Episode 24: Tony Hoffer - The Producer

What a record producer actually does to turn sound into music

Tony Hoffer has produced many of my favorite records including Phoenix’s Alphabetical, and Beck’s Midnite Vultures. So clearly I was stoked when my friends and eternal homies The Griswolds hired him to produce their first record.

I showed up about a week into recording, uninvited of course and with numerous beers. It was an amazing experience because I got to hang out with my friends and watch one of my favorite producers work. Watching an accomplished record producer work is awesome. It’s like watching a director on set or a master negotiator talk someone off a ledge. They are part audio engineering genius, part musician, and part record sherpa.

In between songs Tony was nice enough to answer all of my nerdy questions about working with Beck and eventually I decided that turning our conversations into an episode was necessary. Part of this was also inspired by my girlfriend. We were driving one day and I was babbling on about different albums and producers and she asked, “What is a producer?” I paused. It’s an interesting question. Sure we all know what a producer does… but do we? How do you become a record sherpa? What does that entail? How do you get a bunch of unruly, drunk, band members in a room and force them to finish a record?

I didn’t know so I went to Tony’s and asked him. We talked about his early days playing guitar with Beck, why Phoenix loves crickets, and what exactly a record producer does.