Monday, September 30, 2013

Quincy Jones, Bruce Swedien & Rod Temperton Discuss Working with Michael Jackson

On September 24th, 2013 at the Dubai Music week festival, fans of Michael Jackson had the opportunity to hear from the multi-Grammy winning Dream team behind the King of Pop’s record-breaking albums, Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad. Speakers included Quincy Jones, Rod Temperton, (via Skype) and Bruce Swedien, discussing the experience of working with Michael Jackson as well as producing  the greatest selling album of all time. Yet again another example of how Michael's legacy is being positively promoted to the masses. Here is one article about the event.  I'm hoping we get more details of  this discussion soon ~ Qbee

left to right, moderator Ben Fong-Torres, producer Quincy Jones and assistant
producer Bruce Swedien at the Dream Team panel discussion at Dubai Music Week.

Quincy met Michael in 1978:

“I was working on the soundtrack to Sidney Lumet’s film The Wiz,” the producer Quincy Jones recalled. “Michael was there and he said: ‘I got a deal to record a solo album, will you help me find a producer?’ I told him: ‘Michael, I don’t know what you are talking about because I only have one song for this film. I have to work on this first.’”

While recording the soundtrack, Jones first experienced Jackson’s trademark determination; the then 20-year-old Jackson memorising all the soundtrack’s lyrics and associated dance steps.

“I knew we had to work together,” Jones said. “The record label said no to us working together because they said ‘Quincy was too jazzy’. We went on to record Off the Wall and that became the highest-selling black record of all time at that period.”

Rod Temperton On Jackson’s singing style:

“He always sat on top of the beat and really pushed it along and gave it a lot of melody,” described the British songwriter Rod Temperton, responsible for penning classic tunes including Rock with You, Off the Wall and Thriller.

 “Writing for him, I knew he loved songs with a strong melody with a lot of short notes in it. The other thing I noticed about Michael is that he loved a lot of vocal harmonies on the song, so that was something I included. I always tried to make the words melt into the melody.”

Bruce Swedien On Acusonic Recording:

“Some people thought that it was an actual device and one guy from Japan wanted to buy it,” said the assistant producer Bruce Swedien about the famed Acusonic Recording Process used to record the albums. “It actually means accurate sonic recording, which is what Quincy and I do all the time.”

Swedien says he incorporated a lot of sonic techniques to give the three albums a cutting-edge feel: “Sometimes I would have Michael sing close to the mic and double [track] it and then tell him to move back further and the third time even further. What that does is create a sonic energy with the sound and then you can stagger it, making the sounds come from the left [speaker], the right and the middle. When it all combines together on the record, it just sounds magical.”

Thriller was called Starlight:

The aim with Thriller was to be Jackson’s “mature” album: “The transition from Off the Wall to Thriller was to say that he has moved from being a youth to man,” Jones said.

This explained the adult themes in the lyrics and the more aggressive sounds. After completing the melodies, it took a while for Temperton to come up with the appropriate the lyrics to match the song’s drama. 

“I never write lyrics until the very end,” Temperton said. “So Thriller was actually called Starlight and that was just some rubbish word I put down to demonstrate to Michael how the melody went. Then during breakfast the next morning, the word shot into my head. It was like electricity and immediately I started thinking of the lyrics. That’s how Thriller came to be.”

Michael the songwriter:

When it came to the last of their collaborations, Bad, Jones pushed Jackson to take the songwriting reigns. “He wrote two and half [songs] in Off the Wall, four in Thriller. And when it came to Bad, I told him it’s time to go against all the publicity and walk into the eye of the fire and tell the truth about everything.

“He eventually wrote nine songs for Bad. The album had five No 1 records.”

Jackson’s legacy:

“There was no one like him,” Jones said. “He focused on everything he did and he would never give up. I have never seen anyone like him.” Temperton believes Jackson’s personality was largely responsible for the magic on the albums. 

“All the inspiration was driven by Michael,” said Temperton. “He was a very quiet man off the stage but once that tape rolls, you realise no one has that electric energy that he had.”

Dubai Music Week offered something for all: from the concerts to the panel discussions curated by the leading music industry body Midem. While casual music fans enjoyed the concert action, the event was home to important discussions about the creative and business side of the regional music industry.

Dubai Music Week continues through Sunday Set 30th


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