Audio Engineer Swedien Remembers Jackson

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Michael Jackson: Full NPR Music Archive

Audio engineer and record producer Bruce Swedien worked with Michael Jackson on some of the king of pop's hit albums like Thriller. Swedien shares his memories of the late king of pop.


Bruce Swedien is an audio engineer and record producer. He worked with Michael Jackson on some of his biggest hits, including "Off the Wall" and "Thriller." Swedien says that being in the studio with Jackson was an incredible experience.

Mr. BRUCE SWEDIEN (Audio Engineer, Record Producer): Michael is a supreme talent and I have recorded many of the top names and celebrities in music and no one's better than Michael. No one.

SIEGEL: We think of him as having been such a dynamic, physical performer, a dancer, it's hard to imagine him in the recording studio in such a static venue.

Mr. SWEDIEN: Well, with Michael, recording was never a static event. We used to record with the lights out in the studio and I had him on my drum platform, which is a wooden platform where I put the drum set when we recorded. And Michael would stand on that and he would dance as he did the vocals. And what an incredible experience.

SIEGEL: You worked with him over 30 years, I gather.

Mr. SWEDIEN: That's right. I started out with him in - with Michael recording in "The Wiz" the movie in 1978, and then right up until this last year.

SIEGEL: He was a very complicated figure in the popular culture. Do you think that people understood him - saw him clearly?

Mr. SWEDIEN: I kind of have a feeling that people didn't know the real Michael Jackson because Michael was quiet and unassuming in the studio and if you weren't aware of what was going on, you almost wouldn't know what we were doing.

SIEGEL: When you think back on your many projects that you worked with - with Michael Jackson on, if you're trying to communicate to people who didn't know him and who only knew of him as a celebrity…

Mr. SWEDIEN: Right.

SIEGEL: …what is it? What is the thing you would try to communicate to us that we couldn't see?

Mr. SWEDIEN: I think what I would like to communicate about Michael that is not often seen about him is what a fantastic musician he was and how the talent was just indescribably huge - just fantastic.

SIEGEL: Well, Bruce Swedien, thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. SWEDIEN: Great, thank you.

SIEGEL: Bruce Swedien was an audio engineer and producer who worked with Michael Jackson for more than 30 years.

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