Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Interview w/ Steve Thompson — Legendary Music Producer & Mixer

Steve Thompson - record producer and remixer for Guns N' Roses, Madonna,
Whitney Houston, Soundgarden, Wu-Tang Clan, Korn, etc.

Steve Thompson: 'When Lars Asked Me, What Happened to the Bass in '... Justice', I Wanted to Cold Cock Him'

Producer Steve Thompson's resume is so extensive, eclectic and filled with so many landmark recordings that you'd swear he is making it all up. But he isn't.

This native New Yorker has produced and/or mixed everything from Guns N' Roses' "Appetite For Destruction," Metallica's "...And Justice For All" and Korn's "Follow the Leader" and Soundgarden's "A-Sides" to Paul Simon's "Boy in the Bubble" and "Diamonds On the Soles of her Shoes" tracks, Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" and multiple songs for Aretha Franklin and Madonna. Along the way, he's also worked with Yoko Ono on the "Milk and Honey" album, RZA on Wu-Tang Clan's "Iron Fist" and Blues Traveler.

Thompson calls himself a chameleon and there's probably no better word in describing what he does. Realizing early on that he "kinda sucked at guitar," he became a DJ in clubs before the moniker ever became popular. Through his work as a DJ, Thompson was called on to do some dance remixes, which ultimately led to working with Whitney Houston.

In 1986, having grown a bit weary of working with pop artists, the producer wanted to do something with a rock band. Geffen Records A&R executive Tom Zutaut sent him the demos for a band called Guns N' Roses and asked him if he wanted to produce them. Busy at the time producing Tesla's "Mechanical Resonance," Thompson had to pass on the project but did offer to mix what would become "Appetite For Destruction."

"I absolutely loved it," he says of the first GN'R demos he heard. "I wanted to do it so bad. We [Thompson and engineer Michael Barbiero] were so burnt and they wanted us to go in and produce them right away. I said, 'Can you wait a while?' and they said, 'No, we have to do it right away.' I said, 'Well, why don't you get somebody to produce it and we'll mix it for ya."

Thompson may not have produced Appetite but he would go on to produce a multitude of albums that would strike major chords within the industry. In this lengthy conversation, he talks about GN'R, key projects, and his unique philosophy about what he does.

Steve Thompson & Jimmy Page

What was the first album you actually produced?

The first big production was around 1984. I had this artist Belouis Some who was an English artist that sounded very much like Bowie. So I said, "Well, if he sounds like Bowie, let me see if I can get Bowie's band and put 'em together." I did. I got Carlos Alomar on guitar; Tony Thompson on drums; Bernard Edwards on bass; and Dave Lebolt on keyboards. I got the Simms Brothers and Robin Clark on vocals.

What was that project like?

The song that blew up was "Imagination." That was at Media Sound and we aced it. It was absolutely awesome. The cool part about it is even though I said I was a guitar player, I kinda knew how to communicate with musicians, which was really important. Plus I was working with Michael Barbiero at the time who was an amazing engineer and had great musicality. He kinda taught me the ropes on a lot of things like that.

In 1986, you switched over to doing rock albums and began working with Tesla?

This is weird. I was getting really sick of working on pop music. I mean everything was going number one and I needed a challenge. So we got hold of Tom Zutaut [Geffen Records A&R] and said, "Please. Give me some rock bands to work with" and the first two bands he gave me were Tesla who were called City Kid at the time and Guns N' Roses.

You recorded the first Tesla album "Mechanical Resonance"?

We did the first Tesla album at Bearsville Studios and what I really loved about them was we did not take a clinical approach with them. We got the essence of what they did and it was just a great vibe and we put that album together. In the middle of that, Zutaut starts giving me demos of "Appetite For Destruction."

So you passed on producing "Appetite For Destruction"?

We were so burnt so we ended up mixing Appetite. What was kind of interesting about that - it's probably one of the biggest-selling rock albums of all time - is I felt that's where rock music needed to be in that time and place.

Why did you feel that?

What I loved about the record was it had danger, excitement and angst. I absolutely loved it. I think the first song we worked on was "It's So Easy" and I was playing it so loud in the studio, I think I blew out three sets of speakers. I said, "You know what? This mix is perfect. Let's not f--k with it."

