recent years, Beinhorn has turned his attention to the concerns facing today’s artists and producers attempting to maintain their creative ethics and focus on the recording process. He has been increasingly active in mentoring fellow artists and aspiring record producers.
To that end, Beinhorn has embarked on his latest venture, offering affordable pre-production services catered to all musicians and bands.
Beinhorn says, “For every successful project I’ve produced, there has always been one constant- a period of evaluation and pre-production before the physical recording began. This includes such elements as song assessment, performance assessment, song arrangement, rehearsal, etc- in degrees proportional to the needs of each project.
The fact is, recordings always have a greater shot at reaching their full potential if they are well prepared, as opposed to being rushed and casually thrown together. A great analogy is building a house- the most solid foundation guarantees the most resilient house, while a weak foundation guarantees that the house will eventually fall apart.
Although recording budgets have shrunk, contemporary artists who want to make the best possible music face the same issues they always have. I feel that having less money to work with shouldn’t stop artists from having access to processes such as pre-production so they can get the very best out of their work.
For this reason, I offer pre-production and music evaluation- exactly the same processes that I have used on classic recordings from Soundgarden’s “Superunknown” to Marilyn Manson’s “Mechanical Animals”, to Korn’s “Untouchables”.
Michael Beinhorn has lived his life in the pursuit of artistic expression, first as a visual artist, then as a performer, and finally as a record producer. He continues to inspire the artists he works with to excel to greater heights, with an unwavering commitment to sonic exploration and creative excellence.
Learn more about Michael Beinhorn in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find you now? What’s on tap for the rest of your day?
My pleasure! Right now, I’m at home, sitting next to my 4 month old son’s crib watching him locked in an epic battle with a fluffy stuffed dog. After one of them surrenders, I’ll start work on a new project that needs pre-production. That pretty much sums up the rest of my day.
All Access Music is currently compiling a list of our artist’s favorite songs this summer so what has been your song of the summer?
I don’t really have a favorite song because I love so many and have a lot of favorites! I’ve been listening to a ton of music this summer and one of the most played songs has been “Junco Partner” by James Booker.
Overall, how do you think 2018 has been treating you and your career? What has been one goal that you have had this year and how close are you to reaching it? Or did you already reach it?
Right from the start, 2018 has been amazing! Making pre-production available to artists at all levels of the creative/financial spectrum, is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and it’s exciting to finally get started. My goal with this project is to let it go where it needs to, rather than expecting it to arrive anywhere in particular.
Growing up, was music always a big part of your life? Can you recall your first ever musical experience? Can you see yourself ever doing anything else?
Music has always been at the forefront of my life. My parents are music lovers, so I grew up listening to all kinds of music and was always fascinated with sound. My earliest musical recollection is listening to a recording of compositions by the composer Antonio Vivaldi when I was three. As for having another occupation- I don’t think I’m really suited for anything else. Few things in life are as satisfying as being creatively expressive in a medium that you love.
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all?
One big surprise has been the realization, that after decades of producing records, there’s so much more to learn about it. This is especially meaningful if you can accept that you don’t know everything- no matter how great or successful you are. If you’re open to this, you will encounter all kinds of potentially amazing experiences that can teach you in ways you never imagined. That awareness is challenging, transformative and powerful.
How do you think you and your music have been influenced by your hometown and where you live today?
Los Angeles has always been a decent place to work, but New York City in the sixties, seventies and eighties was a beautiful and nightmarish wonderland. I lived there during periods of massive social upheaval and saw many unspeakable and amazing things. The cultural and musical scene in New York- especially in the early seventies through mid-eighties- was inspiring beyond words and is one of those ephemeral moments in time that will never repeat. I am completely and totally a product of that environment- if it hadn’t existed, it’s hard to say what my life would be like.
I am curious to know how you went from being a visual artist, a performer to a record producer? How did that progression happen exactly? How do you think all the different roles that you have had have helped you be the best producer today?
That’s a good question. Although visual arts and music appear to be very different, when you view them simply as modes of creative expression, they are virtually interchangeable. I’ve always had a visual relationship with sound (in terms of texture, tone, dynamics, etc), and for some reason, it was easier for me to express myself through sound manipulation, whereas in visual art, being a photorealist illustrator, I was more acclimated to imitating what was already there. So, at fourteen, I enacted a lifelong dream by purchasing a synthesizer with money earned from a summer job. Owning the synthesizer helped me wheedle my way into a band, one thing led to another and my focus gradually shifted from visual arts to sonics. Once I found myself in my first recording studio, I liked the collaborative exchange and the potential to work from a more abstract place that happened there, so I gradually matriculated into music production. Doing very detailed illustration work prepared me in how to access the particular kind of focus I needed as a producer.
