The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
 Search This Thread  Search This Forum  Search Reviews  Search Gear Database  Search Gear for sale  Search Gearslutz Go Advanced
Post here if you worked on Michael Jackson's DANGEROUS album
Old 27th June 2009
  #1
Gear Guru
 
Sqye's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
RobMix - tell us about MJ!!!

.

hey, man - sorry to call you out, and i don't know if this is a tough time for you -

...but, if i'm correct - you did do some work with MJ, right?...along with bruce and a bunch of other slutz here.


well, when and if you have a minute, would you be kind enough to share a little with us about working with him??

thanks in advance, man.

he was indeed an endless inspiration to pop music lovers, including me - and brought so much excitement and joy to so many of us. he will be missed!...what a sad day!



+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++





ANNOUNCEMENT: this thread is NOT ONLY about Dangerous.

...but ALL Micheal Jackson Albums and Sessions!



Jules was kind enough to merge two hot Gearslutz 'MJ Sessions' threads:


"Post here if you worked on MJ's Dangerous Album" ......by DJP777

and

"Robmix - Tell Us About MJ!!!" ......by Sqye (me)


So now we have a killer line-up of pro MJ engineers - all under one roof, including:

+Robmix (Rob Hoffman), +Resonator (John), +RussRags (Russ), and legendary +Bill Bottrell -
to talk about MJ Sessions here!!

I can't believe all these talented guys are here - and kind enough to share with us!

...And, as a special treat - we're waiting on +Bruce Swedien...


I apologize for any thread confusion, guys!....And enjoy the party!!!..

IT'S A CELEBRATION OF MJ - LIVE YOUR LIFE stike OFF THE WALL!!! stike...

.

.
Old 27th June 2009
  #2
mds
Lives for gear
 

I'll ping Rob on this one...he has lots of stories...always made MJ sound like a real sweet guy...
Old 27th June 2009
  #3
Lives for gear
 
shanabit's Avatar
 

Rob, please dont. Theres enough carnage here already
Old 27th June 2009
  #4
Gear Guru
 
Sqye's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
.

please, let's not focus on the negative...please.

MJ brought so much to music!!...he was a huge inspiration to so many here!

..STORIES!!!!...

.
Old 27th June 2009
  #5
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sqye View Post
.

please, let's not focus on the negative...please.

MJ brought so much to music!!...he was a huge inpiration to so many here!

..STORIES!!!!...

.
Agreed. If you don't post because of potential ********, then the ******** win.
Old 27th June 2009
  #6
Lives for gear
 

I worked with Michael on many occasions...first in 1979 shortly following the release of "Off The Wall", which was recorded at my old studio, Image Recording, when it was owned by its former owner, Allen Zentz.

I then spent some time in 1980 (or 81?) with Michael recording demo's for Thriller. This was great, because it was just the two of us and whoever Michael had coming in. "John, we have Jonathan Moffit coming at 12:00, then Greg Phillinganes at 1:00...oh, and we're recording strings at 4:00!". Wow, what a great experience working so closely with him. I had him on the mic for some days recording vocals, and it was an amazing experience...he would be dancing up a storm while singing and doing all of those "grunts, oohs, ahhs" vocal sounds that would pepper his tracks. He asked me to take up the carpet so he could dance, and in between takes, he would sing other popular songs of the day just freestyle and acapella and we would talk about the music we liked.

Over the next year or two, I hosted the Jacksons many times, recording various tracks, claps (we had a jacuzzi room which they loved to use for the massive white-noise claps that people liked back then). I got to know all the brothers.

Bruce Swedien came back to Image Recording to record a song (or two?) for the Jackson's "Victory" record in about 1983. Another great experience, as Bruce did (as I recall) a string quartet and (perhaps) Michael's vocal at the same time. Bruce IS the best of all time, by the way. BEST.

I believe there were a couple of sundry Jacksons sessions over the next couple of years, but by that time, Michael was hugely popular and I didn't see him as much. The next time was really in 1995, when Robmix and I worked on the HIStory album. Rob worked on this for quite a long time (2 years?), while I worked on it for a few months. We were all holed up in Larrabee North, where Bruce had a room (or were you guys at Record One, Rob?)...Eddie Delena was recording quite a lot Michael's vocals at Larrabee in one room, and I was put in another room to engineer for whomever needed it...my most memorable session being some days with Dallas Austin and on one day, recording The Notorious B.I.G. for his rap on "This Time Around". There I was, standing in a room with Dallas, Biggie and Michael. I'll never forget it.