At a point in time, you must have come in contact with Guns, right?

Oh, yeah. In the studio, it was Axl, Slash, Izzy and Tom. So we worked closely together and got the vibe off them. We just hung out for two weeks and that's how we worked on it. It was a great time.

You got along with Slash and Axl?

I loved the guys. I wound up hanging out with Axl a lot in L.A. When I was out there and that's where I got hold of David Geffen who I absolutely respected like you wouldn't believe.

Steve Thompson & Guns N' Roses

David Geffen was an important person in your career.

We had a Platinum party at Ed Rosenblatt's [Chairman of Geffen Records] and I hung out with David for a while. I'll never forget this. He goes, "You know Steve? My taste is not Guns N' Roses." He's more like Laura Nyro and that type of thing. He says, "But you know what? I love my people and I trust 'em to find bands like this." There was one story that really hit me. He points out the A&R guy and says, "See that guy over there? He hasn't really signed anything in a couple of years but you know what? I have faith and confidence he's gonna come up with something good." A year later he signs Nirvana and that was Gary Gersh.

When you were mixing the "Appetite For Destruction" album, what did you think of Mike Clink's production?

I thought it was great. 'Cause I remember a lot of the demos and after listening I felt the tempos were dragging a little bit. But after hearing Mike Clink's production, he nailed it. I just thought it was right for what the band does. But the one thing about is Guns N' Roses is they knew what they were doing. They knew their parts. I just think the production was amazing because it's exactly what it needed to be and the proof is in the pudding. We just kind of enhanced it.

Can you talk about how you approached that production?

We kind of approached it keeping it raw, in your face and as aggressive as we possibly could. Trying to get to hear all the nuances of the instrumentation and all the dynamics of the music. I'm a dynamics guy. If I can boost out certain sections of a song, that's what I look for. Make the song pulse and make it exciting.

Can you give any specific examples of that?

I remember when we did "Paradise City," Michael [Barbiero] and me we did a goof on Axl. There was a part in the song where it goes brrmm brmmm brmmm [sings three drum fills], "Take me home." They do this little fill to get into the next section. Well, we spliced the tape and doubled it up just as a joke.

What did Axl think?

Axl comes in and hears it and loves it and that became the record. We looked at each and said, "Wow, I can't believe that. We did it as a joke."

Any other interesting moments?

There was one part on "Rocket Queen," Axl wanted some sex noises. I said, "Sure, we can go get some porno tapes" and he says, "No, I'm want 'em real." So Axl picked out this girl who was hanging out in the studio and we had to mike it up in the studio and he's actually having sex and we miked it up. Those are the actual noises you hear on "Rocket Queen" in the break.

What did you think the first time you heard Slash's riff on "Sweet Child O' Mine"?

Well, yeah. That was such a signature riff. The hardest point is we had to edit that song for radio. I didn't really want to edit it but we didn't have a choice. I said, "At least the real version is on the album so let's edit it."

What did Slash think?

Slash absolutely hated the edit. I said, "Slash, it's out of our control. It's for radio." The interesting part of the album is Geffen probably spent over a year promoting this record before it hit and people don't realize that. This was not an overnight success record and obviously the song that broke the band was "Sweet Child O' Mine." We released "Welcome to the Jungle" and MTV refused to play the video. Then they got to a point where they played the video at three or four in the morning and everything buzzed up and that's what started it. Then obviously with "Sweet Child O' Mine," it just blew up like you wouldn't believe.

What kind of gear did you use to mix?

Basically, I believe we worked on a Neve 8068 console. The console had a 3-band and 4-band EQ. We mixed down to a 1" on the Studer A80. At some point, we also used a 15ips tape slap. On the multi-track, it was a Studer A800. We used two Studer multi-track machines because there were more than 24 tracks and we used an Adam Smith linkup to link the two machines together. We mixed down to Ampex 456 1" tape at 30 ips. We used Pultec EQP for top and bottom end EQ. We also used a Pultec MEQ, which took care of the midrange. We used AMS delays and reverbs. The AMS delay was set at 125 milliseconds. We used Lexicon and EMT plates.

