Michael Beinhorn


North american record producer, composer and musician. Passionate about artist development, he has worked and produced albums for Herbie Hancock, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, Aerosmith, Marilyn Manson, Hole, Ozzy Osbourne, Soul Asylum and many more.


Michael, how would you define your profession? What is your personal approach to it?

I disabused myself of the idea that I was actually a musician a long time ago. I am definitely more in the production end of things.

There are many aspects to how I work with people. A lot of it is intuitive, trying to figure out what they need. I also think, and not everyone feels the same way as me, my approach is unique in the sense that there has got to be some kind of evolution or growth through an artist. So part of my pursuit, is trying to help an artist grow inside the process. And in order to do that, I am trying to help the artist develop musically, and also trying to find themselves expressively and trying to capture an audio signature – for the lack of a better word – or something that will make the particular project that we’re making reflect that growth, and in some way, stand out against the crowd of other artist who might be doing something similar.

So it’s an approach on multiple level. I’m finding in many cases that people consider artists nowadays to be content creators, that is that they just sort of spew out whatever it is that they are doing. But there isn’t really any focus on growth or development. In the past, artist have gone through different periods of personal expression, life experience comes at them and alters how they express themselves, what there doing, age affects them so they start doing things differently. Every artist has potential to develop and grow. A musical artist perfect example of this is David Bowie who went through so many different periods, so many different masks that he would sort of put on and took off and progressed. Nowadays this kind of growth is not encouraged. In fact I would go so far as to say that it is discouraged. The music industry doesn’t really have a whole lot of time for artist developing. And one reason for that is that if they develop into something that’s not pleasing to their audience the way they might be in the present, there’s a good chance they’ll stop selling records, if they’re popular. They stop selling record, they don’t become viable or useful to their record company anymore. So it benefits, at least in the mind of the people in the record companies, to keep artist in a sort of stasis once they’ve reach a certain level, and that becomes like a plateau which in many respects is almost like a death sentence.

I feel in a way my work is to help artist become who they need to be from moment to moment whatever this is, you know, organic growth. And it’s a lot of observation, a lot of listening. I have to listen to their music a lot to be able to, it’s almost like method acting or like getting into a character or something like that. I wouldn’t say that I try to push anybody in any directions. It’s more like motivation and encouragement. If I show an artist something and give them an idea, I don’t say specifically ‘use this idea because it came from me and my idea is going to be the best’. It’s more like ‘I am presenting this to you because this is where I feel this particular piece of music is weak. Now here’s one possible solution and I’m going to trust though that you may have a better one’,  and so often this is the case. So my role is to explain to the artist what’s not working and why, and giving them one example of what one could do, and leaving that with them.

How much attention do you pay to sound quality?

It’s interesting. You need context to understand that something can be better, like with all things, like listening to music through Audirvāna for example. Once you’ve heard or experienced something in a certain way, that is a drastic improvement over what you know, it is very hard to un-experience it, it’s very hard to unhear it. So my experience was when I heard something that was better, then the sources that I’ve been using previously, I would gravitate towards that. Ok, how can I get that ? And a lot of the thinking that went into that was ‘If we do this ? Why can’t we do that?’. I developed for example a 2 inch 8 tracks system for analog recording, which I was surprised that no one else had done before. Just using more track width, you could record and playback in a much different way and it would change the sonic quality while you’re recording and playing back completely. I think that is something that you have to show people. So if you can present something to someone and demonstrate to them how it works, what it does, how it pertains to what their music is, how it pertains to what their recording process is going to be like, generally speaking, my experience has been there not going to say no.

“Once you’ve heard or experienced something in a certain way, that is a drastic improvement over what you know, it is very hard to un-experience it, it’s very hard to unhear it.”

Do you still enjoy listening music for fun or pleasure?

I don’t see why not. When I listen to a piece of music that I’m working on and a piece of music that I’m listening to for pleasure, I am kind of looking for the same thing. It’s usually harder to find in a piece of music that I’m listening to for work. So my job is ‘How do I get that element into it ? What I am going to add to bring that to the table ?’. But there is a certain emotional quality that I am looking for, something really compelling, something that stops me, something that I feel inside my body that is visceral. And I don’t see any difference or variance. Obviously you can listen to stuff from a structural stand point as well, and we frequently do that. And I can get very analytical about a piece of music. But I find I have to turn that on. It’s not going to come automatically anymore, which I am happy about to tell you the truth. Because, I wouldn’t want to listen to everything just analytically. Once in a while it does, but I just ignore it!

How long have you been using Audirvāna? What did you think when you discovered it?

Three years, I think. I was just in pursuit of the cleanest possible way to listen to digital recordings an files. I found a lot of playback systems that I thought were really good, but I felt like there was always some kind of minor distortion here and there that caused it to not be as distinct, and got in the way of the playback of what I was listening to. I think I dug really, and try to discover through the internet what might be the best solution for me and that’s how I came upon Audirvāna. When I am listening to music in Audirvāna, I am not hearing any unpleasant resonances – or like peaks – frequencies that accumulate and jump out at me. Certainly it is the most transparent representation I’ve heard on my system yet. So that’s why I’ve have come to rely upon it.

I stuck with Audirvāna 3.5 for as long as I could because I didn’t feel like paying for an upgrade. I was like ‘this is great’! And after a few years, I thought ‘well, sounds like they’ve upgraded quite a bit, made some changes, I have to check it out’. And I listened to Audirvāna Studio, and … ah… You can’t unhear, you can’t un-experience it. You’ve got to roll with it. What can I say? I have to do it! It’s the kind of thing where I feel that if someone does a really good job and they’ve created a product that’s worth the money then it’s my responsibility to support them in what they’re doing. I mean this is obviously a specialty product so I am OK paying the money anyhow.

Do you talk to people about it?

Honestly, only in passing. And the reason for that is most people don’t listen to music the same way that I do. Most of the people that I know they are – in max – generally working with a DAW (a Digital Audio Workstation) and all their music is in Apple music, you know iTunes. And it doesn’t make any sense to them to have a separate music player, everything is like so directly accessible. People tend to just gravitate toward whatever is most convenient because they don’t really think about what the computer is actually doing. They don’t think about how this app might actually sound better than that app, because they think ‘it’s all ones and zeros’ which of course we know is complete non sense.

What are your passions outside of music?

Well, I’ve got a 5 year old son! My family are amazing. I love the Arts, I love painting , I love visual Art. It’s an amazing world, there is lots to see and lots to do, and I don’t think you can run out of fun things. Travelling is great too.