The final days of that album were made interesting, by Bruce giving me the task to sequence the album and edit it down to a size that we could fit onto a CD. This was no small undertaking, as about 7 minutes needed to be trimmed somewhere. I laid this all out in Sound Tools and came to know every bar of every song very intimately. I found places where songs could be tightened up and came up with many suggestions. On the night of mastering, I was put in a room at Bernie Grundman's with my Sound Tools rig, and in this room, I would have to "negotiate" with Michael about what to take out. I'll never forget this night...Michael came in, and Bruce told MJ that we would have to remove either 1) one whole song or 2) edit the others to fit onto a CD. We chose the latter...I started with song one and played Michael my edits, "Oh no, we can't take THAT out...it's my favorite part of the album!". OK. Let's try another, "Oh no, we MUST keep those four bars". OK...let's go to the vamp, which carries on for two minutes...how about removing these eight bars, "Oh no, that's my favorite part of the vamp!". Well, you get the picture. Meanwhile, Jimmy Jam was in with us, telling Michael that all these edits were killer and actually make things better. And over the course of about 5 hours, we got it down. By this time, it was probably 3:00am, and I was wiped out. Bruce walked in..."Okay, John, I want you to make all these edits on the 1/2" masters right now!". My first thought was, "You've GOT to be kidding!" I had used some crossfades in Tools and such, plus I was worn out from "bartering" with Michael. But, into Bernie's room we went, and with Bruce over my shoulder, I cut the 1/2" tapes. As I recall, this took a couple of hours, and we were done. By the way, video footage of my "bartering session" with Michael exists, although I was never able to get a copy. Perhaps someday!

After that album's completion, we were all invited to The Neverland Ranch with spouses and kids for a day of fun, with Michael as our host. What a memorable day that I will recount in another post...my arms hurt now!

Take it away, Rob...
Old 27th June 2009
  #7
Lives for gear
 

Totally cool - thx John!
Old 27th June 2009
  #8
Lives for gear
 

Oh, and one more IMPORTANT thing. I have never worked with a nicer man than Michael. He was gracious, talented as all get-out, gentle, humble, a perfect gentleman, never swore, was healthy, punctual, and just the very sweetest person I could have ever hoped to work with. Oh, what a brilliant star he was! Absolutely, gone too soon.
Old 27th June 2009
  #9
Lives for gear
 

I never understood Mr. Jackson's songs.

A week ago, I listened to Thriller for the first time -- because of all the GS praise, btw -- and I was utterly bored.

But I never saw a better DANCER.
Old 27th June 2009
  #10
Lives for gear
 

Old 27th June 2009
  #11
Lives for gear
 
idylldon's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sounds Great View Post
John, thanks for that. thumbsup
Yep!



Cheers,
--
Don
Old 27th June 2009
  #12
Gear Guru
 
Kenny Gioia's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Resonater View Post
Oh, and one more IMPORTANT thing. I have never worked with a nicer man than Michael. He was gracious, talented as all get-out, gentle, humble, a perfect gentleman, never swore, was healthy, punctual, and just the very sweetest person I could have ever hoped to work with. Oh, what a brilliant star he was! Absolutely, gone too soon.
Thanks for that.
Old 27th June 2009
  #13
Gear Guru
 
Kenny Gioia's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by author View Post
I never understood Mr. Jackson's songs.

A week ago, I listened to Thriller for the first time -- because of all the GS praise, btw -- and I was utterly bored.
We don't have to make this thread about you. Do we? dfegad
Old 27th June 2009
  #14
Lives for gear
 
robmix's Avatar
I was fortunate enough to work with MJ early in my career. He was an incredible artist. Talented beyond your wildest dreams. Extremely generous, and a hard worker. I actually went from a staff assistant at the Hit Factory in NYC to freelance engineer under Swedien and MJ. They were due to start in Los Angeles when the Northridge earthquake hit so they moved to New York. One room was all Bruce, the second room was the writing room. I started assisting Bruce's writing partner Rene Moore. I would track stuff with Rene, and Bruce would come in and tell me what I did wrong, sit in for a few hours and set us straight. After a couple months MJ arrived and the entire tour rig was moved in along with Brad Buxer, Andrew Scheps, and Eddie Delena. I continued to assist them until the whole crew moved to L.A., they decided to take me with them. I would assist Bruce during the day, and help out every where else at night - assisting, engineering, programming, and on one song playing guitar. We had two rooms at Record One, and two rooms at Larrabee where I met John. At one point in NYC we had just about every room at the Hit Factory. The crew was great, and I learned so much from all of them. I learned to engineer from Bruce Swedien, John, and Eddie, and got to sit in with producers like MJ, Jam And Lewis, Babyface, David Foster, Teddy Riley, and Dallas Austin.

I was actually asked to leave the project early on because there were too many people around and MJ didn't know me. Luckily, I was rehired about 10 days later. At the wrap party MJ apologized profusely, and expressed his gratitude. Truly the most sincere man you will ever meet.

