October 7th, 2014
Episode 544 of 715 episodes
This is simply one of our favorite conversations we've ever had on All Songs Considered. Maybe you know John Congleton, maybe you don't. But chances are his production credit is on a record you love. It might be the newest Angel Olsen record or the St. Vincent album, or a record by Earl Sweatshirt, David Byrne, Lower Dens, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Bill Callahan, The Mountain Goats, Modest Mouse, The New Pornographers, Swans. The list goes on and on. John Congleton is a 37-year old musician, producer and engineer with a passion for bringing the best out of the artists he works with. This conversation with John Congleton is as much a philosophical look at life and appreciating sound as it is a geeky look at what a producer does. In a long conversation that touches on his work with some of the musicians listed above, Congleton shared his own mantra as a producer and listener, which was inspired by the example of one of his heroes, the late, great BBC radio DJ, music journalist and taste maker John Peel: "Any time he ever hears a piece of music that he doesn't like, he just assumes it's his problem." It's a great philosophy that takes music listening and criticism beyond the judgmental, number-driven rating system that often defines it. Near the start of the conversation, John Congleton said, "Art that doesn't challenge [me] is not interesting to me. I'm intoxicated by the stuff that I don't understand, 'cause at the end of the day I — if I get something out of that, I'm a better producer, I'm a better listener, I'm a better everything." Amen! Congleton has a lot more good advice and experience to share with producers, musicians and listeners alike. By clicking the audio link on this page, you can hear this Texan talk about why ZZ Top formed his idea of a good band, how his father influenced his musical taste and some of his new solo recordings. Read highlights from the interview below.