The only way to know how much is enough, is to do too much, and then back up.Jerry Jeff Walker
After he'd done a show in Nashville, James Brown asked me to engineer a session for him there. Well, there were no flights available, so I jumped in the car and drove all the way.
It took me five hours to get there, and as soon as I arrived at the studio James and the musicians were ready to record, so we cut four tracks and then, before I left, James told his manager, "Give Ron ten percent of that last song."
The song was "Sex Machine" so we wrote up the songwriter's contract and I've been collecting on it ever since!Ron Lenhoff
James Brown was well known for turning up at recording sessions without having written any songs. He'd just have the idea in his head and when he came in he'd improvise right then and there.
He could also play the drums and the keyboard instruments, so he understood exactly what he wanted. He'd build a pattern with the musicians around the bass and drums, and then bring the guitar in.
All the musicians worked with James for a long time, so they knew what he wanted, and once he got the rhythm section going he would start working with the horns.Ron Lenhoff
Whenever James Brown was doing a concert in or near Cincinatti he would come by King Studios late at night and record maybe three or four tracks in just as many hours.
At King we had the facility to record, mix, master, press, and label the discs, so the finished product could be ready for shipping within 24 hours.Ron Lenhoff
As much as sound is important to me as an engineer, it is the performance and the feel that sell the record.
I know a lot of bad-sounding records that were huge hits because they moved people emotionally, and some records that sounded perfect but didn't sell shit.
I still feel that people have trouble relating to things that are perfect.Al Schmitt
One of the advantages of those days was that we guys went from one date to the next, dealing with all different kinds of music.
I mean, I can remember a specific day when I did Ike and Tina Turner from nine to twelve in the morning, Henry Mancini in the afternoon, and then Sam Cooke at night.Al Schmitt
Today if you just do the tracks on two songs in three hours it's unbelievable, whereas back in the fifties and sixties we would complete four songs in three hours.
We even completed an entire Ray Charles album with twelve songs in just seven hours!Al Schmitt
On one occasion Tommy was putting all of this stuff together on the mono master tape and I said, "What would you do if I did this?" I was kidding around, but by accident my hand actually hit the Record button.
He looked at me and I looked at him and we both jumped to stop the machine, but I had already erased what was on there.
We spent hours piecing four or five little outtakes together. No one ever knew what had happened, but that taught me a lesson to never screw around the recording studio.Al Schmitt
When I was six or seven years old my father used to take me to my uncle's studio... and I'd watch these big bands being recorded with just one microphone.
It was the musicians who would be moved around. Soloists got up, came down and played their solos in front of the mike, and then went back and sat down.
I can also remember looking out there and seeing all of the guys with no shoes on so that they wouldn't make a noise when they were stomping.Al Schmitt
Once of the nice things about being successful in this business is that you get to work with successful people.
They have the finances to hire the best musicians and work in the best studios with the best equipment. After that you've got to be stupid not to get the best sound.Al Schmitt
John Lennon was always looking for the impossible, the unattainable. He was never satisfied.
He once said to me years later, "You know, George, I've never really liked anything we've ever done." I said, "Really John? But you made some fantastic records!" He said, "Well, if I could do them all over again I would."George Martin
Today they build studios with almost complete isolation on each musician. They sit in little cages and listen on headphones.
In my opinion, that's not so good for the creative process. We used to gather around the piano, run over the tunes a few times, and the musicians would get ideas for fills or for rhythm licks, and that was more fun.
I know that still goes on, but it's not the same.Chet Atkins
They just said, "Roll the tape." No rehearsal or nothing.
Muddy Waters didn't come in and say, "I wanna rehearse." He used to look at me and say, "Let's just play the blues. That's all you need to do."Buddy Guy
When you're making an album and you have this groups of songs, they're like what a newspaper photo looks like if you magnify it - all you see are the dots!
Everything seems to be unbelievably important in its own little tiny thing. Now that the album is done, I've been pulling back and zooming out and starting to see the picture.Tom Hamilton
I talk to many young painters, because I teach art in schools. I ask them:
Why do you think that what you do ends at the edges of this canvas?
