From the category archives:

Music Photos and Stories

Mr. Bonzai’s “FACES of MUSIC: 25 Years of Lunching with Legends”, long out of print, is now available in a new hi-res digital  edition. The original coffee table hardback edition published in 2006 has been converted to a striking digital edition by BookBaby and is now available at the Apple Book Store: and at Amazon for the Kindle:

FACES of MUSIC: 25 Years of Lunching With Legends

“Mr. Bonzai takes you through the inner sanctum of the recording industry to meet artists, producers, and engineers who have shaped modern music.”
- Phil Ramone, producer (Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Frank Sinatra)

This insightful and inspiring anthology features over 400 photographs and 160 interviews with popular music artists, songwriters, producers, and recording engineers including Jimmy Buffet, Ed Cherney, Leonard Cohen, DEVO, Geoff Emerick, Peter Gabriel, Herbie Hancock, Eddie Kramer, k.d. lang, David Lynch, George Massenburg, George Martin, Robert Moog, Willie Nelson, Carlos Santana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Al Schmitt, Bruce Swedien, Don Was, Brian Wilson, Stevie Wonder, and Frank Zappa.

“In brilliant words and images, Mr. Bonzai digs deeply into the fine art of making music.” – Ray Manzarek, The Doors

On September 29, 1967, Mr. Bonzai attended his very first recording session at the invitation of John Lennon. The location was London’s EMI Studios, now Abbey Road, and the song was “I Am The Walrus”. In attendance were George, Paul, Ringo, producer George Martin, and engineer Ken Scott. This privileged session with the most influential rock band in history set the stage for a life exploring the world of music and recording. In 1980, Mr. Bonzai settled in Hollywood to begin this collection of photographs and words of wisdom and wit.

Pictured (L-R) are Phil Ramone, Herbie Hancock, Alan Parsons, Mr. Bonzai. George Martin, and Father Guido Sarducci. Photo by Eric Slomanson.

Pictured (L-R) are Phil Ramone, Herbie Hancock, Alan Parsons, Mr. Bonzai. George Martin, and Father Guido Sarducci. Photo by Eric Slomanson.

Mr. Bonzai is an award-winning photographer, music journalist and author. He has written over 1,000 articles for magazines in the U.S., Europe and Asia, and has published numerous books, including “Studio Life” (1984), “Hal Blaine and The Wrecking Crew” (1992) “The Sound of Money” (2000) “Faces of Music” (2006) “Music Smarts” (2009) and “John Lennon’s Tooth” (2012). His articles and photos have appeared in Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Billboard, Mix, EQ, Music Connection, Keyboard, Daily Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Los Angeles magazine, Disney Channel Magazine, Sound & Recording, and Relix, among others.

View a sample and order, $9.99:


How I met the Beatles, Thanks to Dorothy  johnlennonstooth

In September of 1967, I walked up to John Lennon’s home south of London. John was asleep, but his housekeeper, Dorothy, let me wait in his garage until he awoke. John came out and invited me in. We spoke about meditation, movies, and music and he invited me to drive into London in his Rolls-Royce, where I witnessed my very first recording session. It was “I Am The Walrus.”

44 Years later, I read online about John’s tooth coming up for auction, offered by the family of Dorothy, who was now 91 years old. I couldn’t believe it. She was the lady who altered my destiny, and she was still alive. We had our first meeting via Skype and I finally was able to thank her. Then she told me her story, which has never been published before, about life at home with John and his family, teaching John how to drive, and other anecdotes from back in the day.

Click to get a preview on Amazon, iTunes, Nook, Kobo.  Approx. 30 pages with photos and excerpts from my journal at Abbey Road.

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The new 50th Anniversary Beach Boys album, “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” debuted at #3 on the Billboard chart — the band’s best ever debut and a milestone in their chart-topping history.  On the very last day of sessions at Ocean Way, I was privileged to be the only photographer on hand.

(L-R) Al Jardine, David Marks, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston.  Photo by David Goggin.

(L-R) Al Jardine, David Marks, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston. Photo by David Goggin.

The producer sits at the console in Studio A control room.

The producer sits at the console in Studio A control room. Photo by David Goggin.

For millions of Beach Boys fans spanning multiple generations, the Beach Boys 50th Anniversary Tour and new album, “That’s Why God Made The Radio,” represents a dream come true.  Beach Boys Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, David Marks, and Jeffrey Foskett (dubbed Vice Principal by the group) recently completed recording sessions at Los Angeles’ famed Ocean Way Recording for the band’s 29th studio album, the first in decades to feature all of the band’s surviving original members.

During the official video I make a split-second cameo appearance here.

Pictured in Ocean Way’s historic Studio A are Beach Boys (L-R) Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, “Vice Principal” Jeffrey Foskett, Mike Love, David Marks, and Bruce Johnston.  Photo by David Goggin.

