Holzman - Founder of Elektra Records
109 Interview - December 1999
Jac Holzman was the founder, chief executive officer
and creative head of both Elektra Records (1950) and Nonesuch Records (1964).
In 1970, Jac sold all of his music interests to Warner Communications Inc. and
continued his association with the labels he created for three additional years.
Jac Holzman in September about an interview for our forum. He replied that he
would be happy to participate in December when he returns from vacation. I wrote
a long list of questions thinking that we would do the interview via email, but
Jac preferred to do it by telephone. He granted me thirty minutes of his time
and I must admit that I was nervous about the format and all the things that could
turned out okay, but there just wasn't enough time to ask everything that I wanted
or to even follow-up his answers as much as I would have liked to. What follows
is the transcript of our conversation.
a part of the WCI music group, JHolzman helped to establish both the WEA Distributing
Group and WEA International. Among the artists he has produced or discovered are:
Judy Collins, The Doors, Love, Carly Simon, Harry Chapin, Queen, Fred Neil, Phil
Ochs, Tom Paxton, Tom Rush, and Tim Buckley. |
1973, Jac became Senior Vice-President of WCI and the company's Chief Technologist.
He co- wrote Warner's business plan for early year entry into home video and into
the first interactive cable system( Qube). In 1976 Jac did the technical evaluation
for WCI's acquisition of Atari and was a member of the Atari board until 1982,
concentrating on product planning.
1972 to 1982 Jac was also a director of Pioneer Electronics, Japan and as Senior
Consultant to Pioneer, contributed to Pioneer's early adoption and successful
implementation of both Compact Disc (CD) and LaserDisc technology. He led the
team that help to launch CD for the Warner Music Group
June of 1982, Jac assumed the Chairmanship of Panavision, Inc., a wholly-owned
subsidiary of Warner Communications, then in both financial and structural decline.
In two and a half years, Panavision was turned around so that it was no longer
a borrower of money but became, instead, a substantial cash generator. Panavision's
value more than doubled, and in the spring of 1985 the company was sold for in
excess of $70 million.
at Panavision, Jac introduced an advanced system of 16mm cinematography designed
so that the progressive features of this system could migrate, without market
disruption, into the camera that eventually became the Platinum Panaflex. Under
his stewardship, Panavision began a totally new program of optical design resulting
in the acclaimed Primo series lenses and inaugurated a comprehensive management
information system to track the whereabouts of rental equipment throughout the
world and to determine the ROI on each rental item in Panavision's considerable
1986, Jac formed FirstMedia, a closely held investment firm specializing in communications.
FirstMedia led the acquisition of Cinema Products, the largest non-camera maker
of precision equipment for the motion picture industry which includes the Oscar
winning Steadicam® family of camera stabilizing products, the Vidiflex high
resolution and super sensitive video viewing system for film cameras and a new
Telescanner for the transfer of film to digital video formats.
of 1991, Robert Morgado, then Chairman of the Warner Music Group, retained Jac
as the group's Chief Technologist to help sort and define a broad spectrum of
issues relating to Warner's expanding music interests. His current work centers
around DVD Audio and multichannel sound.
October of 1991, through FirstMedia, Jac acquired the Discovery, Trend and Musicraft
jazz labels from the estate of Albert Marx which he refashioned into a fully contemporary
label. In 1993 Discovery was acquired by the Warner Music Group and operates as
a 100% Time-Warner subsidiary.
has done pioneering work in setting both operating and business standards for
the LaserDisc optical video disc and the Compact Disc (CD). He is a member of
the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, an associate member of
the American Society of Cinematographers, a member of the National Academy of
Recording Arts and Sciences and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts
and Sciences, where he has served four terms on the steering committee for Scientific
and Technical Awards.
is an alumnus of St. John's College, Annapolis, Maryland class of 1952
for taking the time to participate in our forum. I have an enormous amount of
respect for you and what you've contributed to the recording industry. I've read
"Follow The Music" and I consider it to be the best book ever written
about American folk and contemporary music in the fifties, sixties, and seventies.
