Where did you grow up?
Wilmington, Delaware. East Coast.
What was your first job in the music business?
I had worked for a music publishing company for three years. I did that
from '82 to '85 while trying to get into A&M for almost all three years.
Why did you have your heart set on A&M?
I knew from the time I was 14 or 15 that I wanted to be in the music
business. I just noticed one day that I happened to have a lot of A&M
records. There was something about the music and the quality of them.
I just had a feeling, an attraction, to the music that was coming out.
I just got the feeling that A&M was the place. I would read about them.
I'd see their table at the Ritz (the famous N.Y. nightclubed.) or
wherever, and I'd recognize names and faces and go up and introduce
myself. I used to sit and watch the booths during showcases to see who'd
show up. I'd stand by the A&M table. It's really true. I figured I was
on my own. I had to make it somehow. I ended up out in California through
a series of moves in the promotion departmentfrom Philadelphia to
San Francisco, and then from San Francisco here to do A&R, which is
what I always wanted to do.
How long have you been doing A&R now?
Since June of 1989.
How have your duties changed over the years?
When I first came in I was scared. I wanted to do this, but it was overwhelming
to think about things like: What would my original vision be? How would
I deal with politics? What would I hear that would become important
to the company? It was just something in the timing and in my nature,
and in what I thought I could do, and what I was afraid I couldn't do
that led me to spend a lot of time working with David Anderle (A&M Sr.
V.P.) on certain artists that were already signedAmy Grant and Sting,
for example. Janet Jackson was the first thing. In a way, I was an apprentice
working with the superstars, learning and contributing to their careers.
The focus for the first four years wasn't about me signing artists.
It was about me making records. It was about me being a tool to make
and assist making records with the people who were already the "money
in the bank."
Do you lean more towards groups that are ready to be signed than
groups that need more development?
I think it just happened that way. There is a band I saw recently that
is not ready, but I heard something in it. I said to them, "This is
different for me because before I hadn't heard anything that was not
ready that had a spark. You're the first ones that do, that's why I'm
here." So if I hear some element that is substantial, it's so hard to
find great talent that I'll want to investigate it and see.
What steps do you take then, because you can't put out a record if
they're not ready?
No, I went to their rehearsal. I listened to them play for an hour.
We sat around for about two hours afterwards and talked about what I
felt, without telling them to be something that they weren't. It's like
anything in life, if you're fortunate to have a mentor or good father
to guide you in your life, you want to give some direction. You don't
want to lay out the map. I'm not there to write the songs for them or
sing them. They're not at that level yet (to be signed). They understood
intellectually that whether they can deliver will be a test of their
Did you do a development deal with them or do you just stay in touch?
Just stay in touch. If some of this isn't about good faith, then I'm
running the other way. I've always felt maybe my strongest skill was
how I develop a relationship. I haven't been involved with anybody that
I didn't really like. Therefore, I'm able to be my fully passionate
self with them and argue for the good of the record and for their development
and my own. But that's a lot of work.
If you're working
with an artist that really has depth, then there is so much more they
can always give. There is always this growing process. It's a lot of
work to be passionate. It really is. When you're a passionate person
it's exhausting. Most of the artists I work with are very passionate
people. They're not passive and I'm not passive.
Where do you get the tapes you hear ?
From managers, lawyers, guys on the street, people who own studios and
have people in on spec. Everybody.
Tell me the Dishwalla story. How did you find them?
It came to me via their manager and their attorney at the time. It really
was brought to me through the relationship of working with Janet Jackson.
This particular lawyer worked in the firm that represented her, and
I dealt with him day to day on all the remixes on the Rhythm Nation
stuff. At the end of the project, when she was leaving to go to Virgin,
he called me and said he really enjoyed working with me. We kept up
our relationship, then one day, it was December of '93, he called me
and said "when you get back from Christmas, I'm going to give you your
first big act. It's almost done." The tape showed up in January. I listened
to it right away and called him and said, "I have to have it."
How long did it take to sign them?
I think the paperwork was done in about three months. They signed a
deal memo pretty quickly, but there was a band member that was already
on his way out, and they had to do publishing splits and stuff like
that. There was some delay, but it was always friendly and amicable,
thank God. By May of '94 it was done.
Did you just hear demos?
I heard a four-song demo which I probably still have in the cabinet
Were they big in Santa Barbara (their home town)?
Nope. They had been together about three years and they had won some
local contest. I don't even remember what it was but that's not how
I heard of them. They had made this tape that I signed them off of.
