♦ In The Studio With Michael ♦ | The Official Michael Jackson Site

♦ In The Studio With Michael ♦

♦ In The Studio with Michael ♦

Hi Everyone, ♫ SmilingSmiling

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.... Smiling

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 ☼

Comments (19)

Carmen, mate, that sounds like a great title for a book - The Ultimate Gift. Because, frankly, Michael was OUR ultimate gift from God in which we shared equally with his large but wonderful family. You could write a subtitle along the words of "The complete musical analysis of the career of Michael Jackson" or words to that effect.

I didn't mean to make you cry as well mate, I was just crying because of your wonderful prophetic words. Sad Sad Oh, I just adore the Vanity Fair shoot, Michael just looked dreamy and resplendent there in the long flowing white shirt and that beautiful yet captivating sexy alluring facial expression. I love the Stranger In Moscow instrumental version too accompanied by those aforementioned photos. Beautiful but sad, thinking of our precious Michael still with us locked in our hearts but the loss is still too painful and profound. Sad Sad Sad

♦ In The Studio With Michael ♦

Hi Dorita, aaww mate don't cry, here's a tissue....sigh. I feel the same way about hearing the instrumental versions of Michael's songs. ...so you just knew, no doubt, I'd be sharing one with you. LOL....I love all of them , but too, this one has the added bonus of seeing Michael's Vanity Fair Photo Shoot...I knew, given the opportunity, I'd find a way to get a Michael video into this thread....hee hee Smiling
You know too, if I ever had the chance to write a book about darling Michael, I thought of a wonderful title.....The Ultimate Gift....because that's what he was to us. A precious gift from God...♥ then in the same thought, just look at all the gifts he gave to us. Now I'm gonna cry.. sigh. (((((hugs))))))
I love ya mate, Carmen ☼

I adore the instrumental versions of Michael's songs.. all of them are so beautiful and they make you feel relaxed.
♦ Stranger In Moscow...Instrumental ♦

Michael ♥ Forever the KING ♪

Oh, Carmen, mate, you just made me cry with your beautiful words. Sad Sad Sad Sad I'm really overwhelmed with emotion. Sad Sad Sad No question about it, Michael and Bruce were a creative team and a force to be reckoned with when it came to creating and cultivating the wonderful seeds that planted the ultimate musical result with Michael's God-given talent for visualising the type of music he wanted as well as arrangement combined with the mixing and engineering wizardry of Bruce.

Whenever I hear Michael's official instrumental versions of his hits, I hear Bruce with that beautiful engineering prowess when it came to the final mixing and recording of these hits along with, of course, Michael's wonderful composition talents with his amazing flair for initiative when it came to arranging the development of these songs.

I hope you consider one day writing a book on all of these tributes and comprehensive detailed analysis of every aspect of Michael's brilliant career from music, videos, tours, producing, the works. I can smell $$$$$ going your way, mate. Eye-wink Cool I can just hear Michael whispering words of encouragement as he would've loved and endorsed your passion for these analyses of his career. Smiling

♦ In The Studio With Michael ♦

Hi Dorita, so true what you wrote about Bruce and Michael. Together they were the ultimate team and I truly think a huge part of that was because of their love and respect for each other. They both always listened to each others thoughts and ideas on how they really wanted a song to sound.
Wow mate that would be a wonderful job to have that's for sure. It'd be wonderful putting another article out there that was the total ' Truth ' about Michael. I'm glad you enjoyed reading the beautiful things Bruce had to say about darling Michael. It's always fun sharing in our love for Michael. Thankx too for such nice compliments mate. Love ya, Carmen ☼

Hi Jenny Ann, I love that part too, when Bruce speaks about keeping all those little sounds in there as part of ....and I really love how he calls it ~ Michael's Sonic Character.!! He's so right about all those little sounds adding something extra special to each song. I do the same thing, each time I listen to his songs, focus in on all those little sounds. Wow, when we got our Bose speakers, you could notice all those awesome sounds even more so. I love these kind of stories too Jenny, and it always has me loving Michael that much more. I know it does that to you as well. You're so welcome girl, and I'm happy you enjoyed this. It was fun.! Thankx so much...Love ya, Carmen ☼

