Interview with RUDY HAEUSERMANN, producer/engineer for Celine Dion, Tina Turner, Snoop Dogg - Aug 22, 2005
ďA lot of times I say to the artist: ďPut yourself back in the situation when you wrote the song.Ē Maybe you were in love with somebody, and now youíre in the studio 5 years later and are kind of disconnected from that emotional situation. I try to get them to that place where they really felt those kinds of things, Ē... says Rudy Haeusermann, producer/engineer for Celine Dion, Tina Turner, Snoop Dogg and Arden Kaywin, the HitQuarters Artist of The Week.
How did you get started in the music business?
Recording was always my hobby, and ever since I first used my grandpaís reel-to-reel machine I always wanted to become a producer. I knew I had to go to LA or New York, and at 20 I moved to the States. Thatís when I got serious about it. I went to a school called GIT (Guitar Institute of Technology), which is a famous musicianís institute. After that I got a job in a studio.
I started with the old school kind of thing, where you work yourself up at a recording studio: first youíre a runner, and then you become a 2nd engineer. I did those jobs for a while at NRG recording and Music Grinder, then I went on to engineering and freelancing. But I started out doing the crappy stuff like making coffee.
What key events led you forward?
I did a lot of engineering as a 2nd engineer in the 90ís at Music Grinder. At that time a lot of rap was going on and I was engineering for guys like Snoop Dogg or 2Pac.
I also made some connections when I met Martikaís family, who also managed Martika. They hired me to produce a whole bunch of things for her. I was networking with a lot of people, including Jerry Sharell at Stiletto management, who gave me a lot of jobs. Iím still doing things for Jerry. It was never like one big thing; it was a lot of small things that just kept evolving.
How important is it for an upcoming producer to be in a music centre like L.A?
I think itís very important, because everybody is here. Itís important if you want to meet somebody, and you want to interact with people, to meet managers and labels. If you are a really big producer with a huge track record, then people will come wherever you are. Theyíll seek you out. If you are a midrange producer itís hard to be out of the music centres.
What was your first major label production as a producer?
There were these guys from Swirl 360. I mixed their demo and afterwards they were signed to Mercury Records. They let me produce a couple of remixes for a remix release. I knew them through their management, which was the same management as for Hanson, who were in the studio at that time.
How did you get in contact with Arden Kaywin, the HitQuarters Artist of The Week?
She contacted me. Actually she first started with my friend Eddy Chacon (from Charles & Eddy Ė ďWould I Lie To YouĒ). She started working with him as an indie artist, who wanted to have some stuff recorded. He referred her to me and we started out on a couple of songs at first, and eventually it turned into a whole album.
Did she do it all by herself?
Yes, this was completely indie from top to bottom. You do the groundwork on your own. Nobody is going to do it for you. Find the sound, have the songs, do the development for the whole product on your own and things start snowballing from there. Sheís got a lot of things going on - opening for D-12 in a couple of weeks.
Who was paying the studio time?
She runs her own operations. She is definitely a totally indie artist in her own right.
Arden Kaywin Ė Artist Of The Week
25-year old Arden Kaywinís album, ďQuarter Life CrisisĒ has recently been nominated for a 2005 Los Angeles Music Award for Female Vocalist of the Year. The album is produced by Rudy Haeusermann. Arden is available for record-, management- and publishing deals.
Listen to Arden Kaywin Ė Me With Me
How much money do you charge per day in a case like this?
It depends. Usually it works the other way around. Out of the budget I have to decide which studio we go to, which musicians we use and how much time we can spend on things. The bigger the budget, the more elaborate you can get. But you definitely need a decent amount, starting with 20-30,000 for an album.
What is the working process like?
If you find artists that are diamonds in the rough, then you just start polishing them. You help with the songs, you rearrange some things, bend ideas back and forth. You try to get the best out of the artist, find some unique things about them, and find the right sound for them.
Much of what the labels did 10 years ago is now done by producers and outside people. You donít get a record deal as a no-name. You really have to get it to a point where you start selling records on your own; you have to make a name for yourself, create some kind of buzz about you. All the development is done outside the record companies. This is becoming more and more common.
So now, with the music business changing a lot, Iím doing a lot of development. Iíve just been developing another artist called Angie Mattson and she is gaining a lot of ground.
When did you first hear of Angie?