Some random memories:


One morning MJ came in with a new song he had written overnight. We called in a guitar player, and Michael sang every note of every chord to him. "here's the first chord first note, second note, third note. Here's the second chord first note, second note, third note", etc., etc. We then witnessed him giving the most heartfelt and profound vocal performance, live in the control room through an SM57.

He would sing us an entire string arrangement, every part. Steve Porcaro once told me he witnessed MJ doing that with the string section in the room. Had it all in his head, harmony and everything. Not just little eight bar loop ideas. he would actually sing the entire arrangement into a micro-cassette recorder complete with stops and fills.

At one point Michael was angry at one of the producers on the project because he was treating everyone terribly. Rather than create a scene or fire the guy, Michael called him to his office/lounge and one of the security guys threw a pie in his face. No further action was needed . . . . .

During the recording of "Smile" on HIStory, Bruce thought it would be great if Michael would sing live with the orchestra. But of course, we didn't tell the players that. We set him up in a vocal booth off to the side. They rehearsed a bit without vocals in, then during the first take Michael sang, just about knocked them out of their chairs.

His beatboxing was without parallel, and his time was ridiculous.

His sense of harmony was incredible. Never a bad note, no tuning, even his breathing was perfectly in time.

Once, while we were taking a break, I think we were actually watching the OJ chase on TV, there was a news program talking about him being in Europe with some little boy. I was sitting next to the guy while the news is making this crap up. He just looked at me and said this is what I have to deal with.

I spent close to 3 years working with him, and not once did I question his morals, or ever believe any of the allegations. I wasn't even a fan then. I saw him interact with his brothers kids, other people's children, and at one point my own girlfriend's kids. I got to spend a day at Neverland with them. A completely incredible human being, always looking for a way to make all children's lives better. Every weekend at Neverland was donated to a different children's group - children with AIDS, children cancer, etc., and most of the time he wasn't there.

He was simply living the childhood he never had. In many ways he never grew up.

I was assisting Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis while they recorded the background vocals for "Scream" with MJ and Janet. The two of them singing together was amazing. Super tight, no bad notes. One part after another. When they took a break they sang the showtunes they used to sing as kids. Again, perfect harmony. Mj refused to sing the "stop f*ckin' with me part" because he would NOT curse.

I was the tape op for the recording of the background vocals on "Stranger in Moscow". Scared the hell out me. Michael was dropping in and out on syllables, rearranging the notes and timing as he put it down. No Pro Tools at the time, just 2" tape, and my punches.

I erased a live keyboard overdub that he played one night. He came in the next morning, replaced it, and never uttered another word about it.

I was there when Lisa Marie was around. They acted like two kids in love. Held hands all the time, and she hung out at the studio for quite a while. I never questioned their love for each other.

We recorded a Christmas song during the summer of '94 that needed a children's choir. Michael insisted that the entire studio be decorated with xmas lights, tree, fake snow and a sled for their recording. And he bought presents for everyone.

The last weekend of recording on HIStory he came to me and Eddie Delena, and said "I'm sorry, but I don't think any of us are going to sleep this weekend. There's a lot to get done, and we have to go to Bernie on Monday morning". He stayed at the studio the entire time, singing, and mixing. I got to spend a couple quiet moments with him during that time. We talked about John Lennon one night as he was gearing up to sing the last vocal of the record - the huge ad libs at the end of "earth song". I told him the story of John singing "twist and shout" while being sick, and though most people think he was screaming for effect, it was actually his voice giving out. He loved it, and then went in to sing his heart out. . . .

Later that night, while mixing, everyone left the room so MJ could turn it up. This was a common occurrence during the mixes, and I was left in the room with ear plugs, and hands over my ears, in case he needed something. This particular night, all the lights were out and we noticed some blue flashes intermittently lighting up the room during playback. After a few moments we could see that one of the speakers (custom quad augspuergers) was shooting blue flames. Mj liked this and proceeded to push all the faders up . . . .

MJ liked hot water while he was singing. I mean really hot !!!!! It got to the point that I would melt plastic spoons to test it.

Bruce and I were talking about walking to the studio everyday in NYC, and what routes we took. Michael looked at us and said we were so lucky to be able to do that. He couldn't walk down the street without being harassed. It was a sad moment for all of us.

The studio crew got free tickets to the Janet show so we all went right from work one night. About halfway through the show we see this dude with a long beard, dressed in robes dancing in the aisle behind. I mean really dancing . . . it was Mj in disguise. Kind of like the costume Chevy Chase wears in Fletch while roller skating.

He got one of the first playstations from sony in his lounge . . . we snuck in late at night to play the games that hadn't been released yet.

A couple people on the session hadn't seen Jurassic Park while it was out, so MJ arranged a private screening for us at Sony.

He was a huge fan of Nine Inch Nails Downward Spiral . . . .

