If somebody is called a “Grammy-winning producer,” how exactly do you interpret that? If you were to assume the phrase was describing someone who had won a Grammy for their production work, you’d be wrong [in this case]. I’ve heard the line in PR pitches and mailings on a couple occasions lately referring to Sylvia Massy. On both occasions, the music was absolutely horrid, and after the second one I decided to look her up.
I know that immediately some of you are feigning disgust at me not knowing exactly who she is, but I have to admit I never pay much attention to the people behind the album unless it’s significant in one way or another (really good or really bad). In her case, I’d heard the name before but couldn’t place it, and realize now she worked on Tool’s album ‘Undertow’.
So that left me with two potential questions… either why would the bands pay this Grammy-winning producer for such a bad product, or why would a Grammy-winning producer work with such bad bands? Honestly, the question for most people should be who gives a sh*t about a Grammy anyway, but sadly for some reason people seem to use it as some sort of barometer of musical success.
“I think the Grammys are nothing more than some gigantic promotional machine for the music industry. They cater to a low intellect and they feed the masses. They don’t honor the arts or the artist for what he created. It’s the music business celebrating itself. That’s basically what it’s all about.”
– Maynard James Keenan (Tool)
It turns out that after some digging, Massy won her Grammy as a second engineer and mixer on a project—not as a producer. What’s more, the album was the 1996 album ‘Unchained’ by Johnny Cash. Johnny Cash. In other words, I could have produced and mixed it, set it to play backwards and it still would have won the Grammy.
Either way, that’s not the point here. My point is that the name is a bit deceptive. Not only that, but that namesake is being used as the main selling point for some really bad albums, and I believe that Grammy or not, you should have enough pride in your work to decline a project if it will reflect poorly on you. And if you’re a band, you shouldn’t be shelling out cash for a namesake, no matter who it is. There are producers who can do some great work and can draw certain things out of you, but ultimately a producer won’t make you sound any better than your best and what you already have inside you. Find a producer that’s right for you and that can make you give your best, but if the skill’s not there, you can’t buy it.