Q&A with Musician + Record Producer – SEAN BEAVAN – Talks “Death Valley”, Working with MARILYN MANSON, TRENT REZNOR and More.
Posted On 12 Oct 2015
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Sean Beavan is a musician, record producer, and audio engineer best known for his work with Guns N’ Roses, Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, God Lives Underwater, and Slayer. His production style is typically heavy, with heavily saturated guitars, but his work is diverse and wide ranging as exemplified by bands like No Doubt to System of a Down, to indie bands like Thrice, and 8mm.
All Access Music writer, Nicole DeRosa had the pleasure of catching up with Sean just before the release of the indie desert noir thriller, Death Valley, a film he recently scored. Enjoy Nicole’s interview with Sean below.
Hi Sean! How are you today? What’s on the agenda today besides our interview?
I just did a mix via Skype and Source Live with Jørgen Munkeby of Shining. He is in Oslo, Norway and we can both listen to the same mix in full fidelity via the internet and communicate via Skype. Amazing technologies, because of this we have been able to work together in a collaborative way while being half a world away with immediacy and synergy. Incredible stuff. Later today I will be working in our studio With Automatik Eden finishing up their debut record. Only 2 more songs to go!
So, first things first, for those that are not familiar with you and your music career, how did you get your start? Who or what was the catalyst for you to want to live the life of a musical gypsy?
The first record I bought was “Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd so I have always been thrilled by the Avant Guard with great hooks! I was always fascinated with how songs and arrangements were constructed and how some songs effect you so much because of their sonics as well as their melodies. I realized I wanted to produce and mix records rather early on (around 9 years old).
Todd Rundgren was probably my biggest inspiration as to how I would get there. He was a musician first and then used those skills to inform his production and engineering. that seemed perfect to me so i pursued a similar path and learned to sing and play as many instruments as I could. I got pretty good at a few of them, but can play anything I put my mind to at least well enough to write a song and come up with a hooky part.
Next I bought the PA system and learned the technical side until I was really comfortable on both sides of the glass. I love performing and have always been really comfortable in front of an audience, so it all started to make sense to me when I started viewing the recording medium as an audience of sorts. Recording is always still performance to me, but the audience lasts forever and you can punch in if you make a mistake which allows you to really go for it without fear.
You have worked for years with both Trent Reznor and Marilyn Manson. I imagine there is an openness and “short hand” working with one another for so many years. Why do you think you “mesh well” together as far as musical sensibilities etc.?
I think we were all arrogant and sure that we knew what was cool when we started out which can make for great art and great rows! We were all into similar music, and were tired of the old stuff, but each of us had our own eccentricities and skill sets.
Trent is a musical genius and prodigy and we all seemed to fill the roles that he didn’t want to have to do. So the musical and tech shorthand came from us all knowing similar things but being cocksure in our strengths and roles. Manson is a grand visionary with no fear of utilizing the talents of others to create a synergy. It is so fun to work with people who have ambition and the will to go there.
You have produced and mixed records for many talented artists + bands including Guns N’ Roses, Marilyn Manson (Portrait of an American Family / Antichrist Superstar / Mechanical Animals / Eat Me, Drink Me), Nine Inch Nails (Pretty Hate Machine / The Downward Spiral / “Closer To God”), Depeche Mode, No Doubt, God Lives Underwater, Slayer, and System of a Down to indie bands like Thrice and your own band 8mm. Who would you love to collaborate with next? (I’m talking wish / bucket list… )
I would love to do something with Sigur Ros someday but I love artist like Jørgen of Shining who is always pushing the envelope and seeing where he can go next. I am doing a song with Rasmus Kellerman of Sweden’s Tiger Lou in November and I love his voice and the bittersweet lyrics in his songwriting.
I don’t so much have a bucket list. I have a lot of empathy with artists and love to see where a collaboration takes us. I don’t clutter up my head with “oh i’d love to work with him or her”.
Truth is I find something I love in everyone I work with. This is especially true of writing with my wife Juliette. How great is it to be able to create with each other whether it is our own music in 8mm or when we are doing a film score? It is pretty damn great!
Who have been your inspirations growing up (music, art, film, etc.) that also inspire you?
