March 10 – Litt Lit Up Charts In ’90s

Today we wish a happy birthday to one of the important “behind the scenes” people of great ’80s and ’90s music. Scott Litt turns 68 today. Scott’s a producer extraordinaire…and a bit of a mystery man! Unlike say, Mutt Lange, let alone George Martin, there’s not much info about Scott out there. We presume he likes to let the music do the talking for him!

Litt says “I was a math guy in school, but once I got to the college level (in Colorado), I knew I could be a math teacher if I was lucky.” Around that time, he’d really gotten into pop and rock music and “the idea of making it seemed like a great career thing and a lot of fun.” So, in 1976 he made his way to New York, and landed an entry level job at the famous Power Station. He learned how to work tape machines and engineer the studio, by 1980 being the head engineer for Carly Simon’s Come Upstairs album. By 1982, he’d worked his way up to record producing, starting with an album by underground band The dBs. Chris Stamey of that band said “he was clearly a cut above anyone we’d been involved with.”

His reputation and skill grew. In 1985, he was called on to do some remixing and after-production for mainly British band Katrina and the Waves (a local hit in Canada, oddly enough but then virtually unknown elsewhere), including producing their re-recorded version of “Walking On Sunshine”… the record that made them international stars. Good fortune shone on him, and rising alt rock group R.E.M. then. He met up with them and produced their breakthrough album Document, and stayed with them for the next five albums… the ones which would happen to be the most successful, award-winning, multi-platinum ones of their career including Automatic for the People and Monster. He recently remixed and re-mastered the latter for the 25th Anniversary re-release, something he’d told the band “if there was ever a chance to take another shot at”, he wanted. He “decided to clear away the woolen guitar overdubs that clotted over (Michael) Stipe’s voice,” in the words of Pitchfork, something they weren’t convinced was an improvement but does show his willingness to always try to be better.

It’s well-known that R.E.M. and Nirvana were fans of one another in the early-’90s, so it’s perhaps no surprise he’d also work with Seattle’s top dogs, co-producing their In Utero album, remixing “Pennyroyal Tea” for a rather limited edition single and then co-producing their MTV Unplugged album as well. From there he worked a little with Kurt Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love and her band Hole. Add in a bit of work for the Indigo Girls, Liz Phair and the Replacements and later Incubus (producing their two biggest albums, Make Yourself and Morning View) Litt was one busy guy in the early-’90s! However, thinking big, he still started his own label, Outpost Records, in a joint venture with Geffen.

Outpost signed Canadian folk-roots rocker Hayden and put out his first two commercially-praised but small selling albums. More successful was Days of the New, another act he signed and produced. Unfortunately, the early 2000s decline in the type of alt rock Litt favored, coupled with a large signing bonus given Hayden pushed the company to bankruptcy by 2002. Since that time, Litt’s kept a low-profile although we know he has his own studio in metro L.A. and started a Recording Educational Facility for youth in Venice, California.

Litt’s own website appears to have been taken down, but we hope whatever he’s doing he’ll be doing a bit of “Walking on Sunshine” today.

11 thoughts on “March 10 – Litt Lit Up Charts In ’90s

    1. absolutely. I don’t know if they wanted to go another way or he did but they probably should have kept him around for at least one more album (‘Up’)… but that was also about when he was starting his own company.

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    1. I read the band was breaking up when he was in the studio and a lot of studio musicians were being called on rather unexpectedly… would be a chaotic situation. But he probably could have had the best shot of making them breakthrough a little.

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      1. Badfinger (Max)

        The problem with them is they would put on a show in front of producers…act like they were killing each other or whatever…just to see how they handled it. It was madness.

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    1. Very true, although in the case of ‘Monster’ not many think he really made it much better with the remixing. But at least it was different… several times along the way I’ve bought 12″ singles, even whole albums by other artists who marketed it as “remixed” and listened and had to ask “how is this even remotely different than the original?”

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      1. just like you need to be wary of director’s cut special edition movies! I don’t mean to give the wrong impression though… for the most part I wasn’t big into buying “remixes”… in the 80s I loved Depeche mode and New Order and would buy a lot of their singles but some were just asinine… name a song and you get a 12” with “single mix”, “album cut”, “shep Pettibone mix”, “flyboy mix”, “New York mix”, “dub mix”…. I was like “just pick the version you want us to hear and leave it at that!”

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