September 2009

Jeff Greenberg

Plus, Glass Pear, Telekinesis, Division Day and More

jeff greenberg Photo by Larry Hirshowitz

The multifaceted career of Jeff Greenberg began around 1968, when he managed T.I.M.E., a band that played with the likes of Alice Cooper and Jimi Hendrix. He booked talent at the Greek Theatre, providing the Tubes, Talking Heads and Blondie their first major California stage experiences. He worked as an agent at ICM, representing everyone from Aerosmith to Teddy Pendergrass. In 1995, he became CEO of the about-to-be-liquidated Village Recorder studios, where Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan and Pink Floyd laid down tracks. Greenberg brought in Grammy-winning engineer Al Schmitt, and they successfully set about revitalizing the facility for the next generation—the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, Lady Gaga, Kelly Clarkson and John Mayer. In 2007, Greenberg bought the studio and the landmark 1922 Masonic Temple building in which it’s housed.

Nic Harcourt: What was the biggest thrill you had as a concert promoter?
Jeff Greenberg: Martha Graham, onstage in a chair at the Greek, telling the audience how America got the worst of dance and art because the people coming here in those days were the people who couldn’t make it in Europe. There was the time Rudolf Nureyev was on and the raccoons that lived in the proscenium came skittering out onstage all around him. At Cal Jam 2 in 1978, we were expecting 25,000 people and wound up with 300,000.

  • Glass Pear, Streets of Love
  • Telekinesis, Telekinesis
  • Division Day, Visitation
  • Spoon, Got Nuffin
  • A Fine Frenzy, Bomb In a Birdcage

Glass Pear
“My Ghost”
Streets of Love

From Wales, Yestyn Griffiths is the brother of Jem, who hit it thanks to KCRW and The O.C. His well-crafted pop has been featured on TV’s 90210 and Grey’s Anat­omy. This song confronts lost love.

For Fans Of Coldplay, Aqualung

“Coast of Carolina”

Out of Seattle comes Telekinesis, led by drummer Michael Benjamin Lerner, who in live gigs sits smack up front. This track evokes those old summer teenage nights.

For Fans Of Death Cab for Cutie, The Decemberists

Division Day

Recorded by Beck and Nine Inch Nails bass player Justin Meldal-Johnsen, Divison Day’s latest effort looks to put the band at the forefront of L.A.’s burgeoning indie scene. And it's working.

For Fans Of Great Northern, Doves

“Got Nuffin”
Got Nuffin

Led by the inimitable Britt Daniel, Austin-based Spoon returns with a three-song EP. From the title track: “And I got nothing to lose but darkness and shadows.” It's a tune for everyone stuck in the recessional rut.

For Fans Of The Shins, Arcade Fire

A Fine Frenzy
“Blow Away”
Bomb In a Birdcage

Labels have been slashing rosters, but this band, fronted by L.A.’s Alison Sudol, made the cut with a slice of sunny pop that differs from Sudol’s sparser work.

For Fans Of Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos

NH: Any standout moments from your time as an agent?
JG: Waiting with Rick Springfield before his first show at the Santa Monica Civic. Sales were dismal, and we were pretty depressed. Then an hour before the show, we walked upstairs and found the place packed with thousands of beautiful women.

NH: How bad was the state of the Village when you took over?
JG: The studio was pretty much nonfunctional. There was still some equipment, but a lot of it didn’t work. We went room by room—11 in total—and refurbished, rewired and reequipped them to be among the best in the world. Also, lore has it the Village is occupied by a ghost. Apparently there was a bass player who used to hang out and bother people, and he disappeared during the construction of studio B in the late ’60s. He’s now said to roam the hallways at night, drinking leftover booze and fixing bad bass tracks.

NH: Give me a couple of highlights of your time at the Village.
JG: Sometimes I’ve found myself walking down the antique staircase thinking I can hear the Rolling Stones in my head and realizing that it actually is the Stones, recording in one of the studios. There was also a day recently when Scottish rock band Franz Ferdinand was doing some work, and I introduced them to the guys from Spinal Tap, who were finishing their new record.

NH: Wow, what was that like?
JG: The Scottish boys were in awe, and the Spinal Tap guys just spoke in their faux Brit voices. Everyone was cracking up.