Big general questions about being a producer thread (many threads merged into one)
Old 15th June 2009
  #1
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Big general questions about being a producer thread (many threads merged into one)

Welcome, Butch. Many of us do indeed appreciate your work.

Now-a-days it seems like tons of young wanna-be artists are calling themselves Producers because they can build songs using samples.

Has the role of the Producer been changing over the years or are they misusing this title?

Thanks, RD
Old 15th June 2009
  #2
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In this modern era of bedroom/laptop recording studios, it does seem like anyone can become a producer! And in the most basic term, a producer is just someone who has an opinion, so that leaves the door wide open.
The technology has leveled the playing field, and I think it's a good thing. However, it also means that there are SO MANY bands recording songs that sometimes you have to wade through a pile of **** in order to find a song that really moves you.

The same goes for producers, there are a lot of them out there, hopefully you end up working with someone whose opinion you trust!
Old 15th June 2009
  #3
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I will also try to explain what I do in the studio. It's not an easy or quick answer, because every artist is different.
Old 15th June 2009
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ButchVig View Post
I will also try to explain what I do in the studio. It's not an easy or quick answer, because every artist is different.
yes, please do. this would be very interesting to hear.

what is your "template"? do you have a way that you go about things?
like if band/artist presents you with a song, how do you go about it?
Old 15th June 2009
  #5
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hey butch

wanted to ask how long u guys prepare for the studio. are u involed in the whole prepro prozess or are the most things happening in the studio during the rec. prozess?

nice job done!

cheers
Old 15th June 2009
  #6
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I will try and refrain from gushing here ( <-- that was an under the radar gush btw), but I am interested in this quote as I have noticed the same thing happening (and I agree, it is a good thing for the playing field in producing art to be leveled by technology).
Quote:
Originally Posted by ButchVig View Post
The technology has leveled the playing field, and I think it's a good thing. However, it also means that there are SO MANY bands recording songs that sometimes you have to wade through a pile of **** in order to find a song that really moves you.
What do you look for now? Is it just the music or a total entertainment package?
You're obviously at a stage in the game where people come to you (and rightly so), but do you look for new acts as well, and if so, where are you looking? I understand the sea of mediocrity is welling up from the same system that is allowing the truly talented to surge from as well. It's encouraging though too, I hear a lot more good stuff on myspace now, despite all the garbage (pun intentional). There has been a lot of hype surrounding bands with high friend list counts and player hits, to the point where bands who have never played live are getting signed based on myspace hits, what's your take on that phenonmena?

I have a million other questions relating to your role as producer and drummer, but I'll spare you.. .for now.
Old 15th June 2009
  #7
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Hi Butch,

Im interested to hear your thoughts on the importance of understanding music theory,harmony and to a lesser extent music history as a producer. Do you have a thorough understanding of the above and use it on a regular basis or do you think its unnecessary for the genres that you work with???
Old 15th June 2009
  #8
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The differences between Producing and Co Producing...

Hey butch, adding thanks to all the rest of them for you doing this.

As the title suggests, Im wondering how you approach Co Producing a project rather than being the sole producer. For example, when you done Sing The Sorrow (AFI) with Jerry Finn.

Is it more difficult to form a coherent vision with another producer. Or is there one guy who's more in the driver's seat than the other. Or do you play to each others strenghs?

Obviously each producer is different. So would you only Co Produce with one you knew you'd "get along with"? Ive only heard what it was like to work with Jerry on some projects (rip..) and from what i hear anyone could work with him which must have made it easier for you.

Im not sure if any of that makes sense, i guess im just asking how you would approach a "Co Producer" role differently. Then I started waffling.

Cheers in advance man

xcx
Old 16th June 2009
  #9
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Approach to production

Thanks for coming on and answering some questions - its really great to hear from the best in the industry their perspectives.

