Hi All, I'm finally sitting down and getting my head around this.
First and foremost there is no right or wrong session psychology, it's what works best for you and/or the act. For me what works best is a happy, enjoyable, as stress free session as possible. It's never that all the time. There will always be those moments when someone says or does something wrong just at the worst time and tempers will flare. I strive to make that not be me, neither the one that speaks out of place or the one that blows, but I have fallen foul of both. There are other producers that have accomplished great work through intimidation or having the artist be angry or even by bribing them into a good performance by allowing them to see one of the porn mags in his case once they achieve that performance. No right or wrong. The best possible performance is, and always should be, the goal.
I started my working life sitting in a corner, pushing play, record & rewind buttons at hopefully the right times and keeping my mouth clamped shut. Like the best children, speak only when spoken to. This continued, to a lesser degree, when I became an engineer. I was there to get the sounds that the producer and hopefully the artist wanted, not to discuss how the singer couldn't hold a tune or how the drummers timing was as good as a bowl of Rice Krispies when the milks first poured. My concern was the sound. It was only when I found myself having too much to say artistically and not being able to keep my mouth shut that I knew I had to move to production.
So, on to the producer/artist relationship. I have always considered my job as producer as getting the best product out of the artist in the way that they wish to be shown off. I'm not one to totally try and mould an act into what I think they should be. If I have chosen to work with an artist, I respect them and their creativity and allow them as much freedom as possible, but when necessary I pull the reins in often without them even realising. I'll use a comment from Terry Bozzio as testimony to that. We had had a very bad split after the first Missing Persons album and the band had basically decided they could do everything themselves. After time had healed the wounds Terry and I met up and whilst chatting he said "You made it look too easy. We had no idea".
On the complete opposite end of the scale Rod Morgenstein of the Dixie Dregs tells how at our first pre-production rehearsal, after playing through the first number I immediately jumped up and reamed him a new one for over playing. I don't think I came across as strongly as he intimates but there are always 3 sides to a story. Anyway he carries on to tell how by the time we go in to record his part had been completely pared down and he hated me. It was only once he heard it back for the first time that he realised that the space I had got him to leave showed both the music and his playing off in a much better way and from then on I never had to change anything about his parts and he no longer hated me.
One other point I feel I should raise specifically about my working relationships. I still engineer my own productions. On the whole I find I can concentrate more on the music if I'm not having to relay possible sound changes to another party. I just reach up and do it without really thinking about it and it's done. The only time this dual role causes a problem is when there is some form of technical malfunction. This is usually over with very quickly but one occasion comes to mind where it created a chasm that couldn't be breached. I was supposed to be producing a Cat Stevens album. We had traveled all over the world together in an attempt to find a studio that we both liked and during this time had got on remarkably well. We eventually agreed on a studio in Amsterdam and had done pre-production over there. In to record. I get the sounds, everything seems fine, OK let's do a take. Something was wrong with the tape machine, I can't remember what it was but I, as engineer, had to stay in the control room and be a part of the technical crew trying to fix the fault. As producer I should have been in the studio keeping the artist and musicians happy during this down time, but I wasn't able to and this led to voices being raised and finally a full breakdown in communications. Everyone left Amsterdam the next day and I believe David Kershenbaum finished up producing the album.
Well there you go. It's taken me a while to write on this subject and I hope I have answered your questions adequately.