‘He had to be an alpha male’
Prince’s recording engineer Susan Rogers was there at the birth of some of pop’s classics. She tells about the real man behind the extraordinary stage image
weekend’s Ableton Loop conference.
She knew this – or something like it – would be her path from a young age. “Playing records lit me up like a Christmas tree,” she says down the line from her office. “It felt like a calling: this is me, this is the street that I live on.” It was the early 60s, and the Beatles were a hit in Rogers’ kindergarten playground, as they were everywhere else. “There was this funny feeling of doubt – I didn’t seem to be feeling the same way the other kids were. But the first time I heard James Brown’s Papa’s Got a Brand
New Bag, I thought: ‘This is the shit.’”
Later, in high school, “kids were either fans of Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck or Eric Clapton – which guitarist you chose indicated which tribe you were in. It was always Page for me. That dirtier blues thing just felt right, and that feeling of correctness is actually the basis of a producer’s value system.”
But production work was a long way off. Rogers’ mother died when she was 14 and her father needed three jobs to make ends meet. She left high school to help and got a job in a biomedical lab removing valves from pig hearts. She also got married. “An extreme mistake,” she says. “Fortunately for me, the person I was married to was a really