How would you describe your production style? Are you concerned with every little detail and beat being perfect or are you all about the performance and the magic that a good performer creates in the studio. ie Is the best gear important to you or is it all about the creative space?

Keep up the great work,

Thanks in advance,

Rohan Arnold
Australia
Old 16th June 2009
  #10
Advice for aspiring producers...

Hiya Butch. First off, I'd like to say thanks for doing this. It's a rare treat to get to pick the brain of an industry giant, and I think I can speak for everyone here when I tell you how much it is appreciated.

I have a few questions about your general process. I'm hoping that your answers might help give some insight into my own (budding) career, and maybe help me better understand some of the situations I have encountered and the failures I have suffered.

1) First off, how do you choose the projects that you will work on? Is there a certain vibe you look for? Do you ever accept projects that are outside of your comfort zone purely for the challenge? How do you know when a project isn't right for you, and how do you turn it down without offending anyone?

2) Once you accept a project, how involved do you get in the songwriting and arrangement process? Do you try to shape the overall concept and direction of a record, or do you focus more on the sound and general aesthetic? Do you spend a lot of time working on lyrics and melody, or do you pretty much leave them as the band wrote them?

3) How involved do you get in the creative quibbles of band members as relates to the project? Do you try to mediate, or do you let them sort it out for themselves?

4) How do you break it to a band that a particular song or idea just sucks without causing WWIII?

5) How rigid or flexible are you when it comes to the writing and recording processes? Do you like to stick to a formula, or do you just let things go off in whatever direction they will? How far do you let things go off the deep end before you decide it's time to reel them back in?

6) Do you find yourself becoming a temporary "member" of the band you are working with during the production process, or do you maintain a certain distance between yourself and the artist?

I am really looking forward to your answers! Thanks again!
Old 17th June 2009
  #11
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was wondering about this too...
Old 17th June 2009
  #12
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Producing philosophy?

Hi Butch,

Many thanks for taking the time to do this! You strike me as a producer who is able to make your mark on a recording or to choose to be more transparent/in the background, depending on the gig. (Is this a fair analysis?) I definitely feel that's a strength and one that's rare enough.

So, I'm wondering how you came to be a producer? What was your first gig as a producer and more importantly, did you start off wanting to be a producer or did life just lead you that way?

Again, thank you for taking the time and also for some fantastic records!! Garbage was really eye-opening (ear-opening?) when I first heard it and it's stood the test of time for me...

-- Dan
Old 18th June 2009
  #13
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Rates and project selection.

Hi Butch, thank you so much for taking the time to do this.

How do you decide what you'll charge for a project?

Do you try to fit bands in with lower budgets?
Old 18th June 2009
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StudioRat81 View Post
Hiya Butch. First off, I'd like to say thanks for doing this. It's a rare treat to get to pick the brain of an industry giant, and I think I can speak for everyone here when I tell you how much it is appreciated.

I have a few questions about your general process. I'm hoping that your answers might help give some insight into my own (budding) career, and maybe help me better understand some of the situations I have encountered and the failures I have suffered.

1) First off, how do you choose the projects that you will work on? Is there a certain vibe you look for? Do you ever accept projects that are outside of your comfort zone purely for the challenge? How do you know when a project isn't right for you, and how do you turn it down without offending anyone?

2) Once you accept a project, how involved do you get in the songwriting and arrangement process? Do you try to shape the overall concept and direction of a record, or do you focus more on the sound and general aesthetic? Do you spend a lot of time working on lyrics and melody, or do you pretty much leave them as the band wrote them?

3) How involved do you get in the creative quibbles of band members as relates to the project? Do you try to mediate, or do you let them sort it out for themselves?

4) How do you break it to a band that a particular song or idea just sucks without causing WWIII?

5) How rigid or flexible are you when it comes to the writing and recording processes? Do you like to stick to a formula, or do you just let things go off in whatever direction they will? How far do you let things go off the deep end before you decide it's time to reel them back in?

