A Note From Producer Tom Werman

[Note: Back in April, as part of Matthew Bolin’s ongoing series, When Good Albums Happen to Bad People, Popdose ran a post that focused on Mötley Crüe’s Girls, Girls, Girls. In this post, a number of disparaging remarks were made regarding the album’s producer, Tom Werman — comments that Mr. Werman was understandably unhappy to read when he discovered it.

When he contacted me to express his displeasure with some key elements of what had been published, I asked him if he’d be interested in writing a rebuttal, to be posted here in its entirety, and he agreed; I also pitched him an idea for a series in which he’d regale you with stories of his years behind the boards for a number of multiplatinum acts, which he says he’s considering. I imagine the more comments he gets here, the more likely he’ll be to join our little family, so if you’re interested in hearing more from him, please chime in.

Finally, while Mr. Werman and I do disagree in a couple of areas, his point about Popdose contacting him for comment regarding the initial point is a great one — and it’s something we will be doing as we move forward into our second year and beyond. Now, without further ado, we’ll yield the floor to Tom Werman. –Jeff Giles]

It’s easy to find me. Just Google me and you’ll find the website for my Bed & Breakfast. I still get letters and emails from enthusiastic musicians and music fans. One must assume, then, that Matthew Bolin specifically chose to avoid speaking with me before he wrote his April ’08 piece on the impending “new resurgence” of Mötley Crüe, which I have only recently discovered.

Quite a number of things have been written about me over the years – almost all accurate, almost all positive. So I was fairly puzzled by Mr. Bolin’s post, in which he not only calls me an “infamous a-hole,” but reports that I have cheated on my wife. Mr. Bolin credits no sources. When I referred Popdose editor Jeff Giles to this allegation, he replied that Mr. Bolin was simply “connecting the dots,” referring to my response to Nikki Sixx on Blabbermouth.net. I guess editorial standards have loosened somewhat, since declaring on the internet that someone you have never spoken with has cheated on his wife seems as though it would require some sort of substantiation. Apparently not.

But since I hold myself to higher editorial standards than the ones Mr. Bolin affords his readers, I’ll skip the grade school name-calling, and I won’t speculate on Mr. Bolin’s personal behavior or his motives. By the looks of Popdose.com, I think its readers would be more interested in things musical than in things ethical. You look to Mr. Bolin to provide you with the real story – the actual facts behind the music. I think readers deserve accuracy, so let’s address Mr. Bolin’s piece carefully, shall we?

Bolin: “Two things are consistent with bands who work with Tom Werman – they often have some of the biggest-selling albums of their career with him as their producer, and, regardless of point one, they leave him for other producers because they can’t stand him.”

Fact: There may have been a handful of modern bands who spent their entire careers with the same producer. I chose not to continue working with Ted Nugent after five albums. I chose to stop producing Molly Hatchet after five albums. Cheap Trick and I had a very positive relationship, and they chose George Martin after we had three very successful albums. Mötley Crüe and I had a positive relationship for three albums, as well. After three albums, it’s not at all unusual to change producers. It is, in fact, standard procedure.

Fact: There were two individual musicians who had a problem with me in the studio out of about 200 musicians I produced. Nikki Sixx was a friend until he revised history in his book. Dee Snider was a friend, until the Twisted Sister album became a hit, and he couldn’t deal with sharing the credit for its success. Both of these guys were literally back-slapping glad-handers; years later, they soured badly. I had fine relationships with all the other members of those two bands. Don Purnell of Kix hated and distrusted me. As far as I could tell, he felt that way about everyone he ever met. On Tooth & Nail, George Lynch of Dokken had a problem with my request that he play a more substantive lead break on one song, and he pitched a fit, so I left after recording the project, and Michael Wagener mixed it. That’s one album out of more than 50 that I produced.

Bolin: “Bossy, egotistical, and either in denial or oblivious to the damage his attitude has caused him, Werner…. was known for his dogmatism in the studio, preferring to force slick arrangements on bands whose type of music would seem to call for something louder and rougher.”

Fact: Well, if we were to believe Nikki Sixx, I was neither bossy nor egotistical, since I was too busy idly chatting on the phone. How could a producer who’s distracted and uninvolved be bossy? And that’s Werman, Mr. Balin, not Werner.

Before I began every record, I told the band that this was their record, and that I was hired by them to help them realize their musical vision. I also requested that a designated member from the band sit in on every final mix and approve those mixes. Many times the band was on tour by the time the mixes were finished, so I’d send the bandleader or the manager a final mix for the band’s approval. A producer simply doesn’t have the power to tell the band what to do. The producer is a hired independent consultant, paid by the band through a label advance. The band is perfectly free to replace the producer at any time. Either the band or the record label — not the producer — has the final say in all studio matters.

I never forced anything on any musician at any time in any place. Even if I had wanted to, it simply isn’t possible. So what “damage” did “my attitude” cause me? I had a wonderful, successful and enjoyable career. Does Mr. Bolin know something I don’t?

And guess what, Mr. Bolin — I’m a pop producer! I never chose hard rock. It chose me. I tried many times to get the opportunity to produce pop bands. The A&R community wouldn’t have it. When I produced my early records, like Ted Nugent’s first albums and Cheap Trick’s early albums, I was a staff producer at Epic, and my specific job was to get these bands on the radio. How does one do that?

We make singles, Mr. Bolin.

In those days, AM radio sold records a nd FM didn’t. FM played only album tracks, and AM played only singles. So I made singles with bands who were only being played on FM radio. This is why Doug Morris called me when he was the president of Atlantic Records and said I was the only producer he knew who could make a hit with Twisted Sister, who up to that point was a little known band in America. So I made sure there were two singles on the record, and they sold several million albums as a result. Same with Ted Nugent. Same with Cheap Trick. Same with Molly Hatchet. Same with Mötley Crüe. Same with Poison. Are we seeing a trend here, Mr. Bolin?

Bolin: “For instance, he accused Cheap Trick of leaving him because he “wanted them to be the Who” and “they wanted to be the Beatles,” yet the album Werman produced for them was 1977’s In Color, easily the poppiest of their career. Werman’s arrangement of “I Want You to Want Me” was a piece of British dance-hall music, for God’s sake!”

Fact: First of all, I signed the band to the label, and I produced not one but three albums for them (In Color, Heaven Tonight and Dream Police). I was asked to go to Japan to oversee Live at Budokan, but was tied up with Ted Nugent at the time. I have spent time and worked with Sir George Martin. I admire and respect him. I never “accused” the band of anything. The Cheap Trick LPs were the most enjoyable albums I ever did. I would frequently turn to them after we did something I suggested in the studio and ask them if they liked it. Rick would shrug his shoulders and say “you’re the producer.” If the band wanted to do something, we’d do it. Period.

In the case of “I Want You to Want Me,” congratulations, Mr. Bolin – you have correctly identified the style of the song. We (that’s we) chose a tack piano to create a bygone dance-hall feel, and hired jazz session guitarist Jay Graydon to play guitar. The song has finger snaps, Mr. Bolin. Did you think I used finger snaps to create a Led Zeppelin feel? In live performance, the band changed the whole nature of the song, to great success.

I also did the percussion on all my albums. I’d do it for free, off the clock. I told each band that if they didn’t like what I had done, we’d hire a session percussionist. Not one band in over 50 albums chose the latter option. I also played guitar and sang backing vocals on occasion.

Bolin: “So with Werman you have a guy with a hard-rock resumé and a soft-rock mind, who says his favorite production is Glyn Johns’s work on the first Eagles album, and who, when his production career dried up, moved to Massachusetts and opened a bed-and-breakfast. Seriously.”

Fact: Mr. Bolin, not surprisingly, chose to omit my mention of Who’s Next as the other Glyn Johns productio n that served as an inspiration. I do like a range of music. The iPod I run with has songs by Ministry, ZZ Top, the Who and the Foo Fighters. It also has Bruce Hornsby, the Eagles, Phil Collins and Don Henley. But Mr. Bolin seems to have determined — from not speaking with me and perhaps scanning one or two of my interviews – that I have a “soft-rock mind.”

