20 Hottest producers in Music Right Now.

28 Oct

As Mark Ronson releases ‘Record Collection’, and Dave Sitek unveils his Maximum Balloon project, I thought it was a good time to look at music’s other in-demand producers.

First up, it’s MNEK – a Nigerian-born, electro-soul prodigy from south London, who’s just fifteen years old. He started remixing tracks when he was nine, and now has a publishing deal with EMI. He’s also been working with pop production gods Xenomania. Essential track: ‘If Truth Be Told’.

The xx’s recent Mercury Prize victory will only increase demand for producer Jamie Smith’s uncanny knack for creating sparse-yet-enveloping sonic textures. He’s about to step out of the band’s shadow, too, having lined up a solo single, ‘Far Nearer’. Essential track: ‘Crystalised’.

Former Pulp bassist Steve Mackey has forged a successful post-Britpop career, having produced tracks on high-profile albums by MIA and Florence And The Machine. He has also remixed tracks for acts including Kelis, The Horrors and Arcade Fire. Essential track: ‘Galang’.

Want to know who to blame for the auto-tuned turbo-pop sound that’s all over the radio, from Katy Perry’s ‘California Gurls’ to Ke$ha’s ‘Tik Tok’? Step forward Dr. Luke, aka LA-based Lukasz Gottwald. A protege of Swedish pop songwriter Max Martin (of ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ fame), Dr Luke is pop’s hitmaker du jour.

The Knocks are NYV’s coolest hip-hop production team. The production duo have lent their swag-heavy beats to Ellie Goulding, Rihanna and Flo Rida, and they’ve just started on their own material, with single ‘Neon Rocks’ out now. They’re also planning a tour and collaboration with Jack Penate. Essential track: ‘Make It Better’.

Finlay Dow Smith, a.k.a. Starsmith, is a Bromley-born electro remixer whose synth-slathered sound has got Katy Perry, Cheryl Cole, Kylie and Marina And The Diamonds clamouring for him to transform their tracks. He co-wrote half of Ellie Goulding’s debut album, ‘Lights’. And he’s still just 21.

Semothy Jones (real name Andrew Hughes) is a carefully-coiffed songwriter/producer from London. He first made it big by working with his close friend Plan B on the mixtape ‘Paint It Blacker’, but has since worked with the likes of Professor Green, Lily Allen and Little Boots. Essential track: Professor Green, ‘Just Be Good To Green’.

Along with Dr. Luke, it’s RedOne who has help define the slick, auto-tuned sound of modern pop. The Moroccan-born producer has polished hits for Lady Gaga, Alexandra Burke, Sugababes and Little Boots. Essential track: Lady Gaga, ‘Bad Romance’.

Indie’s favourite studio boffin Paul Epworth keeps going from strength to strength. Since winning an Ivor Novello for co-writing Kate Nash’s ‘Foundations’ in 2007, he’s gone on to write/produce hit songs for Florence and Plan B. In February 2010 Epworth won Brit Award for Producer Of The Year. Essential track: The Big Pink, ‘Dominos’.

Ross Robinson’s been a giant of the rock world ever since producing breakthrough albums for Slipknot, At The Drive-In and Amen (pictured) at the turn of the millennium. His talent is to draw emotionally intense performances from artists, and his most recent success was producing Klaxons’ sonically dense ‘Surfing The Void’. Essential track: Klaxons, ‘Echoes’.

Geoff Barrow’s glory days were in the 90s, when he assisted on Massive Attack’s ‘Blue Lines’ before producing Portishead’s hugely influential debut album. But he’s hot property once more, having wowed people with his inventive and atmospheric production work on The Horrors’ ‘Primary Colours’. Essential track: The Horrors, ‘Sea Within A Sea’.

London-based Amir Amor, sometimes known as Major Tom, has helped define the tenor of modern, lairy urban pop thanks to his work with artists such as Plan B, N-Dubz and Example. Essential track: Plan B, ‘Missin Links’.

Stuart Price’s influence stretches far and wide under his many pseudonyms, including Jacques Le Cont, Le Rhythmes Digitales, and Thin White Duke. He’s lent a cutting-edge twist to remixes for Scissor Sisters, Kasabian and Depeche Mode, and worked on Madonna’s ‘Confessions Of A Dancefloor’ as songwriter and producer. Essential track: The Killers, ‘Human’.

No run-down of top producers would be complete without Dave Sitek. Having done brilliantly inventive things with TV On The Radio, and for Foals The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, his latest project is Maximum Balloon, which boasts guest vocal spots from Karen O and David Byrne. Essential track: TV On The Radio, ‘Crying’.

Swedish electro producer Andreas Kleerup has been in demand ever since ‘With Every Heartbeat’, which he co-wrote with Robyn, became a huge hit in 2007. His highest-profile gig to date: remixing ‘Alejandro’ for Lady Gaga. Essential track: ‘With Every Heartbeat’.

It was inevitable than an artist as prolific as Beck would end up turning his hand to production. In 2009 he co-wrote and produced Charlotte Gainsbourg’s ‘IRM’ album, and the following year he contributed songs to Jamie Lidell’s album, ‘Compass’. Essential track: Charlotte Gainsbourg, ‘Heaven Can Wait’.

OK, so he doesn’t gel with every band (Muse once said, “We’d like to thank Rick Rubin for teaching us how not to produce”), but Rick Rubin’s track record speaks for itself. He’s become the go-to guy for veteran artists looking to rekindle their mojo (Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond). Meanwhile, his current project is producing Adele’s upcoming second album.

Andrew Weatherall – a rave-era survivor? Far from it. The house DJ might have had his greatest success working on Primal Scream’s ‘Screamadelica’ in 1991, but he also produced one of 2009’s most critically acclaimed and sonically distinctive albums, ‘Tarot Sport’ by Fuck Buttons. Essential track: Fuck Buttons, ‘Olympians’.

James Ford has been comparatively quiet since his annus mirabilis in 2007 when he produced albums by Klaxons and Arctic Monkeys. But he’s still highly in-demand, and was called on last year to work on Florence’s lavishly produced ‘Lungs’ album. Essential track: Klaxons, ‘Golden Skans’.

Thanks to NME.


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