Hi mjthinker, I agree with you 100% that Bruce is the perfect one, the perfect Recording Engineer to be involved in the new albums. He knows from experience what Michael wants his music to sound like. I'll tell ya, the only thing I've read is that John McClain didn't want Bruce to be involved. John wants to use his own recording engineer . I do not know if Bruce was even approached about the subject or not. It saddens me if they didn't even have the common sense to ask him about it. You know, many of those unreleased songs were at the final stage of being complete and they were just rejected for the album at the time that they were working on. I can remember reading too how so many of Michael's unreleased songs were already ' perfect ' to other's standards, but not to Michael's standards. The way he was such a perfectionist always had him fine tuning and redoing a song over and over until it was to his level of perfection. And don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with that at all, cause it was a big part of what made Michael's music so awesome and so spectacular!! I love how darling Michael is/was a Perfectionist. So I still believe his unreleased music will be magnificent and still contain all his essence as the day he wrote and composed those songs. I'm with ya girl, it warms my soul too reading these kind of special memories from someone who truly knew and loved Michael. I'm so excited to hear this new album in November I know that. It was fun talking with you girl and you're very welcome. Love ya, Carmen ☼

Hi Maybe, I agree girl, I adore these kind of articles so much. Makes you love Michael more and more. You're welcome too. This is the first time I've met you girl. it was very nice. Thankx for stopping in girl. Love ya, Carmen ☼

Hi Julie, oh girl, you changed your avatar....I love it.!! LOL...a couple of goober techno-geeks....that's funny and Markie would so love to go along too, he's a techy too... and I have my bags packed and all I have to do is make the flight arrangements and call Bruce and we're on our way to spending a month with him having the best time ever....LOL....I'm just kidding. Still a fantastic dream of mine though. btw, I DID see you shaking your head yes...LOL ..ok I'll get serious here. aaww that almost made me cry what Bruce said to Howard and Linda... what a wonderful man and I will always praise him and respect him for his love for Michael. He most definitely is a true friend of Michael's. I agree Julie, we can thank God for people like Bruce who will always be true to Michael. I wish I could hug him. Thankx for sharing that story with me, I loved it. What an honor that would totally be to get the chance to write a book about darling Michael...wow...well one thing for sure girl, it would be all - every last word - the truth and be filled with love and praises for him. I would so love to do that, I really would. I should put that on my bucket list. It's always a joy to talk with you and thankx too. Love ya, Carmen ☼

Hi crazee4mj, I know girl, I feel that way too. Isn't that beautiful how he'd memorize the lyrics and music. I read in my other book how he didn't want his songs to sound like he was reading off a page but rather coming from his heart. Well, Michael surely achieved that with everyone of his songs. You said it right girl, he is a master at his craft...a Perfectionist..!!! The One and Only Michael Joseph Jackson and we love his so very much. Thankx so much for sharing with me and I enjoyed it very much. Love ya, Carmen ☼

Hi Heather, it's has been so much fun getting to talk with you my little bestie nearly every day and about our favorite topic....Michael.!!! It is great how Bruce was with Michael for so many years and how they worked together so well. They were the best of friends too, and were an awesome team. I loved it on the one video I posted, how at the end, Bruce says, I'm happy to talk about my Pal, Michael. I'm so glad you've been having a great time and thankx for your nice compliments Heather and you're so welcome. Love ya, Carmen ☼

Hi ihe♥rtMJ, I love what you said about Michael. So beautiful and so true. It shows on all the albums they worked on together, that positively, they clicked..like you said. Bruce was always an amazing technical innovator. Michael forever the Ultimate Genius....Perfection.!!! Thankx so much girl and I enjoyed talking with you again. Love ya, Carmen ☼

Michael ♥ Forever the KING ♪

this is wonderful...thanks Carmen...they are both professional & kind no wonder they clicked and Michael...michael what an amazing man & very very professional, hardworking & dedicated with big golden heart♥...what a genuis!!!

Hi Carmen bestie,
Thanks for posting another tribute. I loved this one and all the videos. Its wonderful Bruce was always there for Michael and realized what a wonderful person he truly was. As you know I love reading these I read them over and over. I've loved talking to you all through this week. Its been a lot of fun.
Love ya most
God Bless

hi Carmen! i love reading these stories about Michael! it's like i'm there witnessing it all! it's fascinating how Michael prepared for recordings, how he would memorize everything before coming to record. he was the master at his craft, the perfectionist!


