Jesse Cannon - Sound In The Signals Interview

I recently had the chance to interview Jesse Cannon. Check out the full interview after the jump!

For anyone unfamiliar with your work you're a producer, author, podcast host, you do shows on youtube about production. How did you get involved in so many projects and what creatively excited you about working on all of these types of things?

About 6 years ago I became discouraged about where music was going. All those lame bands wearing Deep V Necks singing into AutoTune REALLY bummed me out. I wanted bands who made great music to get popular not the ones who just got their teeth whitened and spent more time flat ironing their hair than working on their guitar parts. I wanted to help music be democratized and provide any musician who worked hard with the information they needed to get their music to ears on the back of their own hardwork instead of labels signing cute, marketable bullshit bands having all the power.

I started my blog Musformation then and made over 6,000 posts on this subject. Right around this same time I met Man Overboard and really loved them and began to help them in both a managerial and production capacity (and later Transit) and gain experiences which I could write about on the blog and test my theories on the democriticization of music.  My co-author Todd Thomas and I then spun this into our book Get More Fans: The DIY Guide To The Music Business. The stuff we learned along the way about creative process and making great music will be released in a book within the next 6-9 months.

Podcasting was something I wanted to do since a lot of people can’t take reading a 750 page book about music promotion and I really love the format. I listen to more podcasts than I do music, so it really appealed to me. As for my online production classes, I was lucky enough to meet CreativeLive’s Finn McKenty and our ideas of democratizing information lined up really well and we decided to demystify what many call black arts (where knowledge is safely guarded) and do a course on DIY Mastering which makes many audio snobs mad.

I'm a weekly listener of Off The Record which you co-host with Zack Zarrillo. One thing I really like about the show is the balance it finds with you being a little older and wiser and Zack still being relatively young. It almost feels like your his therapist at times haha. How did you guys first get together to do this podcast and what do you think you guys bring to the podcast world that is unique?

Awesome! Funny, I think of Zack as my therapist a lot of time to keep me from being old and jaded and stay up on the latest things. I think we’re both really good at challenging each others views and I find Zack to be really wise about many things and even when I met him when he was 17 he struck me as being abnormally intelligent.

We met when I was managing/producing Man Overboard and I saw his blog as being a really passionate place for the scene to go for information and reached out about some Man Overboard stuff. Soon after we met up, we hit it off immediately. Zack approached me about the idea of the podcast and I loved it and I think what I like about our podcast is we are both passionate about the same things but often see things from very different places. Our subject passions are the same but our approach to them is very different. I like to think what we are able to do is get listeners to re-think the way they see their music consumption and concepts about what a musician should be doing both promotionally and creatively.

You also just launched a new podcast called Jesse Cannon Talks To. Your first guest was Tim Landers. What is your goal with this new podcast and what can we expect for future episodes in terms of guest?

Before Zack and I started Off The Record, I really wanted to do a podcast where I interviewed people, particularly about creativity. Since my next book attempts to take on creativity and how you don’t have to be miserable being a creative person, I wanted to begin to interview people I respect who do this. Tim, is incredibly smart and a logical interview for me to do from our past working together and as a friend, a lot of the future interviews I think will wow people. I talk about creativity with chefs, dance producers, a writer of True Blood and all sorts of other people. I want to give creative people a place to get inspired weekly on what they can be doing to step out of their creative bounds as well as inspire myself about where to take this next book. I find most of the interviews on creativity lack tangible advice and aren’t very challenging to the interviewees, so I decided that I should fill this void and see if I can do it better.

You have released one book but you're currently working on another book. Could you give our readers a little back story about why you decided to start writing and about what both of yuor books are kind of about?

I have always been a writer, I started publishing my own punk rock zines at 16 with a group of friends. We would sell ads to punk rock bands and labels before the Internet was a thing. I also wrote for big zines like Maximum Rock N Roll, Punk Planet and Tape Op. I was an early adopter of the Internet and often blogged and wrote columns for short-lived Internet sites/e-zines. From the time I was 15 I knew I wanted to be a record producer but also write a book. So this is just a fulfillment of that.

My first book, Get More Fans: The DIY Guide To The New Music Business is the most thorough book on the resources and philosophies of how to promote your music. We wanted to do the be-all-end-all book on the subject since I found all the other books on the subject to be severely lacking. It’s not taught at a dozen different music programs and we are the most highly reviewed book in our genre.

The second book takes on a hard subject. Many musicians are lost, confused and miserable trying to make great music. As a record producer this often frustrates me and I am writing a book for musicians in any genre to be happier with their musical output as well as giving them creative tools and understanding so they can make better music that they will be more happy with.