Pictured in Ocean Way’s historic Studio A are Beach Boys (L-R) Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, “Vice Principal” Jeffrey Foskett, Mike Love, David Marks, and Bruce Johnston. Photo by David Goggin.

Brian works out a part at the piano with (L-R) Al, Bruce, and Jeffrey.  Photo by David Goggin.

Brian works out a part at the piano with (L-R) Al, Bruce, and Jeffrey. Photo by David Goggin.

Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 and recipients of The Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement GRAMMY Award, The Beach Boys are a beloved American institution that remains iconic around the world.

It’s really a beautiful  Beach Boys tour de force and the first album in decades that I’ve listened to repeatedly.  It’s full of the spirit of Summer, but all things must come to an end.  Enjoy it while you can!


THIS JUST IN: new “Internet Leak” from Al, a White Stripes spoof called CNR:

Coinciding with my interview with “Weird Al” Yankovic appearing in RELIX magazine, now on the newstands, I have just posted my new BonzFire Film of the conversation (scroll down for the links).   Here is an excerpt from the text interview:

There is a great tradition of musical parody in the history of American culture.  Such stars as Spike Jones and Stan Freberg achieved huge success through their talent for mocking the classic pop songs of the day.  “Weird Al” Yankovic is today’s reigning king of pop parody, gifted as a comedian, recording artist, concert performer and video director.

In the summer of 2009, Al decided to release four new songs individually as singles on June 16, July 14, August 4 and August 25.  These four and others will be included on his next album, slated to be released in 2010.  It was during the recording of these “singles” that we met up with Al at Westlake Recording Studios, and then again at Bernie Grundman Mastering.

BONZAI: These days are you recording analog or digital?
YANKOVIC: Now I am recording full digital.  For a long time I was deferring to the audiophiles who said there was something about analog tape.  There probably is, but I can’t hear it.  Most people today listen to crunchy MP3s or YouTube versions of songs and seem to be more inclined to getting music that is convenient as opposed to sonically superior.  But having said that, I just enjoy working with digital more.  It’s more convenient, more flexible.  I do not miss the tape.

Click to view the filmed interview in HD on YouTube and at MIX magazine.

To view more of the text interview, visit my Berklee College of Music Blog.

Read my interview with Al in Relix Magazine:  WeirdAl_MrB_RELIX

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During this 25th Anniversary of the film and album This is Spinal Tap, the band has reunited to set the record straight, once and for all.  What a stupendous relief for the countless fans who empathized with Tap’s well-documented fall from grace and money.  All of the original album has been re-recorded along with much anticipated never-released material.  Tracking took place at The Village in LA with engineer Ed Cherney and longtime Tap collaborator CJ Vanston producing.  Guest artists include Phil Collen of Def Leppard; John Mayer; Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer; and Steve Vai.

Cherney mixed half of the thunderous new album at his Studio Ed at The Village while Vanston mixed the ear-splitting remainder at his studio, The Treehouse.  Mastering was done by Gavin Lurssen with publicist Bobbi Fleckman peering over his shoulder, while the worldwide media onslaught is being orchestrated by the ambitious Paul “Big Iggy” Ignasinski ( ).

Vanston explains, “Spinal Tap is re-recording the entire first album because they thought the original album was a hatchet job, just like the movie.”  With worldwide attention focused on Tap’s triumphant independent release of Back From the Dead on The Label Industry Records, a RockBand 2 music video game in the works, and a one-stop World Tour planned for London’s Wembley Stadium, this is surely one of the most anticipated juggernauts of comic/tragic music mayhem ever conceived and/or executed!

And now, join me at The Village with the blond and effervescent David St. Hubbins, the master of the big bottom bass Derek Smalls, the moody yet severely gifted Nigel Tufnel, and the natty tweakster CJ Vanston.

Read the entire story published in Mix magazine: spinaltap_by_mrb.

Read a great review of MUSIC SMARTS by Barry Rudolph for Music Connection here.


I’ve seen Ross Hogarth at work many times and he is not only smart, he’s got a lot of heart.  He creates a roomful of comfort, with special considerations for each of the musicians.  It’s a pleasure you can feel in the music he’s recorded with artists such as REM, Ziggy Marley, Keb Mo, Jewel, Melissa Etheridge, John Mellencamp, John Fogerty, and Motley Crüe.

Ross Hogarth in his Boogie Motel

Ross Hogarth in his BoogieMotel. Photo by Mr. Bonzai

Hogarth continues to work at the finest studios around, but as a result of the massive changes in our recording industry, he has created a personal workspace in his LA rancho which he calls BoogieMotel.  He has a wealth of vintage outboard gear, mic-pre’s and microphones, plus a powerful computer supplied with an impressive arsenal of plug-ins.  He selects the gear depending on the project.
Hogarth is a master of old school analog recording and he has utilized that knowledge in creating digital product that has an uncanny analog touch.  Let’s talk recording with him and delve into the technology and philosophy.

