Producers are seemingly everywhere in the music industry, but what do they actually do? It can be hard to pin down—even for those in the industry—since the scope of a producer’s role can vary greatly. Who better to shed light on the job than Sylvia Massy, a celebrated producer who’s been active since 1985, and Grammy-nominated producer Tucker Martine.
With a discography that includes Prince, Tool, Johnny Cash and more, Massy is well known in the recording industry. Her new book, Recording Unhinged, compiles stories, photos and advice from Massy and other influential musicians and audio engineers. Not only is the book a must-read for producers, but it’s also fascinating for anyone curious about how sound is created and recorded.
“Anyone who’s not a studio rat would be able to open up a page of the book and find something interesting,” Massy tells us. “A story about David Bowie or about Band of Horses... it goes all over the place.”
Massy is known for her unconventional recording methods. For instance, she says, “I bought a bunch of fruit and vegetables and hot dogs... what’s the difference between a potato filter and a banana filter? We actually measured what the sonic properties of these food items were.” Whether she’s micing a chicken or throwing a piano off a roof, Massy says, “I always try to do something special with every session... and try to make it memorable in some way.”
While he might not be smashing guitars and experimenting with tubers, local Portland producer and owner of Flora Recording & Playback Tucker Martine believes that “We should never be afraid to try anything.” Martine has worked with acts like My Morning Jacket, R.E.M., The Decemberists and Sufjan Stevens. “The [producer] role changes with every project,” he tells us, but “one thing that’s consistent throughout [is that] the producer is a quality control person.” Regardless of the expectations a band has coming into a recording session, Martine feels that “there’s a lot of trust involved if it’s going to be a successful collaboration.”
This episode features music by:
Panther: “Latitudes for Centuries”
Thao & The Get Down Stay Down: “When We Swam”
Shy Child: “Drop the Phone”
Delta 5: "Mind Your Own Business”