Interscope Co-Founder Discusses Label, Producing, New Bands
Most people don’t know who Beau Hill is, but he’s had the kind of career that has touched millions whether they know it or not. Turn on classic rock radio, and chances are you’ll hear one of his many productions. And no ’80s hard rock/metal playlist is complete without his work.
Hill’s Midas touch behind a recording console has helped everyone from Warrant and Alice Cooper to Stevie Nicks. If that weren’t enough, he was also one of the founders of Interscope Records — home to artists like Eminem, AFI and No Doubt.
In this rare interview, Hill talks to Noisecreep about his classic productions, his feelings on where Interscope Records has headed and the newer bands he’s been working with.
Most of us first found out about you from your work with in hard rock and metal but you originally were a musician. Tell us about your old band Shanghai. Didn’t Bob Rock (Metallica, The Cult) produce one of your albums?
My first album was with a group called Airborn that was signed to Columbia Records. We were produced by Keith Olsen who has worked with bands like Whitesnake, Fleetwood Mac and Scorpions. My second album was with the band Shanghai on Chrysalis Records which was produced by the late Bruce Fairbairn and engineered by Bob Rock.
I learned a great deal from both of these experiences that I continue to call on with my production and mixing career today. I had a blast being able to record with all of these talented guys.
When your career in a band didn’t really take off and you stopped touring, was it a huge blow to your ego or did you always prefer working in a studio on the songwriting and producing side of things?
As a point of fact, I had finished recording Shanghai and was waiting for the album to be scheduled for release. The opportunity for producing Ratt came along during that period of waiting. So there wasn’t any conscious decision to hang up my performance ‘spurs,’ if you will. As people became more familiar with my work I became completely consumed with the production side of things. Chrysalis was in a restructuring phase with a new president and Shanghai didn’t really get the focus that the project deserved. But as you know, every artist likes to blame the label and/or the producer if an album doesn’t meet their expectation level (laughter).
After a stint in NYC, you came to Los Angeles to work with Atlantic Records. ThebSunset Strip scene was in full debauchery mode during that time. Were you a fixture of the scene and was it as crazy as people have made it out to be?
I was never actually an Atlantic Records employee. I was always an independent producer. Sure, I was exposed to the craziness on Sunset Blvd, as well as NYC and London at that time but I was also working 24/7 so I was compelled to limit the excesses if that time to a certain extent. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t Mother Theresa by any stretch, but at the same time, I wasn’t Tommy Lee. Still, I have great and hysterical memories and would not trade one minute of them.
In the mid to late ’80s, you and Tom Werman were the go-to-guys for hard rock production. You personally produced hit albums for Warrant, Ratt, Winger, and Europe but did you ever feel like you were unfairly getting passed on for projects outside of the world?
Great question and the answer would be both. I certainly can’t quibble about participating in the record business during the late ’80s early ’90s. It was unbelievably fantastic and I will forever be grateful that people liked my records enough to actually buy them. Wow what a concept! That’s the blessing but here comes the curse. You get pigeonholed which in my case was not too bad. Having said that, I love all kinds of music from country to pop to classical and creatively I would have really liked to dust off my chops in other genres on more occasions. The work I did with Chaka Khan is still one of my favorite productions in my discography.
You were one of the founders of Interscope Records. How do you feel about the direction the label has gone in since you’ve left?
I was never a big fan of Interscope becoming the gangster rap capitol of the universe. There is selling records and then there’s selling your soul. Sorry to get on a soap box but I do have strong feelings about endorsing music that promotes lyrics that routinely refer to women as bitches and hoes. Little kids hear that and think it’s cool, so words like ‘n—–,’ ‘b—-es’ and ‘hoes’ have become a part of the accepted lexicon for kids in grade school. I think it’s irresponsible and unjustifiable just to make a buck. OK, that’s the end of my unrequested sermon (laughter).
What artists have you worked with that you think should have had more success?
Well, that’s another great question. Admittedly not every single record that I made was a hit and didn’t deserve to be in retrospect. But there have been a few that slipped through the cracks. Some of the bands that I worked with that should have done much better are Kix, Unruly Child, Black Bambi and the Storm.
Of your recent work, what newer bands have you been excited by?
There’s a lot of really super talented groups out there that I have had the pleasure of working with recently, from around the world which I have to thank the internet for. Everyone should check out Murder FM, Track Fighter, Plank, Venture, Radio Radio and Awake At Dawn. Thanks so much for asking!