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Producer · Engineer · FOH
Glenn Rosenstein
GlennRosenstein
GlennRosenstein

Glenn Rosenstein

Producer, Mixer, Engineer, Songwriter
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To date, New York City producer, mixer, engineer and songwriter Glenn Rosenstein’s projects have racked up 3 Grammy Awards, 5 Grammy nominations, an Oscar and a Golden Globe. He has worked with a galaxy of music legends from Madonna, U2 and Ziggy Marley to James Brown, Miles Davis and The Ramones. His TV and film credits include The Sopranos, The Last Emperor and Beverly Hills 90210.

Glenn tells us all about starting out as a weekend night receptionist at the legendary Power Station Studio in NYC, ordering food in for Bruce Springsteen, his path to success and why Aston mics play a key role in his work….

Madonna, U2, Tears For Fears, Ziggy Marley, James Brown, Miles Davis.
Making a contribution

“I remember watching The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, which I’m sure a lot of people of my generation would point to as one of their first musical inspirations.  They were people close to my age, making music that was not for my parents. Inspired by The Beatles, The Stones, I became a guitarist at a very young age. While I did have a strong passion for music, I was not a great guitarist.  But I did find out that there was this job called ‘Producer’. What that allowed you to do was be in a studio in a collaborative, creative environment - and to make a contribution even if you weren’t the screaming, smokin’ guitarist or the amazing vocalist.”

The NYC melting pot

“So I thought, if I’m an average musician, guitarist and I can’t sing, I’m likely perfect to be a record producer (laughs). If you ask my other engineering and producing peers, they’d all likely admit to the same thing – we’re all a bunch of frustrated musicians. But that was how I got my start - I just loved music.  And NYC, at the time I was growing up, was a hotbed for a lot of different styles of music – on virtually every street, there were bands rehearsing in garages. It was prevalent, and it was a ripe time.

There was urban music, there was punk and new wave at clubs like CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City.  I spent a lot of time in the clubs - and the records I did early on in my career reflected that – there was progressive rock, dance, jazz - anything you could imagine. And it was great. It was a sonic buffet - walking down the streets of NYC, you could hear examples of each and every kind of music. It was a great place to get an education - you had everything laid out in front of you. In the mid-to-late 70’s and early 80’s New York was a melting pot of amazing talent.

Add to that all the UK artists who came over on Freddie Laker’s airline - you had these bands that no one in the USA had ever heard of showing up in NYC clubs. But they wound up being The Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello, The Police, Joe Jackson, Lene Lovich and The Clash. And they played all these small clubs in NYC. If you were a sponge and happened to love that, you were adequately fed.”

A foot in the door

“Very early on, a friend and I worked summer jobs and chipped in to buy a 4 track analog recorder.  He put it in his basement and we started recording local bands. None of them became particularly successful, but it taught me how music was put together. I wound up playing a lot of guitar on a lot of these recordings - if I came up with a lick or something that was musically interesting, most of the bands were happy for the ideas.

The only way I could figure out how to work with the best artists was to approach getting a job at one of the well-known NYC studios - Electric Lady, Power Station, Sigma or Record Plant - and I figured this to be the only way to do this, to really learn about the record-making process.

I cold-called every studio in NYC and I happened to hit on Power Station. The manager there told me things were a slow but I rebutted; “Maybe so, but by the time I’m trained things will have picked up, and you’ll have a fully trained person”. She bought it and told me to come in that Monday. I started as the weekend night receptionist but to me it was an amazing opportunity - I’d finally gotten my foot in the door. I went from recording in a basement to ordering food for Bruce Springsteen, or watching David Bowie finish out an album.

Staff engineers at Power Station like Bob Clearmountain and Neil Dorfsman were very kind to me. They’d say; “put the phone on night answer, shut the f*ck up, sit at the back of the room and just observe.” It was a great experience - I learned not only the technology but methods of personal interaction, what the pecking order was.”

Hands-on

“With artists I work with like Whitney Woerz, I’m as deeply involved as I’ve ever been - I’m still in there playing guitar, programming. The only thing I don’t do quite as much is engineer live tracking dates; there are people who are just so much better at it than I am, and I’m happy to hire them. Jeff Balding is a guy we use all the time and he’s just stunningly excellent. That said, I’m still very hands-on. I have a studio here in Nashville, two in Muscle Shoals and just opened a room at Fame Studios in Alabama.

I don’t have a specific “method” of working, because I enjoy changing things up all the time – it's really what the music and the artist dictate. I work with many different engineers and mixers – Tony Maserati and Michael Brauer in particular; what’s thrilling for me is that each of them has a very different method, how they go about getting their sound. Personally, I have a Neve 5114 in my Muscle Shoals space, and an SSL 6056E at Fame. I also work inside of Pro Tools and Studio One. This year we worked at the Power Station on one of my favourite consoles, a Neve 8088. I very much enjoy working at many different locations and love to travel; in the past two years we’ve worked out of Power Station, Electric Lady, Fame, Capitol and Eastwest Studios (the old United Western Recorders).”

‘If it sounds like garbage, I'm not gonna use it.’

“Many of my peers make music professionally. So if something comes up on their radar, the first thing they want to do is extol its virtues.  And that’s exactly what happened with Aston. I was at the NAMM show in Anaheim a few years back and the buzz was all about Aston and the Origin.  I wanted to get my hands on one and see if it was everything it was cracked up to be. When I did, it not only matched, but exceeded my expectations.

With a microphone, I’m not thinking about cost - I want to have the best tools. Every Aston microphone I own has met that threshold – regardless of price point. That’s where it starts. Then, when you compare Aston to other microphones, does it have a signature sound? Does the microphone have some unique characteristics? It’s not trying to do everything, it’s just trying to be good.

I put an Origin up in front of Jim Horn, a legendary horn player, and his response was: ‘What the f*** is this, where the f*** did you get it and how the f*** can I get one?’. That’s not only an affirmation; he’s hearing what I’m hearing. There’s are components of clarity, of transient response, EQ curve, noise floor, all on the technical side.  But at the end of the day, does it sound like it works, does it fit, does it capture the sonic emotion? And does its tone signature come together with that of the particular instrument you’re using it on? It doesn’t matter what it looks like, what the price point is. If it sounds like garbage, I won’t use it. And that’s really the bottom line.”

Out-takes

Q. What are your desert island discs and favourite artists?
A. The artists that I first listened to were the artists that inspired me to want to be involved in the industry. Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones were all huge for me. Their music was my school.  Just sitting and listening to those records, I was not only listening to them as a fan, I was pulling them apart to see how those things all worked together. Al Green records were a huge influence on me, there was just this openness in his voice, this pocket. Listen to 'Let’s Stay Together', unbelievable. I was a voracious listener. I’ve also listened to a lot of music like U2, who I even got to work with a bit. All of that was influential as time went on.

Q. If you weren’t working in music what would you be doing?
A. I’d still be doing something that somehow or another allowed me to be in the music process. Other things that intrigue me are law, finance – oddly enough I find these incredibly creative.

Q. What are the 4 words you’d chose to describe Aston or your experience with the brand?
A. Quality, Clarity, Warmth, Value

Q. What was the first song that made you cry? 
A. Angel by Jimi Hendrix.

Credits

Madonna, U2, Tears For Fears, Ziggy Marley, James Brown, Miles Davis. I’ve probably done 250 or more records over the course of my career. Some that weren’t very succesful were at least as meaningful to me as the records that became extremely popular.

Recent projects with Aston mics: 

Wes Sheffield
Whitney Woerz 

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