The Internet is great since it can elevate anyone’s voice and you don’t need to go through a formal mentoring in order to make great music, but lost in that is the passing down of wisdom and creative tools so that musicians know how to make decisions and not just guess at making great music. By knowing the tools and options you can do more than guess at making great art, you can repeat it again and again. I was lucky enough to work under many great mentors and be a child of the Internet at once and I think it gives me a unique opportunity to dispense this wisdom while allowing musicians to continue to grow creatively by following their own path. I hope the rest of the world feels the same when they read it.

Somos released their album Temple Of Plenty this year and you produced it. I read a piece you wrote where you discussed helping the album find sonic character and having artists albums sound unique. What are some of the ways you do that when working with an artists on their songs?
Great question! The first thing I do is have the band tell me a bunch of records they love and what they like about each record. I try to get a concept about what we are going to do that is exceptional on the record. I HATE recordings that just apply a template to the band, edit it and tune it and basically use the same tones every time. I pride myself on the records I do never sounding the same from one band to another. For example, I did Transit’s Keep This To Yourself and Man Overboard’s Real Talk a few weeks apart. I think they couldn’t sound more different and this is because I try to reinvent my approach to maximize a band’s influences so they aren’t a generic approach to their sound.

A lot of this is usually finding a band’s more out of the box influences and playing them up. If a band tells me they are really into say, The Goo Goo Dolls, even though I think that band is wretched crap. I will listen to them the whole time we record and try to find the cool parts of The Goo Goo Dolls (trust me, there’s not much there) and pull that out and bring that to the band’s sound. Or for a band like Somos, there was SO MUCH cool stuff going on in the instruments I wanted to make the record ultra clear so you could hear every note played. We didn’t overdo the record with adding gratuitous overdubs and kept a lot of it very simple so you would never be distracted from the really cool interplay of the instruments.

You've worked on a ton of albums and you always talk about things you learned and taking criticism about your work. What do you think has been the best piece of criticism you have ever received on one of your projects and what did you learn from it?

Damn, going hard here. I answered all these so fast but I had to take a night to think about this, since I felt like this would be a good thought to revisit. About 12 years ago, I had produced maybe 60 or so records by this point, and I finished a record with a band and they told me happy they were they did their record with me despite their friend saying that I “didn’t take their record seriously and that it was their dream to make a great record and I didn’t put my all in.” I was taken aback since I knew it was true... I thought the band sucked, I hated their style of music, I thought they were idiots and going nowhere and I sat there and put in minimal effort and took the paycheck. In the back of mind, I knew they could tell.

After that I never did this again. I realized even if the band is incompetent assholes who will never promote their record, if I agree to do their record I have to take it seriously and really give my all. Since then, I can honestly say I occasionally have days where I am too burnt out, tired to give my all(but so does everyone), but if I take on a session for money I make sure I give it everything I got and take seriously that this is someone’s dream. Because of that I continually get recommended for other records and have sustained this career for a really long time and get busier every year.

You had a big hand in the way the leak for Man Overboard's Real Talk was handled. I hear a lot of people give a ton of the credit solely to Run For Cover but often times people are curious about whose overall idea it was to release the album like that. Can you give me a rundown (or as much as you can disclose) of that process and how you factored into getting the album released on bandcamp early?

Yeah this is is in Get More Fans actually. I can take credit for the plan and Jeff gets the credit for not being like most labels and being open minded enough to embrace it. I wrote about it for years on Musformation how stupid the way labels handle leaks can be. Jeff and Justin were smart enough to be on board and Jeff continues it and if anything has perfected it and improved upon it with lowering the price on the release when it leaks.

Is there an album you had to pass working on due to commitments or scheduling conflicts that you would have liked to work on and still kind of regret not getting to work on?

Ugh too many, I was supposed to work with Chiodos early on, Hit The Lights first stuff, but I was working with Limp Bizkit... I tend to not have many regrets and lead a pretty happy life, but sometimes you are just like god damn I wish I got to do that. What mostly kills me is when I love a band I work with and they then go and make a record with another producer and you hear how good it could’ve been and it beats me up inside. Thankfully, that is not always the case. For example I love everything The Menzingers have done since the early stuff I did with them and every time they release something it’s one of of my favorite records of the year.

I guess that about wraps it up. Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions. Do you have anything else you would like to add?

Great questions thanks so much for doing this! JesseCannon.com has links to everything I do.

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