What did you use those for?

We used it as a pre-delay/snare sound. We sampled the snare drum on "... Jungle" and we sampled it through an AMS delay and triggered it off the sync head, which plays ahead of the playback head and synched it with a delay back to the console. We used an MXR Flanger/Phaser on some cymbals. We also used the MXR on overheads.

What did you do for Axl's vocals?

We used the MX Flanger/Phaser on Axl's vocal on "Rocket Queen." We used a Urei LA2A on Axl's voice and also used the Urei LA3A on guitars. We used an LA2A on Duff's bass. We used a special vocal mic on Axl when he was doing "Rocket Queen," which was a U87. Vic Mix was our assistant engineer at the time and he helped me remember a lot of this.

There was no computer, right?

No computer. The mixing was done all manually with hands. That's it. No computers or anything and I was lovin' that.

It's a different world today, right?

Today, I go to studios sometimes and the computer's not working and I don't like mixing in Pro Tools. I like to mix on a console for a number of reasons. Number one, I get better dynamics when I do it manually myself. I had this one song that had 64 tracks on it and no computer so I said, "Screw it. I'll mix it manually." Everybody in the studio looked at me and I got it in like one take, hah hah hah.

What other kind of gear did you use on Appetite…?

Old-school Pultecs, AMS reverb and delays. Typical rackmount stuff. But we kind of kept it a little bit on the dry side than what was normally done at that time. Not adding reverb that much or effects or anything like that. A lot of that was Tom Zutaut. Zutaut had a great ear so he was a great help in the studio.

You were aware of the other kinds of metal bands around like Motley Crue and Dokken and the way those records were mixed?

Oh, yeah. I actually worked on Dokken's "Back For the Attack." But this was definitely different and you didn't want to overhype something. You wanted the essence of what they were about transferred sonically. I don't think we had any keyboards on that: it was like two guitar players, bass, drums and vocals. The riffs were so strong.

What about recording Steven Adler's drums?

I loved Steven Adler's drumming. It just had a swagger to it, which I really loved. We kind of blew up the sound a little bit. We made 'em sound as big as we possibly could.

When you mixed the tracks for Metallica's "...And Justice For All" album in 1988, was that a totally different experience than working on the "Appetite For Destruction" record?

Well, what I wanted to do and what Lars wanted to do was totally different, which kind of upset me a little bit. I loved Metallica and was very familiar with them. I said, "These guys are cool." We got the call to do it and went up to Bearsville Studios in upstate New York and the guys were on the Monsters of Rock Tour at the time. So what they would do is fly in by helicopter, a day here and a day there just to go through things.

Did the band know what kind of album they wanted to make and what they wanted it to sound like?

Lars knew exactly the sound and the parameters of everything he wanted on his drums. So he would actually bring his photos of a Klark Teknik's EQ [parametric equalizer] setup because he had a certain way he wanted the drums to sound. I said, "Michael [Barbiero], why don't you work with Lars and get the drum sound he's looking for? Call me when he's happy."

What did you think when you finally heard them?

They called me in and I listened to them and I said to myself, "These sound like a-s. Terrible sounding." I chased everybody out of the room and redesigned the drum sound and brought the guitars up. Jason [Newsted] killed it on bass. Perfect marriage with Hetfield's guitars.

Tell me about some of the gear you used with Metallica?

We mixed the album at Bearsville Studios in New York. The console was an SSL G Series with Ultimation. We used Neve EQs; Pultec EQP and MEQs; AMS delays and reverbs; and we used Lexicon on drums. All the Pultec LA2A and LA3As. Mixdown was definitely 48-tracks so there were two Studer multi-track machines and quite possibly they were A800 machines. We used a Studer A80 1" for mixdown at 30ips. When Lars recorded the drums, he used a Clark Tekniks EQ parametric.

Was James happy with what you were doing?

I'm putting all the other stuff up and everything like this and Hetfield gives a thumbs up. Lars comes walking in a couple minutes later and listens to about a minute of it and goes, "Turn that off" and I said, "What's the problem?" He said, "What happened to my drum sound?" I said, "You were serious?" or something like that.

