From Badly Drawn Boy to Elliot Smith to James Blunt to Richard Thompson it seems you’ve managed to do at least ONE thing on each of those productions that just elevated the record from OK to great. What was that one thing, how’d you do it, and why’d you choose to do it?
Tom Rothrock: If on each project I could go to my rolodex and pull out the one perfect card that says exactly, guaranteed, “great record,” would it be smart to give it to you?
If you didn’t want to be savagely beaten: yes.
TR: Hmm. . . . Whether I’m going into a writing session, preparing for an album production or meeting with a film director to discuss composing, there is one constant: I know that there’ll be an exchange of ideas. What makes for great collaborations starts with a balance of talent. A record producer has to work with the capabilities of the artist at the point of recording. Conversely, the artist is held to the producer’s breadth of experience and style. It’s then answering the challenge of these dynamics that occurs during the process that makes for great results. Interestingly, I have found the same relationship in film composing between the director and the composer.
You bring a distinct rock sensibility to recording pop and your rock bonafides are well known but what exactly did you “borrow” in order to beef up arguably lighter pop fare?
TR: My first year of high school I did my algebra homework every day listening to Back In Black for the whole year. No exceptions. I haven’t met many other artists who weren’t influenced by that record, even if they’re a bluegrass band.
Great record. What about it did you like so much? Outside of the fact that its perfect as a soundtrack for inebriation? Or better yet how’d it influence your most recent thing: the James Blunt record? We mean how’d that go?
TR: Pretty well until I overdosed on some spiked brownies that James had slipped me while recording a piano ballad in the bathroom of someone’s house whom I had never met. James, it seems, had found his own way of challenging my dynamics.
Producers who you like and listen to regardless of WHAT they’re doing.
TR: Not surprisingly, Mutt Lange. Also Dr. Dre. However, much of my inspiration comes from outside of music. I find architecture very powerful musically.
OK. In a fight between you and that other famous Mancunian, West Coast dwelling ex-pat Morrissey, who wins?
TR: Fighting doesn’t get you laid. I think Morrissey would agree.
Nice side step.