Over more than 40 years, Michael Beinhorn has produced a wide range of artists including Herbie Hancock, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Korn, Weezer and Soundgarden. He is the author of "Unlocking Creativity,” a book that discusses his approach to the creative process. He has recently founded Beinhorn Creative, one of the world's first remote production and artist consulting services.
"I feel that they are superior reference headphones because they provide a truer representation of what the source actually sounds like. It's an unexpected link between an audiophile product and a critical listening product." - Michael Beinhorn
Here's our talk with Michael:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?
Weezer- Black Album Weezer- The Teal Album Weezer- Van Weezer Weezer- Ok, Human Weezer- SZNS
How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on these days?
I'm working with artists mainly in a consultant/executive/coaching position. I assist artists with pre-production, post-production, remote production, as well as artist development and I function in a coaching capacity to help artists optimize their creative voice and output.
How did you get started in music? What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed?
I started as a listener. When I was growing up, my parents played a variety of different types of music- from concert music to jazz to The Beatles and I was influenced to a great extent by how music affected them. Later, my tastes went to Top 40, but as I got older, I began veering off into prog rock and from there, increasingly obscure and weirder stuff. Over time, I’ve branched out into a vast multitude of styles and artists. I’ll listen to anything from British blues-rock to concert music to ethnic music to obscure dark ambient, drone music.
Can you name any factors that influenced the course of your musical life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?
So many of those. Wendy Carlos "Switched on Bach" was a defining recording for me, as was "Here Come the Warm Jets" by Brian Eno. The bombardment and invasion segments of "The Longest Day" were life-changing for me when I was 7. "Juliet of the Spirits" by Federico Fellini was also a life-changer. For that matter, so was working with Brian Eno for several months after worshipping him for the prior 7 years.
Can you briefly describe a moment of frustration from your past work, and what you may have done to overcome the obstacles? Would you approach it differently now?
I've worked on multiple recordings where there were extremely high levels of stress involved and some kind of radical action was required, from firing drummers to firing singers, to changing cities where the recording was done, etc. Looking back on all of it. I'd have to say that in some cases, I acted somewhat rashly but overall, I wouldn't have approached what I did any differently.
Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently?
I work exclusively in a listening capacity, so I rely on the same gear pretty much all the time now. Instead of pro audio equipment, my systems are all audiophile just because this gives me greater precision and I can feel a deeper connection with the music I listen to. Obviously, I love my Audeze LCD-5 headphones and I'm a big fan of the Chord Electronics DAVE DAC and MScaler upsampler. I'm using Sean Jacobs power supplies with the Chord pieces and Synergistic Research cables for my USB and AC and MWave cables for my BNC connections.
Everything is being powered off an Equi=tech Q which balances, conditions and stabilizes the electricity. Eventually, I'll be upgrading from a computer to a dedicated music streamer that's currently in development. As far as instruments, I have a variety of analog synthesizers, stomp boxes and processing that I like to play around with when there's time.
Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?
I have words, whether they're wise is up to the person reading them. I believe that if anyone feels strongly about having a career in the arts, they should absolutely go for it. There are only a few caveats, and one would be to make sure you're absolutely devoted to the work you're doing. I've encountered so many people who are either dilettantes or simply won't go beyond a certain point in terms of how committed they're willing to be in service to their muse. Another caveat would be to make sure you actually have something to say or to express through the medium you've chosen. A lot of people just dive right into trying to make art without clear guidelines, a concept or even intent and that never ends well. Finally, don't think that just because recording technology has suddenly become ubiquitous and that every new Mac comes with Garageband, you can simply become a music producer within a few weeks and find immense fame and fortune shortly thereafter.
How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?
I've been working exclusively with headphones for the past year and before that, I was going back and forth between headphones and B&W 802 Nautilus monitors. I like as many different types of listening systems as I can get but frankly, I'm finding myself enjoying headphones more recently. I feel they're more immersive and give me the opportunity to focus on a lot of the detail I'd otherwise miss.
How have your Audeze headphones affected your work?
I have a pair of LCD-4zs which I've practically lived in for the past 4 years, but I also found them very forgiving when it comes to analyzing sonics. The first thing I noticed when I got the LCD-5s was how fast they are. I love the way they reproduce transients. I'm also loving how much deeper and larger the stereo field is. I feel that they are superior reference headphones because they provide a truer representation of what the source actually sounds like. It's an unexpected link between an audiophile product and a critical listening product. Honestly, since I've gotten the LCD-5s, I haven't used the LCD-4zs.
CRBN is easily the best headphone I've ever listened to music with. They don't need equalization or any supplementation- there isn't one area where I feel they're lacking. They have managed to bridge a gap between pro audio/reference quality applications and total listening pleasure that I've only imagined was possible up till now.
Can you tell us what you've been working on with them recently?
I've done pre-production on Weezer's new 4 album series, SZNS. I've also been working with a variety of independent artists in pre-production and remote production. Very shortly, I'll be using the LCD-5s on hi-res and (Sony) RA360 immersive audio remixes of Korn's record Untouchables that I produced in 2002.
Do you have any additional comments or stories you want to share?
I'm writing a series of 7 or 8 books on some of the artists and projects I've produced over the past 40 years. These are boots-on-the-ground, under the hood depictions of music production in a way that hasn't really been done before. I wanted to show what it was like working on projects that faced extreme conditions and in some cases, almost didn't get made.