Record producer/writer Joe Boyd talks about the "White Bicycles" and the music of past and present days

"My productions try to sound warm and real, with a listener able to imagine a live performance happening around them with nothing added."

Joe Boyd: Making Real Music

Joe Boyd is a record and film producer. Born in Boston in 1942, he graduated from Harvard in 1964. After university, he worked as a production and tour manager for George Wein in Europe where he traveled with Muddy Waters, Coleman Hawkins, Stan Getz and others; and at Newport where he supervised Bob Dylan’s electric debut. In 1966, he opened UFO, London’s psychedelic ballroom.

His first record production was four tracks by “Eric Clapton and the Powerhouse” for Elektra in 1966. He went on to produce Pink Floyd, Nick Drake, The Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny, Richard & Linda Thompson, Maria Muldaur, Toots and the Maytals, REM, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, 10,000 Maniacs, Billy Bragg, Cubanismo, Taj Mahal and many others. 

As head of music for Warner Brothers Films, he organized the scoring of Deliverance, Clockwork Orange and McCabe and Mrs Miller and made Jimi Hendrix, a feature-length documentary. He later went into partnership with Don Simpson to develop film projects. He helped set up Lorne Michaels’ “Broadway Pictures” in 1979-1980, then started Hannibal Records, which he ran for 20 years. In 1988, he was Executive Producer of the feature film Scandal. He resides in London.

 

Interview by Michael Limnios

 

What first attracted you to the music and how has the music changed your life?

My grandmother played classical piano – I listened from an early age and learned to love music.  Having a career in something I love has been a great life so far, and it provides a window and a door into other cultures all over the world.

 

How do you describe Joe Boyd sound and progress and what characterize your music philosophy?

My productions try to sound warm and real, with a listener able to imagine a live performance happening around them with nothing added (even if there might be sometimes). I gravitate toward exceptional musicians rather than any particular genre.

 

From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the music? What is the best advice ever gave you?

I have had many mentors: Paul Rothchild, Bill Leader, and Chris Blackwell. I learned most from listening endlessly.  The best advice was to always keep the publishing rights (but I didn’t follow it.)

 

Are there any memories as a production and tour manager, which you’d like to share with us?

The best are all in the book.

 

Why did you think that the “White Bicycles’ family” continues to generate such a devoted following?

Because are interesting durable artists whom new generations keep discovering

 

Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?

The ‘60s was a great period and the present is a great period because I finally am managing someone who takes all my advice and never disagrees – myself.

 

Some music styles can be fads but the blues, folk, rock and jazz is always with us. Why do think that is?

Most popular music is derived from those forms, so people will always respond to hearing the original sources.

 

From the musical point of view is there any difference and similarities between the 60s - 70s and todays?

Not much

 

What is the “feeling” you miss most nowadays from the 60s and 70s?

Optimism

 

In your opinion what was the reasons that made 60s to be the center of the musical revolution?

It was the first capture of the popular music landscape by educated middle-class kids.

 

If you go back to the past what things you would do better and what things you would a void to do again?

Not sell my music publishing company

 

Would you mind telling me your most vivid memory from UFO Club?

Pink Floyd performing

 

Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?

I can’t say the best, so many good ones. Having a virtually bankrupt record label and having to find a buyer for it in 1990 was probably the worst.

 

Of all the people you’ve meeting with, who do you admire the most?

Too many to single out one: Chris McGregor, Ahmet Ertegun, Caetano Veloso come to mind.

 

You have traveling all around the world. What are your conclusions about the world music? Do you know why the Blues is connected to the folk world music (like Mali’s music, Rembetiko, Cuban Son, etc)?

All those musics come from the bottom of society – which is the only true source of emotion and originality in music.

 

What is your music DREAM and what is your music nightmare? Happiness is……

Dream would be to have a barn with analog tape player and a steady stream of great artists coming to record. Nightmare would be have to listen to mp3s all the time.

 

How you would spend a day with Allan Lomax? 

I spent a day with Lomax and we didn’t get on very well.

 

What would you like to ask Leadbelly?

To play “Ella Speed” for me.

 

What advice would you give to aspiring musician, promoter and producer thinking of pursuing a career in the craft? 

Make records you want to listen to. Only work with artists you admire.

 

Joe Boyd - Official website

 

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