I was lucky enough over the course of 3 years to have access to the multitrack masters for tour prep, videos, and archive purposes. To be able to pull these tracks apart was a huge lesson in production, and songwriting. A chance to look into the minds of geniuses.

Of all the records I've worked on, MJJ was the only company to give platinum award records.

One day we just all sat in the studio listening to his catalog with him for inspiration. He loved the process, he loved the work.
Old 27th June 2009
  #15
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by author View Post
I never understood Mr. Jackson's songs.

A week ago, I listened to Thriller for the first time -- because of all the GS praise, btw -- and I was utterly bored.

But I never saw a better DANCER.
Well, we all have our various likes and dislikes, so no problem.

However, from simply a production and engineering perspective, I think these records will stand for the rest of time as some of the finest sonic treats ever. I can't imagine finding three more talented people; Michael, Quincy and Bruce. Each an utter master of his craft.

Speaking of Thriller, I'll never forget Bruce pulling me into the Mastering Room to hear the title track over the big speakers prior to its release...well, it sounded amazing and was SO cool to hear, especially in Bruce's presence. My favorite song on that album was Human Nature...what sonic glory! And I do love Billie Jean.
Old 27th June 2009
  #16
Lives for gear
 
idylldon's Avatar
 

Thanks, Rob! I can't even imagine how exhilarating working with folks of his caliber would be, and I'm sure he made the bar go a bit higher for everyone involved.

Cheers,
--
Don
Old 27th June 2009
  #17
Lives for gear
 
robmix's Avatar
Bruce told me there were something like 81 mixes of Billy Jean, and after all that they used one of the first versions
Old 27th June 2009
  #18
Thanks, guys, for your recollections.


Best- Brad
Old 27th June 2009
  #19
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by robmix View Post
Bruce told me there were something like 81 mixes of Billy Jean, and after all that they used one of the first versions
Along those lines, Quincy and Bruce used to have a saying while they were mixing. One of them would turn to the other and say, "I think we're mixing past the money", which meant...okay, now we're no longer improving it...it was better a mix or two ago, and the mixing would stop.

Great stories, Rob. Never knew about the pie!
Old 27th June 2009
  #20
Lives for gear
 
idylldon's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by robmix View Post
Bruce told me there were something like 81 mixes of Billy Jean, and after all that they used one of the first versions
I guess it's easier to know what you want after hearing what you don't want, eh?

Cheers,
--
Don
Old 27th June 2009
  #21
Lives for gear
 
robmix's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Resonater View Post
Along those lines, Quincy and Bruce used to have a saying while they were mixing. One of them would turn to the other and say, "I think we're mixing past the money", which meant...okay, now we're no longer improving it...it was better a mix or two ago, and the mixing would stop.

Great stories, Rob. Never knew about the pie!

My favorite Bruce saying . . . "don't step over a dollar to pick up a nickle"
Old 27th June 2009
  #22
Lives for gear
 
Svens's Avatar
 

Really great stories, puts MJ in a whole other perspective. Thanks.
Old 27th June 2009
  #23
Lives for gear
 
Mark Kaufman's Avatar
 

This thread brought tears to my eyes, and I ain't that sentimental.

THANKS! Great tales to share.
Old 27th June 2009
  #24
Lives for gear
 
zboy2854's Avatar
 

What amazing stories Rob. Thanks for putting such a personal and intimate side to someone that most of us have only ever been fed media caricatures about.
Old 27th June 2009
  #25
Lives for gear
 
SeanG's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sounds Great View Post
It is discussion like this that make Gearslutz such a special place to hang out.

Thanks Rob!
+1

Thanks Rob & John



thumbsup
Old 27th June 2009
  #26
Gear nut
 
Paulie's Avatar
 

Cool read!
Old 28th June 2009
  #27
Lives for gear
 

Thanks!
Old 28th June 2009
  #28
Gear Maniac
 
GREENFENDR's Avatar
Thanks guys, I hope we see more of these types of stories, you are doing a great service to his memory.
Old 28th June 2009
  #29
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
John - Rob

Thanks for sharing.

b
Old 28th June 2009
  #30
KAB
Gear addict
 

Thanks so much for sharing, guys. Fascinating stuff and great memories, I'm sure.
New Reply Submit Thread to Facebook Facebook  Submit Thread to Twitter Twitter  Submit Thread to LinkedIn LinkedIn  Submit Thread to Google+ Google+  Submit Thread to Reddit Reddit 
 
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and Reverb.com listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.


 
 
Slide to join now Processing…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Similar Threads
Thread
Thread Starter / Forum
Replies
marcuscw / So much gear, so little time!
12
Harlem / Electronic Music Instruments & Electronic Music Production
8
Nowak / So much gear, so little time!
2

Forum Jump