Michael Jackson: To really go to the root of it, I think you would have to start, I would say when I was – I think I was 8 years old and Sammy Davis Jr. introduced me to Quincy Jones, I’ll never forget it and I heard him say something like that and I just tucked it away subconsciously and never mentioned it – this is the first time I’ve mentioned it other than probably — but I never thought about seeing Quincy again and so years later Motown was preparing to do this movie called “The Wiz” and it was with Diana Ross, myself, Nipsey Russell and Lena Horne. Barry Gordy recommended that I play the Scarecrow so I did. So we made this film and I enjoyed it and Quincy Jones happened to be the man that was doing the music. I had heard of Quincy before in Indiana as a child, my father use to buy Jazz albums and I knew him as a jazz musician.
MJ: What I do is when I work I will do a raggedy rough version just to hear the chorus, see how much I like the chorus. If it works for me that way, when it’s raggedy then I know — you really go in it. (rough demo version of Billie Jean begins to play) That’s at home – that’s Janet, Randy and me. Janet and I are going “hoo, hoo”!
The (Time 1:29) ????? are very important because Quincy calls me a nickname “smelly” came from, Spielberg calls me that because especially, I say a couple of swear words now but especially then you couldn’t get me to swear. So I said that’s a “smelly” song I meant that’s so great you’re engrossed in it so he would call me “smelly”. Working with Quincy is just wonderful because he lets you experiment and do your thing and he’s genius enough to stay out of the way of the music and if there’s an element to be added he’ll add it. He hears these little things, like for instance in Billie Jean I came up with this piece of a bass lick and a melody and the whole composition I brought but then from listening he’ll add a nice riff.
MJ: Rod Temperton came into the studio and he came up with this killer – he’s this little German guy from Werne Germany and this little white guy from Werne, Germany comes in with this (MJ starts beatboxing) this whole melody and the chorus of “Rock with You” wow! So when I heard that I said, “OK I have to really work now.” So the first think I presented was “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” and that’s one I wrote for … Umm I wrote, “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” and I think it was ummm. Gee how many did I do? I think I did three or four on “Off the Wall”. I’ll think of them in a sec. So every time Rod would present something, I would present something and we’d form a kind of friendly competition but I love working like that because I used to read about how Walt Disney used to – if they were working on Bambi or any other animated show they would put a deer in the middle of the floor and make the animators kind of compete for different styles of drawing the deer so whoever had the most stylized affect that Walt liked he would pick that and they would kind of compete. It was like a friendly thing but it was a competition that breeds higher effort. So whenever Rod would bring something, I would bring something, then he would bring something and I would bring something else.
I mean ever since I was a little kid I used to study composition and it was Tchaikovsky that influenced me the most I think and of course Debussy who I love very much but if you take an album like “The Nutcracker Suite” every song is a killer – every one, and I said to myself why can’t there be a pop album or an album where every – because people used to do albums where you would get one good song and the rest were like “b sides” they were called album songs and I would always say to myself why can’t every one be like a hit song? Why can’t every song be so great that people would want to buy it or you could release it as a single, you know every one could be a single? So I would always try to strive for that and that was my purpose for the next album that I did. That was the whole idea, I wanted us to be able to put just anyone out that we wanted to and I worked hard for it.
They came outright and said it. It broke my heart but it broke my heart but at the same time it lit something that was just “Oh my God” I was like saying to myself you know I would have to do something where they – it would be refused to be ignored. I came up with “Thriller” and every time I was always trying to outdo myself right? Billie Jean – they said we won’t play it so Walter Yetnikoff who was President of Sony at the time said “OK we’re pulling Streisand, we’re pulling Chicago and when they played it, it set the all time record and they were asking for everything we had. They said we’re pulling Streisand, we’re pulling Chicago, we’re pulling Neil Diamond. That’s what Walter Yetnikoff said and after they played it they were knocking our door down and then Prince came, it opened the door for Prince and all the other black artists because it was 24 hour heavy metal and a potpourri of crazy images and they came to me so many times in the past and said “Michael if it wasn’t for you, there would be no MTV” they told me that over and over personally.
I always want to do music that influence and inspire people. Each generation. I mean let’s face it who wants mortality? Everyone wants immortality. Everyone wants what you create to live whether it be sculpture or painting, music or composition. Like Michelangelo said “I know the creator will go but his works survives. That is why to escape death I attempt to bind my soul to my work” and that’s how I feel. I give my all to my work because I want it to just live and give all that I have you know? Yeah, it has to be that way.
Michael Jackson Ebony Interview – Part 2
(transcription begins at 2:00 mark because the beginning is a repeat of part 1)
MJ: Michael, if it wasn’t for you there would be no MTV. They told me that over and over personally.
I was at the studio editing Beat It in some kind of way and I happened to be at Motown studio doing that and I had long left the company of Motown and I was there and Suzee Ikeda, who is a sweet, lovely Japanese lady who I adore. This is the lady who use to, when I was a little boy, a little boy, at Motown. She was — her job was to keep my head in the microphone when I — I had a little apple box with my name on it “Michael Jackson” and this little Japanese lady’s job was to keep my head in there, because I like to dance when I sing, so she kept my head in the microphone.
She happened to be at the studio and she asked me what I was working on and I said, “I was editing this thing I just did” it was Beat It and she watched it and she said… she was catatonic and she said, “Oh my God” and in some kind of way she told Berry Gordy and I think something happened. So they were happening to be getting ready to do something with the Motown Anniversary and Berry Gordy came over and he asked me “did I want to do (giggles) the show” and I told him “no.” I told him “no” and I said no because the Thriller, umm the Thriller thing — I was building and creating um something I was planning to do and he said to me “Well, it’s the anniversary.” I said, this is what I said to him, I said, “Okay, I will do it” I said but umm this is what I said in these very words, “I will do it, if you”,.. because I know it’s all Motown artists and it’s all Motown songs, I said, “you have to let me do”, I said, “the only way I’ll do it is if you let me do one song that is not a Motown song.” He said, “what is it?” I said, “Billie Jean.” He said, “Okay, fine.” I said, “You’ll let me do Billie Jean”? (laughs) he says “yes” and I said, “Okay, fine.”
So I remember, we umm, I had two or three days or something and I rehearsed and choreographed and dressed my brothers. I choreographed them with (inaudible) and picked the songs, the medley. Not only that you have to work out all the camera angles and oh, I direct and edit everything I do. Every shot you see is MY shot. I’m not joking, let me tell you why I have to do it that way. I have five, no I have six cameras um — one, two, three — because when you’re performing, I don’t care what kind of performance you give, if you don’t capture it properly, people will never see it and usually there — it is the most selfish medium in the world.
Directing and camera work is so selfish because you’re filming what you want people to see, when you want them to see it, how you want them to see it, what juxtaposition you want them to see it, so you’re creating the totality of the whole feeling of what’s being presented in your angles and your shots. So I had to set the cameras, set the angles, edit it. Suzanne De Passe knows that I go and I edit everything (laughs) because I know what I want to see, I know when I want to go to the audience and I know when I want to come back because I know the emotion that I felt when I performed it, I try to recapture that same emotion when I cut and edit and direct, that’s the idea.
Source for Suzee Ikeda pic- http://www.soulwalking.co.uk/Lonnie%20Cook.html