David Lynch, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Frank Sinatra, Todd Rundgren, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Alice Cooper, Adam Ant, Gary Numan, Can, The Pretenders, Kubrick, Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams, François Truffaut, Pedro Almodovar, Fellini, WS. Merwin, Anne Sexton, E.E. Cummings, T.S. Elliott, W.H.Auden, Pablo Neruda, Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso, Miro, Dali, Barnett Newman, Willem De Kooning, Mark Tobey, Andy Warhol, Lou Reed, David Bowie, MIck Ronson, Robert Fripp, Brian Eno, Bob Ezrin, Roy Thomas Baker, George Martin, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, The Carpenters, Burt Bacharach, Sonny and Cher, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Roger Miller, Tom Robbins, John Irving, Margaret Atwood, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Stephen King, Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, Jonas Salk, Gandhi, Ray Bradberry, Kurt Vonnegut, Isaac Asimov…Oh my God stop me!!!
Talk to me about your latest project composing the desert noir thriller, Death Valley (out nationwide on October 20th)?
Juliette and I had been friends with Death Valley director T.J. Scott for a few years and when I say friends, I mean we got together every week with he and Victoria Pratt and drank copious amounts of tequila along with our great friend George Puckhaber (producer for Deadliest Catch, Storage Wars, Monster Garage etc.) and T.J. came up with this crazy plan about all of us going back out to Death Valley (where we had shot an album cover for 8mm’s “Love and The Apocalypse”) and making a movie with all our friends.
He wanted Juliette and I to do the score and then he convinced me to do the production audio and Juliette to be script supervisor and act in it. It sounded like a great idea after several shots of tequila. A month later I am standing in the middle of the hottest desert in the US with a boom mic and all this gear I had never used before thinking “I hope I don’t screw this up”!
We just had the greatest time making it because everyone on set just loved each other and every night was a party. It was such a high to do something so intense with people you adore. All the actors were all friends of ours as well because of T.J.s directing of every great tv show so there were no prima donnas just awesome people making a movie.
Juliette and I found scoring the movie came really natural to us as we have always done very cinematic music in 8mm and our inspirations for songs were always movies etc. It just fit like a glove. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
What is it about working on film scores such as Death Valley versus albums that you enjoy most?
It’s the collaboration between the dialog, the acting, the cinematography, and the music. It is just incredible to help the synergy to unfold. We get to make the emotion really come alive when we add the musical score to the scene as well as to set a tone and and atmosphere for the whole enchilada.
When writing score you don’t need to concentrate on the main hook or melody to take center stage like when you are writing a song. The dialog and the acting is the main hook, you are providing context and atmosphere and either supporting the emotions of the characters or helping to inform the audience on what the director wants them to feel. Scoring is the process of benevolent manipulation. It makes the Machievelli in me very happy.
Fun fact: You played fretless bass with fellow Clevelander, Eric Carmen (of Raspberries) on the CLASSIC song “Hungry Eyes” on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. How did that all come about?
I was playing in one of the hottest young original bands in Cleveland at the time called Nation of One. When Eric went into Beechwood Studios in Cleveland to record the song for the soundtrack he asked the engineer if he knew any great local players. The engineer, Jim Demain, told him about us and me in particular who was working as an intern in the studio.
Eric hired me and the guitarist (Poe’s Daris Adkins) and our keyboard player Joey Hunter to do the gig and a few shows. It was an honor to play with a legend. What an amazing voice. Eric would go out the night before doing vocals and smoke and drink whiskey so his voice would get all raspy. The stories that he told about those early days of the late sixties early seventies were incredible but I was sworn to secrecy so you won’t be hearing them here.
Who is in your current playlist? What artists or bands are in current rotation for you?
I am listening to Bowie, Radiohead, Sigur Ros, Velvet Underground, Beatles, World Party, Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin, and Massive Attack right now because those are the influences we are pulling from for the Automatik Eden record I am producing. I try to make sure that each song is inspired by at least three different things which always seem to combine to form one new innovative thing.
What’s on tap next for you Sean? What are you most excited about for this year?
I have been branching my mixing out into film, TV, and Sound Design for film. I have been mixing some television shows and just finished mixing the film “June” for director L. Gustavo Cooper. “June” is a supernatural thriller starring our good friend, Victoria Pratt (who is also in Death Valley). Juliette and I scored the movie and I did the Sound Design and mixing of it as well. We really loved making the “scares” come alive!
To learn more about SEAN BEAVAN , visit him HERE .
Photo Credit: Dennys Ilic