Who's in the Book.



The forty-plus producers featured in the book have worked in a variety of popular music genres - from rock to country, pop to metal. They have helped shape quintessential, genre-defining releases. They have shepherded underground critical faves. They have masterminded tracks that have pushed artists to the top of the Billboard charts and multiple Grammy awards.

Some of these producers have transcended the traditionally anonymous roles played by their peers. Rick Rubin, for example, has become a reluctant celebrity. Nashville's Tony Brown has gone from playing in Elvis Presley's band to producing such country stalwarts as Vince Gill, Reba McEntire, and Wynonna Judd to serving as record label president. Dave Jerden guided such genre-defining classics as Jane's Addiction's Ritual de lo Habitual and Dirt from Alice in Chains. Sylvia Massy Shivy, who is also a talented engineer, made a name for herself with such seminal releases as Tool's Undertow.

Likewise, the musicians quoted here span a number of genres: Rock, punk, folk, soul, and gospel. Many, such as Ben Harper, Chris Vrenna, Joe Henry, and Solomon Burke have spent time on both sides of the glass, whether producing their own work or other artists'.

Even as they span a diverse range of styles, these producers have many qualities in common, especially great passion for the music they produce. Each brings a unique strategy to a recording session. That might include avoiding all pre-production to let things happen in the studio, or it might mean months of pre-production to hone songs before stepping foot in the recording arena. Some might be on the scene for every note played; others might only touch base at key points during the sessions. Opinions and approaches to technology and recording media can vary widely enough that trade magazines dedicate entire issues to the topic.

The paths these individuals took to become producers are as different as the approaches they take in the studio. Some have risen from runner to apprentice to engineer before producing a session. Others made their marks as musicians before switching to the other side of the glass. These days, another class has started out with computers and digital recording software before receiving the production mantle.

One common characteristic of the producers interviewed in this book is that none of them is overwhelmingly interested in critical acclaim or Platinum-sellers. Sure, there is a drive for success, but the relationships these producers have built with artists and the strength of the songs seem to rule the day. This is most evident when you look at the careers of such producers as Tony Brown and Walter Afanasieff, who have worked on back-to-back-to-back releases from the same artists with continued success. The trust they have built with these artists is an essential ingredient to that success.


Here are the producers featured in Producing Hit Records: Secrets from the Studio:

Walter Afanasieff
Born into a musical family, Walter Afanasieff started his musical career playing keyboards with jazz/fusion violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, and then he kicked it up a notch as a founding member of The Warriors. The Brazilian-born Afanasieff moved from the stage to the studio under the tutelage of 1980s hit-maker Narada Michael Walden, with whom he worked on releases by the likes of Whitney Houston, Lionel Ritchie, and Barbra Streisand. In the early 1990s, Afanasieff started to work exclusively with Sony Music, a relationship that lasted for thirteen years. While there his touch was heard on such smash-hit songs as the Grammy Award-winning "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion, Mariah Carey's Number One single "Love Takes Time," and Josh Groban's genre-crossing releases Closer and Josh Groban.

Michael Barbiero
Michael Barbiero has made a career of having a "can-do" attitude in the recording studio, having started out remixing tracks for Whitney Houston, Simply Red, and Mick Jagger, moving into the engineering end of things with producer Steve Thompson as they worked with the Rolling Stones, Tesla, Blues Traveler, and Gov't Mule and then producing his own sessions for Ziggy Marley, Chris Whitley, and Cowboy Mouth.

Howard Benson
Before Howard Benson jumped into the producer's chair, he was pulling double-duty as an aerospace engineer during the day and a rock 'n' roll keyboardist at night! After four years of that schedule, he started producing demos for then-unknown L.A. bands, just for the experience. He learned enough to capture a number of production credits (in the rock, metal, and jazz genres), and then he caught on at Keith Olsen's Goodnight L.A. Studios. Shortly after that, he took a label gig as an A&R rep while still producing a handful of bands that included Seed, Zebrahead, and P.O.D. Benson is known for producing meticulous vocal tracks, and he is not shy about utilizing technology to create effective harmonies.

