Ah, the gold
standard. But you were attracted to more hard core, rebellious music,
which The Beatles really werent.
But they were, because they became the biggest band in the world, and
because they dont exist anymore, you dont look back on them
as being this outlaw band. But they really were.
Like back in Hamburg?
When they started, they were really a punk rock bandplaying with
toilet seats around their necks, trying to stomp hard enough to break
through the stage. Really punk.
you think being a suburban kid from Long Island made you gravitate toward
I dont think its just that. But I think, being suburban, theres
less of a pretentiousness. Ill give you an example. I grew up an
hour outside of Manhattan. One of the bands I worked with early on was
the Beastie Boys, and their musical taste was radically different from
mine. I liked bands like AC/DC, Led Zeppelinthey hated those things.
Because being cool kids in the city, those things were too commercial,
too mainstream. So the Beastie Boys liked really underground stuff, which
served them well. It was cool, and it made them who they were. But I think
it was the collaboration between my more suburban, mainstream taste and
their more eclectic, underground taste that made our working together
Growing up, I always wished I lived in the city, instead of on the Island,
but, in retrospect, I learned a lot about the culture that I wouldnt
have learned had I grown up in Manhattan. I feel like I had the best of
both worlds because I was close enough to be in the city, but far enough
away that I didnt have what Ill call a holier than thou
attitude. Its not that I dont like those things, but Im
not bound by those things.
Another thing that affected my taste is that Im an only child. Typically,
people learn about music from older brothers and sisters, and I didnt
have that, which forced me to create my own taste and really know what
I like. When youre 11, whatever your 14-year-old brother or sister
listens to, whether you like it or not, its a starting point. Its
a point of view, and I never had that. So it was really searching for
things that appealed to me, without any kind of filter. Which is why I
got into punk rock. I really liked it. But I know I didnt get my
taste from anybody else.
Also, I often liked things that other people didnt like, and then
they would come around and like them. When I was in high school, I loved
AC/DC, and they were not popular yet. About two years later, everybody
liked them. Thats always been the caselike with rap music.
I loved it when nobody liked it.
Thats a blessing, but in some ways its also a curse,
because what you liked often changes when it gets popular, and sometimes
you see whats great about it gets to be not be so great anymore.
Which is sad, but then you move on and find other new things, which is
An engineer who works with you told me that once, while checking mixes
in the car, you said, The radio is my musical instrument.
If thats your instrument, how do you play it with the artists youre
In working with a band, I find whats good about them and help bring
it out. Also, songs are a big deal for me. Id say that my biggest
contribution to bands is helping them get their material together. I know
that some producers are more concerned about what it sounds like. And
Im clearly involved in what it sounds like, but its almost
more like I join a band when I produce a record. But, Im unlike
all the other members of the band, who each have their own personal agenda.
The bass player is concerned about the bass part; everyone is concerned
about their own part. Im the only member of the band that doesnt
care about any of those particulars. I just care that the whole thing
is as good as it can be. I want to say its less about the details,
although its all about the details, so thats not quite right.
But it is a grander vision.
Most artists only hear their own instrument. Not all, of course; Tom Petty
is a good example of someone who doesnt. He really is a record-making
craftsman. He hears the whole thing. Some of the things Im most
proud of are things Ive done with Tom. Like the Wildflowers album.
I really like it a lot; it sounds like it was made on a weekend. Of course,
it took us two years to make it sound like it was made on a weekendthe
Do you ever make records fast?
Definitely. I often make records faster than a lot of other people. It
usually has to do with how prepared we are in advance. The last Chili
Peppers [Californication], I think, we made the whole record in like six
weeks. Top to bottom. We recorded 20-something songs. But its the
pre-production time that really makes the difference. Sometimes thats
a couple of weeks, sometimes its a few months, sometimes its
a year of getting ready to go into the studio and cut the whole album
in a week. The preference is always to get as much done before you go
in the studio as possible.
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Magazine, October, 2000
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