Let’s talk about some of the musicians that you have been able to work with over the years. What experiences have really stood out to you? Which ones surprised you at all?
That’s a tough question to answer because there have been so many artists I’ve encountered who ticked both those boxes. One standout experience was working with Chris Cornell. When it came time to record his vocals, I set him up to record by himself so he’d feel more comfortable. One day, I was walking past the studio while he was recording and got a real surprise because even through sealed fourteen inch thick airlock doors, I could still hear him singing on the other side of the wall. For some reason, I put my hand on the door and his voice was so powerful that I could actually feel the door vibrating with every note he sang. Over the course of less than two months, that superhuman voice managed to destroy the diaphragms of five Neumann U87 microphones- a feat I have never seen equaled by any singer.
Can you elaborate on the pre-production services that you offer musicians? What can an artist expect from your services on a typical project?
Pre-production is the entire process of prepping a musical project before it goes into a studio to be physically recorded. The importance of this can’t be overstated since it includes examining and assessing all the songs, making sure they are correct for the project (and the artist), fixing what isn’t working (structure, arrangement, orchestration, etc), ensuring that everyone knows what they’re going to be playing so that they’ll be able to walk into their recording confidently. It’s also about examining the artist’s goals for this project, seeing what he’s aiming for and if he can, perhaps shoot higher than what he believes he’s capable of. These functions are all part of the service and they can also be incorporated individually if the artist isn’t ready to do complete pre-production.
What does your music evaluation consist of?
It’s pretty simple- completely dissembling a song from top to bottom and then, working up a blueprint to put it back together, but as something far better than how it originally was. As a music lover, I enjoy all the details that make a song work, but as a producer, I’m more concerned with the elements that make a song fall apart or that stop it from connecting. Assuming that you have a good song, if you can find those issues and improve them, you’ll be able to make it engage with your audience.
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how your own music is reflecting this time period or is your music an escape from all that? Would you say that other musicians are making music that has been influenced by this climate?
I’m absolutely certain that every single person creating music is affected by the current social and political climate- even if that isn’t always coming directly through in the music they’re making. On the other hand, some artists are starting to push more socially/politically provocative boundaries- such as the Childish Gambino track “This is America” and some of Kendrick Lamar’s music. My own approach to creating has always been the polar opposite of escapism. I’d rather have a hand in creating music that inspires people to feel and experience themselves- and one another- instead of offering them new ways to hide. I feel that doing anything to assist artists in speaking their truth and expressing themselves is the strongest possible social/political statement a person in my position can make.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely still love to work with in the future?
I’ve never really fantasized about working with a specific artist- I only fantasize about working, which is also my reality. All the best projects I’ve done were based on confluence and synchronicity- they were with artists I knew of but didn’t know much about. The projects just kind of dropped into my lap and took off from there. As for artists I’d love to work with, there are multitudes of tremendously talented artists in the world and the possibilities are endless. The musicians and composers who inspire me are legion and my music collection is an amalgam of every period, every nation and nearly every style of music under the sun. I love them all- from Charlie Parker to Johann Sebastian Bach to Neu!- and my list of favorites would fill up a small novel.
If you were going to be stranded on a deserted island forever, what musical item would you take with you and why?
That is also a hard question- it’s almost like asking which of my children I love most. I have a collection of analog modular synthesizers and they’re like people- they all have their singular personalities and quirks and they each interact with me differently. I can narrow it down to four- an EMS Synthi-A, an ARP 2600, an 11 panel Serge modular system and a large modular Moog. The only thing is, even if I had one of them with me on a deserted island, I’d also need electricity to power it up!
If your music was going to be featured on any TV show that is currently on right now, which would you love it to be on? Or if you prefer, what is a movie that you love that you wish your music was featured in?
I’m not especially picky when it comes to song placements- I feel fortunate to have had songs placed both on TV and in movies It’s funny because there are some TV shows that I enjoy, but I have a hard time imagining my songs on them, and I’m not really a fan of the shows where my music has been featured. The same goes with movies- I tend to watch movies that have some gravitas or weight, but my music winds up in movies that are less somber- even kind of silly. Perhaps there’s some kind of irony there. I would have been thrilled to have a song placement in an Ingmar Bergman film or in “Blade Runner” but I doubt there would have been room in them for quirky, upbeat hip-hop or rock music.
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music?
For me, each recording is a unique experience and I consciously attempt to instill whatever that experience has been in the resulting recording. That’s my way of communicating with the world. If people get any kind of emotional charge from the work I’ve done or feel inspired by it, then I’ve done my job and am utterly fulfilled.
(Photography provided by Earshot Media)