BONZAI: What is your philosophy of mixing?
HOGARTH: I have always believed in the song and the muse. My philosophy of mixing is found in the same place of certainty as in recording, but even more so. Honor the song. The mix is the last stop before mastering. I have complete control by then on the direction of the song. Sonically the picture I paint has to be aligned with the intention of the song. This is where I can’t let any technology or misuse or abuse of it get in the way.

If you would like to read the whole magilla, click here: 053109hogarthsotryphotos.


Last Friday, we visited “Weird Al” Yankovic in the studio.  Al’s most recent parody is “Whatever You Like,” which can be downloaded from various music services by going to the offiical Yankovic website. Just click on his site to the right in my “Friends” category.  This tune is from Al’s forthcoming album, and he is currently recording 4 new tracks, which he will make available as Singles this summer.

The reason for this visit was to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of my first meeting with Al, when he was recording “Dare To Be Stupid.”  This time around, I brought my new film company, Bonzfire Films, to the studio for a multi-camera interview, plus a rapid-fire session for supplemental still photos. In one brief minute, Al did 30 A-to-Z portraits: the Many Faces of Al.   We are putting this together and will reveal the results in the not-too-distant future. Other projects soon to appear include an exclusive film interview with the members of Spinal Tap and their music producer CJ Vanston.  All I can say is that if you thought Derek, David and Nigel were grouchy in the past, they bring new meanings to the words: bad-tempered, testy, grumpy, crabby, peevish, cantankarous, irritable, petulant, snappish, and veddy ill-tempered.  But somehow, they are still lovable.  Especially David St. Hubbins, who reveals an attempt by his mother to make him a Castrati, because of his beautiful pre-adolescent choir boy voice.

Here is a photo of my Bonzfire partner, KamranV, and “Weird Al” during a  heated discussion on the set.  It seems that Al’s bagel didn’t arrive with the special goat cream cheese with capers and sun-dried kumquats, as stipulated in the contract rider.  Luckily, I have contacts with the Very Happy Goat Farms on Catalina Island, and they delivered the cheese to the Big Cheese by helicoptor.  042609_kv_weirdal1

By the way, KamranV has been nominated as a Governor of the Recording Academy, Los Angeles Chapter.  If you are a Grammy® voting member, I heartily encourage you to cast your vote for Kamran.  He’s an amazing music producer, filmmaker, new media expert and he would certainly bring some fresh new ideas to the organization.


Just Kiddin’
“Usually, when I forget the lyrics, I just pretend to mouth the words for a few seconds, then I tap the microphone a couple times and glare angrily at the sound engineer.”
—“Weird Al” Yankovic

Order the book here.

For some “Weird Al” from the vaults, visit my Berkleemusic Blog.



Ace recording engineer/mixer Jim Scott may be one of the best examples of a disappearing breed.  He started his career in the analog days as a gofer at Record Plant LA and worked his way up through the traditional tiers from janitor to assistant engineer, and eventually “super-assistant.”  His first gig as a fledgling solo engineer was for Sting’s solo debut, The Dream of the Blue Turtles, an album which earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Engineered album.  Not a bad start.

Jim Scott is pictured in his new Plyrz Studios.  Click to enlarge.

Jim Scott is pictured in his new Plyrz Studios. Click to enlarge.

When Scott’s home base at Cello Studios (formerly a division of Ocean Way) closed down in 2005, he took a radical turn in his career and built his own studio in a brand new warehouse building on the outskirts of LA.  For a PDF of the story which appeared in Mix magazine, click here:  902mix38_jimscott_dp6.

Got MUSIC SMARTS by Mr. Bonzai ?

The Inside Truth and Road-Tested Wisdom from the Brightest Minds in the Music Business

You can Look Inside the book and order at: .

and find excerpts about Jack Johnson at my Berkleemusic blog .


Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson

The Surfer’s Path   surfers_path_jack-johnson1

Mix magazine    jack-johnson-instudio1

SchoolJam auf Deutsch   jack_johnson_mrb_german1




Ozomatli is a celebration waiting to happen – a fiery brew of jazz-funk, Latin salsa, and urban hip-hop. Basic tracks for their album, “Don’t Mess With the Dragon,” were recorded in Ocean Way’s Studio B with engineer Robert Carranza and KC Porter, who wrote and co-produced with the band. The project was completed at KC Porter’s private studio, Worldbeat Recording, in the Santa Monica Mountains, and then mixed by Serban Ghenea in Virginia. This photo essay was originally published in Mix magazine, February, 2007.

To see the PDF, click here:   ozomatli