Legendary Music Producer Michael Beinhorn on the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Weezer

April 4, 2019
Photo courtesy of Mike Cubillos

If you have been listening to rock radio for the past few decades, then you have undoubtedly heard the work of producer Michael Beinhorn. Among the artists he has worked with, you ask? Let’s start with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Weezer, Soul Asylum, Hole, Soundgarden, Ozzy Osbourne, Courtney Love, Marilyn Manson, Social Distortion, Herbie Hancock, Best Coast and Korn.

Ultimately Beinhorn‘s recordings have achieved combined worldwide sales of more than 45 million albums. He is also one of only a handful of producers to have two separate recordings debut in Billboard’s Top Ten in the same week, with Marilyn Manson’s “Mechanical Animals” (#1) and Hole’s “Celebrity Skin”(#9) both reaching those high chart positions. In turn, it may not surprising that Beinhorn received a 1998 Grammy nomination for Producer of the Year.

Beyond his success with producing, arranging, engineering, co-writing and performing music, Beinhorn was the author of the 2015 book “Unlocking Creativity: A Producers Guide To Making Music and Art.” In this interview he addresses what separates him from other acclaimed producers.

Jewish Journal: What was the first album you worked on where you felt like this was a career and that you were going to be fine?

Michael Beinhorn: The first record I worked on that gave me the initial indication I might have a career in production was Herbie Hancock’s “Future Shock.” The first record I produced where I just knew things would be fine was definitely The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Mothers Milk.”  

JJ: The average person speculates that there’s no money in music because people don’t buy albums, yet you continue to work often and with big artists. Or is it still hard for someone at your level these days?

MB: There is money to be made in music, but the business is mainly about volume now and not as much about quality or uniqueness. My interest lies mainly in promoting artistry, which I feel presents a great opportunity right now since artistry is really what engages an audience in the first place.

JJ: You are known to be a big proponent of pre-production, yet with home recording being more common and big album budgets being less common, do you force pre-production on all of your production projects?

MB: I don’t recommend forcing anything on anyone — especially when it comes to creative work. My experience is that it is in the best interest of an artist to do preliminary work prior to recording their music. If this is not something they’ve considered prior to recording, once they see the value it will bring them, they are generally on-board.

JJ: You started off as a musician before becoming a producer. When did you realize that producing was going to be your true path?

MB: It became obvious to me that production was a better fit for me than being a performer pretty soon after I started assuming production responsibilities on other peoples’ recordings.

JJ: Do you ever play music for fun?

MB: I do a lot of listening, but I occasionally play a keyboard or a synth when I have a moment. 

JJ: I’ve read that you worked on the latest Weezer album. Are there any other recent or forthcoming projects that you can talk about?

MB: The work I did on the Weezer album was pre-production/post-production. It’s a standalone process and my primary focus right now, got a few of those in the pipeline, just not with artists as well known. 

JJ: For someone who may want to hire the legendary Michael Beinhorn for an upcoming production gig, what are some of the prerequisites?

MB: (laughs) Well, to hire the legendary Michael Beinhorn, it always helps if an artist has all their songs demoed and prepared and has a good idea about what they want to achieve with their music. At least then I can figure out if and how I can be of assistance to them. 

JJ: As this is for the Jewish Journal, I feel compelled to ask: Were you bar mitzvahed? If so, any memories of your special day you can share?

MB: I was indeed, bar mitzvahed. It was a very interesting day — my primary recollection was meeting a ton of relatives I’d never seen before and watching them some of them get tipsy. 

JJ: What was the last concert you went to for fun?

MB: That would have been Tangerine Dream’s last ever show at the Tivoli Gardens performance space in Copenhagen, 2014. It also featured Michael Rother from the band Neu!, Dieter Moebius from the group Cluster and the film director, William Friedkin introducing Tangerine Dream.

JJ: Finally, Michael, any last words for the kids?

MB: Last words for the kids? Educate yourself well in whatever you aspire to do, be brilliant at it and work your ass off. That’s it.

More on Michael Beinhorn can be found online.

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