Richard Dashut

This biography was written by Lesley A. Thode

I think that the highest qualities that a producer and engineer can have are sensitivity and understanding. Being able to listen to and absorb what the artist is trying to express instead of making the artist fit into a preconceived mold of how the engineer or producer thinks they should sound. They must free their professional egos to allow them to become open to the song and the artist. The music can tell you what it needs." Working by that philosophy, and combined with his dynamic and affable personality, Richard Dashut earned the respect and deep friendship of the members of Fleetwood Mac as a co-producer of every studio Fleetwood Mac album from 1977 to 1987, and 1995's Time.

Richard Dashut was born in West Hollywood in 1951. He studied philosophy and psychology at the University of Las Vegas, but quit school and returned to Los Angeles harboring hopes, but no concrete plans, for breaking into movies or music. Richard found himself working at Crystal Sound recording studios in Hollywood as a janitor, where he "wasn't even allowed in the control room except to vacuum and empty the ashtrays." Keith Olsen, then head engineer at Sound City Studios, hired Dashut and eventually gave him the opportunity to learn engineering. "I remember the first time I walked into the control room and saw these tremendous speakers and tape machines and this big board with all these knobs - I hadn't a clue as to what it was all about. It was so far above me. It was such a long-range goal that it kept me going. The fact that I had to start from scratch and grow into something, combined with the marvel of the equipment, made me realize that this was what I wanted to do. Here was a chance to combine what I enjoyed doing - listening to music and hanging around musicians - with a career which I hoped I could one day make money at. I never dreamed that I would ever make money at this business; it wasn't my initial intention."

Fortuitously, shortly after starting at Sound City, Richard met a young musical duo with whom he'd form long lasting personal and musical bonds. "My first job at Sound City was to paint the control room. On the second day of the job there was a gentleman standing in the corner with his girlfriend smoking a joint, and because I like smoking joints myself, I went and joined them and we became instant friends. That couple was Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks . . . . This was about a year before the Buckingham Nicks LP came out. They had been up north in a band called Fritz and had done a few demos with Keith when they decided to go off on their own. They were trying to cut a record deal. It took a year, but it finally happened." Buckingham, Nicks and Dashut became housemates and shared an apartment in North Hollywood. Dashut also worked as second engineer on the duo's 1973 debut album, Buckingham Nicks, produced by Olsen.

Richard eventually got his own place, but after the commercial failure of Buckingham Nicks, a broke Lindsey and Stevie moved in with him once again. They worked on demos -- "I'm So Afraid," "Rhiannon," "Monday Morning," "Landslide" - between Richard's long days at the studio, Lindsey's odds jobs and session work, and Stevie's waitressing. "Lindsey had an Ampex 4-track and he set up a studio in my bedroom. It was delightful after spending all day in the studio to come home to more music. I had to sleep between the editing block and one of the empty reels," Richard recalls blithely.

Dashut continued work as a second engineer for a few years, where among other things, he mixed the Bachman-Turner Overdrive album, Not Fragile, with engineer Mark Smith. But he jumped at the chance to rejoin his friends, Buckingham and Nicks, as the live sound mixer for the band they joined in early 1975, Fleetwood Mac. "I got a call from Lindsey and he asked me if I wanted to go on the road to mix sounds for their concerts. So, I had this important decision to make - do I give up all of this, or do I go on the road and eat? I made my decision before Lindsey was finished asking the question. And for a whole year, some ninety shows, I did the sound for the Fleetwood Mac tour in late '75 and '76."

Although Richard had no experience mixing live sound, he jumped in and learned through "trial and ordeal. Mostly ordeal, since my job description also included driving the band and handling their luggage as well." He also remembers some of the more comical aspects of travelling with Fleetwood Mac during that period. "There wasn't much money and we mostly traveled in station wagons . . . Lindsey and I would be in the lead wagon with the luggage, smoking joints with the windows rolled up and listening to the radio. LOUD. It was like a Cheech and Chong movie. [John] Courage would be driving the rest of the band behind us." As the new guy, breaking into the already established Fleetwood Mac road crew was a chore which subjected Richard to an initiation early in the tour that included ransacking his hotel room, but by all accounts, he took it with good humor.