Tony Brown
Tony Brown's unique perspective on eliciting great performances stems from the diversity of his experience--from playing with gospel groups in his youth to becoming part of Elvis Presley's backing band, to producing more than one hundred Number One country songs, to becoming label president. On the business side, Brown has worked as an A&R rep and label president at RCA, MCA Nashville, and Universal South, the label he co-founded in 2002 and co-owns with former Arista Nashville chief Tim DuBois. In the studio, Brown's touch can be heard on releases by legendary artists such as Reba McEntire, Vince Gill, George Strait, Emmylou Harris, and Marty Stuart.

Dave Bryson
Before Dave Bryson became one of the founding members of the Counting Crows, he ran a small recording studio in Emeryville, California, by the name of Dancing Dog Studios. Bryson's experience gave him a leg up when it came time for the band to pick producers or equip the studios that the Crows outfitted while they recorded their albums.

Solomon Burke
He is called by many names--The Bishop of Soul being the most prevalent. Solomon Burke's vast catalog of gospel and R&B releases spans generations. Over the course of his career, Burke has kept a hand in the production of his releases, until he worked with Joe Henry on the 2002 album Don't Give Up on Me.

Ed Cherney
By starting out as a runner/gopher at Paragon Studios in Chicago and then moving up the ladder to assistant engineer to engineer/mixer to producer, Ed Cherney has experienced every aspect of studio work. Just as his responsibilities have varied over his twenty-five-plus-year career, his credits run the genre gamut from The Ohio Players to Bonnie Raitt to Iggy Pop to Carly Simon. His experience includes more than a decade as the first-call engineer on all Don Was' productions. In fact, his work with Was on Bonnie Raitt's 1994 release Longing in Their Hearts earned him the Engineer of the Year Grammy Award.

Mike Davenport
Mike Davenport has been the bass player for the four-piece pop punk outfit The Ataris since the band's inception in the mid-90s. Over the course of four records, including the 2003 major label debut So Long, Astoria, the band has consistently improved on their craft and built a fervent fan base. Davenport has also branched out to artist management and production.

Sully Erna
On Godsmack's first three releases, the band's songwriter and singer Sully Erna shared production responsibilities with Mudrock (Godsmack and Awake) and David Bottrill (Faceless) before he assumed the mantle on their fourth offering, Other Side. For a musician who has taken an active role in his band's music and sound (he also gets engineering credits on the albums), taking on the producer's role was a natural evolution.

Maya Ford
Bass player Maya Ford, formerly known as Donna F., is part of the rock quartet The Donnas. Before the band released their 2002 major-label debut, Spend the Night, they had four indie albums to their credit, as well as a handful of national and international tours. Gold Medal, the 2004 follow-up, was produced by Butch Walker.

JD Foster
As a musician, JD Foster has played alongside some great talents, including Dwight Yoakam, Marc Ribot, and Syd Straw, which gave him a leg up when it came time to jump to the other side of the glass. After Foster tired of the road life, he got busy in the studio, moving from Austin, Texas, to the West Coast and then the East Coast, looking for the right situation. As a musician/producer, Foster often gets the call from artists, like Richard Buckner, who are looking for a songwriting partner in the studio.

Dave Fridmann
Being a record producer, as Dave Fridmann explains it, is his fallback job. When he first started out in the music business he was angling for a rock band gig, but he started to take classes in engineering and found out he loved the studio environment. After all, he points out, as a producer you can make many records a year, but as a musician, you might only make one record every two years. The exchange has worked out, as he has been in the studio with such off-kilter outfits as The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, and Sparklehorse, along with acts that are a touch more mainstream: Longwave, Phantom Planet, and Wheat.

Mitchell Froom
Mitchell Froom dipped his toes in the music pool as a musician back in the mid-Eighties, providing the score for the film Cafˇ Flesh. He dove in headfirst, though, manning the board for an assortment of bands that included Los Lobos, Crowded House, Richard Thompson, and Suzanne Vega. His partnership with engineer/producer Tchad Blake netted some of the most innovative music of the '90s.

