Q&A: Red Lotus Studios Head Rickey Minor

Rickey Minor
Adam Amengual for Variety

After a storied career as a producer, bandleader, bassist and composer, Rickey Minor was introduced to mainstream America as bandleader for “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and longtime musical director of “American Idol.” Now he’s taken over an old film vault on the Sunset Gower Studios lot and launched Red Lotus Studios.

What inspired you to set up your own studio?

I had just seen “Sound City,” the Dave Grohl film, and it really inspired me. The (analog) console here is one of a kind. To play instruments through it changes the bandwidth and makes it fuller and stronger and warmer. When the console was loaded in, I felt some kind of energy enter the room. It’s like being handed the golden sword to slay the dragon.

Why Sunset Gower?

Because “Scandal’s” here, “The Newsroom’s” here, “Dexter” was here, Shonda Rhimes is moving her company to the lot. I could’ve bought a building in Pasadena or Calabasas and had a nice spread, but you don’t get to call a director or a singer and have them say, “I’ll be there in five minutes.”

What did you learn from your time at “American Idol”?

With “American Idol,” I produced all the songs for iTunes. We’d do 10 songs a day, mix in two days, master on the fourth day. I love that kind of recording. People (take too long, and) mix the heart and soul out of stuff.

And “The Tonight Show”?

That was a well-oiled machine we just stepped into. I miss those days where we went in at 2:00, made music, laughed a lot, and were out of there by 5:00. And Jay was always so gracious and incredible.

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