A small percentage of those who choose music as a profession enjoy success. Those who do usually enjoy it for perhaps three to five years. I was fortunate enough to have made a living in the studio for 20 years. How many producers have active careers beyond the age of 55? Phil Ramone, Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin and Tom Dowd come to mind. That’s four. Perhaps Mr. Bolin can enlighten us about the hundreds of others, whose careers “dried up” when it became a little illogical for them to be making music for music consumers less than a third their age….so when I tired of the studio and the industry tired of me, I left LA for the countryside of New England, where we’ve been fairly blissed out for eight years. I work the land, I thin the forest, I split firewood, I prune trees, I burn brush, I mow acres of lawn. I’m host to hundreds of wonderful people from around the country and the world who have reinvigorated my mind with their stories and conversations – guests as diverse as Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, Leonard Nimoy, Alan Menken, Malcolm Gladwell, Alan Alda and Rudy Giuliani – and I live in Berkshire County, which is drenched in music, theater, art and dance, whose residents form a caring and thinking community.

And what does Mr. Bolin think of this? Well, he sums it up in one sarcastic comment – “Seriously” — as if to say “would a record producer worth his salt ever do something so ridiculous?” If I’m misinterpreting your thrust, Mr. Bolin, please set me and your readers straight. Meanwhile, I’ll try hard not to be embarrassed by my choice of a second career.

A note to Popdose readers:
If you’re logging on to this site to read blogs about music that are allegedly written by people who are qualified to do so, then demand a modicum of accuracy. Check some facts now and then. Somehow, in some way, I must have slighted or offended Mr. Bolin in the past. I can see no other reason for this left-field assault on my professional and personal integrity. These days, irresponsible reporting can cause serious damage. I have a wonderful family. I have three grown children, and I certainly don’t want them cruising the internet only to find that someone I never met is “reporting” to his readers that I cheated on their mother. As I said once before in my online response to Nikki Sixx, enough said.

Thanks for letting me rant. Popdose readers are welcome to get the rest of the facts by emailing me.

  • Patrick Kennison

    Tom Werman has produced some of the greatest records of all time. Just because a few people don't like him means nothing. People need to get over themselves and realize visionaries and great musicians are and can have quirky personalities. So fucking what.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    A thought: While I see that Mr. Werman has been offended by statements made on Popdose, I find his damage control a little disingenuous. Instead of addressing his critics, the artists who formerly worked with him who have leveled these allegations, he's taken his grievance to Matthew. Now, Matthew has formed his opinion not on some perceived grudge but on the evidence placed before him, that being the testimony of Mr. Werman's former clients.

    And I harbor no illusions that many of those clients are not particularly salt-of-the-earth types and have no doubt that some of their axes to grind are patently unfair. By the same token, Mr. Werman is being unfair to Matthew. Matthew is the recipient of the testimony. If the testimony is flawed, the onus is on Mr. Werman to take things up with those who made those false claims and demand retraction from them, not simply with Nikki Sixx but all the parties who have perpetrated falsehood.

    Why? Because in the sphere of public life, perception is 50% of reality. If Mr. Werman hasn't taken steps to confront all the naysayers, to lighten the burden of the circumstantial evidence, then he needs to expect the overwhelming weight of circumstantial evidence must fall on the negative, and those who write on such subjects will have to take it into account. Matthew writes in entertaining fashion but the meat of his writing is based on a strong degree of source material. The source material against Mr. Werman has, let's be frank, been negative. How else could we have approached the topic? That all the criticisms are lies?

    Essentially, we're the messenger. You're not happy with the message, and if you feel you have been slighted as you certainly appear to be, you need to take that up with those who have issued the message. Now you also have claimed that all this should have been aired or offered a counterpoint option, and that could have been arranged by contacting your bed & breakfast. In your defense, Mr. Werman, you're right. We should have. It's something we'll need to take greater measures to do in the future. I guarantee you, however, that most of those we contact will never get the chance to hear the offer, as it is swallowed up by publicists, agents and handlers. Cynical? Yes. But surely there's truth in that cynicism, no?