Think of the frame. What frame are you working in? Not just that bit of wood around the edge, but the room you're in, the light you're in, the time and place you're in. How can you redesign it?
I would say that to musicians, too. I see them spending a lot of time working on the internal details of what they're doing and far less time working on the ways of positioning it in the world.
By "positioning it" I don't only mean thinking of ways to get it to a record company, but thinking of where it could go, and where it fits in the cultural picture. What else does it relate to?Brian Eno
My own thing is in my head. I hear sounds and if I don't get them together, nobody else will.Jimi Hendrix
We should imagine we're making hypothetical film soundtracks, not making songs.
This is always a very liberating idea, because a film soundtrack doesn't have to have a center - the film itself is the center. It allows you to make music that is pure atmosphere.Brian Eno
If you have a bunch of people sitting in one room and working on one piece of music, and getting immersed in that piece of music, everyone's thinking they should say something just to prove that they're still paying attention, because it's embarrassing to sit in a corner for four hours.
It's much more important for people to genuinely feel they have something to contribute than just interject for the sake of it.Brian Eno
Cut a vital connection.
That's a very interesting thing to do because most pieces of music are based around some centre, like a drum track or a drone, which really holds everything together. Just try taking that element out of the music and see what happens.Brian Eno
Don't be ashamed of your own ideas. Most musicians get applauded for sounding like someone else.
People try something out that they think is exciting, and everyone looks a little unsure. Then they play an old James Brown riff and everyone's saying: 'Wow! That's what we want!'
Most of the time musicians are being encouraged to sound recognizable. What I'm doing [as a producer] is encouraging them at the points when they're not.Brian Eno
The idea of the producer as someone who mediates and converses between the completely non-technical musician and non-artistic engineer, which was the old picture, is now dead because most musicians now occupy all three of those roles.Brian Eno
A studio is an absolute labyrinth of possibilities - this is why records take so long to make because there are millions of permutations of things you can do.
The most useful thing you can do is to get rid of some of those options before you start.Brian Eno
One of my mottoes is that if you want to get unusual results, work fast and work cheap, because there's more of a chance that you'll get somewhere that nobody else did.
Nearly always, the effect of spending a lot of money is to make things more normal.Brian Eno
I wanted to use the studio like a microscope for sound, which is what good engineers do.Brian Eno
I started coming to the studio with less worked-out pieces, and eventually with nothing at all. I would just start working with that thing, "the studio", as the instrument.
There is nothing outside of this process - this process called recording is the creative process. We don't have the canvas standing in front of any landscape, you are going to make the landscape here and now.Brian Eno
Artists who don't censor their own work: Picasso, Miles Davis, Prince. They're all people who just put it out, and have almost no critical self-censorship. They say, "Let the market decide; let the world decide." You might not be the best person to judge it.
That's a kind of humility, actually: it's a mixture of arrogance, which says, "I know I'm fucking good." But a humility, which says, "I'm not the person to decide."Brian Eno
The poem the reader reads may be better than that which the writer wrote.
Try to make things that can become better than what you thought you were doing.Brian Eno
The great benefit of computer sequencers is that they remove the issue of skill, and replace it with the issue of judgement.
With Cubase or Photoshop, anybody can actually do anything, and you can make stuff that sounds very much like stuff you'd hear on the radio, or looks very much like anything you see in magazines.
So the question becomes not whether you can do it or not, because any drudge can do it if they're prepared to sit in front of the computer for a few days, the question then is, "Of all the things you can now do, which do you choose to do? "Brian Eno
I always liked the cusp where something feels if it's familiar but strange at the same time.
It doesn't immediately assault you as being completely weird. You feel seduced by it. But at the same time you can't put your finger on what it is that you recognize. It's a very good feeling.Brian Eno
People are hearing a lot more context than music, so perhaps I accept that I am now primarily a context maker.
My art is not just what comes out of the end of my trumpet or appears on a record, but a larger experience which is intimately connected to who I appear to be, to my life and charisma.
The 'music', the sonic bit, could end up being quite a small part of the whole experience.