Lars was not happy?

We had to get the drum sound up the way he had it. I wasn't a fan of it. So now he goes, "See the bass guitar?" and I said, "Yeah, great part, man. He killed it." He said, "I want you to bring down the bass where you can barely, audibly hear it in the mix." I said, "You're kidding. Right?"

He wasn't kidding?

He said, "No. Bring it down." I bring it down to that level and he says, "Now drop it down another 5 db." I turned around and looked at Hetfield and said, "He's serious?" It just blew me away.

What did you do?

I called my manager that night and I think I talked to Cliff Burnstein and Peter Mensch [Metallica's managers] and said, "I love these guys. I think they're amazing and they've created a genre of their own but I do not agree with the direction Lars is pulling me in. My name's gonna go on it so why don't you find somebody else?" My manager wouldn't have anything to do with that or Burnstein or Mensch.

But you were ready to walk away from mixing Metallica?

They talked me into being there and my only regret is that we didn't have enough time to at least mix it the way we heard it. I wanted to take "Master of Puppets" and blow that away. That was my sonic direction for "... And Justice For All." It was all there but I think they were looking for more garagey-type sound without bass. And the bass was great; it was perfect. I remember when Metallica got elected to the Hall of Fame, they flew us out and I'm sitting with Lars.

Did you talk to him?

He goes, "Hey, what happened to the bass in "... Justice?" He actually asked me that. I wanted to cold cock him right there. It was a shame because I'm the one getting the sh-t for the lack of bass.

Does that happen where you'll disagree with a member of a band about how an album should sound?

I worked with Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe. I was working with Jon and he produced the whole record and used drum machines. He took the drum machines out and had Bill Bruford play to an existing track. I said, "With a guy like Bill Bruford, why would you restrict him?" I'm mixing the tracks and Steve Howe's guitars were amazing and Jon favored the keyboards over the guitar. I says, "Jon, no, no, no, no."

What happened?

At the end of the day, Jon was there and he was the boss and I had to downplay Steve's guitars and I didn't want to. So I get the sh-t for that too. Steve Howe says, "What happened to my guitars?" so I was the fall guy on this.

Any other stories like that?

Clive Davis calls me up and says, "Steve, I just signed a very exciting, revolutionary band, which I'd like you to work with." I said, "Great, Clive. Who is it?" He said, "The Grateful Dead." I said, "Dude, I respect them but I'm not a Deadhead and I don't like their music and I'm just not into that." He says, "Oh, stop, Steve. You'll be fine. Just work on this song." I think it was called "Throwing Stones [In the Dark]." He said, "Go into the studio and you'll be fine." I said, "Clive, I'm not into this" and Clive talks me into it.

What were those early sessions like?

It's Michael and myself and we're putting up the track and Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir walk in. Mike goes to Jerry, "How do you like your vocal sound?" and Jerry goes, "That's not me. That's Bob." So I think Michael said, "I guess you can see what kind of a big bunch of Deadhead fans we are."

What did they think?

Ever since that comment they absolutely loved us because they'd never met anybody in the world who could give a f--k. We had the greatest time and they loved everything and it was a very easy session. I figured if I could get away with doing the Dead, I could do anything.

Chris Cornell of Soundgarden & Steve Thompson

What was it like mixing Soundgarden's second album "Louder Than Love"?

Towards the late '80s, I was getting calls from all these hair bands who wanted me to produce 'em and I hated it. I go to my manager Andy Kipnes [AAM] and said, "Andy, if this is where music is going, I'm outta here. I hate it." Then I get a call from Steve Ralbovsky and he says, "Hey, I just signed this exciting band, Soundgarden. Would you work with them?"

What did you think of the band?

I heard 'em and I was blown away. We started mixing Soundgarden and nobody was in the studio but we get calls from Chris [Cornell]. They wanted a more dry approach instead of big snare sounds. They wanted it dry and they were very opinionated and I kind of gave 'em what they wanted. I'm on my honeymoon and I get a call, "Chris would like to change some mixes." I'm on my f--kin' honeymoon and I said, "Michael, go in the studio and change what he wants." Obviously he's very opinionated but at the end of the day what a great f--king band. You give it up to them.