6) Do you find yourself becoming a temporary "member" of the band you are working with during the production process, or do you maintain a certain distance between yourself and the artist?

I am really looking forward to your answers! Thanks again!
Aaron, these are not quick answers, I will try to get to your questions when I have a bit more time, I've been doing long sessions this week....
BV
Old 18th June 2009
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ButchVig View Post
Aaron, these are not quick answers, I will try to get to your questions when I have a bit more time, I've been doing long sessions this week....
BV
Oh, of course. The work comes first! If you don't have the time to answer them all in depth, I completely understand. I appreciate anything at all you might have to say in response.
Old 18th June 2009
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Umlaaat View Post
yes, please do. this would be very interesting to hear.

what is your "template"? do you have a way that you go about things?
like if band/artist presents you with a song, how do you go about it?
I don't really have a template per se...if I'm working with a rock band, it's important to understand how they play, what their strengths are, and try to capture that in the sound and performances.

It really depends on the artist. My approach with Garbage is a lot different than say, Freedy Johnston, who is a singer-songwriter, or Green Day.

Sometimes the song dictates the approach....if it's noisy, or quite, or upbeat, or dark...or I may focus on the lyrics. No matter what the genre is, I need to figure out the best way to make the song come across.
Old 18th June 2009
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by usefullidiot View Post
Hi Butch,

Im interested to hear your thoughts on the importance of understanding music theory,harmony and to a lesser extent music history as a producer. Do you have a thorough understanding of the above and use it on a regular basis or do you think its unnecessary for the genres that you work with???
My mom Betty was a music teacher, and she was constantly playing albums at our house: musicals, Frank Sinatra, The Tijuana Brass, The Beatles, country western, etc...
so i was exposed to a broad section of music, She made me take piano lessons for about 5 years, until I took up the drums in 5th or 6th grade. I think the few years on piano helped because I understand basic theory, and can play both guitar and piano on a fairly basic level.

In college at UW Madison, one of the most influential teachers I had was Dan Harris..I took 4 semesters of "electronic/experimental" music, and Dan was awesome, he really opened a lot of doors for me, encouraged me to listen to "sound' not just music. We never had tests, just projects...the studio had lots of old Moogs and Arp synths..

and NO keyboard,,,you had to make sounds with patch chords!

Dan's MO was "No Switched On Bach!
Old 18th June 2009
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by equallyscrewed View Post
Hey butch, adding thanks to all the rest of them for you doing this.

As the title suggests, Im wondering how you approach Co Producing a project rather than being the sole producer. For example, when you done Sing The Sorrow (AFI) with Jerry Finn.

Is it more difficult to form a coherent vision with another producer. Or is there one guy who's more in the driver's seat than the other. Or do you play to each others strenghs?

Obviously each producer is different. So would you only Co Produce with one you knew you'd "get along with"? Ive only heard what it was like to work with Jerry on some projects (rip..) and from what i hear anyone could work with him which must have made it easier for you.

Im not sure if any of that makes sense, i guess im just asking how you would approach a "Co Producer" role differently. Then I started waffling.

Cheers in advance man

xcx
If your going to co-produce with someone, it's important that you both understand where the project is going. I would never want to work with someone if we didn't share the same sensibility or vision.

Jerry Finn was AWESOME! He had a great attitude, great ears, and a wonderful sense of humour. When we decided to work together with AFI, I looked at it as an opportunity to learn from another great producer...and I did!
It was also the first time I worked with Joe McGrath and Mike Fasano, who are very good friends of mine, and I still work with.
Old 18th June 2009
  #19
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[QUOTE=StudioRat81;4288674]Hiya Butch. First off, I'd like to say thanks for doing this. It's a rare treat to get to pick the brain of an industry giant, and I think I can speak for everyone here when I tell you how much it is appreciated.

I have a few questions about your general process. I'm hoping that your answers might help give some insight into my own (budding) career, and maybe help me better understand some of the situations I have encountered and the failures I have suffered.

