My friend Jeff "Critter" Newell (engineer/producer for A Perfect Circle, Ministry, Guns'n'Roses, Angels & Airwaves and others) sent me some observations about his current project the other day and I thought it was something most producers could benefit from: -------------- I think what I like most about artists is the utter grace of creation. As a paid muse of sorts, I've tried all manor of achieving a catalyst fusion. Oddly, it boils down to three elements - frustration/ boredom, time to play in the sandbox, and a thumbs up. Rinse, lather, repeat. Here's a production technique you will never be taught in a class. Create an inspiring gtr tone, loop the song, and go smoke a cigarette. In 10 minutes of horrendous stabs at greatness, the artist will stumble on something cool in order to amuse themselves. When they do settle on something, toss the smoke and comment on the cool thing. Then take a piss and let them play within the parameters of the cool bits while waiting to record it. They now have focus and it only gets better. I've been doing this for years and oddly, it's always the pauses that create the best shit. Sometimes my job is taking a vague idea and running with it. And I'm increasingly good at it. But mostly, it's about creating the sandbox and encouraging play without expectation. Because artists are in some sense channeling the best impulses of childhood. They are bored easily and the job of facilitation is to make them bored with themselves so they are forced to invent. Not because they have to, but because it amuses and engages them. You then provide focus, refine parameters with enthusiasm, and let them explore that narrowing of possibility's infinite glower. The creative hobby is my profession. It's nuanced. I'm way better at it now because I realized my role wasn't directing the experience, but bearing witness and noticing great moments. In most instances, I'm wrong in what i suggest. (as is the artist, and if you've ever listened to a mere 50 minutes of coming up with a part, you'd understand) The benefit of suggesting it is that it strengthens the original impulse. It clarifies it by clearly winning. Which ends up giving the fragile impulse more confidence. A richer exploring. Part of what I like about shows like "Burn Notice" is the calm command of one's world, three steps ahead. Part of what I like about my world is the surprise. There is a way to fuse the two. I'm becoming more convinced that my best work is done setting up inspiration and then getting out of the way. Actively. Deliberately. As in, thwarting a linear and efficient progress towards achieving a goal, by introducing a calculated place to play. I smoke. I eventually have to pee. My butt instinctively wiggles when I hear cool shit. (Hence, the critter nickname) It took me awhile to realize these were tools - the slings and arrows of my particular quiver. The spy will always win over the debater. The spy is concerned about completing the mission by whatever means necessary. I entered life as a pugilist. Slowly, I'm learning the artistry in smoking a cigarette. -------------- What are the more "mental" production techniques (as opposed to "add 5k on the guitars and parallel compress the drum bus) that you employ?