Like so many of the fantastic producers, engineers, and musicians we have the opportunity to talk to, Michael Beinhorn‘s career has been absolutely incredible.
A lifelong artist, Michael started first as an illustrator, then a musician, before finally becoming an outstanding record producer, arranger, engineer, and writer.
Running around New York City in the ’70s, Michael forewent what would have been a promising career as an illustrator to pursue music. He remembers getting his first synthesizer, a Micro Moog, after spending a whole summer selling ice cream on the streets to save the money for it, and eventually learning how to program it.
His true musical endeavors started in 1979 when he co-founded the New York musical collective Material. The group’s unique style led them to produce much of their own work out of necessity. Working with an outside producer would have meant comprising some of their strong artistic vision. After some time the band gained a reputation and was approached by Brian Eno to collaborate on the track “Lizard Point” from 1982’s Ambient 4: On Land recording.
Michael Beinhorn co-produced Herbie Hancock’s Future Shock.
In 1983, Beinhorn and Material worked on Herbie Hancock’s Future Shock. The album was Hancock’s foray into electro-funk and a precursor to instrumental hip hop.
The lead track “Rockit,” co-written and co-produced by Beinhorn, would become one of Columbia Records’ most successful 12-inch singles, going 3x Platinum and winning a Grammy for Best R&B Instrumental Recording. It also won five MTV Awards in 1984.
As the story goes, Herbie was wrapping up his contract with Columbia and had “nothing to lose.” His personal assistant convinced him to do a trial run of two songs with Michael and the Material collective, resulting in the tracks “Earth Beat” and “Rockit.”
Herbie was somewhat confused by the direction Material was going, but he also knew they were doing something quite groundbreaking. So, he settled in and did four more tracks. Future Shock‘s success ensured that Hancock was able to renegotiate his contract with Sony from a better position.
In addition to the lead single “Rockit,” the album itself became a Platinum-selling disc.
Michael left Material in 1984 and went on to work closely with the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Beinhorn worked on a trio of Chili Peppers records from 1987-89: The Uplift Mojo Party Plan, The Abbey Road EP, and Mother’s Milk. His contributions as producer, writer, arranger, and engineer helped the band reach new heights, eventually launching them in superstardom.
Michael recalls the sessions for The Uplift Mojo Party Plan: “It wound up turning into a seven or eight-month ordeal of uncertainty and frustration. We got spread thin very, very fast on the money the record label allocated us. This was a crazy, crazy record. That it even came out at all is a miracle considering the diverse personalities.”
The record went on to become Platinum-certified, with the later Mother’s Milk going 6x Platinum. In 1993, he did two more records with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Out in LA and What Hits?.
Beinhorn produced Soundgarden’s fourth studio album, Superunknown, in 1994.
Soundgarden’s seminal Superunknown was their breakout record and a tremendous commercial success. It debuted at #1 on the charts and closed the year at 2x Platinum, also earning a GRAMMY nomination for Best Rock Album in 1995. Since its initial release it’s gone 12x Platinum.
“The word on the street was that Rick Rubin had already been engaged to produce, but I was encouraged to meet the band anyway. Much of what happened around this project had an essence of Kismet and under the circumstances, me getting the gig was no exception.
“When things began rolling, it became apparent that the band were light on material, so we had an extended pre-production phase. It took two months for them to compose enough music to get us into the studio.
“Even when we began recording, we were still short by a few songs, but by that time, I wasn’t worried about the quality of the material. The band never really jibed with my approach to the production and sound, but they inevitably trusted my judgment. Overall, it was a very difficult recording to make for many reasons, but it was well worth the effort.”
Michael Beinhorn’s production has helped define the careers of a diverse range of artists.
Herbie Hancock, The Violent Femmes, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soul Asylum, Hole, Soundgarden, Ozzy Osbourne, Courtney Love, Marilyn Manson, Social Distortion, Korn, Golden Palominos, and Mew are all artists Michael has had the pleasure of working with.
The albums he’s worked on have a combined worldwide sales of more than 45 million! He is also one of a select few producers to have two albums debut in Billboard’s Top Ten in the same week: Marilyn Manson’s Mechanical Animals (#1) and Hole’s Celebrity Skin (#9). This achievement earned him a 1998 GRAMMY nomination for Producer of the Year.
As a true and dedicated artist himself, Michael is very concerned with musicians and producers maintaining their creative ethics and being able to focus on the recording process for organic self-expression. He’s an active mentor for artists and aspiring record producers.
As part of his mentorship and desire to share knowledge with musicians and producers, he’s written a booked called Unlocking Creativity, which addresses many of the obstacles artists face.
Michael Beinhorn has inspired the artists he works with to reach a greater potential. His commitment to sonic and creative excellence can be heard on some of the greatest rock and alternative rock records ever produced.