    So I, as a Popdose writer and as someone defending the quality and intentions of Matthew's work, ask that you see it from his side. Your “street cred” out here is godawful. But you can put it right. The offer is open, as is the floor. Take up a Popdose column and refute the claims of your detractors. I hope you'll consider it. Otherwise, silence would only lend validity to what you feel is their slander. But I ask that you don't misdirect your cause at Mr. Bolin since, as said, it's “theirs” that informed his, not his against yours.

  • EightE1

    That first Nugent record was a monster, and Heaven Tonight is a favorite. Jeff, I hope he takes you up on your offer. Need anything to bribe him with?


  • misterspike

    Venomous much?

  • http://www.myspace.com/psychicmafia SciKikMobster

    This Tom Werman guys seems ok. The real studio maniac is this guy Patrick Kennison. I have stories about him, that makes Nikki seem like a boy scout.

  • Patrick Kennison

    I learned it all from you homie!!!
    When are you guys playin' again?

  • http://www.nosite.com sdg

    some band need a outside ear but some members tend too see the truth in the producers skills
    egos always ruin the moron members of a band

  • Eric S.

    Let me start by saying that “Heaven Tonight” may be my favorite record of all time. As much as I like the record, I've read comments by members of Cheap Trick questioning production decisions on this album and “In Color”. I'd certainly be interested in reading Mr. Werman's point of view on some of these specific projects.

    To address concerns about crediting sources, I'm posting a portion of a Rick Nielsen interview that's currently up on classicrockrevisited.com.

    Jeb: Tom Werman was your producer. Another legend holds that when he heard the tapes, he hated the sound and wanted you to re-record the album in the studio and put on fake applause. Is that true?

    Rick: He could have said that. We asked him to go to Japan but he didn’t want to go because he was working on a Ted Nugent record. We knew it was going to get recorded no matter what. When we got back to New York, we took the tapes to Jack Douglas, who did our first record. He wasn’t the record companies choice because they thought Jack’s first record of us was too raw. That is why In Color sounds the way it does; they toned us down. When we recorded it, it sounded fine but when we left and heard the music later, there was a honky-tonk piano on “I Want You To Want Me.”

    Jeb: Did you really have to redo the tapes?

    Rick: Not really. Budokan sounded more like our first record. Werman didn’t want to go with Douglas. It was only going to be released for the Japanese market. It is just like the photo for the cover. Robin [Zander] and Tom [Petersson] didn’t like it but they were told that it was just for Japan, so know one would ever see it.

  • Elaine

    And how does Matthew Bolin respond to this post?

  • Drew Stone

    I wouldn't wipe my ass with your hack website. Check your facts before you stain someone else's stellar career. Hacks.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    If you only have a file full of (a) and write something based on that, it's going to weigh on the side of (a). For someone to get up in arms that the final product wasn't (b), isn't so much the fault of the writer as it is the complainant who allowed the file to be flooded with (a).

    It's not venomous. I'm defending the fact that, based on the information that's out there, there wasn't a vastly different way it could have been written, and as a fellow Popdose writer, I didn't find it fair that Bolin's taking such heat from reporting in the corner that was painted for him.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    Where was your defense of Mr. Werman during the seven months between when the column was originally published and now? Seven months, and only now you're outraged? Thank you for not wiping your ass with our site. You have a tendency toward procrastination and, clearly, our bowels would explode waiting for you to finish up.

  • Ted Duker

    Tom, you've seen alot of shit and had to deal with some major assholes, it still must have been the greatest time ever. You seem like a cool dude, kick back and enjoy your b&b and fuck all the haters. #1CRUE FAN

  • http://www.myspace.com/therecordingzone Jhon Ackerman

    Honestly, I would absolutely LOVE to spend a few hours learning from Tom Werman . . . this man has been an integral part of so many albums that I grew up listening to, it would be absolutely astounding to talk with him.

    As a guy that's tried very hard for at least ten years to make the best recordings that I can for the people that I work with, I am Personally Offended that Tom Werman's credibility would be called into question.

