Dr. Luke: 'I'm Always Petrified That This Is My Last Good Song' (Q&A)
The man who's had a hand in more than 40 smashes since 2004 is No. 2 on THR's Hitmakers list.
Dr. Luke's mind-boggling success rate -- more than 40 hit singles since 2004 -- is proof that the U.S. has a new King of Pop. It's no wonder, since the New York native was mentored by top-level titan Max Martin. "He's one of my best friends and I love him to death," says Luke (ne Lukasz Gottwald), 39, adding, "I learn from my writers as much as they're learning from me."
After scoring his first global smash in 2004 with Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone," the L.A.-based Luke and his Prescription Songs posse (see below) have been unstoppable. "California Gurls," "Tik Tok" and "Price Tag" are just a few of the No. 1s he's notched for Katy Perry, Ke$ha and Jessie J, respectively. His secret? "I'm always petrified that this is my last good song." Until the next one comes along.
The Hollywood Reporter: Your first hit, “Since U Have Been Gone,” is coming up on its tenth anniversary. How is it hearing that song now?
Dr. Luke: Funny. I heard it on the radio on the way to the studio and today and was, like, “Damn, it’s actually pretty good!”
THR: Prescription Songs is your shop. What’s your mandate as a boss?
Dr. Luke: Essentially, it’s to do my best to make sure they achieve whatever their goals and dreams are. All these people are my babies.
THR: You’re very much in-demand as a songwriter and producer, too. How do you divide your time now between creative duties more managerial stuff?
Luke: I don't always draw a distinction between them. Howard Shore, who's an amazing film composer, told me once that it’s 10 percent inspiration, 90 percent perspiration. So I think even within the creative process, like being a producer, you're really managing people … and getting the best out of them. When something’s off-track, you're finding ways to get it back on track, 99.9 percent of the time you want to be really cool about it sometimes you have to do what you have to do to get what’s actually in the artists’ best interest.
THR: You’re soon to launch your own Sony-backed label, Kemosabe. What is its mission?
Luke: I can sign things that I love that may not be selling millions of singles but that are just awesome music. For example, I got to sign this band Everything Everything, I found out about them from writing with Julian Casablancas from the Strokes. He turned me on to them and they're super cool.
THR: Becky G is also signed to Kemosabe and is already being hailed as the next Katy Perry …
Luke: Becky is an amazing writer and she's 15. She wrote with Cher Lloyd, she's got a song with Pitbull, she did a single with 3ballMTY, three DJs from Mexico who won a Latin Grammy and are playing Coachella. She's the youngest Cover Girl ever. … I never wanted to do the “kids” thing and then I saw a video that she made of her doing the Jay-Z-Kanye West song “Otis,” and I was so blown away by her star presence.
THR: Even the most successful hitmakers have their moment and it’s usually fairly brief. How do you explain your longevity?
Luke: I'm not sure I could answer that question. First of all, I really appreciate what I've got and I know that we're all sort of on borrowed time. I think I'm also kind of neurotic and scared -- I never feel, like, “Oh, I got this on lock, no problem.” I think that combined with having such an amazing team that are bringing in fresh ideas is what's made it work.
THR: What are you working on now?
Luke: I’m doing a bunch of stuff with Miley [Cyrus], which has been so much fun. We're going to different genres and she's killing all of it. It’s crazy. Becky G is a huge priority for me. I’ve got a couple Jesse J songs that I'm getting done and also Juicy J, who I signed to Kemosabe. He's a legend. I also have an artist named Baby E -- he's on Def Jam. I can't even describe what he is -- like a cross between Lil Wayne and Motley Crue and equally at home in either one of those worlds.
Pictured (from left): Ammo, Emily Wright, Benny Blanco (with dog Disco), Dr. Luke, Bonnie McKee, Becky G, Ammar and Cirkut -- all songwriters, producers and beatmakers signed to Prescription Songs.