In The Studio is brought to you by Mick J
This week In the Studio we have none other than guitarist, songwriter and record producer extraordinaire Dave Fortman.
In the producer’s seat, Dave has an impressively combined album sales total exceeding 27 million records, working with the likes of Evanescence, Superjoint Ritual, Crowbar, Mudvayne, Godsmack and Slipknot.
As a songwriter and musician, he is no lightweight either with songwriting credits attributing to four full-length albums, two compilations and two EP’s with Californian rockers Ugly Kid Joe, notably selling over 5 million records worldwide.
Welcome Dave to HEAVY mag.
Thanks for having me.
Your Dad is a retired Biology professor, and your Mum a teacher. Did they push you or guide towards study and university or were they supportive in your choice of profession?
They were both super supportive towards me being a musician in a band. I started to have such a large impact locally with my band SX from Louisiana that I think everyone including my parents were really curious as to how it would turn out when I moved to Los Angeles. My dad always said that some of his best students were people in their 30’s so I shouldn’t worry about going right away and I could always go later. No need!!
As a father yourself, how would you handle your child following the same path? And how has it been juggling the professional musician and parenting responsibilities?
I would definitely support them on the same path. None of my children are going that route so there’s no issue anyway. Being a producer raising kids wasn’t that hard really. I can imagine that the guys in the military or offshore guys that don’t get to see their kids much would really have a hard time.
Rumour has it Ugly Kid Joe have been in the studio working on a new album with ‘Americas Least Wanted’ producer Mark Dodson. What was the motive behind this and when will we see its release?
Yep we got Mark Dodson back for this new record. It’s an amazing piece of work with all sorts of cool songs and a more 70’s sounding writing and production style. We’re all really excited about it. It will see a release in 2021 sometime.
Being a successful producer yourself and having a producer come in on one of your musical projects, is it difficult to take a back seat and take direction, or do you welcome the change?
This was the first time I was able to be an artist and not produce on a record that I was playing on and I loved it. I enjoyed being able to just concentrate on my performance and writing. There’s so much stuff to do as a producer that if you do both then its a lot of work so I had a blast being the artist this time!
I do find it interesting that bands with good budgets seem to more likely than not to secure well known producers with great track records while majority of new or low income bands struggle through the process either by themselves or with local studio engineers/producers offering their services for limited budget bands. With the shift in the landscape with less monetary opportunities with most record labels tightening up or falling over has there been a decline of demand for top end producers ?
It’s hard to gauge the differences now because the industry has split into so many variables. I think there’s less work regardless of the level of producer or engineer just based on the numbers and how many albums are being made compared to the past when sales were much larger. Definitely, rock has gone down tremendously in sales and how many records get made since the old days of like the early 2000’s. The onset of YouTube alone redefines the whole game.
How important is the producer role in getting the best from your songs, and are there things to look out for?
Depending on who the producer is it can make a massive difference in the songs. I’m an arranging producer so I try to shoot for the best arrangement and individual performances possible. Sometimes that means writing an entirely new chorus etc.
What piece of advice would you give a band looking to work with a producer for the first time?
Be open to change and don’t get to attached to the song you’ve written because most of the time you can make it better by throwing ideas around and trying new things.
In the producer seat, was there much difference in working with Evanescence to Slipknot in getting the most out of the performances or in general?
These two bands are entirely different to work with. Slipknot was already famous and had 3 platinum records so it was more of a continuation of success and trying to find the right songs that would impact their future. Evanescence was a new act so we were just aiming for on overall definition of the sound of the band as well as trying to make a first impact single to start with.
Out of all the songs written over the last 50 years, what is one you wish you had written or produced?
I would probably have to say Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon because it’s such a legendary catalogue selling record and it’s amazing.
One final question. As a producer and a professional musician, which do you enjoy more the magic that comes from working on a rough song to its full potential, recording it and hearing it on radio OR hitting a stage and playing in front of thousands of fans with friends you’ve had for over 30 years ?
I’ve been asked that before and its a toss-up. Both are really tremendous moments in my life so I’d say it’s 50-50.
Watch “Milkman’s Son” from Ugly Kid Joe below: