Jimmy Iovine Recounts His Early Days as an Engineer and Producer, Launching Interscope

Jimmy Iovine

Legendary music producer and executive Jimmy Iovine was a guest on The Howard Stern Show on Monday. The mogul recounted his five-decade career, from his early days as an engineer and producer to launching Interscope Records and Beats Electronics with Dr. Dre.

The interview follows the premiere of the trailer for HBO’s documentary, The Defiant Ones. The four-part series, which debuts July 9, chronicles Iovine’s partnership with Dre.

“I did three albums with John [Lennon]. That’s a lot of time. We hit it off, and that’s kind of why he let me in the studio.”

Iovine said he believes their bond was why Lennon asked him to be in the studio when he recorded vocals on David Bowie’s hit, “Fame.” The song appeared on his Young Americans album.

“That album set the tone of … a big part of my music career.”

In 1975, Iovine helped engineer Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run album, an experience that shaped his work ethic.

“Sony was gonna drop him. It’s not a secret. Bruce is not for sale. He’s not even for rent. There is nothing you have that he wants. … I learned my work ethic from this guy. This guy’s got the greatest work ethic, the most discipline, of anyone I’ve ever met in my life.”

Born to Run peaked at No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot 200 chart and eventually sold over 6 million copies in the US. It also earned Iovine a reputation as one of the best in the business.

After a string of successes with U2, Tom Petty, and Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks, Iovine launched Interscope Records with the help of David Geffen.

“Business to [Geffen] is an art form. He just shows you how to move. … He has never gotten anything from me except friendship, and he’s given me so much wisdom over the years.”

Eventually, Iovine connected with Dr. Dre and signed a deal to distribute Suge Knight’s Death Row Records. Stern asked him about the feud between West Coast and East Coast rappers and he how dealt with it.

“In a lot of ways, it was terrifying. Going backwards is not an option.”

Iovine also recalled the day he ran into Dre on a beach and heard about a sneaker deal he was considering.

“I said, ‘Dre, f#ck sneakers, man. Let’s do speakers!’ … How could we miss? We make records.”

Watch two clips from the interview below.