Wednesday, March 15, 2000

Cheeky on Demand

If you'll allow me, let me toot my own horn here (pun intended) in order to provide what I think is an important example regarding the producer's role in the recording studio:

I once worked on a symphonic track (MCI "Kids In Space" :30/:60) where a sixty-piece orchestra had finished a session and its members were waiting for authorization to be released from the gig. With the clock fast counting down to the hour, we were conducting repeated playbacks in the control room, making sure we had everything we needed. Finally, with minutes to go before we ran into overtime, the agency's creative director (Mike Lee/MVBS) decided he wanted to add something ‘cheeky’ to the mix. The composer and I looked at each other: It was apparent that neither of us Americans really understood what 'cheeky' meant.

When the composer came up empty handed, it was my turn to have a go at it: I gave the percussionist some verbal direction ("hit this, hit that when I cue you...") Then I turned around and asked Larry Alexander, our engineer, to roll tape while I cued the percussionist exactly where I wanted him to add the new music design elements we had just discussed.

The result?

Cheeky on the spot, as it turns out!

To me, this is the essence of producing –being able to produce fast improvisational solutions on the spot, with tremendous economic and personal consequences hanging over your head if you make the wrong decision, or you go one minute overtime.

Call yourself a producer? Besides a turntable and a record collection, you need to have a million ideas at your disposal to solve any given problem; all of which work within an allotted budget and schedule; and you need to be confident enough to step up and demonstrate or personally execute them as required by the situation, in front of any number of people. Sure, I could have fallen flat on my face in front of half the New York Philharmonic, not to mention Messner Veter Berger McNamee Schmetterer, but fortunately, I didn't.

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