Howard Benson

Howard Benson’s list of satisfied customers is impressive to say the least. He’s helped My Chemical Romance, Daughtry, Three Days Grace, P.O.D., Theory of a Deadman, Halestorm and many others score numerous chart-topping songs and albums.

While technology has obviously advanced since Benson started producing albums in the ‘80s and ‘90s, he says making a great album isn’t about technology.

“You can be great with a computer and super good with programming, but if you can’t write a song, it doesn’t matter,” Benson told Gibson.com. “We’re not selling that. We’re selling emotion. We’re selling happiness and fear and anger. Those are things I look for when I look for a great artist. I don’t care about the technology as much. You have to be aware of what moves you.”

When it comes to recording, there’s isn’t a quick fix. “This didn’t come naturally. You produce enough records, and you start figuring out the song thing and vocal thing and star power thing.”

Benson has worked with so many bands that it’s impossible to pick a favorite album he’s produced. But he does have favorite songs. “(P.O.D.’s) ‘Youth of the Nation’ is a song I really wanted to produce and make it really dramatic and big,” he said. “‘Move Along’ from the All American Rejects had a similar theatrical feel, almost bigger than life. ‘Helena’ with My Chemical Romance. Daughtry, ‘Home,’ was a song I really loved. With every band, there are songs where I go, ‘Okay, I’m going to have fun with this. I can really dig my teeth into this.”

In the studio, Benson relies on KRK Systems speakers. “Those are our main speakers: the KRK V6 and V8,” he said. “We’ve been using those for 10 years now. We must have tried 20 speakers, and those were the best.”

His go-to studio guitar is a Les Paul Jr. “We use a Gibson ‘57 or ‘58 Les Paul Jr., which is a student or teaching guitar, so it has a smaller neck,” he said. “That’s the guitar you hear on every record I do, because it’s so smooth and so perfect sounding. Every string is the same volume as the next string. The sustain is great on it. Most of my bands are Gibson kinds of bands. I have some Les Pauls and a Custom Shop Flying V that I use.”

Howard Benson

So, what’s the most important thing for a musician to remember when heading into the studio to record?

“A lot of artists come in there and instead of focusing on writing and being emotional, they focus on the computer and forget about the song,” he said. “They confuse the computer work with writing a great song. That’s not what we’re doing in there. What we’re doing is trying to make amazing feeling come out of the studio. There’s this fascination with technology that has made songwriting a lot more problematic in some ways.”

He added, “When you’re in the studio, you have to let go and free yourself. Just go in there and sing and play guitar and be emotional. When people listen to your music, they’re in a car and the windows are down and everyone is talking at once, and that song better cut through that chaos.”