As Fleetwood Mac began
Richard Dashut & Ken Caillat
Richard Dashut & Ken Caillat
work on Rumours in Sausalito, California in 1976, an uncertain Richard was drafted into production. "I was really just hanging around keeping Lindsey company, then Mick takes me into the parking lot and puts his arm around my shoulders and says, 'Guess what? You're producing the album.' The funny thing was, I never really wanted to be a producer. I brought in a producer from Wally Heider's studio in Los Angeles, Ken Caillat, to help me, and we started co-producing. Mick gave each [of us] an old Chinese I-Ching coin and said, 'Good luck.'" It took some adjustment, but Dashut and Caillat figured out their roles. "[Ken] is much more technically able than I will ever be . . . . My gift is communication - being able to work with people. I know when something feels right even though I do not have the ability to sit down and work out a musical passage myself. As it worked out, I assumed the role of producer - communicating with the band, providing input, keeping things going - and Ken sat behind the board on my left where the input modules were, so he was more the engineer."

The band's inner-turmoil from romantic breakups and drug use made the nine-month recording process emotionally harrowing and exhausting at times, but in spite of that, or perhaps fueled by that, Rumours became a blockbuster, selling more albums than had ever previously been sold by any artist. "Our personal lives were in shambles and the album was about the only thing we had left. We were huddled up in this little house in Sausalito working 18 hours a day and our only release was our work, so we were going to make sure that at least that was going to work out right. We put everything we had into that album." The album took Fleetwood Mac to the top of the charts for months on end and established them as a supergroup. "If you want to know the truth, Rumours is the first album I've ever co-produced on my own and one of the first times I had engineered on my own. I'm not kidding. It's gross, isn't it? It's silly. What did you expect, heavyweights?" he joked. Today, Rumours remains one of the top selling albums of all time.

Dashut downplayed his role in the success of the album, redirecting attention to the band. "The credits will read: Produced by Fleetwood Mac with Richard Dashut and Ken Caillat. As far as the band goes, musically they are the only geniuses around here. They produce themselves when it comes to what they want in sounds and arrangements. As far as organization is concerned, the details, making suggestions, keeping things running and the instruments tuned, we have that responsibility." But in 1998, professor and author Dan Levitan summarized the success of Rumours and credited Dashut and Caillat for their substantial roles: "The phenomenal success of Rumours is most probably the result of good, solid songwriting and great performances, but it is tremendously well-produced and engineered as well. The open transparency of the recording was created by the producers paying incredible attention to acoustic detail, and finding a unique place in the frequency spectrum for each instrument. It is Dashut's, Caillat's (and Buckingham's uncredited) genius that the instruments somehow blend with each other musically, while remaining separate sonically. . . . Throughout the landmark album, parts swim in and out of consciousness effortlessly. While the Beatles were famous for the technique of bringing in instruments to play one crucial part and then disappear, Fleetwood Mac perfected it."

After Rumours, Dashut co-produced Fleetwood Mac's Tusk (1979),
Mirage
Mirage - Fleetwood Mac
Mirage (1982), Tango In The Night (1987), Time (1995), and co-wrote several songs with Buckingham that appeared on Mirage and Tango In The Night. Aside from his work with the band collectively, Richard and Lindsey co-produced two of Buckingham's solo albums, Law and Order (1981), and Out of the Cradle (1992), co-writing several of the songs on the latter. He and Mick co-produced Fleetwood's solo projects, The Visitor (1981), traveling with him to Ghana, Africa; and I'm Not Me (1983). Additionally, Christine McVie enlisted him to co-produce her remake of "Can't Help Falling in Love" for the movie "A Fine Mess" in 1985.

Richard and Lindsey also teamed as co-producers for other artists, like Walter Egan for his 1977 album, Not Shy, and for some tracks on The Dream Academy's 1987 album, Remembrance Days. In 1992, Buckingham expounded on Dashut's talents: "Richard's great with the big picture. I can get lost in details sometimes and he'll walk in and cut through that. Also, he can sit down with a guitar and come up with a great seed for a song. He just has a general, good sensibility about things. He's also my best friend, and that helps a lot." Buckingham and Dashut also shared a home for some years, as did Dashut and Fleetwood.

Dashut has also had considerable critical success as a producer outside of the Fleetwood Mac family of artists. He co-produced Matthew Sweet's 1993 album, Altered Beast, and earned the same respect and affection in that role, as he'd earned from Fleetwood Mac and it's members. "I liked him and thought it would be a fun choice and we got along really well. That's what I look for in someone to work on a record with; somebody I get along with and feel relaxed around, who can encourage me to do whatever," says Sweet of the experience. Some of the other artists Dashut has worked with include The Shoes and Bob Welch.

In the 1990s, Dashut started the Orchard Music Group label with partner David Eike to create an outlet for artists seeking a means of expression, but finding themselves on the outside of the increasingly exclusive, commercial structure of the industry. Currently, Richard is Vice President of A & R (and Ken Caillat is President of Digital Production Services) at 5.1 Entertainment Group, a company dedicated to producing and promoting digital music.


Thanks to Lesley Thode for writing this biography
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