Noah Goldstein
Photo by Thomas Welch

Noah Goldstein: “I’ve always trusted my taste”

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Short Profile

Name: Noah Goldstein
DOB: 9 January 1982
Place of birth: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Occupation: Music producer

Mr. Goldstein, as a music producer for artists like Kanye West, Drake, and Pusha T, is your creativity your own — or does it only exist within the boundaries of someone else’s ideas?

I think about that all the time! I think it’s a combination. Collaboration is a huge part of making music to me. We can get to goals quicker. There’s strength in numbers when it comes to music. I think there’s ideas that I have that are spurred on by others, and there’s ideas that I have that are mine. Sometimes an artist’s song will spur ideas for external things as well like the marketing campaign or the album cover. I can bring ideas to the table for people that I’m super happy to share because I think they are better in their hands than mine, you know?

Mark Ronson said that if an idea is good, he is happy just to be able to make it with an artist that will do it justice.

Right, as a producer, I’m helping others, I’m in more of a service position.

So you aren’t precious with your ideas?

No, I love being open with my ideas. I think it’s just about who it suits best. I’m super happy to give my ideas away to other people, especially if it’s a good one. As a producer, I think you have to be as objective as possible. If I’m a good producer, I should be able to produce myself. And I don’t mean that in a musical way, I mean that in a human being way: I should be able to produce myself into the best human being that I can be. I feel like that’s what I try to bring to the table, an objective point of view where I can help people get their ideas accomplished in the way they want to accomplish them.

“I like getting older because the more experience I have, the more valuable I feel like I am.”

Does all of that lend you a more authoritative voice in the studio?

That’s a good question. I don’t like the word authority. I’ll say that it’s more about experience. I think people will respect you more following a certain amount of experience and — I don’t like this word either but I can’t think of a better synonym — success. People will end up respecting your opinion more. I like getting older because the more experience I have, the more valuable I feel like I am. I’m kind of a loud mouth; I will give you every opinion that I have and I’m pretty passionate about my opinions. I bring that experience and know-how, the technical knowledge, the musical knowledge, the business knowledge.

Apparently when you got your first job at Electric Lady Studios, they just threw you in and you learned while you worked. How do you garner respect when you don’t yet have the kind of experience and success that you mentioned?

Well, everybody has to cut their teeth, right? I don’t want to say there was no respect but early on, one thing that’s told to engineers coming up in the industry, especially working in studios, is to speak when spoken to — basically just shut your mouth. They give you stock answers to give to artists, like if somebody asked me what I thought of this beat, you were supposed to say something like, “Whatever you think, I think is best.” But then as I got more confident in my own technical abilities over the years, I got to thinking about it, like, how is that going to help? How has that ever helped anyone in history to just be totally subservient?

It hasn’t.

Exactly! So I was in the studio one day and somebody asked me what I thought and I’m pretty sure I said something to the effect of, “I think this is fucking terrible.” And that was the first time anybody really listened to me because they understood that I was being real and honest.

Have you always had that level of trust in your own tastes?

Yeah, I’ve always trusted my taste, that’s for sure. I have no idea why. I always just felt like there has to be at least one other person who likes the same thing I like, you know? And when I look back on ideas that I’ve really pushed for, I’ve gotten this immediate feedback from a giant mass public who say that was the right decision. That’s easy. Then it’s much easier to say, “Oh, I trust my taste.”

What about when you push for an idea and the response has been bad — or maybe that hasn’t happened for you?

Well, I think — no, it’s definitely happened. (Laughs) It happens to all of us! We all fall from grace eventually, and if people don’t like something I do, I like for them to hate it. Because then it worked, like, we evoked that emotion for people. And I love that. I don’t give a fuck if people don’t like it as long as they hate it. I try to always keep the music in the front of my mind. It’s the music that matters. Look, I’m at the point in my life where I will say this without being bashful about it: obviously if you get rich off of what you’re doing, that’s dope for you. That’s helpful in the pursuit of the rest of your life. But I do this because I love this. I live and breathe it.

“I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning things and I don’t think I’ll ever feel complete in my journey. And I don’t care to!”

Can you recall the moment when you first started thinking about music in a way that went beyond simply listening to it?

I’ll keep it real — and this is really funny to me, but I saw an episode of Behind the Music and it was Dre and Snoop on VH1. Dre was behind the boards and… It might have been “Still D.R.E.” or “Gin and Juice,” but he was directing Snoop and I just looked at him like, “That’s what I want to do!” And for me, it was just about somebody that obviously loves music more than anything. He was a DJ first, and I was a DJ first also. I mean, I’m not trying to parallel myself with him, I’m just saying! The parallels probably end there. (Laughs) Another one was OK Computer by Radiohead, like, sonically when I first heard that, I couldn’t even understand how they made that, it just sounded insane to me.

Has your connection to music changed since you made it your job?

Yes, very much. I love listening to all kinds of music, every day I listen to all kinds of new stuff. But I analyze it totally differently now. Making records has definitely changed my whole perspective. It is sometimes really hard for me to listen to music all the time, like in the car… I like silence in the car! I do so much research and I spend so much time listening to music that I need a break from it. These days I’ll do anything in pursuit of good ideas or ideas that can connect. I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning things and I don’t think I’ll ever feel complete in my journey. And I don’t care to! I’m very happy in my personal life so… Everything else is a bonus.