    The idea that Matthew Bolin seeks to discredit this brilliant and talented man is beyond my comprehension. You better look into your own soul Matt, because you've got some problems.

    -Jhon Ackerman
    Producer & Engineer
    The Recording Zone
    Rustburg, VA

  • JonCummings

    I just tried wiping my ass with our website, and it didn't work. Drew, could you please come over and clean off my computer screen?

  • outsidecounsel

    I for one would welcome more from this cat. He must have a ton of interesting stories, and it would be cool to hear about the technical aspects of his work with what sounds like a pretty diverse group of artists.

  • http://www.popdose.com jefito

    Matt wasn't seeking to “discredit” him. He was going off what's on the public record. I understand why you disagree with what he wrote, but I assure you, his soul is just fine.

  • http://www.bullz-eye.com DavidMedsker

    I would love for Tom to do a column for us. He could do an entire year on Nugent alone.

  • http://everybodysdummy.blogspot.com wardo

    I think it's great that the little site once known as “jefitoblog” (and still bookmarked thus on my little computer) has gained such stature that somebody like Tom Werman has the time to write such a well-crafted rebuttal to a post. This is why I'll keep reading. I can only hope Mr. Werman doesn't find anything to upset him at my blog.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    Jhon, I've said far too much on the subject already and your response has been civil, so I want to oblige accordingly. If the public record on you was consistently negative, and that public record has been previously vetted by editors of prestigious magazines and newspapers, the common perception would tend to coincide.

    If you then turn around and challenge those magazines and newspapers, it's not that you're raking muck, it's that you are protecting your name, which you feel has been slandered. If a third party coalesces a piece based on info you chose over the years not to challenge, how could it be his fault due to your lack of vigilance?

    Mr. Werman may be a great guy, he certainly is a cohesive writer, but he chose for some reason or another to allow this bad rep to amass unchecked over the years, then be upset when a third party repeated the record that has been left there. Matthew Bolin did not seek to discredit Tom Werman. Matthew Bolin formed the educated hypothesis based on mountain of stuff that had not been previously challenged. That is no Matthew Bolin's fault.

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  • http://www.myspace.com/therecordingzone Jhon Ackerman

    I suppose it could be very possible that my own response had more to do with my own experiences than it does with Matt's article and commentary. I am totally new to this “conflict” as it were, as I stumbled upon the topic while looking up information/interviews with producers like Tom Werman, Bob Rock and Mutt Lange. (still VERY MUCH looking if you have some links to offer . . . I am on a journey of “everybody else-discovery” right now. ha ha ha

    As I have grown and struggled to become the “musical brain and pair of ears” that I currently am, I've been looking and exploring, trying to so be what some of those before me were, but to “seek what they sought”, so to speak. Finding someone to relate to that can really sit down and give me some real vitamins has been tough sometimes.

    All that to say, when I saw this criticism of Tom Werman and whatnot, I think it made me mad that a man that already did what I would like to do (and probably never will do on any grand scale) was taking a verbal beating by some of my teenage heroes . . . from Matt, as well as Nikki Sixx and whatnot.

    I have alot to learn, and there seems to be no limit to how small I can truly feel when staring up at The Mountain that is the music business.

  • http://www.myspace.com/therecordingzone Jhon Ackerman

    Wow, I had some serious typos in there, but hopefully my intentions were clear. I wanna correct it!!! :)

  • Darren

    I remember reading Matthew's initial post on Werman and thinking, to a degree, WTF? Ultimately, though, I've read much the same information he referenced in coming to the conclusions stated in his initial post and, thus, I simply chalked his words up to “his opinion”. See, Popdose is great because it isn't so much a news site (which we've already got more then enough of on ye olde interweb, in my opinion), as a gathering place for some pretty insightful writers to unleash their commentary on a variety of subjects. Perhaps the accusations of adultery were a bit much, especially if untrue. I've spoken to a few bands who worked with Werman, including members of Cheap Trick, and what they had to say about his work was mixed, to put it lightly. Truth be told, I don't think he was the right producer for Cheap Trick. To my ears, In Color is too dry, too slick; Heaven Tonight is too glossy by far, and Dream Police is over-produced. The one thing that makes those albums classic is the quality of the songwriting. It took the band working on their own (with Jack Douglas brought in to oversee mixing and overdubs) to achieve the success for which they are most remembered. Dream Police was in-the-can prior to Budokan's US release and, when released, it failed to maintain the level of success that Budokan had achieved.