Don Gehman
When he first started out in the music business as a live sound mixer, Don Gehman was focused on getting a band's sound from the stage to the audience. It was only later, when Stephen Stills pulled him into the studio, that Gehman saw the studio side of the industry. He caught on quickly and was a staff engineer for a number of years at Criteria Studios in Miami, FL, before producing acts as varied as John Mellencamp, Nanci Griffth, Hootie & the Blowfish, and R.E.M.

Lou Giordano
After earning an electrical engineering degree from MIT, Lou Giordano started his musical engineering career at the cult recording studio Fort Apache in Boston. While that might seem like a mighty leap, for Giordano it made perfect sense considering it made him fearless when he got in the studio. Giordano was smack in the middle of Boston's indie surge of the early 1990s, as the Blake Babies, The Lemonheads, and Husker Du were making their marks. Giordano has since moved on to such mainstream successes as the Goo Goo Dolls' Boy Named Goo and The Ataris' So Long, Astoria.

Ryan Greene
If it was not for his older brother, who was attending recording school in Los Angeles, Ryan Greene might not be the producer he is today. Along with the engineering lessons he learned from his brother and a live sound-mixing gig, Greene got a job at MCA Music Publishing, where he watched some of the day's top songwriters--Glen Ballard and Diane Warren among them--work in the studio, before he moved on to EMI Music Publishing as the chief engineer. From there, he entered the hip-hop world and then the punk-rock scene after Brett Gurewitz saw him working. Gurewitz asked him to produce the punk-rock stars NOFX, and Greene carried the lessons of harmony and melody that he learned in his early days into those sessions.

Brett Gurewitz
The old adage of sticking to what you know has served Brett Gurewitz well in his production and music career; since becoming one of punk's godfathers, he has remained a steadying force in the genre. Gurewitz served as Bad Religion's songwriter, guitarist, and producer during the band's heyday, while also working in the studio with such acts as L7, NOFX, The Offspring, and Pennywise as both engineer and producer.

Ben Harper
Since Ben Harper came onto the major-label scene in 1994 with the release of Welcome to the Cruel World, he has built up a fervent following of music fans, and earned critical acclaim as well as the respect of his peers. In addition to the production work he has performed on his own releases, Harper has been asked to produce tracks for indie and major-label artists alike in a multitude of genres. In 2002, he produced the track "Brain Washer" for the Blackalicious 2002 album Blazing Arrow, and in 2004 he went into the studio with the Grammy Award-winning gospel group The Blind Boys of Alabama. In between those projects, Harper produced his own Diamonds on the Inside release.

Joe Henry
During the recording sessions for Joe Henry's 1990 album Shuffletown release, his producer T-Bone Burnett encouraged him to pick up a new skill--producing. It was not because Burnett did not believe in him as an artist; it was because he believed Henry had the ears of a producer. While in the Burnett camp, Henry worked with Bruce Cockburn, Spinal Tap, and A.J. Croce before going solo in the producer's chair in 1999 with Shivaree's debut. Since then, he has continued to release his own albums while producing such artists as Teddy Thompson, Solomon Burke, Aimee Mann, and Ani DiFranco.

Mike Herrera
MxPx went from playing high school gigs around their Bremerton, WA, home base to a major-label deal to global tours over the course of a decade. Herrera, who is the band's songwriter, has turned his songs over to a pair of the best-known producers working today: Jerry Finn for the 2000 release The Ever Passing Moment, and Dave Jerden for the 2003 offering Before Everything & After.

Dennis Herring
In a career that has spanned close to twenty-five years, Dennis Herring has bounced from the outer limits of Timbuk 3 and Camper Van Beethoven to the musical center with Counting Crows and Bruce Hornsby. He began his career as a session guitarist, working with Glen Ballard and Phil Ramone in Los Angeles. Through those experiences, Herring laid the groundwork for a career that finds him catering to musicians looking to make an artistic statement.

