Howard Benson - Rock Producer

howard benson
Howard Benson (with wife Monica). Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.

Howard Benson Overview:

Producer Howard Benson specializes in rock acts that have a polished, mainstream sound. Even though he first made his name in the 1980s and '90s producing records for legends of punk (TSOL) and metal (Motorhead), Benson has subsequently focused his attention on pop-rock groups like Papa Roach, Hoobastank and Theory of a Deadman. Benson emphasizes vocals on his albums, believing that they're the most crucial component of a record's success, and it's rare for one of his albums not to feature them front and center in the mix.


Howard Benson demonstrated his skill at creating radio-friendly rock songs with Hoobastank's breakthrough 2003 album, The Reason, and its double-platinum title track. On The Reason and the band's subsequent records, like For(n)ever, Benson has split the difference between pop accessibility and rock aggression, resulting in undeniably mainstream fare that retains a bit of an edge to it. As with many of the groups Benson produced in the 21st century, Hoobastank took a beating from critics who dismissed the band's music as being watered-down, but that hasn't hurt them on the charts.

My Chemical Romance:

Howard Benson helped put the modern-rock group My Chemical Romance on the map with the 2004 record Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. Powered by the gold-selling single "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)," Three Cheers represented a streamlining of the band's melodramatic love songs, making them palatable to a larger audience.

Papa Roach:

Papa Roach had enjoyed success as a rap-rock unit in the early part of the 21st century with Infest and the single "Last Resort," but by 2004, they were trying to avoid the backlash against that trendy genre. So, they recruited Benson for Getting Away With Murder and the 2006 follow-up The Paramour Sessions, Papa Roach's most overtly rock-centric albums.

Murder managed to go platinum, but the group's fading popularity resulted in weak sales for Paramour Sessions.


Popular American Idol contestants don't always make the leap to becoming successful recording artists, so there was a hardly a guarantee that Chris Daughtry's 2006 debut album would be a hit. But that's exactly what Daughtry turned out to be, thanks in large part to Benson's no-bull production style that emphasized Daughtry's everyman appeal and earnest emotions. At a time when rock albums were rarely bestsellers, Daughtry went quadruple-platinum, making it one of the most lucrative albums from an American Idol alum.


In 2007, Benson produced by South African post-grunge band Seether's fourth album Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces. As with most albums Benson produces, he added keyboards and some electronic programming to the band's sound. The album yielded four Top 10 hits: "Fake It," "Rise Above This," "Breakdown," and an unlikely cover of George Michael's "Careless Whisper." The album became Seether's best selling album ever. 

Howard Benson Quotes:

Howard Benson, on his upbringing.
"I was, like, a math guy and everything, but I was always in a band. My little something to do was always to play in a band." (Crusher Magazine, November 2004)

Howard Benson, on his strategy for making records.
"I was on a panel with producers at SXSW ... and out of five of us, I was the only one who stepped out and said, 'Hey, when I do a record, I'm assuming I'm going to go platinum and that's what I'm doing it for.'" (Mix, February 1, 2007)

Howard Benson, on what attracts him to a project.
"I love meeting somebody who is brand new, who nobody has ever heard of, and I say, 'That guy's a star.' And then you just have to produce him. That's really what you look for in your whole career, and you find it maybe three or four times, but you don't find it that often." (Mix, February 1, 2007)

Howard Benson, on his process in the studio.
"The main focus for me, you know, is on the songs, and the lyrics and the vocals. I don't let anybody in the studio when I'm doing vocals.

I do them myself. No one's allowed in. That's, like, to me, where I really get the impact of the record across. That's something that I didn't really pay attention to early on. I was like, 'Oh, I've got to get this great guitar sound, that's important.' It is important, but what's really important is the singing, the performance of the singer." (Crusher Magazine, November 2004)

Howard Benson, on the current state of rock music.
"Rap artists have become the rock stars. There aren't any rock stars left in our business. I can't think of any. I can't think of anybody like Kurt Cobain, people like that who really command a huge part of the arena, you know? It's just not out there. I can't think of any of them." (Crusher Magazine, November 2004)

Howard Benson Trivia:

  • Howard Benson has been nominated twice for Producer of the Year at the Grammys.
  • Howard Benson has a degree in materials engineering.
  • His home studio is called Sparky Dark Studios.
  • Howard Benson remixed "Long Gone" off Chris Cornell's Scream, which was released as a single.

(Edited by Bob Schallau)