From an early age, Bernie Grundman knew that he wanted to dedicate his life to sound, and he followed this passion throughout his time in school and the Air Force and on to Hollywood. A jazz fanatic and world-renowned mastering engineer, Bernie is the man behind some of the industry’s landmark recordings, including Carol King’s Tapestry, Steely Dan’s Aja, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Prince’s Purple Rain, Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, and Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, to name just a few! Since Bernie opened his first mastering studio in Hollywood in 1983, thousands upon thousands of records have benefitted from his ears and his years of expertise.
Bernie began his career path with Roy DuNann and Lester Koenig at Contemporary Records, where he mastered gems by jazz greats like Art Pepper and Sonny Rollins, before moving to Herb Moss and Jerry Alpert’s famed A&M Records in 1968, where he worked for the next 15 years before launching his own studio. As you’ll discover in today’s episode, Bernie’s easygoing demeanor, his never-ending quest to better himself, and his attention to detail are unrivaled, which is why scrolling through his discography could take up the better part of your day!
In this conversation, Bernie shares the story of how he decided he wanted to become a recording engineer and the steps he took to pursue that passion. He also emphasizes the importance of demonstrating enthusiasm, responding emotionally to music without prejudice, and making yourself unconditionally available to the artists. Ultimately, Bernie believes that, if you do what you’re passionate about, you’ll never run out of energy. At 81-years-old, he’s still deeply enthusiastic about the recording business and he shares his excitement freely with listeners in today’s episode, so make sure not to miss it!
Key Points From This Episode:
- How jazz records and audio equipment influenced Bernie’s interest in mixing and mastering.
- The story of how Bernie decided he wanted to become a recording engineer and the steps he took to pursue that passion.
- What he learned about the recording industry from Roy DuNann.
- Valuable advice he received from Howard Holzer: “If you love your work, you’ll find a way.”
- How Howard helped Bernie get a job with Lester Koenig at Contemporary Records.
- The value of demonstrating enthusiasm; show them that you’re really interested!
- Why Bernie fervently believes that you should do what you’re passionate about.
- Why being of service to artists means getting on their wavelength; without prejudice.
- Understanding the emotional expression of the human experience that music offers us.
- Bernie shares why he is thrilled about the recent resurgence of vinyl.
- Some challenges with vinyl today and a word of caution from a recording standpoint.
- Where Bernie learned to cut lacquers and the impact Roy DuNann had on his career.
- Find out why he prefers 50s and early 60s bebop to what he calls ‘intellectual jazz’.
- His strategy for working on music that he doesn’t emotionally connect with.
- A day in the life of a mastering engineer and the importance of making yourself available.
- Bernie tells an incredible story from his time working on Michael Jackson’s History.
- How the Hollywood recording industry has evolved since Bernie started his studio in 1983.
“I knew where I needed to be when I was a little kid. I already knew the things that attracted me, and I was wide open to it. I knew where my passions were.” — Bernie Grundman [0:09:24]
“I came all the way down to Hollywood, I parked my car out in front of Capitol, I walked in, I went to the head of recording, and I said, “Okay, what do I have to do?” — Bernie Grundman [0:17:48]
“That’s what I tell people: show them that you’re really that interested, that you’re [practically] ready to die for it.” — Bernie Grundman [0:24:58]
“I’m 81-years-old, and I’m still enthusiastic and excited about this business. The thing is, if you’re working in your passion area, you’re never going to run out of energy.” — Bernie Grundman [0:26:04]
“Music is an expression, emotionally, of the human experience. We all are the same. We all have the same emotions.” — Bernie Grundman [0:28:53]
“If [you’re] going to work with all the big artists and the people that have a lot at stake and they spend a lot of money and time, when they’re ready to master or they’re ready to go to the next step, they don’t want to hear, ‘Well, gee, I have to [visit my mother on Saturday].’” — Bernie Grundman [0:58:49]