A production masterclass with Timbaland

The man behind more hit records than we can count on the secrets of his trade

Having crafted tracks for (deep breath) Ginuwine, Missy Elliot, Janet Jackson, Usher, Jay-Z, Method Man, Nas, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, Nelly Furtado, No Doubt, Limp Bizkit, Destiny’s Child, Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys, Cee Lo Green, LL Cool J, J Lo, Jamie Foxx, Busta Rhymes, Diddy, Beyoncé, Björk, Rihanna, 50 Cent, Kanye West, Duran Duran, OneRepublic, Flo Rida, Madonna, Chris Cornell, Mariah Carey, Mary J Blide, Wyclef Jean, Lil Wayne, Chris Brown – and scores more – Timbaland is inarguably one of the most in-demand producers in the world. Here he tells us how it’s done.

On the producer’s relationship to an artist
‘A producer to me is everything to the artist. The producer lifts the artist, shows him to the song – it’s [the producer’s] vision, his pain, his artistry. The artist wouldn’t exist without a great producer.’

On what makes a good producer
‘It starts from a love of music. You want to explore every part of music that you can, and that goes with a love of music. The studio is my sanctuary, my heaven, my joy – I want to explore every part of it while I’m in there.’

On sampling
‘Sampling is the reason I love technology today. But there’s something about technology that was used back in the ’70s and ’80s that you can’t find any more today. The reason you sample is because of that analogue effect that you just don’t make no more. When you sample... it gives you soul. To me, sampling brings people together.’

On the current retro trend
‘Now everyone’s going back to the ’50s and ’60s trying to create that sound again. You can’t go forward because all we’re making is just gimmicks. People want real. And real was ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s.

On his love for Kraftwerk
‘A lot of dance techno and dance music started with Kraftwerk. They was from Germany, and they was using technology way before anyone. When I saw Kraftwerk I went: what are they doing? That was what made me want to go to different cultures and learn different things. There’s more to just technology than America.’

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Timbaland was talking at The Producers’ Seminar at Dubai Music Week, on September 25 2013.

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