Butch Vig’s production credits read like the roll call at a meeting of platinum record recipients. He’s been the guiding force behind such albums as Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown, Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light––both Grammy winners––and Nirvana’s Nevermind, among many others. In 1994 he co-founded Garbage, a multiplatinum band that recently completed a European tour. Music Connection gets Vig’s take on a number of production issues in this exclusive Q&A.
MC: With Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown, how did you begin to guide the band? It sounds like there were a lot of ideas and potential directions.
Vig: That was an incredible experience. And a long and daunting one. I spent about 13 months total working on the record. Easily the first six or seven months of that were pre-production, rehearsals and just talking about where the songs should go. After the success of American Idiot, the band could have done many different things. They could have gone back and made a punk rock record like they did with ¡Uno! ¡Dos! or ¡Tré! But they set the bar high with the ambitious arrangements on American Idiot and I was glad that they decided to push the bar even higher. Once we started working on the arrangement and they brought in song ideas, we spent a lot of time trying different approaches and seeing which songs spoke to each other. Billy was trying, thematically, to get his head around what he wanted to say. We tried different things every day, but we recorded the record in about 14 weeks. It went pretty fast because at that point we had a lot of the ideas and the arrangements were fairly focused. It was just a matter of executing.
MC: Did you feel pressure to match the success of American Idiot?
Vig: I did and so did the band. Especially Billy. But I’d felt that before with Nirvana and the [Smashing] Pumpkins. Even when I started with Foo Fighters, people were saying ‘Butch Vig and Dave Grohl are working together. It’s the first time since Nevermind.’ There’s a point when that pressure is good because you want to bring your A-game. I’m able to acknowledge that, but also shut it out and focus in the studio. I was able to do that with Green Day. Ultimately we sequestered ourselves. We tried to shut out outside influences and just focus on work. Green Day was very good at that. They’re obsessive workaholics.
Full interview at Music Connection: HERE