Developing the context- the package, the delivery system, the buzz, the spin, the story - might itself become the art. Like perfume...Brian Eno
When you listen to Miles Davis, how much of what you hear is music, and how much is context?
Context is everything that isn't physically contained in the grooves of the record. It includes your knowledge that everyone else says he's great: that must modify the way you hear him. That he was a handsome and imposing man, a member of a romantic minority, that he played with Charlie Parker, that he spans generations, that he underwent various addictions, that he married Cicely Tyson, that he dressed well, that Jean-Luc Godard liked him, that he wore shades and was very cool, that he himself said little about his work, and so on.
Surely all that affects how you hear him: I mean, could it possibly have felt the same if he'd been an overweight heating engineer from Oslo?
When you listen to music, aren't you also 'listening' to all the stuff around it, too?Brian Eno
[on being a producer] The way I work is I try to find out what isn't being done that ought to be done. Sometimes that means somebody ought to make the tea. Sometimes it means somebody ought to re-write the whole bloody song.Brian Eno
Music is slightly familiar territory. It's very heavily populated now. It's not so thrilling. It's become rather specialised. I like to go into the studio and concentrate directly on that experience rather than walking in with a song and playing it.Brian Eno
Being completely free to choose what to do is actually quite difficult: it can lead you to very depressive crises.
If your time is structured you don't have this problem of "what am I going to do today?"Brian Eno
Being a record producer is the best paid form of cowardice. Producers often get praised but they have to do a really bad job for anyone to criticise them.Brian Eno
Singers are like Arabs. They abhor a vacuum. And a vacuum is defined as "when I'm not singing".Brian Eno
Listen to those drums - like someone bashing on the bars of a prison.Brian Eno
It's disgraceful how long records take to make nowadays. But I'm Mr Stingy, Mr Cut Through Options. That's one reason people like working with me I think, because I say "Do this, this is fine, we'll make it work."
Exploring all the options is not the issue. It's making one of them work.Brian Eno
What matters in modern music is not the part you can write down, the words and the tune, but the rest - the texture, the atmosphere, the references and associations.Brian Eno
A strong opinion is very useful to other people.Brian Eno
[about making records] We're making magazines not novels.Brian Eno
I'm always grumbling when I produce, but it's the people who are dissatisfied who get things changed.Brian Eno
This is exactly what I've always liked about pop music: its ability to create crazy emotional landscapes and invite you to come and dance in them.Brian Eno
After making a rough mix, Bono listens to and studies this comp over the next few days, changes a word or a line or a verse, rephrases and re-sings, and the process takes place again. In this way, he begins to hone in on a performance, an attitude, a persona. He discovers who is singing the song, and what kind of world that person inhabits.Brian Eno
You can know what you DON'T want, and a lot of the process of making a record comes to be the task of finding a cultural space that isn't already ringing with unwanted resonances and over-tones.
This can be a new space, one that no one had identified before, or, it can be an old one that suddenly sounds fresh again.Brian Eno
"Hollywoodization": This is the process where things are evened out, rationalized, nicely lit from all sides, carefully balanced, studiously tested against all known formulae, referred to several committees, and finally made triumphantly unnoticeable.Brian Eno
Should a record be a picture of where you are now, or of all the places you could just as likely be?Brian Eno
Are you really making a record that's recorded in a garage, or are you making a record that reminds you of the feeling of records that are made in garages? (the way a film-maker might use a hand-held camera to give the impression of documentary urgency)
Does it make a difference if people hearing the record say, "That record sounds like trash," rather than, "They've deliberately chosen to make a record that sounds like trash."?Brian Eno
Psychedelia, glam, R&B and soul. These earlier eras of pop music were characterized not by the search for perfection but by bizarre enthusiams, small budgets, erratic technique, crummy equipment and wild abandon.Brian Eno
[about producing Achtung Baby for U2] Buzzwords on this record were trashy, throwaway, dark, sexy, and industrial (all good) and earnest, polite, sweet, righteous, rockist and linear (all bad).
It was good if a song took you on a journey or made you think your hi-fi was broken, bad if it reminded you of recording studios or U2.Brian Eno
The most important thing in a piece of music is to seduce people to the point where they start searching.