They were going around shopping. They had been turned down... I don't
remember if it was everyone. I never paid attention. I just knew I wanted
it. I didn't look at it like that. I just heard it and didn't care who
had turned them down. I didn't care who else was interested. I just
don't think that way. They came in and met me and it took about two
or three weeks to meet everybody here. Then once A&M was interested,
MCA and Geffen were suddenly calling them. But they had integrity and
they were authentic and genuine people. They had a sense of this company
and me. They sat in this office and said "We want to be with you."
You never asked to hear more songs? You signed them off of a four-song
Yeah basically. I saw a show, but I told them I wanted to sign them
when I heard the tape. I said "I want to sign you. Let me see you live,
and let me see what you're going to deliver. If that's there, we'll
make the move." They did a show and afterwards I said, "You're signed,
as long as you put your name on the line." They didn't believe it. It
was a big deal.
I knew in the
opening notes of the current single, "Charlie Brown's Parents," when
I heard that arpeggiated guitar part and then heard his voice... I could
When did the record finally come out?
It came out August 21st or so of 1995. We didn't really start to promote
it until this year.
It was originally supposed to come out in April of last year. Then Blues
Traveler broke and I was out already with the Caufields who were doing
really well. Al felt that he didn't want me out with two big acts of
mine at the same time. That was compassionate and very smart. Then the
company's attention turned so wholly towards breaking Blues Traveler
and continuing other things like Sheryl Crow and the Gin Blossoms that
it just seemed that time wasn't going to be there going into the fourth
quarter (of the year).
We made a conscious
decision to put the record out in August knowing that we weren't going
to really actively promote any particular track but have it out there
to start building the base and let them tour around it and sell it at
Wasn't the band just chomping at the bit and going crazy?
Well no, because they were on the road since March of last year believing
that the record was going to come in April. Then suddenly there was
this meeting that was not very pleasant where I had to tell them the
release had been moved from April to August. That was tough. But because
they were already committed to touring and the kind of touring they
were doing didn't require them to have a big record, it worked out.
When did you begin to actively promote them this year?
In January with the promotion effort at rock radio.
And it still took them several months before it really took off?
It started to take off right away at rock radio and then alternative
came. But yeah, it takes time to get any record to cross over.
A&M has an excellent track record of sticking with artistsGin Blossoms,
Blues Traveler, Sheryl Crow, Dishwalla. What makes you decide to keep
working a record rather than move on to the next one?
You have people get passionate about what could happen in the future.
If it was just about one hit record, forget it. It's about having careers.
That's just the kind of company it is. It's the foundation of the label.
What else impressed you about Dishwalla?
There is a whole organization that existed behind Dishwalla when they
walked in here. They even had a roadie. They weren't road-worthy, but
they had that essential element of passionate people committing to their
cause, who never were sure they were going to break. They just loved
them as people and their music. I remember going to Santa Barbara the
first time and seeing the show and saying "My God, they have their own
little Dishwalla world."
years ago when the legendary Charlie Prevost said to me, "You know,
one of the signs that an artist or a band has it together is when you
look around the corner and you see the kind of support system they have
at home." I will never forget that. It's so true.
Is there one piece of advice you'd like to pass along to our readers?
When I'm in the studio, occasionally, there have been times when the
artist themselves, but usually the producer, have wanted to bury the
vocal because it's all about the band and the music and the guitars.
I would just never buy that. You've got to be able to hear the vocal
and you've got to be able to feel satisfied.
ago I asked Jerry Moss at a dinner during one of the A&M conventions,
"What is the wisdom of the ages, having run this company for so long?"
He said, "It's all about the vocals." For me over the years, what made
a great producerand the only thing that made him a great producerwas
how well he produced, recorded and mixed the vocals. I have repeated
that year after year after year.
music became the mainstream, everyone thought the vocals needed to be
buried to be cool. I sort of had this argument with Dishwalla, not with
the lead singer, but with the producer and a couple of the band members.
They weren't making the right record. I remember getting the album home,
and listening to "Counting Blue Cars" and thinking it was wrong because
the vocal was too low and too small. Too small because of the delay
that was or wasn't used, and too low because it just wasn't loud enough.
Thank God we got it changed, because every time I hear that record on
the radio, the vocals are great, and the bass is loud and the drums
are kicking. He's got such a great voice, who doesn't want to hear it?
When I hear those things, that's when I think that I've done my job.
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