♦ In The Studio With Michael ♦
♦ In The Studio with Michael ♦
Hi Everyone, ♫ ♫ ♫
No one was closer to Michael Jackson at the height of his creative powers than Bruce Swedien, the 5-time Grammy winner who, with Michael and producer Quincy Jones, formed the trio responsible for the sound of Michael’s records - records that topped the charts and shook the world. (Quincy only produced Off The Wall, Thriller & BAD).
Friend, co-creator, and colleague, Bruce Swedien was a seasoned Recording Engineer when he began working with Michael and Quincy on the soundtrack to the Wiz in 1977, and he was the Master Technician who gave the records their sound as the trio progressed to Michael’s greatest triumphs, Off The Wall, Thriller, BAD, Dangerous, HIStory and Invincible, as well as Victory too.
♦ Bruce Remembering Michael ♦
From Bruce Swedien ~
Everywhere I go, anywhere in the world, the first questions I am asked are; ‘What is it like to work with Michael Jackson?” or “What is Michael Jackson really like?”
Michael is a bona fide international favorite, and he has been for a long time! He is unquestionably a survivor.
Michael Jackson is the most professional and the most accomplished artist I have ever worked with! And I have worked with the best the music industry has to offer. Michael is a gentle soul. He is very polite. Working with him I always hear him use “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome,” in an industry where such courtesies are not usually used. Michael was always the consummate artist. A talent of immense proportions who changed the world of Pop music forever.
What I can truthfully say is that, first and foremost, Michael is an absolute joy to work with. I can’t think of another way to express my experience in working with him. There is no one that I would rather work with. He is the supreme artist. I have never worked with anyone who is more dedicated to his art than Michael. For instance, when we record a vocal on a song, Michael vocalizes with his vocal coach, Seth Riggs, for at least an hour before he steps up to the microphone to record. I don’t mean that Michael vocalizes just once in a while. I mean that he vocalizes every time we record a vocal! To me, that is real dedication. One of the most fascinating things about Michael is the boundless passion that he has for his music. His enthusiasm for the project at hand is like no one else I have ever worked with.
Michael was always totally prepared when he came to the studio. He never had to read the words or the music off the page. He would be up the night before we recorded, learning the lyrics so he could do them from memory.
Recording was never a static event. We used to record with the lights out in the studio, and I had him on my drum platform. Michael would dance on that as he did the vocals. What an incredible experience. The talent was just indescribably huge.
Michael’s musical standards are incredibly high. When I work with Michael, we never settle for a musical production that is “just good enough.” Since the Dangerous album project, Michael and I have had a saying that goes, “The quality goes in before the name goes on!” In other words, Michael and I must be totally satisfied with the musical and technical quality of our production before we will put our names on them. Of course, Michael is not the kid next door!
♦ Bruce at a lecture speaks about recording Michael ♦
I don’t think I have ever worked with another artist that can cause as much excitement as Michael. When Bea and I have traveled with Michael to his concerts, all over the world, we have often thought that we don’t know Michael Jackson, the performer, that amazing person on stage. To experience the music that we have recorded together, in a concert, with tens of thousands of people, in a foreign land, and feel the intensity of the emotion of the crowds, is something I can’t find the words to describe! For someone like me, who usually only hears the music I’m involved with in a recording studio, to be on tour with Michael is a tremendous event. I get chills just thinking about it!
I’ve never run into anybody that works with Michael that doesn’t regard it as a pleasant experience. He’s really easy to deal with in the studio. For instance, when we record vocals, there are seldom more than 4 or 5 takes on the lead vocal. Although I do remember a couple of songs where we went crazy and did 25 vocal takes.
Generally speaking, we try not to do more than 6 vocal takes on a song. Then we’ll sit there and select the best of the takes, and make a couple of punches. Michael is always totally prepared. When he comes to the studio to do his vocal, he usually has the melody and the lyrics memorized.
Even when we do backgrounds, Michael does little vocal sounds, and snaps his fingers and taps his foot. I keep those sounds as part of the recording. I absolutely love those little sounds as a part of Michael’s sonic character. First of all, his time and his rhythm are flawless. I think those little dancing sounds are very important.
A typical session with Michael for me actually can be a lot of fun! On the songs I produced or co-produced with Michael, for instance, it’s wonderful. We’ll decide on a piece of music to do - and then I kind of get to work on it on my own, a little bit. Once I get a rhythm track down, I’ll give Michael a tape of it, and he’ll say, “it’s great, but let’s do this.” Then I’ll go back and work on it some more. So it’s kind of an in and out type of thing. Michael is so professional, so wonderful to work with. Doing vocals with Michael is an absolute joy. He’s got ears for days, and his pitch is incredible.
Michael is polite and kind. He’ll say: Can I hear a little more piano in the earphones, please?” I turn up the piano in his cue mix, and then he’ll say, “Thank you.” This is an industry where you don’t hear those words a whole lit. So for that reason I totally respect Michael and his musical integrity is so astounding.
♦ Bruce talks about Thriller ♦
♦ Starlight ~ Thriller demo ♦
In case you’ve never heard it before
Michael started a wonderful tradition during the recording of BAD. Every Friday evening about 5:00 p.m., Michael’s cooks from the ranch, Catherine Ballard and Laura Raynor, would come to the studio and cook an absolutely delicious evening meal for the entire studio crew. Eventually, it became “ Family Night.” Family members and friends of the crew, along with their assorted pets, were included in this happy event.
Michael’s cooks were absolutely top-notch culinary experts. Quincy nicknamed them “The Slam-Dunk Sisters” because every dinner they did for us was a winner! We had incredible delicious homemade tomato soup every dinner every Friday evening! Ten-course turkey dinner one Friday! Ten-course meatloaf dinner next Friday! It was incredible! That tradition Michael started made us feel like a real family. This same tradition continued through the recording of his albums Dangerous and HIStory, Book I.
When we were recording Michael’s HIStory album, it was Christmas time. We were working at the Hit Factory in New York. Michael had as his guest one of his nephews, who had quite recently lost his mother. Since Michael was occupied in the studio, he figured this young boy needed the companionship of kids of his own age. So Michael asked his secretary Evvy to call me and ask if the three young children of the Cardona family could come to New York. Michael had met the Cardona family at our home in California the year before. The Cardonas, Javier and Marciella, worked for us on our little horse ranch in California. They have three great kids, Gabriel, Xavier, and Cytllally. The Cardona family came to New York, and Michael put the entire family up in a first-class hotel.
While they were all in New York, all the kids ( Michael’s nephew included) were treated to a shopping spree at FAO Schwartz at Michael’s expense! Of course the entire outing was safely escorted by Michael’s security people. As a crowning Christmas touch, Michael arranged for a Christmas party with an enormous Christmas tree, complete with Santa Claus, in huge Studio One at the Hit Factory! Wonderful food and a great time was had by all!
♦ Bruce talks about working with Michael ♦
The way I want to remember Michael is as the ultimate musician. He was just fantastic, and he brought a tremendous amount of musical integrity with him every time he came into the studio.
The above info was compiled from the book ~ In the Studio With Michael Jackson by Bruce Swedien.
In closing ~ my own words....
I just wanted to thank Bruce Swedien for all the years he worked with Michael.
Bruce has always loved and been so respectful of Michael. He used his amazing talent to record Michael’s beautiful music and angelic voice, making it sound the best it possibly could for each album. Together those two were such a magnificent team.
The final results, each album was a MASTERPIECE.
Michael ♥ Forever the KING ♪
I Love you ALL...MORE..♥
I Love darling Michael...MOST..♥
L♥VE ya, Carmen ☼