Actually she was one of these artists who contacted me and wanted me to do some demos for her. Then I thought she was really amazing. So we took it much further then making some demos. Things are still evolving. Itís a process.
Did she have a manager at that time?
No, we found her a manager, Michael Hausman, a great manager, whoís got Aimee Mann and Suzanne Vega.
Who paid for all the studio time and production?
I paid all that. You make agreements for when things start paying off. You have an agreement to have a bigger chunk on the backend. There are definitely risks you take with those kind of situations, but thatís all part of it.
So what does a contract with you look like at this stage, as an unsigned artist?
That depends. It can be a 50/50 dealÖ itís hard to say. Itís different from artist to artist.
Itís a time-limited deal. You make agreements that say: ďWe are going to do this, and then we are going to give one or two years to shop it. If we can make something happen in that time, then great. If not, you are free to move on.Ē
How do you find the right sound for an artist?
Itís a process. I usually ask the artist what kind of albums he or she listens to, and I listen to their songs. Then I also want to know what kind of person they are. If you know each other a little bit and talk about different ideas you usually arrive at some kind of sound. And of course when you work on the songs, the songs take on a life of their own and take off in a certain direction. Usually a personís writing style, plus the song itself, dictates a lot of it too.
Are you involved with the songwriting a lot?
IĎve done co-writes with some artists, like with Deborah Gibson, but mostly I just help the artist to tweak a couple of things. Sometimes a bridge isnít working, or there is no bridge and I encourage them to write one. What I do is usually more about fixing the songwriting.
Do you get a publishing percentage, if you help with the songwriting?
It depends. If I change something that really changes the song, like a melody on a chorus, and it sounds completely different, then of course it justifies a bigger chunk out of the song writing. But if itís something small, like a different chord or something, Iím not even going to get into that thing... Itís the artistís song and Iím here to help and make those small changes.
What kind of artists are you looking to produce?
I love working with singer-songwriters and rock bands. Luckily the business is kind of turning that way a little bit. I love all the real music, where artists have something to say. The things I like less are phony, contrived pop stuff, like Backstreet Boys. I try to stay away from that stuff as much as I can.
What makes an artist special?
Itís that certain something. If you meet a person, you see if they have star quality or not.
An artist should have a lot of ingredients: talent, a great voice, great songs, and one thing that gets forgotten a lot: he or she has to be really driven. They have to be willing to go all the way and work hard. You have to be able put up with a lot of rejection.
A lot of people think: ďI have a nice voice and look quite decentÖ somebody will make it happen for me.Ē But that will not work.
How important do you think a musical education is?
It can help a person but it can also hurt a person. I donít think it matters at all.
Do you listen to unsolicited material?
Sure, all the time. Actually one thing we are starting out doing here is an independent record label. So Iím definitely looking for great artists.
What should a demo from a new artist be like?
It can be all kinds. I prefer hearing just one instrument and the vocal, guitar-vocal or piano-vocal. The most important thing is great songs. If the song is great with the guitar and the vocal, then you have a lot to work with.
How do you get the best out of an artist?
Have a feel for the person, know how to deal with and work with them. Itís psychology. In the studio you can say something to one artist and it will motivate them, and say the same thing to another artist and it will discourage them. Some walk in and itís a great take right away; some may sing perfectly in pitch and time but there is not enough emotion behind it. So you try to steer them into the right direction.
A lot of times I say to the artist: ďPut yourself back in the situation when you wrote the song.Ē Maybe you were in love with somebody, and now youíre in the studio 5 years later and are kind of disconnected from that emotional situation. I try to get them to that place where they really felt those kinds of things. Make me believe the song!
Do you take care of your business yourself?
Iíve had a manager, Claris at Studio-expresso. It can be a good thing to have a manager as well.
Why donít you work with your management anymore?
Sometimes you get all the work on your own, so you think: ďWhy should I pay 15% to a manager?Ē That was a unique situation, but we may start working together again.
As an upcoming producer, would you say itís good to have management?
Most managers are not interested in you anyway. They will only take people that bring in work on their own. The same goes for artists: nobody is going to make it happen for you.
You have to make it happen yourself. When it becomes too overwhelming for you, then a manager can be handy to just deal with the business stuff.
How involved are A&Rs and managers in the production process?
