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Creative freedom

Discussion in 'Ask Justin Meldal-Johnsen' started by Jared Lash, Mar 17, 2008.

  1. Jared Lash

    Jared Lash Born under punches

    Aug 21, 2006
    Denver, CO
    Looks like they've given you some room to stretch out in your own forum. Very cool.

    My question is regarding how much artistic freedom you have to create your own lines and decide on your own effects choices. I know that it varies with session work, but I was primarily interested in your work with Beck.

    Does he give you ideas of what he wants (or even write basic parts for you) or do you have complete freedom in that regard?

    I guess what I'm really asking is what your place is in the overall song writing process when working with him.
  2. jmjbassplayer

    jmjbassplayer Justin Meldal-Johnsen Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2005
    This is a great question. Sometimes Beck really just lets me go and do whatever (Broken Train, End of the Day, Sunday Sun, Lazy Flies, Nobody's Fault, Dead Melodies, Pressure Zone, Peaches & Cream) without many notes. Sometimes, he has a concept, but no particular instruction on the actual line (Sexx Laws, Get Real Paid, Paper Tiger), and sometimes, he has EXACTLY in mind what he wants, which happens more and more these days as his experience and considerable savvy pile up (Rental Car, Earthquake Weather, Hollywood Freaks, stuff on The Information). He is so strong in terms of studio skills and a clear idea of his aesthetic that he'll just begin and we'll all just be along for the ride, and it's awesome to see. But we did some new stuff recently that he just takes a bassline from the first thing I offer up, so it still varies.

    He actually knows, now more than ever, exactly how the song should end up. You can here it really happening on The Information, which aside from Sea Change is my favorite Beck record.

  3. dubmon


    Sep 20, 2007
    Curious, then at what point (not specifically with Beck, but any artist) do you feel it's time to bring up the issue of your bass part being part of the writing, as it were. Varies all the time I expect, but if you feel you've just handed over a serious hook, how do you, um . . . bring it up:)?
  4. jmjbassplayer

    jmjbassplayer Justin Meldal-Johnsen Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2005
    Ahhh, the $250,000 question.

    It depends on how well you can read the people you work with.

    I usually wait until there's a relationship.

    I just did a track with Macy Gray on Saturday night where yesterday she sent me a text thanking me and that my parts were great, then I was right back at her with a text that said you're welcome, it was an honor thanks for having me, and how are you anticipating organizing the splits? She texted me right back with her ideas on the splits and it was more than fair.

    Beck is different, he doesn't do much co-writing. That's the way he rolls, and I'm fine with it. It's understood, you see.

    There are millions of shades to this.

    I did a session with Brad Mehldau on a record of his a few years back, played for a few hours, got co-writing on three songs with no questions asked. The royalty statements just started appearing.

    Flexibility and a cooled-out attitude about it is utterly paramount. People are NOT DOWN with someone playing, then immediately popping off about songwriting splits after only having met for a few hours. At least in the high-end artist world. You have to save that stuff, and sometimes leave it to lawyers/management, even.

    Hope that helps.

  5. dubmon


    Sep 20, 2007
    Thanks! Yeah, I guess it gets down to people smarts at that point (and bizness savvy too:)
  6. TaySte_2000


    Jun 23, 2001
    Manchester, UK
    Endorsing Artist: Mojohand, Subdecay, Overwater, Matamp
    So do you have a publisher that sorts out all the legal stuff on that side or do you have a manager that deals with all different types of income?

  7. jmjbassplayer

    jmjbassplayer Justin Meldal-Johnsen Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2005
    Both. I recently finished a four-year deal with EMI, and I'm retaining all my publishing for now and considering new deals...but normally they would help a bit with registrations and various paperwork logistics. But my manager and lawyer at various times help when there is a dispute, and I have one small one going on right now, for example.


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