If the music doesn't do that, it doesn't do anything. If it just presents itself and just sits there, if it either declares itself too clearly or is too obscure to even appear to be saying anything, then it seems to me to have failed.
Sitting on that line is very interesting.Brian Eno
Removal of context is an important point in the magic of music.
Deliberately dismantle or shift contexts around so that something comes from an area where you didn't expect it, or something appears and it has a certain mysteriousness to it. There are ingredients mixed together that you have never heard together before, and that produces a strangeness.Brian Eno
If you're working with electronic media in the recording studio, judgment becomes a very important issue and skill becomes a less important issue.Brian Eno
Beware the panic effect that accompanies the high cost of studio time:
One becomes increasingly oriented toward results, and progressively less inclined to engage in experimental activities that might not lead anywhere.
As a result of this, one focuses one's attention on the safe bet, on the tried and tested techniques.Brian Eno
Repetition doesn't really exist.
As far as your mind is concerned, nothing happens the same twice, even if in every technical sense, the thing is identical. Your perception is constantly shifting. It doesn't stay in one place.Brian Eno
I love bass guitar, because it has so little to do, yet it's so important.Brian Eno
Music has narrowed down into being not that which is audible, but that which is recordable.Brian Eno
Often in life you are confronted by many possibilities. The best thing you can do is just go for one with a quick decision, then make that choice work for you. It takes you to interesting places with surprising results.Brian Eno
Classical music is weighted very much towards purity and distinction from normal sounds - what makes them musical is that you know they deliberately don't sound like anything else in the world.
What pop music keeps doing is shifting the other way, absorbing more and more of the world.Brian Eno
Treat the recording studio as a laboratory for conceptual thinking -- rather than as a mere tool.Brian Eno
John Cage made you realize that there wasn't a thing called noise, it was just music you hadn't appreciated.Brian Eno
The special things you can do in a recording studio: Obviously, echoes are evocative because they remind you of places. But the echoes on "On Land" aren't like anything that could possibly exist. On some of these things I'm using 70-second reverbs. Nothing like that exists in nature or in artifact; even the Taj Mahal, which has very long reverberation, is only about 12 seconds. Nonetheless, [the 70-second decay] is evocative of a type of space. It's dramatized, just like Fellini amplifies the lady's breasts.Brian Eno
What do Fellini's films have to do with naturalism? He works with the inaccuracies of memory. It's the opposite direction from naturalism: elevating things to mythical, archetypal status. Make them more dreamlike. That's a feeling I like a lot.Brian Eno
You work on a piece of music, you put in certain ingredients, and suddenly they react in a way you hadn't predicted. If you're alert to that reaction, that's what you work from. If you're stupid, you try to cancel that reaction out.
A lot of people have such a fixed image of what the product should be that they refuse to allow any deviation. Again and again, they'll force the music into a mold until it goes where they want it to go. This generally leads to quite uninteresting music - or uninteresting anything.Brian Eno
I like to change speeds is because it does something to the timbre of sound that I like, by bringing upper harmonics into hearing range, by halving the frequency of them.Brian Eno
Having no silence in music is like having no black or white in a painting.Brian Eno
As a maker you tend to put in twice as much as you need as a listener. It's a symptom of contemporary production. Old records don't have that problem.
With the facilities that you have today, you tend to plug every hole - you put more and more in. But as a listener you're much less demanding... you can take things that are much simpler, much more open, and much slower.
It's often happened that I've made a piece and ended up slowing it down by as much as half.Brian Eno
Most studio units - traditionally regarded as simple devices for altering or modifying a set sound - can be employed as instruments in their own right.Brian Eno
If you had a sign above every studio door saying 'This Studio is a Musical Instrument' it would make such a different approach to recordingBrian Eno
Avant-garde music is a sort of research music. You're glad someone's done it but you don't necessarily want to listen to it.
It's similar to the way I'm very happy people have gone to the North Pole. It extends my concept of the planet to know it exists, but I don't want to live there, or even go there actually. But it's a boundary condition.Brian Eno