Quincy Jones could use a day off. Twenty-five years after producing Michael Jackson’s Thriller, at an age when some might be settling into a peaceful retirement, the 74-year-old music-biz legend stays busy crisscrossing the globe for various philanthropic projects. ”I’m so tired of these planes, man!” Jones kids. ”I’m going to go to Brazil tomorrow. It’s ridiculous.” During a rare free moment at his Bel Air, Calif., home, Jones chatted with EW.com about this month’s deluxe Thriller anniversary edition, his most recent visit with Michael Jackson, and whether the music industry is too far gone to be saved.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How do you feel when you look back at Thriller, 25 years later?
QUINCY JONES: I can’t believe it’s that long ago. When I go to Shanghai or Cairo or wherever, it’s shocking to see that they’re still playing it all over the world 25 years later. It’s an honor to me.
When you were in the studio recording that music, did you ever imagine it would be that timeless?
You don’t think about that kind of stuff when you make records. You want it to be played next week! [Laughs] It’s astounding. I picked one of the most incredible teams in the world, the guys that I worked with — [songwriter] Rod Temperton and [engineer] Bruce Swedien and [keyboardist] Greg Phillinganes and [horns/strings arranger] Jerry Hey — it was a divine situation. Everybody had this incredible respect and love and affection for each other. A team that is real honest with each other, that’s the key. Because there’s nothing in the world like getting a group of guys [like this] around…. I’ve seen a lot of people [whose] friends and cousins tell them everything they do is perfect. That’s a big mistake.
Have you listened to the whole Thriller album start to finish in one sitting recently?
God, no. I haven’t done that in 20 years.
I have it in my system in my home, but I’m not going to sit there attentively listening to every song. We had a lot of music out in the ’80s and the ’70s. So it’s never been a situation where I just sit down. Maybe I will one day, when I get time. Just sit down and relax and count the blessings, really. Because that’s what they are…. Michael came by here the other day.
What was that visit like?
It was great. We just hung out and talked. It was nice to see him. He came with [attorney] Peter Lopez. I hadn’t seen him in a long time.
What kind of things did you talk about?
He told me that they were doing some remixes [of songs from Thriller] and so forth. Somebody sent it to me, and they’re fantastic. Akon worked on one, will.i.am did one. They were beautiful.
Some people think it’s almost blasphemy to remix Thriller.
Look, man, stuff happens. What happens happens, right? Lord knows, Thriller’s certainly had its time, and it still does. It’s still doing whatever it’s supposed to do, which is shocking in itself. I think the way the record business is now, it’ll never happen again.
Why do you say that?
It was the very beginning of MTV, back when MTV wasn’t even playing black music. In a way, Michael and MTV rode each other to glory, in terms of establishing the format for videos. I still see every day, videos that were made last month that look just like the videos that he made 25 years ago. It’s amazing. And, you know, everything grows. It has its natural evolution and it evolves. When you’ve been in the music business this long, nothing surprises you. I started back with 78 [rpm] records — that’s how long I’ve been in the business.
NEXT PAGE: ”I like it best when there’s no time for paralysis from analysis. We ended up making Thriller in eight weeks, the entire album. We didn’t have time to think about all that intellectual stuff.”