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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > July 17 > MIX MASTER MIKE

MIX MASTER MIKE

Grammy-winning record producer Mike Howlett has received a PhD in music production, become an in-demand lecturer and helped launch the MPG Awards. Oh, and he’s written, produced and played on some iconic music, too. Who better to open up a new MusicTech series on legendary producers?
Pictures Mike Prior

Mike Howlett

Mike Howlett is pondering the reasons for the record producer’s existence – his own existence, if you will – and if anyone knows the answers to these questions, it’s him. As the first in our series of interviews with legendary producers, we’ve started at the very top. Howlett produced records back in the late 70s and early 80s that defined at least two genres of music. He picked up a Grammy award along the way; a Doctorate in Record Production in the 2000s; he lectures in the subject around the world and even found time to help set up the Music Producers Guild Awards nine years ago.

We’re currently talking about how the role of the producer has changed over the years, but Howlett doesn’t agree that the principles behind it have altered that much at all…

“There’s been an expanded definition of the term,” he says. “Someone like Calvin Harris; he’s the producer, the writer, the artist – he’s everything, and I love that. Prince was an earlier figure moving that whole thing on, with just the musicality rather than the process. But there is also a train of thought that says ‘I just stick a microphone on it and catch the whole thing,’ but that is bullshit. Which microphone are you going to use? Where are you going to place it? You’re in the business of using this technology to create a musical effect: that’s what the producer’s job is – to make the music work as a recording.”

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