Entertainment Weekly

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content

Article

The rock producer behind ''Voodoo Lounge''

Posted on

”I don’t want to be in the Rolling Stones,” murmurs a soft-voiced Don Was, the halo-haired studio wizard whose latest clients include the venerable Glimmer Twins. ”They just need someone one step removed from the band who’s of a simpatico mind-set.”

As one of the most in-demand rock producers around and an established musician in his own right, Was (ne Fagenson), 41, can afford modesty. With Was (Not Was) — the now defunct egghead-pop band he formed with childhood friend David Weiss — he made four albums and the 1989 hit, ”Walk the Dinosaur.” That same year, Was’ healer-of-veterans reputation was established with the B-52’s’ Cosmic Thing and Bonnie Raitt’s Nick of Time. ”His vision evolves with the band’s vision,” says B-52 Kate Pierson, ”He doesn’t listen [to a song] and say, ‘I know! I know exactly what it needs!”’

Despite Was’ credentials, which include producing Bob Dylan, Paula Abdul, Willie Nelson, and the smash Rhythm, Country & Blues, and assembling an alternative supergroup for the soundtrack of BackBeat, the Stones still needed convincing. ”The first meeting was a monologue from Keith, telling me why they didn’t need a producer,” Was recalls with a laugh.

Was — who over the course of six months recorded 30 songs with the Stones in L.A., New York, and Dublin — downplays his impact. ”I think the role of producer may be a little overvalued,” he insists. ”I don’t want to say overpaid, because that would be hari-kiri. Maybe you should view us as photographers: We’re helping take a picture of these [artists], but we can’t make them photogenic.”

Comments