Michael Beinhorn is famous for producing Soundgarden’s Superunknown and Hole’s Celebrity Skin, and he attempted to reteam with Courtney Love for her debut solo album America’s Sweetheart, which was a terrible letdown compared to the classic Celebrity Skin. Beinhorn revealed in a new Scars & Guitars interview (transcribed by Ultimate-Guitar) why he couldn’t finish the album with her.
So, Courtney Love – let’s talk about this album, [2004’s] ‘America’s Sweetheart.’ I’ve had a few listens to that album. Now, what she seems to lack is a critical analysis, that’s what I think you brought to [1998’s] ‘Celebrity Skin’. Do you know why she overlooked you when she started her solo album?
“Not really, no. It never occurred to me. It’s her choice. I think [2010’s] ‘Nobody’s Daughter’ suffered from that as well, it wasn’t easy to have a conversation like that, which is just one of the reasons why I think I couldn’t finish the record.
“I just felt that we weren’t getting anywhere. We had a parting of the ways there. From that perspective, ‘Celebrity Skin’ is one of my favorite projects.”
In these days, the death of rock ‘n’ roll and rock stars – as far as the mainstream media is concerned – the end of record companies as we knew them… I think all of the services that you are now offering are essential for any serious collective of musicians. What has inspired you to become so available to musicians through so many applications?
“I think innovation comes from seeing an opening. I’m not saying that these types of services are particularly lucrative. It’s not the kind of thing that will make you a whole lot of money, but I couldn’t care less about that.
“I’m just listening to the types of recordings that people are doing right now, and it’s just that they lack so much in terms of spirit, in terms of expression.
“I see people being turned on by music in a way, but I don’t see anyone getting excited about it in a way that I know I used to. I feel that the public is being cheated in a lot of ways.
“Music can’t be ‘wallpaper’ all the time. There’s nothing wrong with some music being ‘wallpaper,’ but not about all of it though.
“You talk about rock music dying. People have mistakenly applied this punk-rock ethic to rock-music creation, which is just, ‘Let’s write a song, record it – boom, the end.’ That’s pure idiocy.”
There are two genres that come to mind straight away – metalcore and deathcore. Relatively new genres, low tunings, but they really need someone like you because so much of that music sounds exactly the same, they’re using similar techniques and don’t have enough critical feedback through the production.
“I was in Copenhagen some three years ago, and I was working with some artists and standing outside of a room. I happened to be in this building with a bunch of rehearsal halls. And I found myself standing outside this one room, listening to people play in a way and to an extent that I’ve never heard before in my life.
“The precision of it was beyond anything I could possibly imagine, and I realized that these are people who have come up listening to a recording which was so heavily edited in Pro Tools and quantized that they had absolutely no feel.
“They were so incredibly fast and precise that they literally sounded like machinery. I have to say it was absolutely stunning. My mouth was on the ground. It was absolutely staggering.
“And I also realized that it was something I would never purchase. I would never want to buy it. I think I’d listen to it at home just to marvel at the performance, but as far as the compositional stuff? There was nothing to it. It was basically for the sake of capability that each individual had. They had this ability to play, but that’s all it was.
“I think that genre suffers from the same issues that techno and dance music suffered from, and that’s the people are so caught up with the technical aspect of how it was created.”
These musicians are – a lot of them are in their early 20s. I think they suffer from the fact that in their schooling system, there wasn’t really that type of discipline that you and I experienced. I don’t know whether they’re as willing to take instructions.
“The thing is that if you put something to that to an artist or a musician who has basically developed a skillset based around a genre as opposed to the need to express oneself, you essentially have to walk them back or forward, depending on where they’re coming from, and have them re-examine their priorities.
“I think that a lot of people come to the fundamental question of, ‘Why are you doing this? What does this mean to you? What are you trying to say? Does this mean something to you, and if so, what? What is the fundamental message that you are trying to send out to the world?’
“Because if it’s just, ‘Look how fast I can play and how precise I can be,’ no one’s gonna give a shit. I mean, you might give a shit. Your mom might give a shit, your friends might give a shit. And maybe 500 people will at some point in your life give a shit, but no one else will.
“Unless you can dig down inside and find a fundamental reason, a sense of purpose, a mission, something where you kind of understand and get in touch with the fundamental need that a human need to express themselves, beyond this egoistical desire to become the most precise guitarist – it’s not going to matter. You’re wasting your own time. It’s not an ambition. Even if it is so, it’s an ambition that will last for a couple of years at best.”