If Bryan Loren is running a little late on his debut album for Arista Records, he has a good excuse--he’s been in the studio helping write and produce songs with pop music’s most reclusive aspiring billionaire . . . Michael Jackson.
Loren isn’t alone. Working for the first time in years without longtime producer Quincy Jones, Jackson has apparently recruited a vast array of talent--much of it expensive talent--to help make his first new studio album in nearly four years.
Lee Solters, Jackson’s veteran spokesman, refused to discuss any of Jackson’s collaborators. But sources close to the Jackson camp confirmed that, in addition to Loren, the eccentric pop star has been working with two of today’s hottest producers--Teddy Riley and the team of L.A. Reid and Babyface. (Riley, who is supposed to working exclusively on records for his new MCA-distributed label, won permission from MCA to work on the Jackson project in return for MCA’s receiving a share of his royalty payments.)
At 24, Loren is still a relative pop unknown, best known for writing, producing and playing virtually all the instruments on Bart Simpson’s hit, “Do the Bartman.” He has also produced an album for Shanice Wilson, worked on Sting’s single “We’ll Be Together” and written “Feels So Good,” the B-side of Whitney Houston’s “Baby Tonight” single.
He says Jackson approached him through an intermediary, saying he had liked the Wilson album. The two got together and began working in the studio last summer. “I’ve basically been on call,” says Loren, who is playing all the instruments on his own album. “I was in the studio with Michael just last week. It wreaks a little havoc with your life, because you never know when he’s going to call. But it’s a great opportunity, so I’m making adjustments.”
With Jackson bringing in so many heavy hitters, Loren is a bit unsure how much of his co-production work will make the final cut. “Michael and I have done 10 or 15 songs together, but he’s got a lot of songs, so who knows how much of my stuff will survive?”
So what’s Jackson like in the studio? “He’s no studio wuss ,” says Loren. “He knows exactly what he wants. If we’re working on one of my songs, he’s more open to bouncing ideas around and experimenting. But if it’s one of his songs, he’s very exact. He’ll sing you each part--the chord progressions, the strings, the bass line and drum parts. He’s got everything in his head.”
While Loren acknowledges that Jackson has developed a reputation as a humorless celebrity kook, he insists it’s a misconception. “The real Michael Jackson is a raging crazy man,” he says. “That’s the side of him people never get to see. We’ve had a great time in the studio--it’s more like a vacation than work. He’s really a lot of fun.”
Michael Jackson--a wild and crazy guy? “He’s really funny,” Loren says. “One day I was talking to the engineer and Michael was sitting behind him, pretending not to be watching. And then suddenly he’d start to cross his eyes and make faces at me, just to make me laugh.”
If a couple of Loren’s songs end up on the final album, the young writer-producer will be laughing all the way to the bank. “I’d be one lucky guy,” he says. “Hey, it could set me up for life. And my kids too!”