Michael Phillip Wojewoda Interview
Michael Phillip Wojewoda is a musician and producer who sat at the helm for BNL’s debut full-length release, Gordon, 20 years ago. He has since gone on to mastermind several other BNL projects, including Born On A Pirate Ship, the live album Rock Spectacle, a string of Kevin Hearn’s solo releases, and more recently, Snacktime and 2010′s All In Good Time. MPW’s production catalogue is as enormous as it is impressive, and his production skills are sprinkled across a wide array of Canada’s finest artists.
The Juno Award winning producer and long-time Barenaked collaborator took some time to answer BNLUK’s questions. Enjoy!
Starting at the beginning, casting your mind back to the early 90′s: what were your first impressions of the guys in BNL?
Confident and talented. Focused with a great work ethic.
Do you still hold those views now? How have the band changed and evolved since you first met them?
Still a very hard working bunch. Life has given them (and as individuals) some hard knocks but generally their core values are the same.
Tell us, how did the ‘naked track’ get started — and how scarred are you from those sessions?!
It was interesting that the only person who was not naked was our assistant engineer. Too bashful perhaps. It became obvious that he was more ashamed of not being able to join us then from the thought of being naked himself.
Born On A Pirate Ship is said to be perhaps BNL’s most ‘experimental’ album and has a more raw sound. How did the approach to recording differ for BOAPS and did the more experimental attitude extend to your role as producer?
It was recorded in more of an art studio than an actual recording studio. I also think that they were reacting to the less than satisfying experiences of “Maybe You Should Drive”. Also it was raw because the gear was basic and the space was basic. It inspired them to just be more in the moment.
Some techies might be interested to know how much of Rock Spectacle is live at the show, and how much is studio magic?
All real. No computer editing, no vocal tuning – all real. The only trickery was if the backing vocals were a little dodgy I had an SM 58 microphone beside the mixing console and I would double the harmonies to thicken them out a little sometimes.
With this in mind, how do you find the balance between keeping a live album truly ‘live’ and giving the listener the best quality recording possible?
I was very influenced by live albums from the 70′s and how they felt. Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple. The engineering of Martin Birch was a big influence. I try to make my records feel like those ones.
Tell us a little about the recording process for All In Good Time and the band’s development as a 4-piece? Are there comparisons to be drawn to BNL’s first major four-piece recording (Born On A Pirate Ship)?
The comparisons are fair when it comes to the emotions of the players and the challenges that they faced at those times. Renegotiating their musical relationships with each other. One less player means 25% more soul out of each remaining musician.
As a drummer yourself, how involved are you with structuring Tyler’s parts?
Sometimes but Ty’s instincts are usually right.
What is your proudest achievement in terms of working with BNL?
Being a producer they could always return to.
How do you find working on Kevin’s solo material? Are there differences in the process of producing a Kevin Hearn album vs. a BNL album?
Democracy is messy. Solo projects have a streamlined feeling to them sometimes. With Kevin there are less immediate commercial considerations.
Any upcoming projects you’re particularly excited about? (Noticed that Jason Plumb’s latest album is your most recent work – great job, loving the album!)
Just finished an album with a band called The Lemon Bucket Orkestra. Their energy and focus reminds me of a young BNL.
BNL album: Snacktime
BNL song: The Flag
Kevin Hearn album: H-Wing.
All-time favourite record: Glen Gould’s debut Goldbergs.
Thank you MPW for all the great work with BNL over the years and “cheers!” to your future collaborations – we really enjoy what you do.
To read Michael’s bio and for more information on his production credits, visit his site.