Carmen, when I read, "...don't you think finding out all that cool insight info makes the songs mean so much more to you the next time you listen to them?" I sat here shaking my head "yes".....hope you could see it through the screen. Smiling But you are so right, knowing these things makes Michael's music even better. And, again, a big YES to visiting with Bruce for a month...that would be a fantastic treat! I think my partner would be on board for something like that, too; he works on robotics as a profession and loves ***anything*** technical....we're actually a couple of goober techno-geeks....he even more than me. LOL!

On another note, saw this in another thread; just another example of Bruce's love for Michael. It was on a link that prean provided regarding a letter to Michael by Howard McCrary:

Once again and lastly when you went to trial in Santa Barbara and it seemed like the whole world turned their backs on you, at another session producer Bruce Swedien pulled my sister Linda and I to the side and said, “Howard and Linda , don’t believe The Press. Michael is an angel… he would never hurt the children.”

With all the pain and injustice Michael had to suffer, we can thank God he had people like Bruce to get his back.

And I agree with Dorita, you could write an excellent book on Michael....I'd buy it! Smiling We could then chalk one more up for the good guys!

Wow, I enjoyed reading this. What a great way to start my day! Thanks for posting.

@ mjthinker, I totally agree with you.
Bruce should be the one doing the final master on any unreleased Michael music.

To have anyone else would be sheer folly.

Danica Cool

brililant thread - thank you. this really warmed my soul!
i love to hear his memories, he sounds like someone who truly loved Michael, who understood and respected his genius (and those family meals.... what generosity, what love!!)
Just one question: why, oh why is he not doing the new album??? Who would have a better idea of what MJ may have wanted to do with his songs than bruce?
i am very fearful that the new sound may not be the Michael we are expecting. anyone know why he is excluded? did he refuse?


Thank you for this thread. It is wonderful to hear from people who worked so closely with Michael and knew what a consummate professional he was. Swedien obviously knew Michael's sound inside out and I love how he talks about all the little sounds Michael made during recordings - and then he would make sure these were included. I always pick out these sounds when I'm listening to his songs - you get a real sense of Michael's command of the music and feel of the song.

Thank you for sharing this wonderful interview - it's another treasure.

Carmen, mate, this is brilliant!!!! Smiling Smiling Smiling Bruce Swedien is not only a professional engineer but the equivalent of Midas because everything he engineered throughout his mixing and producing prowess, he turned to gold - thus magnificent musical masterpieces for Michael. He was there for Michael during from day 1 since Off The Wall onwards and it is proof how he knew his craft backwards, inside out and with his eyes closed. He and Michael both visualised and crafted the type of music Michael was crafting and innovating for each of his albums and particular songs which had particular meaning and distinct depth to him.

I love it mate, it's simply magnificent! Smiling Smiling Smiling You should write for a Michael Jackson-commissioned magazine as a tribute or a celebratory retrospective of his career. Just imagine what you could earn out of this! $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ Smiling Smiling Smiling Think about it. Eye-wink The world is your oyster. Eye-wink Smiling

♦ In The Studio With Michael ♦

Hi KeepinTheFaith, I'm so happy for you girl and so proud of you for going after a lifelong dream you've had. I think it will be so exciting and so interesting to study and learn all about the process of recording music. It's great you have the chance to go after something you've always wanted to do. I'm wishing you the best in your new adventure girl and I know you'll do well. I share that same thought with you of only wishing I'd have been there in the studio while Michael recorded his songs. Wow just to be able to see him in the early creative stages while working on his albums would've been so wonderful. I would love to be able to visit Bruce and talk with him about all his wonderful memories of working with Michael. I have this book too, and I have put so many things from it into my tributes cause he talks about so many of Michael's songs and all the insight into them. I love learning that sort of stuff. I wish too that he'd write yet another book about recording with Michael. I'd buy that book too for sure. Maybe he will someday, we can always hope for it. I enjoyed talking with you so much and thankx.! I'm so excited for you girl!!!! Love ya, Carmen ☼

Hi Markie, I so agree with you about Bruce. He was never afraid to ' go out of the box ' so to speak. He and Michael we're the ultimate team as they both we're a Genius in their own talents. Michael so loved him and his wife, Bea and they both treated each other with the utmost respect. Yeah, for sure, you can see how much fun they had working together. I'd so love to spend time with Bruce talking about all those awesome times too. Thankx Markie for stopping in, it was very nice. I ♥ U 4-ever, Carm ☼

