Do you have any tips for us on picking a scotch?
Anything that is 18 to 25 years old. You’re going to get something pretty good regardless of what brand it is.
Is scotch always your drink of choice?
No, it depends on my mood. I’ll go margaritas. I used to be in Jimmy Buffett’s band so we used to have margaritas there.
Was your 7th GRAMMY just as exciting as the first?
Nothing is as exciting as the first. The first was pretty amazing.
Once you get 24 nominations is it even exciting anymore?
The nomination is actually more exciting because there is that two month period in there where you haven’t lost yet. So you have two months to celebrate that at least you got nominated.
What did you do to celebrate that first win?
I got divorced. No, that’s not really what happened. [Laughs] I think I just got divorced before the Grammy.
What is a favorite memory you have of working with a band?
How far back do you want to go?
However far you want to take us!
There are so many. I loved working with the Foo Fighters. The Eagles. Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac was pretty cool. I did the Fleetwood Mac reunion in the 90s, they had been together for I don’t know how many years so it was a trip just to get to see all of those people on stage. You guys are too young to know this but there was a record called “Tusk” and they had the USC marching band play on it. When we did the “MTV Unplugged” version at the very end of the show they did “Tusk” and the marching band marched in and I had to capture the band as they were marching in. So it was kind of tricky.
Favorite song you’ll never get sick of listening to?
There are a lot of songs. “Sexual Healing”, do you know who that is? You sure? Marvin Gaye. “Let it Be” and anything Ray Charles ever sang.
When working with a musician, what’s the biggest indicator of talent?
It’s the ones that can perform. There are so many tools now in the studio where you can make it sound like someone can sing. It’s been going on for awhile. Eventually you’ll realize this guy can’t sing. So the people that actually go on the road can sing.
You designed the Acura ELS sound system which reproduces music as it’s heard in the recording studio. Is it true you sent Dave Grohl an Acura so he could listen to one of the Foo Fighters songs you did for them?
Yeah, we were working on “In Your Honor” and it was an acoustic record and an electric record. They were working on the electric record at their studio in the valley and I was working on the acoustic at Capital. There was a surround component to the acoustic record and they had no way to listen to it, their studio wasn’t set up for it. I called up [Acura public relations manager] Jessica Fini, who is a big fan, and I said, “Look, I have an issue here, Dave Grohl and the band has to listen to the surround mixes I did and they don’t have any way of doing it, any chance of you guys getting a car up to their studio?” A moment of silence there and she said, “Yeah, I can do that.” And she ended up driving it up there. So Dave went out, they listened to all of the mixes. I think after the project was over he went out and bought one.
You’re known as a master of your craft with an impeccable ear. Why do you think you’re successful at what you do?
I don’t know. I’ve never [thought about it]. I love music. I care about what I do. I try and protect musicians and make everything as easy as possible for them.
When you were young did you ever think you’d be sitting here now and have your own Panasonic sound system?
No, no. I would have never guessed. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I figured I’d be selling ice cream on the beach in Brooklyn.
At what point did it click you could have a career in music?
The first record I did that was successful was a Van Morrison record. I did “Moondance”. I didn’t think anything of it when I was doing it and didn’t think anything of it when it came out but it got great critical acclaim and I thought, “Well, maybe this puts me over it.”
What exactly is going to go down in this truck tonight?
I’m not sure myself. [Laughs] What we’re doing is recording Zac Brown, live at Wrigley. I’ve never worked with him before. I haven’t met him and we’re not having a soundcheck so it’s going to be an interesting day. I’ve never done a live gig without a soundcheck.
Despite all of your experience does not having a soundcheck throw you off or make you on edge?
It throws me off. I don’t get nervous anymore but I don’t want something that I do to get out there and it’s not good, you know? The perception might be, “Oh, it’s not good but I didn’t have a sound check,” but you can’t use that as a disclaimer.
Did anyone give you great advice along the way?
It’s always been don’t give up. Even when it seems so far away and that you don’t really have a shot at it. Just keep going with it. There are so many guys that want to be in this place and it’s a struggle now. I mean it was a lot easier even 10 years ago, because there were record companies. Now there are fewer and fewer record companies and few people that buy music and that’s an issue. It’s hard to sustain yourself if people aren’t going to buy music.
Was there ever a time when you felt like you failed?
Well, I’ve been married three times. So I guess you can say two times I thought I failed.
Is the third time a charm?
It’s always work. Have you guys been married at all? You know, everything takes a lot of work. Anything you do that’s worth anything takes work.
Favorite vacation spot?
If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?
That is tough. Right now it would be the president. I’d want to have a glass of scotch with the president.
What’s next after this Chicago trip?
I’m going home after this and I’m working with Ben Folds.
KIRSTEN MICCOLI PHOTOGRAPHY + MOTOMEDIA VIDEO PRODUCTION / A DRINK WITH
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