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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Jun 2019 > MICHAEL BEINHORN

MICHAEL BEINHORN

Grammy-winning producer Michael Beinhorn is responsible for a string of iconic 90s rock records. Yet his latest move is away from production altogether into the nebulous field of pre-production. We discuss physical reactions to music, why hooks aren’t always good, and the unenviable task of being the bad guy…

Michael Beinhorn got his big break in production working with Herbie Hancock as a synth and drum programmer, co-writing the breakdance favourite Rockit. However, he’s best known for his work on 1990s rock records such as Soundgarden’s Superunknown, Marilyn Manson’s Mechanical Animals and the notoriously troubled recording of Celebrity Skin by Hole. Now he’s drawing upon his wealth of song-crafting experience to work in the world of pre-production.

PRE-PRODUCER

The term pre-production can have wildly different meanings, depending on who you’re talking to. For Michael Beinhorn, the fundamentals are simple:

“I think pre-production is the cornerstone on which a really great recording is going to be built,” he says. “It encompasses all the preparatory work that addresses the structure of a recording. In terms of all the music, arrangements and song composition. And it can go as far as dealing with interpersonal aspects of the recording.

“That’s to say, individuals who are struggling with parts or the internal dynamics between people in a band. There might be certain blocks that are causing the artists to be incapable of delivering their best work, and in pre-production, we find ways to get around those.”

That may seem like a broad remit and Michael is the first to admit this. “It’s an all-encompassing umbrella term that can cover a lot. It’s going to vary depending on the project, the artist, what the needs are of both, and what kind of music it is. So it has to be very flexible and freeform.”

The process differs if you’re not also the person behind the glass when it comes time to produce the record, as Beinhorn explains: “Producing a record from top to bottom involves a different kind of investment, because I also have to envision an overall sonic presentation for them. What is this going to sound like? What is it going to say? What’s the meaning behind it?

How does that look? What kind of equipment does that? What kind of recording process reflects this?” Beinhorn’s role with pre-production is to shepherd the process right up to the point when the artist or band enters the studio. This means making sure all the parts, lyrics, melodies and song structures are complete.

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About MusicTech

In this issue, we look ahead, and analyse two massively exciting innovations that are already fundamentally affecting the music-making and listening worlds. In our cover feature this month, we explore the history, science and music-production implications of virtual reality. VR headsets are becoming increasingly popular and with a wide range of music-themed VR applications available to buy or in development, we ask whether making music in virtual space will rival the traditional DAW-based method, and how composing with virtual reality in mind requires a whole new approach to mixing. Elsewhere, we explore the astounding new realm of hologram performance, speaking to those companies that have used modern optics technology to, in a sense, resurrect deceased musicians and send them back out to the live arena. We discuss the technology behind – as well as the ethical implications of – holograms. Also in this issue, we speak to the legendary Howard Jones, LA’s genre-defying Battle Tapes as well as video-game sound designer Matt Boch, who explains how, when working on the recent game Ape Out, he approached soundtracking in an incredibly unique way. We review the latest tech from Universal Audio, Elektron, EastWest and Korg and also bring you a buyer’s guide to turntables, should you want to try your hand at a spot of DJ’ing. I hope you enjoy the issue.