1) First off, how do you choose the projects that you will work on? Is there a certain vibe you look for? Do you ever accept projects that are outside of your comfort zone purely for the challenge? How do you know when a project isn't right for you, and how do you turn it down without offending anyone?

I have few things I do when taking on a project.
First, I need to hear some music, either demos of new material, or the artist's latest album, to see if it's something I feel like I will get into. Second, I like to meet the artist and see what they are like, and try to find out what THEIR vision of the new album should be. I much prefer working with artists who have a strong vision rather than working with someone who doesn't have a clue. If I feel like I'm on the same page, then I like to see them play live (if it's a band) so i get a better understanding of how they play and interact.
Third, if i feel like it's something I'm interested in, I'll do a little research, to make sure there are no skeletons..ie bad drug habits, bad managers, etc...that might cause problems down line.

I have done lots of projects that are out of my comfort zone...but getting through a difficult project is worth it if the album rocks!!!
Old 18th June 2009
  #20
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2) Once you accept a project, how involved do you get in the songwriting and arrangement process? Do you try to shape the overall concept and direction of a record, or do you focus more on the sound and general aesthetic? Do you spend a lot of time working on lyrics and melody, or do you pretty much leave them as the band wrote them?

3) How involved do you get in the creative quibbles of band members as relates to the project? Do you try to mediate, or do you let them sort it out for themselves?

I can't stress how important pre-production is. The more time you have to spend with an artist before recording the better you'll be. If the songs are pretty solid, than pre-pro usually involves a lot of rehearsal, to work out all the parts. With some artists, they need help with the song...maybe it's the arrangments, maybe the lyrics, maybe a completely different approach...and I'm there to help them figure it out. Whenever I get more involved with the songs, I have to constantly remind myself that I'm trying to help them with THEIR vision, not my vision...and hopefully I can coax the new parts and ideas from them, not me.

As far as band quibbbles...well, almost every band fights at some point. I think a good producer is also a good psychologist...and when there is a problem, you just gotta stick your head in there and figure it out!
Old 18th June 2009
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Contrast Rec View Post
Hi Butch, thank you so much for taking the time to do this.

How do you decide what you'll charge for a project?

Do you try to fit bands in with lower budgets?
I work on a floating scale...and try to work within the budget...more for a project that has a bigger budget and I know I will be locked out for a long time, and less for shorter projects. If i really want to work with someone, I usually figure out a way to do the project regardless of what the budget is!
Old 18th June 2009
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ButchVig View Post
In this modern era of bedroom/laptop recording studios, it does seem like anyone can become a producer! And in the most basic term, a producer is just someone who has an opinion, so that leaves the door wide open.
How much of an engineer do you think a producer should be in a typical higher-budget session (one with a separate producer and engineer)?

Do think the producer should have his or her finger on signal flow every second of the session, or is that moreso for the engineer be concerned with the majority of the time? In a larger session that would seem like a LOT of switching from right to left brain. (beginning engineer/producer question, as you can probably tell).
Old 30th June 2009
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bayareamatt View Post
How much of an engineer do you think a producer should be in a typical higher-budget session (one with a separate producer and engineer)?

Do think the producer should have his or her finger on signal flow every second of the session, or is that moreso for the engineer be concerned with the majority of the time? In a larger session that would seem like a LOT of switching from right to left brain. (beginning engineer/producer question, as you can probably tell).
It really depends on how technical the producers background is, and how much they want to tune into the engineering aspect. I know some producers who pay a lot of attention to what's going on, and others who don't care (or have a clue)...they just want it to sound good.
Old 30th June 2009
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ButchVig View Post
It really depends on how technical the producers background is, and how much they want to tune into the engineering aspect. I know some producers who pay a lot of attention to what's going on, and others who don't care (or have a clue)...they just want it to sound good.
That definitely makes sense. Thanks for your time Butch, it means a lot.
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