Ross Hogarth
First and foremost, Ross Hogarth considers himself an engineer who happens to produce and mix many of the artists he works with in the studio. Working as a quadruple threat--he also plays guitar--has enabled him to bounce between artists like Ziggy Marley, Melissa Etheridge, Devildriver, and John Fogerty, all within the same year. Hogarth has also worked in the studio with Celine Dion, Gov't Mule, Belinda Carlisle, Nickelback, and R.E.M. He started down this path as a guitar and drum tech, and the relationships he built back then with musicians such as David Lindley, Kenny Aronoff, and Jim Keltner continue to this day.

Mark Howard
As the engineer of choice in Daniel Lanois' camp, Mark Howard had the opportunity to witness the creation of some of the most striking albums of the last two decades. Howard's engineering talents can be heard on releases from Bob Dylan, U2, and Peter Gabriel--all Lanois productions. After going solo as a producer (his first production gig was on The Tragically Hip's Day for Night in 1994), Howard has worked on a bevy of stunning releases, including Lucinda Williams' World Without Tears, Tom Waits' Real Gone, and Vic Chesnutt's Silver Lake.

Dave Jerden
Seeing as he was in the producer's chair for some of the most influential albums of all time--Jane's Addiction's Ritual de lo Habitual, Alice in Chains' Dirt, Social Distortion's eponymous break-through release, and Mother's Milk from Red Hot Chili Peppers--it can be argued that Dave Jerden has the magic touch. Jerden has influenced a generation of artists through his work on The Offspring's uber-popular releases Ixnay on the Hombre and Americana while working out of Eldorado Studios in Burbank, California. Jerden's introduction to the studio came via his bass-playing father, and he built a reputation as an engineer before he took on his first production.

Nick Launay
During the height of England's raucous punk rock days, Nick Launay was front and center, smashing around the scene and being seduced by the energy of it all. One of his first studio jobs was taking the hit songs of the day and editing them down to two minutes, thirty seconds for K-Tel Top 20 compilations. After a series of assistant and engineering jobs in his native England, Launay moved to Australia, where he produced breakthrough albums for Midnight Oil, The Church, INXS, and Silverchair. In the early part of this decade, Launay had success with Nick Cave, American Hi-Fi, and The Living End.

Dave Leto
As a member of the rock 'n' roll outfit Rye Coalition, Dave Leto has had the opportunity to work with a pair of standout producers--Steve Albini on their 2002 release On Top, and Dave Grohl for their 2004 offering Secret Heat. Leto admits with a laugh that the band was hoping to get Phil Spector to produce their latest from jail. In this book, Leto offers his perspective on choosing and working with producers.

David Lowery
It was with the cult favorite Camper Van Beethoven that David Lowery first became known, but since then he has made his mark both as a frontman with Cracker and as a producer for such artists as Counting Crows, Guster, and Sparklehorse. As an artist Lowery has produced some of his own band's tracks, and has entrusted their music to such producers as Dennis Herring and Don Smith.

Daron Malakian
When System of a Down went into the studio to record their break-out Toxicity album, Daron Malakian added co-producer to a list of responsibilities that already included songwriter and guitarist. Malakian worked hand-in-hand with the band's other producer, Rick Rubin, to come up with an album that topped many Best Of lists in 2001. In addition to his work with System, Malakian has gone on to produce albums for Amen and Bad Acid Trip.

Longineu Parsons III
Talk about a varied musical career, drummer Longineu Parsons III got his start playing in his father's jazz fusion band Tribal Disorder (learning on Max Roach's drum kit) in front of worldwide audiences before he got together with four other friends to form the pop punk outfit Yellowcard in 1997. Yellowcard broke through with the 2003 release Ocean Avenue and the songs "Way Away," "Ocean Avenue" and "Only One."

Linda Perry
It might be a tricky switch from alternative rock star to Grammy Award-nominated producer and sought-after co-writer, but it would be hard to tell by Linda Perry's experience. After fronting 4 Non Blondes, who scored a hit with the track "What's Up?" in the early 1990s, Perry moved on to a solo career before launching a dramatically successful production career. One of her first turns in the producer's chair came with Pink as the two collaborated on the 2001 Missundaztood release and the Top Ten single "Get the Party Started."

