He grew up in Florida, where he studied piano, composition and musicology privately. He collaborated with local bands, recording as a keyboardist and arranger of R&B and rock albums in various studios, including the Criteria studio in Miami. He finally created his own recording studio with the help of his friend Alex Sadkin, who also worked at Criteria at the time. After producer Richard Gottehrer brought The Climax Blues Band to Sire, he offered Craig a meeting in New York and the role of his assistant.
As a result, Leon moved to Manhattan in the early 1970s, where he accepted the position of A&R at Sire Records under the direction of Gottehrer and his partner Seymour Stein. There, he was responsible for the discovery and early development of Ramones, Talking Heads and many other artists. He produced Ramones’ first album and also focused on supporting “risky” European recordings that no one else would publish in the US. At Sire, Craig learned the skills necessary to produce music at the highest level.
After producing the compilation “Live at CBGBs” for Atlantic Records, he joined Richard Gottehrer and Martha Thau in setting up a production company called Instant Records. Their projects included early albums from Blondie, Richard Hell & The Voidoids and Suicide.
In the 1970s, Craig also cooperated with such bands and artists as Chilliwack, Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band, Martha Velez & The Wailers (co-produced with Bob Marley and Lee Scratch Perry), Robert Gordon and Link Wray, Moon Martin (including “Bad Case of Loving You” i “Cadillac Walk”), Rodney Crowell, Guy Clark, The Roches (with Robert Fripp), Dwight Twilley, Sir Douglas Quintet, The Records and many others. In the early 1980s, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, The Bangles or The Beat Farmers appeared.
In the mid-1980s, at the request of Statik Records (an independent Virgin company), Craig moved to the UK to produce albums by Jeffrey Lee Pierce, Flesh For Lulu and others, and mixed recordings of The Chameleons and The Sound. Since then, he has also worked with such bands as Doctor and The Medics, The Pogues, The Go Betweens, The Primitives or Adult Net.
Leon also produced Blondie’s return to the stage – “No Exit” (1999) and worked on albums “Curse of Blondie” (2003), Mark Owen (from Take That), Jean Luc de Meyer, Front242, The Chills, as well as The Fall, Jesus Jones, New Fads, Eugenius and Shonen Knife. It is noteworthy that in 1999 Craig became the only producer in the history of the British charts to release a no. 1 pop recording (Blondie – “Maria”), and a no. 1 classical album (Izzy – “Libera Me”) in the same year. Craig has also produced many other classical music albums.
The producer has always been involved in the development of new ideas and has worked with alternative forms in contemporary music. He wrote and produced three albums of his own, including “Nommos”. The latter, based on ethnic North African motifs and electronic music, was used by members of The Twyla Tharp dance group and as an illustration for the opening exhibition of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 1981. Another interesting project is “Kosh Dance Theatre: Klub Anima”, which includes alternating classical and contemporary electronic forms.
Craig Leon will perform at the afterparty of the 11th International Festival of Music Producers and Sound Designers Soundedit. It will take place at Wytwórnia club (ul. Łąkowa 29, Łódź) on 26 October 2019 (Saturday). Earlier, the artist will receive the “Man with a Golden Ear” award for “Visionary and Pioneering Solutions in Music Production”.
Photo: press materials of the organiser