Hi Naej, well you're very welcome and I'm so glad you loved it. I love your avatar so much girl, it is so Michaelly and how much would Michael love that.....very much. Have you seen that video yet where Michael is touring an artist factory in Spain where they make all sorts of very beautiful art pieces? Well during one point, Michael holds a figurine of Tinker Bell and he looks at it for awhile, then kisses it....aawww it's so precious.! Seeing those kind of things just makes you love him more and more. Thankx for your reply girl. Love ya, Carmen ☼

Hi Bridgett, you're so welcome. I know what you mean too about loving to read things about Michael that are the truth. Like you said too, from people who knew him. I have so much respect for Bruce and with him and Michael working together....they were the ultimate team. Thankx so much and I'm glad you enjoyed this. Love ya, Carmen ☼

Hi Julie, I know how much you love to read about the technical aspects from Bruce, cause I can remember you sharing that with me from the album tributes. I thought it was so cool that you enjoyed finding out all about that sort of interesting stuff too. I love it, and don't you think finding out all that cool insight info makes the songs mean so much more to you the next time you listen to them? Oh Julie, you mentioned all the sweet things that I loved reading about too and really touched my heart. Michael was always doing such sweet things to make everyone feel more like a family. I just love all those creative things Bruce and Michael did in order to make his music have that extra special sound to it. I would've loved to have been in that studio watching Michael work his magic while he was recording. Isn't it something how the studio was always with the lights out except for the tiny spotlight. I have to wonder if it helped Michael feel at ease and it allowed his creative juices to flow.
Now girl, wouldn't it be the greatest thing ever if you and I could visit Bruce and spend a month visiting him and just talking about his recording sessions with Michael. And listen to all those massive amount of tapes he has of all the different takes of Michael's songs. Oh wow, that would be so awesome. I'm hoping that someday, Bruce writes yet another book on this subject. It was a lot fun talking with you Julie and thankx so much. Love ya, Carmen ☼

♦ In The Studio With Michael ♦

Michael ♥ Forever the KING ♪

Carmen, thank you, once again, for a beautiful piece on Michael and those he worked with. I always enjoy reading what Bruce has to say...the technical aspect combined with the human aspect always does something to me! Smiling

I love the fact they were so professional and worked so hard to get things "just right" and the way they were able to achieve it....I really enjoyed the interview where Bruce says the room was dark with the pin spotlight and how Michael would disappear, then re-appear at the mike at exactly the right moment...that would have been something to see.

I also like how he talked about the drum cover and then they played the excerpt....the creativity flowing was phenomenal and we are the ones who benefited from that....we are truly blessed!

And the "family" dinners on Fridays....how Michael! LOL! And taking his nephew and the other kids shopping, giving a Christmas tree complete with Santa.....words fail me.

Michael was a wonderful man and so is Bruce!

Thank you!

Thank you for posting this the story behind MJ from people who really know him.

Thank you i loved reading this so nice love Naej.

Hi Carmen Smiling ♥♥♥♥♥

Bruce is a fantastic sound engineer. The man would try crazy stuff while trying to capture the "Sound" he wanted, and so many, many times it worked great!!!
The man is a genius, and you can tell he really, really enjoyed working with Michael.
I bet those 2 had so much fun together Smiling

@ KeepinTheFaith, I think it's great you are going back to school to learn the audio trade.
Good Luck to you Smiling
*and don't be afraid to try weird things to get "that" sound you want*

Danica Cool

Hey Carmen, thanks for posting this. I got Bruce's book because I love Michael (doh!), but also because I am very interested in the process of recording music ....in fact I'm going to be returning to school to learn the craft myself. It's something I always wanted to do, and I'm finally going to go after my lifelong dream. This book, although full of techno speak about processes and equipment and such was also so full of wonderful information about how Michael worked in the studio. What I would have given to be able to watch him create in this way! Bruce talked about how he loved to record in a darkened room, and the wooden platform he built for him so that they could record the sounds of Michael dancing as he sang. It just gives me goosebumps thinking about what that must have been like to be present for that. I'm sure Swede has a lifetime of memories of Michael that he will always cherish.

I miss you more every day Michael...and love you MORE...always more sweet Angel.