J.P. Plunier
Working hand in hand with Ben Harper, who he managed as well as produced, J.P. Plunier got his toes wet in the music industry in the early 90s. It wasn't his first exposure, nor was it his last. While continuing to work with Harper, Plunier started Everloving Records and has also worked with Jack Johnson on his 2001 break out Brushfire Fairytales, Ritmo Y Canto and Wan Santo Condo.

John Porter
John Porter could be considered a genre-busting producer, because his credits range from Los Lonely Boys to Ryan Adams to Bryan Ferry to B.B. King to The Smiths. He was blurring those boundaries early on, in his musician days, when he went from the blues of Long John Baldry to the progressive pop of Roxy Music. Being a stringed-instrument player--he is credit with playing guitar, bass, Dobro, and mandolin on a variety of albums--has enabled Porter to be both a sideman and musical arranger in the studio.

Garth Richardson
Growing up, Garth Richardson used to follow his father, a renown producer in his own right, to the studio where he learned just about everything from engineering to cleaning up after the bands left for the day. He is now known mostly for his work with such hard-rock acts as Rage Against the Machine, Mudvayne, and Kittie, as well as alternative acts such as Catherine Wheel and the Melvins. Richardson also played the French horn in youth orchestras, and that musical background enables him to assist bands with arranging and songwriting, while his engineering background helps him get the tones he needs in the studio.

Bob Rock
The goal at the beginning of his career, Bob Rock says, was to be standing on the rock star side of the music business instead of the producer side of things. An assistant engineer job at Little Mountain, a studio in Vancouver, opened the doors to the world of recording, and Rock jumped in with a handful of indie rock bands scattered around the city. Rock moved up the chain, engineering a number of records with the late Bruce Fairbairn before assuming the producer's chair. His best-known work has been done with Metallica, Cher, and Simple Plan.

Michael Rosen
If not for the ragged-looking Capitol Studios engineer who came into the 7-11 where Michael Rosen was working during high school, who knows where Rosen would be now? The engineer invited Rosen to observe in the studio, and the rest is history: Enthralled by the vibe of the studio, Rosen was inspired to pursue a degree in electronics and broadcasting at San Francisco State University, and then nagged his way into a job at the Automat studios in San Francisco. At the time, Automat was "the" studio in San Francisco, the place where Narada Michael Walden was working with Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston, and David Rubinson was producing Herbie Hancock and Santana. Eventually, Rosen moved on to engineer and produce an eclectic range of artists that includes Rancid, Testament, Santana (he won an engineering Grammy for his work on the 2002 Shaman release), and Tesla.

Rick Rubin
With credits running across widely divergent styles--country, metal, rap, rock, pop--Rick Rubin defies being pigeonholed. Where that type of approach might have hurt other producers, Rubin has flourished. Success found Rubin with his first production gig, the rap act T. La Rock, when he was a student at New York University, and he enjoyed continued success with his work with the Beastie Boys, Slayer, Run-D.M.C., Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, and System of a Down. Rubin has also made an impact on the music business as the head of the American Recordings label.

Sylvia Massy Shivy
It might be a long jump from college radio disc jockey to Platinum-selling producer, but for someone like Sylvia Massy Shivy it makes perfect sense. Shivy learned the ins and outs of studio work as an engineer in Los Angeles, where she worked with Rick Rubin on such seminal releases as Unchained from Johnny Cash, System of a Down's self-titled debut, and Donovan's 1996 album Sutras. However, what kicked off Shivy's production career was the debut from Tool, the Platinum-selling Undertow.

Trina Shoemaker
Over the course of her career, Trina Shoemaker has bounced between engineering, producing, and mixing responsibilities. She has worked with an eclectic range of musicians and producers. Her engineering credits include albums by Iggy Pop, Sheryl Crow, Blues Traveler, and Queens of the Stone Age, and she has produced Blue Rodeo, Supagroup, Dave Pirner, and Matthew Ryan.

