Interview with Michael Beinhorn
Michael Beinhorn is a multi-platinum and Grammy award-winning producer and engineer. Michael is known for his work with artists such as Korn, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, Herbie Hancock, Ozzy Osbourne, Aerosmith, Marilyn Manson, Hole and many many more.
Michael is also the author of "Unlocking Creativity", which describes his creative process during the production of records.
How and when did you get started?
I bought a synthesizer when I was 14 (in 1974) with money I earned at a summer job. I started playing in bands until I met a few like-minded individuals and, in 1978, we started a musical collective called Material. Everything pretty much evened in fits and starts from there.
What have you been working on lately (that you can divulge)?
I've begun a creative pre-production service that caters to the needs of musicians at all levels of expertise and budget. I’m working with a variety of artists and observing how my service is having an incredibly positive effect on these artists and their material.
If you were the age that you originally started today, and you had to start again from scratch, how would you approach things?
That's a great question and I’m not sure I can really answer it. Conditions now versus when I first started are radically different and there's very little parity between either. These days, there is far less support for artists who are trying to walk their own path while not being imitative and so much pressure on artists to conform to an arbitrarily standardized norm. Under those circumstances, if I was starting in this climate right now, I have no idea how I'd be handling it. Come to think of it, I’m going to have to give this question some serious consideration!
What is the most important part of a song for you?
The part that lasts for the entire length of the song. There are always good parts and better parts to a song, but if it doesn’t flow and can't retain your attention span, it ultimately doesn't work. Actually, the part of the song where it stops working is most important to me because that's the part that needs the most attention.
What is your favorite project that you've worked on?
I don’t mean to sound overly PC, but I really don't have one. There are so many and all have been incredible experiences. Even the ones I haven't enjoyed have taught me something, so I also value them highly.
Who is an artist you would like to work with but haven't been able to yet?
The truth is, I don't know. I've never thought of what I do in those terms because nearly artist I've worked with has kind of dropped in my lap. This works better for me because I feel that I do a better job if I'm not a fan of the artist or have any preconceived notions based on adulating them. In fact, I think I prefer to work with people who are really talented but whose music I'm not necessarily a fan of. I guess the next really talented person whose path crosses mine is the one I want to work with!
Are you a big plugin user? If so, name some of your favorites!
Not especially a big user of plugins. With that said, I do enjoy some of the Sound Radix stuff, especially their Auto-Align plugin. That combined with Little Labs IBP plugin does an amazing job of correcting phase issues in sound sources that require multiple microphone arrays.
What is one thing that you can't get your sound without? Hardware, software or whatever else.
I've tried to make records lots of different ways, so I'm becoming a bit less gear dependent. Nonetheless, I'd be sad not to record drums through my rack of 16 Neve 1057 mic pres. I haven't heard anything else that makes drums sound quite so deep and rich.
Who are some of your favorite producers & engineers today?
There are a lot of really talented people working now, but I’m mainly inspired by people from previous generations - everyone from Willie Mitchell to Tom Dowd to Mutt Lange.
What advice would you give to those new to the game?
I would suggest that anyone who wants to do this work first and foremost, figure out why they're drawn to it. There are a lot of people who come to music and entertainment with this idea that they can use it as a way to generate quick cash and that it will be a stepping stone to other more lucrative ventures like movies, clothing lines, etc. However, music is an art form and like all art forms, it is and always has been, a calling. I would say that if it calls to you, consider the kind of mark you want to make with it, instead of ways you can use it for your own benefit.
Outside of your day job, what music have you been listening to lately?
That's a long, long list! Everything from 17th-century European music to traditional music from tribal societies around the world to 60's/70's/80's funk and R&B to Northern European Black Metal and Russian Witch House Music. And that was just yesterday!
Huge thanks to Michael for answering our questions, and to Mike Cubillos for making it happen. You can check out some of his extensive discography in the Spotify playlist below, and check out the video to watch his episode of Pensado's Place. You can also find out more about Michael's book "Unlocking Creativity" by clicking here.