Great band.

Chris's vocal, the guitar playing, the angst. Everything. I loved it better than Nirvana and I was a Nirvana and Pearl Jam fan. I was into grunge. I was one of the few '80s rockers that liked it because it was aggressive and had angst and I'm always an aggressive and angst guy.

When someone listens to a Soundgarden mix or a Metallica mix, will they recognize that both records were done by Steve Thompson? Is there connecting tissue between the projects you do, which are kind of your trademarks?

Hopefully not. My aim is to make each artist have their own identity. I don't apply what I did to Guns N' Roses to Metallica or from Whitney Houston to Madonna. I take each artist as a separate entity and that was always important to me. So I can't really say there's a signature sound. Obviously "... And Justice For All" does not sound like "Appetite for Destruction." I don't use the same tricks. I love working in different studios and I take each song for what it is and how can I make it great.

Steve Thompson & Korn

What was it like producing Korn's "Follow the Leader"?

What was kind of interesting about Korn is I was going to L.A. To check out three bands: Korn, Buckcherry and Bolt Upright. Jeff Kwatinetz [Korn's manager] called my manager and said he wanted me to meet with the guys from Korn. I didn't realize this walking in and meeting them but they had actually interviewed a hundred different producers and were ready to go back to Ross Robinson [Korn's previous producer] so they were kind of done interviewing. I said, "Dude, I would be more than happy to work with you. Give me a shot" and I left.

It didn't sound like you really wanted the gig?

I just walked out of there because I didn't feel the passion there. I got a call from the manager and he said, "Steve, the band feels bad. Come in the next day and talk to them." I said, "I'll make a deal with you. Let's go in a rehearsal situation and pick one song, work on it together and see if there's a chemistry there." He said, "Great idea" so we wound up doing that.

What did the songs sound like?

I heard the demo for "Freak On a Leash," which was unrecognizable to where it is today. I got the song and said, "Let's try this part. Let's do this. Let's take this section and double it up." We worked for about four or five hours together and everybody sees the result and goes, "Damn, I like this." I remember getting their demos and there was seven songs that all sounded the same and nothing really there. I remember going in pre-production and saying, "Well, guys. How do you write songs?" They said, "Fieldy plays the bassline." I said, "Cool. How else do you write songs?" They said, "Uh, Fieldy plays the bassline." I said, "OK, we're gonna change this up guys. Head and Munky, come up with guitar riffs. David [Silveria], come up with some drum parts. Jonathan, come up with some lyrics."

You needed them to approach the music differently?

I wanted to change up their writing style and I would up spending two months in pre-production near Compton [California] and I was not going in the studio 'til I knew I had an album there. I think the first song we worked on was "Freak on a Leash."

But you still had to maintain the character of who Korn was, right?

They had a big following and it was, "How do I make a record that's worldwide and doesn't piss off their following?" That was very important to me not to sell 'em out. I had that seven-song demo and I was in New York and I had to be in L.A. On January 5th. I told people I was working with, "I am gonna drive to L.A. By myself with this demo and live with it across the country." I left New York New Year's Eve night like a f--kin' idiot to drive to L.A. By myself and try to figure out what I was gonna do. I think I spent four-and-a-half days on the road.

Give me some details on how you made that record?

We recorded at NRG Studios in L.A. In Studio B, which had a vintage Neve 8078 console. The compressors were Neves and we also used for total board compression an SSL compressor/stereo compressor. We used the Urei 1176 and the dbx 180 compressors as well. We used the Shure SM7 and SM57. Also Neumann U47 and U87s and an Electrovoice RE20 and Sennheiser 421. David had a triggered dDrum on his kit.

What kind of amps were in the studio?

