misha mansoor Jennifer Decilveo producers
[Photos via: Jennifer Decilveo/Wikimedia Commons, Misha Mansoor/Wikimedia Commons]

15 music producers who made major career moves with their early work

In the music world, everybody has to start somewhere. While a producer’s early albums are their proving ground for a bright future in the field, they also need luck on their side to find a successful band and a scene-changing album to springboard the rest of their career into the stratosphere.

From legendary production masters to the next generation of talent behind the desk with a few musician-goes-producers in the mix, these LPs are must-listens. We’ve collated 15 albums where producers made their mark with their early works, from pop to black metal. 

Read more: 12 influential early 2000s metalcore albums that shaped the genre

Geoff Rickly: My Chemical Romance – I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love

Better known as the emo mastermind behind Thursday, Geoff Rickly’s production debut was a pivotal moment in the genre’s development, stepping behind the deck to bring My Chemical Romance’s first venture, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, to life. That same vivid, unpolished intensity that bleeds through Thursday’s Full Collapse from the year before wound up structuring the beating, bleeding heart of MCR’s introduction to the scene in 2002. In fact, they released under the same label—Eyeball Records—as their New Jersey peers to establish an intent that’s stuck with the emo icons ever since. In more ways than one, there would be no MCR without Thursday and Rickly’s contribution.

Jennifer Decilveo: Melanie Martinez – Cry Baby

Armed with writing credits for Machine Gun Kelly, Demi Lovato and Miley Cyrus, it’s no surprise that Jennifer Decilveo’s turn behind the production desk crafted Melanie Martinez’s sensational debut, Cry Baby, in 2015. Co-penning the iconic “Play Date” alongside Martinez, Decilveo takes a particular interest in bringing forward the female voices of her generation, lending her production talents to the likes of Beth Ditto, MARINA and Anne-Marie at the start of an already prolific and landscape-changing career.

Terry Date: Metal Church – Metal Church

Metal production mastermind Terry Date started his career on solid ground with Metal Church’s self-titled 1984 voyage into the genre’s vibrant golden age. Bringing the San Francisco outfit’s charged riffs to life and opening the stage for one of metal’s enduring mainstays, this album became a springboard for Date’s meteoric rise through the ranks. It even led to crafting Pantera’s iconic Cowboys From Hell and supporting the careers of Slipknot, Soundgarden and Deftones. As if that weren’t enough, you can also thank Date for Funeral For A Friend’s Hours and Bring Me The Horizon’s Sempiternal. Let’s be honest: Your album isn’t truly phenomenal unless it’s been touched by the magic hands of Terry Date. 

WondaGurl: Travis Scott – Rodeo

Whole album production credits are so 2020. With the fast-moving musical climate of today, producers find their feet with single song credits and climb the ladder that way. The partial credit method works wonders for WondaGurl, a rap production star who’s since garnered credits with Drake, Kid Cudi and Lil Uzi Vert for over a decade. Lending her sharp production eye to Travis Scott’s output many times over the years, 2015’s debut full-length Rodeo offered the most contributions and cemented WondaGurl as a dependable, supportive producer with a flair for present-day rap sensibilities.

Jason Suecof: Trivium – Ember To Inferno

Most metal producers come from humble beginnings, starting from the bottom and working their way up the ladder in an orderly fashion… Jason Suecof had other ideas. Establishing his production sideline to then-band Capharnaum, Suecof opened for business with Trivium’s debut outing, Ember To Inferno, a comprehensive, no-holds-barred foray into the extraordinary talents of a band who quickly became one of metal’s most beloved frontrunners. Clearly winning the lottery on producer’s gifts, Suecof has since bestowed his magic on bruising works by Job For A Cowboy, Carnifex and the Black Dahlia Murder, with the odd dive into the industrial scene for Motionless In White’s Infamous and the Defiled’s Daggers to top it all off. Whatever subgenre, metal is in safe hands with Jason Suecof.

Linda Perry: P!nk – M!ssundaztood

As if taking the mic as frontlady for alternative rockers 4 Non Blondes in the 1990s and a storming solo career wasn’t enough, multitalented musical titan Linda Perry has also produced some of the most iconic pop songs in the charts. After grounding her roots in the producer’s chair, Perry worked on P!nk’s blockbusting 2001 sophomore release, M!ssundaztood, writing and producing “Get The Party Started.” The rest of her hit-making career is history. Holding credits for Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” (songwriting/production) and “What You Waiting For?” by Gwen Stefani (songwriting), Perry earned a reputation as the good luck charm for earworm chart contenders that would live on well beyond their time.

Misha Mansoor: Animals As Leaders – Animals As Leaders

The mastermind behind Periphery’s progressive-metal revolution, Misha Mansoor has kept the artistic vision of the band and his solo career Bulb in-house by producing both himself. Alongside his own output, Mansoor joined production forces with Animals As Leaders for their self-titled debut in 2009, bringing along his first-hand knowledge of the time and care it takes to nurture prog metal from concept to track without losing its thread along the way. Months later, Mansoor accepted the challenge to spread his production wings to Stray From The Path’s Make Your Own History. That lead to credits with Volumes and Veil Of Maya, cementing the value of a producer who speaks from experience.

