Behind The Board: Michael Denten On Working With E-40, Making Music 3-D & Keeping Creativity Tactile
Engineer and mixer Michael Denten has seen and done a lot in his three-plus decades in the studio. In the latest episode of Behind The Board, Denten details where his journey in recording and mixing began, recounts his front-row seat for some of Bay Area hip-hop's biggest moments and talks about the importance of keeping music tactile.
Starting out as a performer, Denten began recording groups in the Bay Area such as Sly & The Family Stone and Tower Of Power right around the time hip-hop began to build steam in the very early '80s. Denten recalls working with huge names in hip-hop like 2Pac and Hammer, and remembers the day nearly every significant rapper in the Bay Area showed up at the session for the "I Got 5 On It" remix, citing that as the beginning of his longtime creative partnership with E-40.
For Denten, the creative process can be intense when there's a ton of work to be done and everyone involved cares about the music. "You can bet there's going to be a little tension. There's supposed to be. You go through your ups and down, you argue and the whole trip - you fight for the music," Denten said. "Music is what you fight for. You don't fight amongst yourselves, you fight for the music."
With so many records to his name, it's no surprise Denten has found a higher power in the work he does and the role he plays as an engineer in bringing creativity to life on a record.
"There is a spiritualism, I think, to that as well, in translating someone's idea and though to a flat surface and tape. How do you make that 3-D?" he said. "That's really what we search for as engineers, is we try to use outboard gear to create the depth, width and heighth of music.
Denten also discusses why it's important to make music tactile, the creative power of working under a time crunch, and how he builds symbiosis with an artist. Watch the above episode of Behind The Board for more.