    If Budokan hadn't happened, Dream Police wouldn't have been half the moderate success that it was. More than likely, it would have joined Werman's previous two efforts with the band in the middle regions of the charts and the band may have very well been dropped.

    The blame should not lie solely upon Werman's shoulders, though. Cheap Trick had been unhappy with In Color,. yet they worked with him again and were unhappy with Heaven Tonight, then they worked with him yet again on Dream Police. Not to be a Monday morning quarterback, but why didn't Cheap Trick work with someone else if they weren't happy with the results? Werman, after all, was a staff producer. To me, the tag “staff producer” has always been associated with sub-par results from bands who were misunderstood and/or wrongly pigeonholed by their label. Cheap Trick, from the moment they signed to Epic, were both, yet their decision to have a mere staff producer thrust upon them when each album could have been their last seems a bit careless.

    While I've nothing against the man, the pile of albums with his name on them that failed to accurately capture the respective band in their true element is a large one. Despite some great material, The Producers, Hawks, and Off Broadway (to name but a few) came off sounding neutered and, unlike Cheap Trick, each of these bands ultimately fell victim to what I like to call “two-and-out syndrome”; two albums, no hits, and the boot.

    Then, of course, Werman became the go-to-guy for Sunset Strip metal bands and the rest is history. All things considered, as a producer I think he makes a great bed-and-breakfast proprietor.

    Still, I've got nothing against the guy, personally, and would still have killed to have been a fly on the wall during some of the sessions of which he was a vital part.

  • mojo

    With whose website would you wipe your ass?

    Frankly, I'm so glad you wouldn't with ours, because that would put a stain on MY stellar career.

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  • Billy Cross

    Tom Werman is a refreshingly intelligent fellow who was a successful and canny producer for more years than most. His comments here are sober and well articulated. The same cannot be said for Mr. Bolin who joins the ranks of talentless journalist wannabees who try to promulgate their pathetic egos by writing about stuff they know very little. There is an old American expression: “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one”. Sad that so many people can't seem to keep their opinions to themselves instead of choking the internet with idiocy.

  • http://www.popdose.com jefito

    So many people, indeed…

  • http://www.popdose.com jefito

    So many people, indeed…

  • Billy Cross

    Tom Werman is a refreshingly intelligent fellow who was a successful and canny producer for more years than most. His comments here are sober and well articulated. The same cannot be said for Mr. Bolin who joins the ranks of talentless journalist wannabees who try to promulgate their pathetic egos by writing about stuff they know very little. There is an old American expression: “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one”. Sad that so many people can't seem to keep their opinions to themselves instead of choking the internet with idiocy.

  • http://www.popdose.com jefito

    So many people, indeed…

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  • Anonymous

    Wow. This is a long time ago but I just saw the reply (blame it on miamiherald.com linking to popdose). My “venomous much” comment was originally directed at Werman and not the writer, for what it’s worth.

  • http://www.popdose.com jefito

    The Miami Herald linked to us? Huh.

  • Majordudes

    People who get great album after great album done are driven people.
    Mr. Werman isn’t/wasn’t hired to be anyone’s best friend.
    He was there to make successful recordings.
    If he used aggressive moves to create, so what.
    He was many artists “best friends” by giving them a career.
    Making albums is a hard job, people can get emotional.
    That fact has many creative minds sharing different memories of “how it went down”.
    If you were lucky enough to be a Tom Wernan artist, you had a real chance, that is if the artist could give themselves to the process.
    Thusly letting their pro producer, simply produce.
    Bless Tom, he did rock great!
    Chris Frenchie Smith

  • Captbook1

    I know you cheated on your wife with my present wife. Remember two flights up in orlandpo you putz.I grew up loving the bands you produced. What a shame.

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