The reviews are overwhelmingly positive and it looks like you have the makings
of a best seller on your hands.
thank you. They're planning to print a paperback edition of the book this fall
to coincide with Elektra's fiftieth anniversary. I hope they don't forget.
the previous conversation we had, you mentioned to me that you feel David Anderle
is the person that I should be interviewing about Tim and Elektra. Why is that?
spent a lot of time with Tim. He was the eyes and ears of Elektra when it came
to our west coast artists. He and Tim became good friends. As you know, he talks
about Tim in the book and there may even be more in David's transcripts, but right
now they're buried out in Sante Fe. He has a good memory for things so you should
write to him and see if he'd be interested in an interview.
person you may want to contact is Danny Fields. I'll give you his number. He's
been on the New York scene for years and you know Tim worked with the late Nico
for a while. Danny had something to do with that. You might also want to talk
to Jackson Browne. He knew Tim pretty well. I think he was influenced by Tim.
me Jac, how did you come to meet and sign Tim?
didn't meet him. An audition record came from Herb Cohen. He and Tim were sort
of dancing around each other as a manager/artist relationship, and the disc was
made I think at Sunset Sound. I may have the original disc someplace but it's
probably in my hangar. I'd have to go through a hundred cartons to find it.
anyway, a twelve-inch acetate came to me from Herbie Cohen. I put it on one day
and I was totally captivated. Just Tim and his guitar doing four or five tunes
and I was thoroughly smitten. I called Herb Cohen and he said "wait until
you see this guy, he's gorgeous". I said that I'd be out on the west coast
in a week or so. I sat down with Tim and Herbie and I decided that I wanted to
sign Tim. It was real simple.
you and the late Paul Rothchild finished producing Tim's first album, were you
happy with it or did you feel that it was just a nice beginning?
I feel that in most cases all first albums are nice beginnings with some exceptions.
The Doors' first album and Carly Simon's first album were fully found, and Butterfield's
was damn close. I thought that this was a beginning album and I planned for much
greater reach on the second album and of course, that's what we got.
therefore, you were able to foresee that Tim was capable of achieving the degree
of excellence that he attained with "Goodbye And Hello".
I never sign an artist unless I'm ready to do three albums with them and generally
that's my rule of thumb. It usually takes that long for the artist to begin to
learn the studio, and figure out what they can do. One of the big results, and
I think it was true in Tim's case, is that when an artist hears their first record
they sometimes cringe and that's good, because then it means that the next one
is going to be a lot better. I think that was the case with Tim. It was an affectable
album, but it didn't have magic. The second album had magic.
the time of Tim Buckley's arrival, Elektra was mostly regarded as a folk artist
label. Did you see Tim as a blossoming folkie or could you sense that you had
found someone unique?
distinctions were getting blurred. First of all, folk music had changed dramatically
from traditional material to singer/songwriters and Tim was clearly a singer/songwriter
who happened to play guitar. I didn't know what the labels meant anymore, and
by the time I got to Tim I already had an electric band with Butterfield. I was
looking to sign more artists like that. I wanted artists who could take their
careers someplace and Elektra along with it. Tim struck me as being one of those
kinds of artists.
you anticipate that Tim was going to change directions as often as he did?
I didn't even think about that as long as every new album was a step beyond where
he had been. That was okay with me.
"Goodbye And Hello" was released on the heels of "Blonde On Blonde",
my friends and I thought that Tim might be the new Dylan or the heir to the thrown
so to speak. Was their any competition in that respect?
I didn't find it. I didn't think that he felt that at all. He would have found
that concept abhorrent. Being the new Dylan. There will never be a new Dylan.
Beck is not a new Dylan, although he's an extraordinarily interesting artist.
you have many conversations with Tim? Did he reveal much of his personal life
to you or was it mostly business?
had a personal relationship with all our artists. Tim hung around with the Mothers
of Invention which is probably why he came so quickly to Herbie Cohen's attention.
It wasn't mostly business because there's no business to do.
deal was made, everything was involved with making the records. Tim came to me
with the idea of Goodbye And Hello and the thought of using Jerry Yester
as the producer and I had known Jerry for a long time because he had been involved
with Judy Henske, so that was fine with me.
Jerry Yester was Tim's idea?
far as I recall, yes.