Music Producers " Scott Storch

People like Timbaland, Pharrell Williams and Mark Ronson have record labels standing in line to have them work with their artists - and pay ridiculous amounts of money for it too.

These producers are almost more famous than the artists they produce and many have the ego to go with it (watching the Mark Ronson performance of Stop Me at Glastonbury, the lead singer seemed to be more of an afterthought as the camera kept focusing on Ronson standing in the pit, playing guitar in front of the fawning crowds). But I think the best producers are those who put the artist/band in the centre, bring their strengths to the forefront and take them to a level they couldn't even have imagined themselves. They know when to push the artist further and when to say stop.

In my opinion, Quincy Jones was a master at this. And he managed to do it so effortlessly that someone like Michael Jackson didn't even notice what Quincy brought to the table. Walter Yetnikoff, former president of CBS Records, famously recounted in his book Howling At The Moon how Jackson wanted him to take Jones' name off the Thriller album, after it had won seven Grammies. According to Jackson, it was he not Jones who had produced the album. If that were the case, how would he explain why he could never repeat the success of Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad, as they went their separate ways and Jackson decided to produce his own albums?

Jones started out as a trumpet player and became an arranger before focusing on producing. Many producers today don't even know how to read music. Talking to Tim Simenon (the producer behind Bomb The Bass and Neneh Cherry's first hit), many years ago, I was surprised to hear that he didn't play an instrument. He just knew what kind of sound he was looking for, and he knew what musicians to bring in to give him that sound. The same goes for Arthur Baker. Both of them started out as DJs, and the transition from DJ to producer is quite common these days.

But knowing how to work a crowd in a club doesn't necessarily make you a great producer, so the ones that manage to make a success of it must have something extra. Usually they're good at spotting young, talented musicians who are excited to work for a famous producer. Often the relationship goes sour once the musician realises that the producer is taking sole credit for what they believe they've been instrumental in creating. A recent example is the war of words - and music - between Timbaland and Scott Storch.

It's impossible to explain why a certain combination of people in the studio can create magic. But, as with songwriting, once you start quibbling about who did what, you can guarantee that that magic will be lost.


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