Craig Street
Craig Street's introduction to the world of production came when he was called to work on Cassandra Wilson's Blue Light 'Til Dawn, which was released in 1993. Since then Street has gotten the call from a range of artists, including k.d. lang, Norah Jones, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and the Gipsy Kings. As much as he's known for working with some stunning voices, Street is not too shy to take risks with the artists he works with by having them cover songs that might be out of their comfort zone. Wilson covered Van Morrison's "Tupelo Honey"; he had Holly Cole rework a number of Tom Waits songs; and the classically trained vocalist Jubilant Sykes sang the Bob Dylan number "Ring Them Bells."

Steve Thompson
Along with partner Michael Barbiero, Steve Thompson had a hand in some of the most popular releases of the mid-Eighties. Thompson, who concentrated on the production end of the work, got into the music business as a club disc jockey during the disco-laden 1970s. That background gave him the ability to find a song's hook and make it the prominent part of any arrangement.

Mark Trombino
While a student at San Diego State University, Mark Trombino stumbled into a bevy of engineering and production gigs, as he was busy recording his own band. It was an accidental shift, he says, even as he was continuing to play drums in the influential punk band Drive Like Jehu. Bouncing between San Diego and Los Angeles, Trombino continued to perfect his studio strategies, which culminated in sessions with blink-182 (Dude Ranch) and Jimmy Eat World (Static Prevails). During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Trombino was known as the hot hand when it came to the emo side of punk rock. That reputation was cemented with Jimmy Eat World's self-titled release in 2001 (though it was originally released under the name Bleed American), and continued to grow as he worked with Gob, Midtown, and Finch.

Chris Vrenna
As the drummer in Nine Inch Nails, Chris Vrenna learned his craft from the innovative voice and talents of Trent Reznor. Not only did the duo work closely on the Nails' sessions, they combined forces on a number of Reznor productions. After he left the band in the mid-Nineties, the drummer turned his attention to remixes and producing such acts as Cold, Adema, P.J. Olsson, and Rasputina. In the midst of those gigs, Vrenna continued to compose music for films and video games, as well as for his own band, Tweaker.

Rufus Wainwright
Drawing from influences as varied as theatrical pop, opera, and orchestral music, Rufus Wainwright has built a career out of eclecticism and critical acclaim. By his own admission, Wainwright had not found a producer to share his vision until his work with Marius deVries on the 2003 release Want One and the subsequent Want Two album.

Butch Walker
Before producing albums for The Donnas, Avril Lavigne, Midtown, and Sevendust, Butch Walker made his mark as a singer/songwriter with his band Marvelous 3 and a pair of solo releases. While he continued to take a two-pronged approach as a songwriter and producer, Walker's work with both The Donnas and Lavigne met with both commercial and critical success. In fact, two of the songs he worked on with Lavigne, "Don't Tell Me" and "My Happy Ending" were Top Forty hits in 2004.

Matt Wallace
Matt Wallace describes himself as "the nerdy guy in the band"; he moved into the producer's chair easily. His musical background has made him an asset to bands Faith No More, The Replacements, and Maroon 5, as well as to solo performers John Hiatt, Sheryl Crow, and Caleb Kane. In addition to his engineering and production credits, Wallace is a sought-after mixer. His mixing credits include the break-out hit "Meet Virginia" for Train, the live tracks for a Rolling Stones HBO special, and the R.E.M. song "Revolution," which was included on the Batman & Robin soundtrack.

Don Was
From his early days as a musician to his production dates with the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Bonnie Raitt, Don Was has influenced more than one generation of producers and artists. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, it seemed as if every recording that climbed the Billboard charts or won a Grammy Award had the Don Was stamp. All that success culminated in the 1995 Producer of the Year Grammy Award, and he continues to be one of the most sought-after producers working today.

Brad Wood
When Chicago's alternative music scene was at its most frantic, Brad Wood was in the midst of it all. He engineered Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville album in 1993, as well as Veruca Salt's 1994 release American Thighs. He also supplied his talents to influential bands such as Tortoise, The Smashing Pumpkins, and Sunny Day Real Estate. While in Chicago, the producer operated a recording studio, which enabled him to work with a number of new artists that broke through to the mainstream. After moving to Los Angeles, Wood contributed both his production and musical talents to Pete Yorn's break-out offering musicforthemorningafter and the follow-up, Day I Forgot.