With big artists A&R guys are definitely around to have their input. They want to make sure things are going in the way they want them to. Producers usually try to avoid that as much as possible. Itís politics sometimes. As a producer you try to find a direction that everybody can be happy with. You have to do that as well; try to appease everybody whilst coming up with something great.
People want to be involved during the process, and to see how things are evolving. In a perfect world you would just want to deliver your final vision. But no manager, record guy or artist will just give you the vocal and be like: ďOk, call me back in a month and let me hear what it sounds like.Ē People are involved and you want them to be involved, because you want to have them happy.
How do you regard the development towards computer-based studios?
The landscape is definitely changing a lot. Everybody has their computer setup, which is much more cost-efficient. More stuff is getting done in small spaces and at peopleís homes, since thereís less money going round in the business with all the labels hurting. There are big studios that are still in business and doing well. But a lot of mid-size studios are hurting. You can actually get some great studios now for a cheap rate.
You still need the big studios. For example if you need a good drum sound. They have all the great microphones and a better sounding room.
Do you record to tape still?
Tape is becoming less and less common. Most people I know definitely record to hard disc.
Would you say itís necessary to have big mixing consoles to mix a song?
More and more things are getting mixed in the box. On Ardenís album we had Rob Jacobs - who did the new Shakira album, Alanis Morrisette and others - to mix it in the box. He felt that he could get an equally good sound there as he could get in a studio, and he actually even told us later that they tried to beat the mixes on the Shakira album that he did in Pro-Tools on the console.
As a listener you get used to the way that sounds and at some point youíre not even able to tell a difference anymore. Personally I prefer going through a console as opposed to mixing it in the box.
Is it important to have somebody else do the mix?
I mix a lot myself, even stuff I didnít produce. Iíve even had platinum on stuff, where I did the mixing. But it depends on the project; sometimes itís nice when I produce and engineer to have a separate pair of ears doing the mixing. You are so into it, so close to the project, that itís nice to have somebody else doing it. But mixing is definitely one of my favourite things to do.
Do you mix with reference cd or just by ear?
Most of the time we do it by ear. Once you have enough experience under your belt you donít need to go to reference too much. When you start out, thatís definitely what you do a lot. You listen to other stuff and try to get it to sound equal.
Do you record the musicians playing alongside a ďclickĒ?
Most of the times, yes. Usually thereís a lot of pre-production that is going to be done and you have the drummer play to a loop because you are shooting for a certain feel for a song.
Do you record every instrument solo?
If the band plays great together, there is nothing like a great band performance, and you record everybody at the same time. Thatís the ultimate. But most of the sessions Iíve done itís been separated. Maybe bass and drums at the same time, then you add guitars and vocals later.
Do you use trigger for the drums?
For mixing a lot of mixers do sound replacement for bass drum and snare drum. I try to stay away from it as much as I can. If what you have doesnít sound good then thatís one of the tools you need to go to to improve it. I use Drumagog, where you can blend the original signal with the sample. Sometimes you try to find a sound thatís similar to the actual snare-drum sound. Then you can blend the two and have a little more separation still.
How often do you go back on a song and make changes again?
To me itís a little bit like a good bottle of wine. You want to let it sit for a while and go back to it. But you have to be careful not to do it for the sake of it. You have to have a feel for knowing if something is great. Sometimes stuff comes out great right away. But most of the time you do go back and try out different things - things that maybe arenít going to be on the record, but at least you tried them.
What was the process like when you worked with David Foster?
David Foster is definitely a genius. When he worked, he seemed to be a super-creative person; he knew how things should be, and had a lot of ideas which he put down. Itís just work and progress at that stage; some things may work, some things may not. It takes time. Sometimes you think you are done with a session in a day and it turns out to be 4 days. Sometimes you plan for 4 days and you are done in 2 days. Itís music; itís not maths.
How do you think the music market will change due to the fact that everybody can produce at home?
I think itís great; it makes the music business more competitive but also more independent. But engineering and mixing is a little bit of an art form, and those things get underestimated sometimes. Things donít necessarily sound as great as they could do, so the quality of music may be deteriorating a little bit. On the other hand, itís a creative thing for music, and there is a lot of cool stuff coming out of peopleís bedrooms.
What was the greatest moment of you music career?
That will come - when I get my Grammy.
Interviewed by Jan Blumentrath
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