Sylvia Massy: Tool – Opiate EP

Whether we like it or not, female producers are hard to come by. In a scene still dominated by male figures and outdated ideals to this day, the rise of a producer like Sylvia Massy is a testament to her talents behind the desk. From fronting punk outfit Revolver to producing metal’s brightest stars, Massy’s remarkable career began in the studio with metal giants Tool on their first and only EP, Opiate, in 1992. An awe-striking intro to what would become metal’s most intense and engaging groups, this relationship with the great minds led to Massy’s further work with Maynard James Keenan’s side project and precursor to Tool, Green Jellÿ, and opened her career to future collaborations with Skunk Anansie, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Avatar, System Of A Down and… Kylie Minogue? Metal really can lead you anywhere.

Tom Morello: Primus – Antipop

Changing the musical landscape with Rage Against The Machine was only one of legendary guitarist Tom Morello’s many career branches. The producer’s desk came calling in 1999 for Primus’ quirky but no less battering sixth album, Antipop. Holding a partial production credit for The Crow’s official soundtrack in 1994, this shift to a full record commitment led to yet another notch in the belt for one of rock’s most active members. Working on Anti-Flag’s The Terror State and Cypress Hill’s Rise Up, Morello’s two musical worlds collide in a production career we’d love to hear more from in the future.

Grimes: Grimes – Geidi Primes

Let’s face it: The only person who could truly produce Grimes’ genreless, out-of-this-world approach and keep its authentic style could only be Grimes. The multimedia marvel began her colorful career by establishing herself as the full package, an artist with complete musical independence and the freedom to command her own output instead of passing her material into the hands of others. As a result, her deep conceptual debut, Geidi Primes, is every bit as surreal and authentic as her original vision.

Eirik “Pytten” Hundvin: Burzum – Burzum

Norwegian black metal would likely have arrived on the scene with a distinctly reduced bite if it weren’t for the contributions of producer Eirik Hundvin, also known as Pytten. Establishing his reputation for bringing a raw edge to the fledgling genre, by the time Burzum’s self-titled debut arrived in 1992, Hundvin’s knack for showcasing black metal took his career skyward. He immediately moved on to craft Immortal’s first effort, Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism, months later. Pytten’s long-standing relationship with genre frontrunner Burzum continued alongside his production credits for Aeternus, Enslaved, Emperor and Gorgoroth. If anybody knows the meandering waves of success for a genre that’s enjoyed unexpected global success, it’s Pytten.

Catherine Marks: Wolf Alice – Creature Songs EP

The surge in popularity of British alternative rock in the 2010s brought about the rise of producer Catherine Marks. She commenced a bright career behind the desk with Wolf Alice’s surreal Creature Songs EP in 2014, bringing out the best in the British outfit’s grunge-tinged style. Hopping between production and mixing over the last decade, Marks has garnered credits for Death Cab For Cutie and Coheed And Cambria while lending her production talents to Frank Turner’s No Man’s Land.

Joey Sturgis: The Devil Wears Prada – Dear Love: A Beautiful Discord

Introducing the Devil Wears Prada to the world is no small feat, let alone welcoming them with a debut record as visceral and hungry as Dear Love: A Beautiful Discord way back in 2006. Joey Sturgis’ palpable adoration for the metalcore genre and production that sounds as intense as on a live stage has gone from strength to strength in the years since. He’s garnered producing credits for the likes of blessthefall, We Came As Romans, Miss May I and even a few Punk Goes records along the way. The man behind the production of Asking Alexandria’s career between Stand Up And Scream and The Black, a credit from Sturgis is a sure sign of success in the genre.

Steph Marziano: Hayley Williams – Petals For Armor

Holding production credits from Denai Moore and Boniface, Steph Marziano had already defined her skill of allowing a personality to shine through the music. Charged with the task of producing a solo album as hotly anticipated as Hayley WilliamsPetals For Armor, those talents blossomed through the genre-shattering sounds fairly early in her career behind the desk. Gifting this 2020 debut with the freedom for Williams to spread her vocal wings, far removed from overbearing instrumentals, this stripped-back effort is the first giant leap in the career of one of music production’s future diamonds.

Jerry Finn: Pennywise – About Time

Mixing Green Day’s Dookie in 1994 lit the blue touch paper for late punk legend Jerry Finn’s studio career. However, he soon shifted to the production side of events a year later for his first credit, About Time by Pennywise. Finn’s authentic punk credentials opened doors to work on some of the greatest albums to emerge from the scene, including blink-182’s Enema Of The State, Sum 41’s All Killer No Filler and AFI’s Sing The Sorrow. The genre comfortably grew into its pop-punk shoes in large part due to Finn’s production—single-handedly defining a gear change that remains strong to this day.