Some of the amps we used included Bogner Uberschall and Ecstasy models; Marshall vintage; Mesa Boogie; and maybe some Orange amps. For bass, we used Gallien-Krueger and a sub-woofer and an SWR bass head. For guitars, I used a Tonebender pedal, which is like a Muff but a little cooler. On voice, I used an Expander pedal for certain things. We used an MPC3000 drum machine. We ran the system with Studer machines and used a new version of Pro Tools, which was new at the time. This was one of their first models. We recorded to tape, which were probably Studer 2" machines running at 30 ips.

Pre-production was important?

It's really important with a band like Korn to do good pre-production. You just can't walk in the studio with them and get it in there. Like I said we spent two months honing the songs and I was writing songs with Jonathan 'til six in the morning in the hotel.

You really were involved in the production.

Basically the studio sessions were a circus. Kwatinetz and Peter Katsis [co-manager of Korn] came up with a great marketing plan: let's do Korn TV every Thursday in the studio for the Internet, which I thought was brilliant. But the problem is they kind of sliced into our studio time. So it meant bringing Ron Jeremy in and do an S&M day; let's do nipple piercing; let's talk about crazy sh-t. Every Thursday it was a different scene: Marilyn Manson's people were hanging out; Orgy was hanging out; Primus and Steve Vai.

So you had to work around Korn TV?

But I remember the listening session for the suits right before the record was done. One of the guys in the company said, "Steve, this album's gonna be huge. We're gonna sell three million." I said, "With all due respect if you can't sell at least 10 million you're not doing your jobs."

You won a Grammy for "Freak on a Leash"?

Yeah, Best Video. Remember what I said about Guns N' Roses and that record needed to be there in that time and space? That's what I felt about Korn 'cause rock was dead and the charts were dominated by N'SYNC and Backstreet Boys.

I've always loved hip hop and to be able to bring in Ice Cube and that influence with the beats and everything. I always loved that stuff because of the work I did with Anthrax and Public Enemy. We did "Bring the Noise," which obviously "Walk This Way" with Aerosmith and Run DMC started it and we nailed it. I started working with bands like P.E. and I always loved the combination of rap and rock because it's aggressive, in your face and it was cool.

Talking about the rap thing, you worked with Wu-Tang Clan on "Iron Flag"?

I'm a big Wu-Tang fan and I worked with RZA on this. I went to the Hit Factory in New York and said, "Troy [Germano, CEO of Hit Factory], I need some bangin' speakers in here." He brought these speakers in that should have been on "Spinal Tap." They were so f--kin' big but they sounded so f--kin' cool.

What was it like working with RZA?

RZA's production style was interesting because he'd give me mono loops with basses on 'em. That frustrated me because I liked instruments isolated. My thing was make Wu-Tang's sh-t bang hard. I'm working in there and the manager goes, "Raekwon's gonna walk in but don't worry about him. He doesn't like anything. Don't be offended if he hates it." Raekwon walks in, listens to the track and says, "Stop that." I go, "What's the matter?" and he goes, "This is the first motherf--kin' time I walk in the studio and actually like what I'm hearing," hah hah hah.

Are there certain pieces of gear that have become part of the Steve Thompson arsenal?

Obviously everything is done in Pro Tools today and a lot of people just mix in the box today. My tool is I want a console because I will match up with anybody in the box and blow away what they're doing. You tend to overanalyze when you're looking at a screen all day. I go for the gut: close your eyes and feel the music and you do that on a console. With the advent of plug-ins, you can get basically anything you need.

A lot of times if I'm dealing with a record that's basically recorded in a basement, I kinda have to make things bigger 'cause a lot of times they use too much digital.

In what way?

They'll use a guitar pod instead of using a guitar amp. So what I have to wind up doing is going in the studio, bringing in a Marshall and re-amping their guitars. A lot of times I have to sound replace [SoundReplacer] drums just to get the crack better. I don't like doing that. If it's recorded well, I just like to fill it up. A lot of times people don't have these big budgets and they do what they do, I've still got to make it sound like a million dollars so that's when you have to come in with stuff. For bottom end, you use Pultecs or you can use Pultec plug-ins. Neve outboard gear I love just to give it that warm sound.

Would you like to go back to analog?

