I never decide if an idea is good or bad until I try it. So much of what gets in the way of things being good is thinking that we know. And the more that we can remove any baggage we’re carrying with us, and just be in the moment, use our ears, and pay attention to what’s happening, and just listen to the inner voice that directs us, the better. But it’s not the voice in your head. It’s a different voice. It’s not intellect. It’s not a brain function. It’s a body function, like running from a tiger.
So how would you describe your role as a producer, in general?
Just as fan. Making music that I want to hear. You’re so close to something when you write it that it’s hard to have any perspective on how it hits someone else. My job is to be a professional version of the outside world—a listener who is not attached to any of it, who doesn’t know the story of how it was written, who doesn’t know how it works, who doesn’t know why this is important to you.
On stripping things down:
There’s a tremendous power in using the least amount of information to get a point across.
So great. That part about being a “professional version of the outside world” reminded me of Jeremy Denk’s New Yorker essay about recording, and how hard it is to get perspective. A favorite quote:
In the moment of playing, the logistics of just hitting the notes distract you somewhat from the continuous choices you are making. In the edit you have nothing but choice. And yet you feel helpless, since everything has already been played.
And since he talked about Kanye, remember the rules: No hipster hats. No acoustic guitar in the studio.