Hailed as one of the most important producers in rock and pop, Tony Visconti was highly involved with David Bowie’s legendary work from 1969 to 2016. A producer and sometimes musician and singer, Visconti’s discography includes T. Rex’s “Cosmic Dancer” and Bowie’s “Young Americans,” “Heroes” and “The Man Who Sold the World” to name a few. Most recently, he co-produced and mixed Esperanza Spalding’s and Daphne Guinness’ most recent albums. In 2014, he was featured on the Foo Fighter’s HBO documentary series Sonic Highways and was a recurring mentor on the reality TV talent competition show Guitar Star. His autobiography, Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Boy, was published in 2007. It recounts his upbringing in Brooklyn, N.Y., his musical beginnings and his friendships with the likes of Bowie and Paul McCartney. Highly accomplished and versatile, Visconti has also left his mark on records by U2, Fall Out Boy, Thin Lizzy and Morrissey.
If you could change one law, what would it be? The law that allows ice cream street vendors to sit on every street corner in Manhattan from spring to autumn.
Describe your closest brush with death. At 21, I spent the summer as a resident musician in a restaurant on Fire Island. One day, I swam far from the shore. I struggled to fight a strong undertow swimming back. Exhausted and dazed, I sank underwater, toes touching the sea bottom and thought, "This is it." A strong hand gripped my wrist. It belonged to the 7-foot-tall assistant chef from our kitchen.
What cause do you most identify with? The homeless, especially homeless women and children.
What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment? Co-producing Procol Harum and Joe Cocker with Denny Cordell. Then met Marc Bolan and David Bowie, and produced hundreds of recordings for both of them, including Bowie’s last album Blackstar.
Flavor: Coffee ice cream.
Sound: A beautiful female singing voice.
Smell: Cookie dough.
Word: Nefarious. It is powerful and beautiful.
Feeling: My tummy after an hour of tai chi practice.
Flavor: Italian red sauce with canned tuna fish.
Sound: Vocal fry and people who speak with their neck, who abandon their chest cavity.
Smell: Secondhand cigarette smoke.
Word: Bitch, when applied to a woman. It is so degrading. There is no equivalent for a male who displeases society.
Feeling: Someone rubbing my scalp too hard. Oh, and a kick in the testicles.
What is your favorite invention from the past 10 years? Electric toothbrushes you can buy for under $10 in any drugstore.
Five people, living or dead, whom you’d like to have over for dinner. David Bowie, Buddha, Sofia Vergara, Christopher Hitchens and a stranger.
How would you describe the current state of America? The division is stronger than I have ever seen.
How would you define love? Love is an obsession with another human being to exclusion of all others. A higher type of love is compassion. With compassion, it is difficult to hate.