I would never go back to tape. I don't need to. I have the technology in my head to get that warm, fat sound going through Pro Tools and a console. The thing I always hated about tape was the hiss factor. I never used Dolby or anything like that to try to get it out of there 'cause that just took the life out of a track. Obviously the bottom end is better with analog but I found ways I can get that bottom end and not have the hiss.

The change from analog to digital wasn't a problem for you?

I was one of the first ones to use Pro Tools and I loved it. In fact we did it on the Korn record and it was pretty new. I would take the Pro Tools engineer, throw him in a closet and tell him what I wanted and I said, "Come out when ya got it." I always called Pro Tools a tool and not a performer 'cause people get lazy. It's like when a singer comes in and says, "OK, I'll sing one chorus and we'll fly in the same chorus everywhere else." I said, "No, we're not doing that. Each chorus should have a little different flavor to it."

That's old school.

I'm a stickler for performers. I'm not American Idol where every note has to be perfect. I want a vulnerability in a singer and that might mean a couple of off notes. Can you imagine Kurt Cobain on Auto-Tune? That's the art that's lost. To me, music is human and make it feel human. What's wrong with a drummer speeding up and retarding a little bit? Let it breathe. Let it have passion.

Liv Famous is one of your own projects?

It's gonna revolutionize the whole entertainment industry. That is my goal. I just want people to be able to be exposed to great artists and young kids record companies have neglected. All genres of music will be spotlighted and it's gonna be all about originals. I wanted people to be exposed to the new Pink Floyds and the new Marvin Gayes.

You're hoping to give new artists a chance to be heard that they may not have had?

These people haven't had a platform and they're getting distressed because you see YouTube is now the A&R department of the music industry, which is a joke. My motif when I make music is I want it to be contemporary and timeless at the same time and that's what I strive to do. And thank god, my history has held up that fact.

Talking about history, the aliens land and find the Steve Thompson time capsule with three songs in it. Which three songs are in there?

Oh, my god. I'd probably put David Bowie, which I didn't work on; "Dark Side of the Moon"; and Marvin Gaye "What's Going On"?

Right. Now which three songs of yours would be in there?

I'd have to put "Welcome to the Jungle" in there 'cause that always gets me in a good mood. I've been through so many interviews and so many people and I've never been stymied to answer a question. I loved working with Ziggy Marley. We won a people on "People Get Ready" and working with him and Bob's band was monumental for me. Obviously I would say John Lennon for the fact I had so much respect for what he did. I would put Blues Traveler in there. I would say "Freak on a Leash" because I sometimes feel myself as being a freak.

A very talented freak.

I'm a gut person. I know what's gonna work and what's not gonna work and what risks to take. I make it a point to do that. You've got to be hungry. The whole is never settle and don't look in the past. Don't look at your achievements; they're meaningless to me today. I feel like I'm the new kid on the block and I love that. I want to keep that hunger. Being a DJ, you're always looking to the future and having that background was very important. I don't look at what the trends are today, I wanna set the new ones of tomorrow.

That's an amazing philosophy.

The biggest thing about music? Have a great song. That's the one thing I'm kinda sad about today. Obviously every generation has a way of saying things. If you wrote a song today like "She Loves You/Yeah, yeah, yeah," they'd laugh you to the moon. Now it's "Let's tap that a-s" and "We're gonna hang out at the club."

It's a shame music has been so dumbed down to let's party time and this and that. That's all good but there's much more to say than just that. Let's educate a little bit. When hip hop was great, Public Enemy was out there with the lyrics saying, "This is what's going on." You're gonna try and tell me there's not enough things happening in the world you can't talk about instead of partying and booty shake girls?

What are you working on now?

I'm working with Criss Angel on music for his new television show called Tricked. I'm co-writing and producing. I'm developing and launching a revolutionary artist development and A& R company that employs a television show to scout the best original talent in the world. It will revolutionize the entire music industry. I just finished the treatment with Ken Kushner for a movie called Souls.

I also just wrote a sports anthem called "Get Your Game On," which marries EDM, trapt and rock together. It will be the sports anthem for today's and tomorrow's generation. Currently I am working with great artists and always looking for great new artists or established artists who want to make their best record ever.

Interview by Steven Rosen (C) 2015

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