do you ever wonder about the mechanisms behind the music? do you know how sometimes we like an unexpected song? (by unexpected i mean, for instance, justin’s cry me a river…). in time, i realized that there was a fil rouge connecting these apparently disparate tracks and that it was actually their common music producers. when i got that, things started falling into place and i started seeing more of the system behind the final products on my play list!
for one, i understood why i stopped liking u2 after achtung baby – afterwards, brian eno was no longer part of their album making, with one exception. a musical producer works in mysterious ways and i’m left with the question: was i liking u2 or brian eno?…anyway, i must tell you that eno first started on roxy music’s keyboards and later built for himself a very complex career including very influential experimental solo work (which goes well beyond my understanding…), art installations, journalism, etc but i will focus on his producer work. he collaborated with many artists: think david bowie, devo, james, laurie anderson, and, more recently, coldplay. i saved the best for last: his most famous work – the 6-second start up windows sound about which he declared: i wrote it on a mac. i’ve never used a pc in my life; i don’t like them.
moving on to butch vig, world-famous as the drummer of garbage but actually best appreciated for his not so public production career which debuted in 1991 with, hold on tight!, smashing pumpkins’ gish and nirvana’s nevermind. he went on to the pumpkins amazing siamese dream, two of the sonic youth albums and several others but i do believe i can rest my case now :).
beat master timbaland worked early on with ginuwine, aaliyah, missy elliott, jay-z, nas and then widened his coverage with acts such as justin timberlake, beck, chris cornell, beyonce, pussycat dolls, the hives, bjork (yeah, really!) and had a field day with nelly furtado’s super hit comeback album, loose.
i discovered cutie pie pharrell williams with his first album with n.e.r.d. and then watched him blow up into a multi-path career. he’s part of the two-headed production company called the neptunes which collaborated with so many of the top artists that is perhaps easier to just list the ones that haven’t had yet the pleasure… their first name-making hit was britney’s i’m a slave 4 u. next year, they did nelly’s hot in here. they worked extensively with kellis (yes, they did milkshake!). pharrell went far and wide and got his fingers in all the edgy pies out there: among others, he’s into arts, design, etc. he has connections with the french ed banger records (he worked with resident artists daft punk and effie).
and, even if the neptunes did two tracks on jay-z’s black album, the ballsy 99 problems hit was produced by the next name on my list: rick rubin! he co-founded def jam records with russell simmons and later established american recordings. he co-presides columbia records. he may have started with hip hop old schoolers run dmc and the beastie boys but later went on to work with black sabbath, slipknot, slayer, red hot chili peppers (the legend says that he locked the chilies in an apparently haunted la mansion to get their stardom ticket album recorded – i mean blood sugar sex magik, ofc), metallica, ac/dc, linkin park, the cult, mick jagger, system of a down, rage against the machine, audioslave, shakira and adele, among many others. he also did johnny cash’s cover album (the nin cover, hurt, was so successful that many believe it is actually a cash original covered by nin not a trent reznor track covered by cash…).
the ppl on this list are totally amazing game changers, the actual puppet masters behind your favourites so i’d recommend more research in order to get to know them and their work. enjoy!