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RE/P Files: Quincy Jones & Bruce Swedien—The Consummate Production Team

Talking with the "dynamic duo" in October,1989

By Jimmy Stewart November 1, 2013

Quincy Jones

From the archives of the late, great Recording Engineer/Producer (RE/P) magazine, this feature offers an interesting discussion with a true “dynamic duo” of the recording world. Quincy Jones is interviewed first, followed by Bruce Swedien. This article dates back to October 1989. The text is presented unaltered, along with the original graphics.

If the word “professionalism” can be epitomized by one of the most successful producers currently working in the recording industry, that man must surely be Quincy Jones.

The reports of his humanity, care and response to the needs of his recording “family,” and an almost telepathic rapport with his favorite engineer, Bruce Swedien, truly makes Quincy Jones a consummate producer.

During the many session hours that R-e/p spent with Quincy and Bruce in the studio, it became readily apparent that their complimentary skills — Quincy’s proven track record as a musician, composer, arranger, and record producer, married with Bruce’s mastery of the recording process —has resulted in a production team whose numerous talents overlap to a remarkable degree.

Having worked with Bruce Swedien on so many innovative album sessions, including Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall, George Benson’s Give Me The Night, The Dude, and Donna Summer’s Summer of ‘82, it came as no surprise to anyone in the industry that Quincy Jones should make such a clean sweep of this year’s Grammys, collecting a total of seven awards, including five for The Dude alone.

The following conversations with this illustrious production team were conducted during tracking dates for Michael Jackson’s upcoming album Thriller, at Westlake Studios, Los Angeles.

This is the first in a two part series of the conversations between R-e/p, Bruce Swedien, and Quincy Jones. Stay tuned for the next installment where R-e/p’s Jimmy Stewart speaks with Bruce Swedien.

R-e/p (Jimmy Stewart): How do you first get involved with a particular recording project? For example . . . Michael Jackson.

Quincy Jones: We were working on The Wiz together, and Michael started to talk about me producing his album. I started to see Michael’s way of working as a human being, and how he deals with creative things; his discipline in a media he had never worked in before.

I think that’s really the bottom line of all of this. How you really relate to other human beings and build a rapport is also important to me; energy that’s a great feeling when it happens between creative people.

I’ve been in some instances where I have admired an artist’s ability, but couldn’t get it together with them as a human being. To truly do a great job of producing an artist, you must be on the same frequency level. It has to happen before you start to talk about songs.

R-e/p (Jimmy Stewart): Then the important aspect, to your mind, is fostering a family feel during a project?

Quincy Jones: Yes. It’s a very personal relationship that lets the love come through. Being on the other side of the glass is a very funny position — you’re the traffic director of another person’s soul. If it’s blind faith, there’s no end to how high you can reach musically.

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