Neil Young's Producer
Neil Young News
David Briggs was Neil Young's producer on a several key albums including Tonight's The Night, Zuma and Ragged Glory. Briggs' influence on the recording process has been lauded as a major contributing factor to Neil's recording success bringing a unique "discipline" to the process.
Adding Ben Keith and Nils Lofgren to the Horse rhythm section, Young returned to Sunset Sound, where he had cut such past triumphs as "I Be- lieve in You." But after just a day, "I could hear it wasn't going anywhere," said Briggs. "Too stiff. I said, `Man, if it's not going anywhere in this fuckin' studio, we gotta get outta studios entirely. I went down the street to S.I.R. and said, `Do you mind if I knock a hole in your wall?' "
Studio Instrument Rentals was run by Bruce Berry's brother Ken, and down on Santa Monica Boulevard they had an innocuous black and gray building that functioned as a rehearsal space. Briggs backed a mobile recording truck into the alley next to the building, then someone actually took a twenty-five-pound sledgehammer and smashed a hole through. Cable was run into a cramped, closet-sized equipment locker that served as a control room. The band played on a small stage and was recorded live. It was a concert without an audience, save for Briggs. "When I'm in the room, I'm in the band," he said.
"He was down in the trenches with ya the whole time," said Nils Lofgren "Briggs was the go-go dancer MC, shakin' his legs, snappin' his fin- gers, illustrating the music while we were playin'. He was the music video." Briggs and Young refused to let the musicians listen to playback of any of the recordings until it was all over. If Briggs liked a particular take, he'd mix it out in the truck.
A picture began to develop, and with it came more new songs. "We didn't go down with the idea, `Let's make a spooky record,' " said Briggs. "The album just kind of evolved."
One thing is for sure, David Briggs enjoyed the anonymous nature of being a producer. There was almost a transparent feature to his production work that focused more on bringing out the best of what a particular "group" had to offer than any signature his production values might have imposed.
"In an age when records are put together with extreme artifice David's mission was to break through that," explained Joel Bernstein who is the Neil Young tape archivist, musician and photographer. "He not only tried to bring out the best performance out of the artist he also wanted to present the listener with a realistic true picture of music being played in a room. He went after that live in a room sound! There was no technical trick that he and Neil wouldn't do to get that live feel, however."
Also, see David Briggs Obituary - NY Times, 12/3/95
Also, see interview with Elliot Roberts on working with David Briggs.
Reviews and comments on Shakey - A Neil Young Biography by Jimmy McDonough.
A Neil Young Music Blog tracing His Influence from alt-country to Grunge
Thrasher's Wheat - A Neil Young Fan Page