I disagree with your fundamental assumption that music production has to be a hierarchical and authoritarian project. The "conductor" of an orchestra provides a beat and helps each of the hundred instrumentalists stay in sync with the whole -- he doesn't "ignore" anyone's will or act as a veto. Does a string quartet have a conductor? Why does the producer have to "ignore" the wishes of the bandmembers -- why create that kind of dichotomy in the first place, a rigid binary between "band member" and "producer"? That might be the way Phil Spector operated, (the man was also fond of pointing guns at his musicians) but plenty of bands have been able to have a cooperative, egalitarian artistic process. You might think that Radiohead started to sound shit when their producer started to let them have free rein, but I think they actually started to suck when Thom Yorke essentially became the band leader and yeah, producer - the one who was free to ignore the rest of the band, make final decisions, and be unaccountable.When I said conductor, maybe I should have said composer. In classical music, all the parts are written out and all the instruments pre-assigned. The individual members of an orchestra cannot do much else but to play their assigned parts, with very limited space for interpretation. But this is quite acceptable to many musicians, and their work is rewarded by creating a beautiful, massive sound with the rest of the hundred-odd instrumentalists. There are those whose art is simply to play their own instruments at a high level, and they possess neither the inclination nor the ability to create music from scratch. For the record, a conductor does more than just provide the beat; he or she is there to direct the volume changes and provide a visual cue of the level of energy required at any given point in the music.
In other words, why should people run their bands in a way that you and I find repugnant when applied to the organization of larger institutions (such as the state)?
This essay seeks to recognize the rock producer as an artist, and to empower the producer with the privileges of the classical composer and conductor.
A producer should not ignore all the comments from his musicians. In the last section, I was only giving specific types of suggestions (mostly regarding the mixing) that are likely to be rejected for the sake of the wall-of-sound. If it came across as something else, then I shall revise my wording.
Like some medicines, the wall-of-sound is not for everybody. I would hate for producers to work with musicians who are adamantly opposed to the wall-of-sound even after the philosophy is explained to them. But admirers of the wall-of-sound have included the likes of John Lennon and Brian Wilson. Clearly, it is something worth studying, worth applying.
Let's continue with Arta's comment.
We've always been a completely egalitarian institution. We do all our own recording, producing, mixing, mastering. It's not a perfect process, we revise and redo things a ton of times until everyone's happy, but isn't that sort of consensus-driven system a hell of a lot better than having some outside producer who dictates to us?As Arta correctly notes, The Tonics are an egalitarian institution, and it works because each of them understands where they should fit in the mix. In fact, they don't always agree with where they should fit in the mix, but they all recognize that it's an important enough question to consider. None of the Tonics are extraordinary players of their musical instruments, but they play the instrument of production that is rarely played by other bands. They are all producers.
I am writing this essay in the hope that entire bands will get behind a production philosophy and work towards it without having to use an outside producer. I want to show that production is just as important to a record as songwriting. I want to show that pages upon pages can be written about production from an artistic viewpoint. It doesn't have to be wall-of-sound, even though this author believes it to be a most effective production method. You have to figure out which philosophy right for yourself. Alas, many bands don't even take this first step. Many bands walk into a studio, perform, and walk out and leave the engineers to mix. The Tonics don't do this. They would rather spend weeks in postproduction.
But enough about us. In the next section, we will continue reinforcing the wall-of-sound concept by considering if/how some post-1960s records measure up to our definition of the wall-of-sound.