Two weeks ago I went and saw the film ‘Jiro Dreams Of Sushi‘. It’s a documentary about Jiro Ono, an 85 year old chef considered to be the world’s greatest sushi chef. The movie is a beautiful piece and is really a study about what it takes to become a master artist. In the film, a well-known Japanese food critic lists the attributes of what makes Jiro a master. I thought they were a pretty good summary of what it takes to be an excellent producer/artist as well, so I wanted to share them. Here they are….
1. He Takes His Art Seriously – This is, believe it or not the hardest part to being an artist. Most of us grow up in a world where we are told that sitting in an office and entering numbers into a computer is ‘serious’, but making a piece of music is just for fun or even frivolous. So when we desire to make music many of us,including myself, struggle with our inner parents/teachers/friends etc. who tell us that it’s just a phase until we get decide what we’re really going to do. If you plan to be a producer/artist, change this attitude now. What you do us the most important thing in the universe. You create beauty to give people joy, ecstasy or sadness. You give them the fleeting moments of their life to make them know what being human truly is. And in our journey on this plane, we need these spiritual moments as much as food or water to make this existence meaningful.
2. Willingness To Work Hard – This goes without saying. I’ve been in NYC’s music scene for over a decade and the one constant that I’ve noticed is that talent is maybe 10% of the reason an artist does well. Work ethic and perseverance is about 90%. I really don’t believe in luck, except for the fact that you’re lucky to be be alive and in good health. Otherwise you make your own opportunities.
3. Absolute Cleanliness – In ‘Jiro Dreams Of Sushi’ absolute cleanliness is considered a virtue, because if the restaurant was in the slightest bit dirty, it would impact the taste of the food. In the world of production, absolute cleanliness is a virtue because it speeds your work flow. By cleanliness, it is not necessarily being able to do a white glove test on your console (although, if you can maintain that level of cleanliness in your space, your equipment will love you). It’s about the organization of files, of projects, of sessions. It’s about maintaining your tools in top working order. All of this will unclog your workflow and let the creative spirit pass through you without interruption.
4. Command And Leadership – As a producer, especially as a DJ/producer or performer producer, you are in charge. Even though this may not be the case in every project, there will come a time when you will have to take command of a project. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be a collaborator – all musicians should. It means you should have a strong vision, be clearly competent and have the other necessary attributes of leadership – responsibility, punctuality and the habit of keeping commitments.
5. Impatience – On one hand, patience is a virtue in music and art in that it takes time to practice, acquire skills and have them fully realize themselves. By impatience, an artist realizes that they have something to say and that there is no time to be wasted in acquiring the necessary skills, practicing them and then producing what has to be produced and getting it out to the world. Often, it can seem like there’s so much time to do what we’re going to want to do, but, there’s really not…
Finally a last piece of wisdom from Jiro. In the movie, he tells his son: A great chef must eat the best, so that they will always have better taste than their customers. This is true with music as well. Listen widely and listen to the masters. Listen deeply to outstanding musicians of all styles. It opens the mind, fills you with ideas and makes you to channel some of that mastery into your own work.