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Author Topic: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!  (Read 12183 times)

compasspnt

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SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« on: February 18, 2005, 05:53:04 pm »

One thing I've been wondering about...

I'm sure some terrible technical nightmare things have happened on sessions for lots of us, such as completely erased tapes or tracks, totally crashed hard drives, something horribly embarrassing...

Of course, this may be something people would rather not talk about, BUT...anyone got any stories?
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Bob Olhsson

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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2005, 09:10:36 pm »

I suppose watching the oxide fall off a 1" 8 track master as I transferred it to 16 track qualifies as a classic. Another part of the same project had around four bars of clear acetate in the worst possible spot so we had to bring in musicians and punch them into a five year old backing track. I was utterly amazed how close we managed to match the sound.

compasspnt

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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2005, 09:46:46 pm »

I wasn't involved with this one, but I sure heard about it!

An acquaintance, who shall remain nameless, had a studio of his own he had put in.  He was a fairly well known producer at the time, and he had been recording with me for several years, but decided he wanted to "do it on his own."  So he bought a building, and put in a 16 track studio.  He had some great session players in, and was recording a high profile artist.  My friend was acting as the co-producer (with a well known "name" from New York), and also as the recording engineer (uh oh!)

One one particular song, they worked very long and hard trying to "get the take."  It took many, many takes, until the artist and New York producer were satisfied.  Everyone was very relieved after such a long, hard effort, and they decided to take a break, going next door to a restaurant to eat.  My acquaintance stayed behind for a few minutes to "clean up the tracks."  He wanted to erase an extraneous track that was not needed to be kept.  So he rewound the 2" to the head, and hit the record button.  Unfortunately, he forgot to take ALL of the tracks out of record ready.   He whistled the tune quietly as he picked up a few of the cups of coffee and track sheets which were strewn about the control room floor, but suddenly recoiled in horror as he realised that NO SOUND was coming from the master tape.  He immediately stopped the tape, and hit play without hitting record first.  The REST of the master take started playing, about 2 minutes into the song.  He had erased the first two minutes!

My acquaintance just walked out of the front door, and went home.  He didn't come back to his studio until everyone else had left.
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compasspnt

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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2005, 09:48:15 pm »

Another potential horror story, which actually ended well almost by accident, happened with the very same producer mentioned above.

I was mixing a project which he had produced for Warner brothers, of another high profile artist.  On one particularly difficult song to mix, we did several different versions.  The differences were in the lead vocal level, and the level of the solo instrument in the middle of the song.  The producer had also wanted to try a couple of ways of getting into the first verse from the intro, so, after he had decided on which version of the mix was the final, he had me take the two alternate versions, and try different intro edits.  On one of them, after I  had cut off the intro of version one to join to the first verse of version two, I did as always, and carefully dropped the cut pieces of tape onto the floor nearby, where I would not step on them, but could retrieve them immediately if needed.  There were no mistakes in the edit, however, and his decision was made.  I executed the same edit on the final  mix, and it was approved.  Once I was certain that he had everything exactly as wanted, and I had put the master mix into the properly labeled box, the day's session was over.  I cleaned up the control room before leaving, throwing away all of the extra tape bits on the floor.  Just before I left the control room, I  noticed one piece of 1/4" tape still on the floor, between two machines.  I picked it up, and for some unknown reason, instead of throwing it away,  I just folded it (without creasing, some habits never die), and put it into my shirt pocket.  I went home, and planned to meet the producer the next day for another mix of a different song.

When I arrived the next day, he was already there, and almost in tears.  He had come early, and had pulled out the master tape to "check out" the previous day's mix.  When he put it on the machine, he hadn't threaded the tape properly through the guides, and it had stretched and broken at  the intro point, just after the leader.  He had ruined the master mix!  That morning, when dressing, I had taken the things from my yesterday's shirt pocket, and moved them over to "today's shirt."  As the producer moaned, I  just took out the piece of tape, edited it into the front of the master mix,  and played the result.  It was the exact needed piece from the previous day's alternate mix!  The intro's were all the same, so the mix was saved.  I looked like a hero with a miracle plan of action, but it was actually a complete accident, and total blind luck!
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Jonas as

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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2005, 07:00:20 am »

Ok, laying my head on the block...

We got into contact with this great singer/songwriter which had been working for two years with his debut album, with no deal, recording with gear he borrows here and there.
We became incredibly found of his music so we decide too help him finish his record and mix it for him as a spec deal.

We recorded all the remaining music, put down some rough mixes which he could use as a demo, and then for economical reasons, had to let the project rest until better times.  We asked him to get a backup FW disk, we could simply NOT afford one, I was even badly behind on my rent, and my telephone was closed. Turned out he was in the very same situation. So.....No Backup.

Then things starts to happen, business picks up for us. We even got able to buy some really decent gear, new place, some decent attention, fully booked, everything is going great.
So I call the artist, asks him to come up with his files so we can do a backup, this was on a Thursday. He is having a gig the same night so he can't make it, "but maybe tomorrow?" "Ok, that's fine, I'll come to the gig BTW. really looking forward to hear your music again..."
At the concert I immediately recognize one of the more profiled record company executives standing in front of the stage, looking like he really enjoys the music.
Turns out that he offers he guy a deal he very same night, making arrangements with him to have a meeting the next morning, and BTW. can you have your single ready by Monday?
They meet up, writes the "too good to believe deal", and I'm contacted to mix the single immediately.

I get the disk, hook it up to do a backup, start up the computer, and....#$%&#%$%

In short, everything is gone...there's nothing to mix......

Nice.

this is 3.00PM on Friday.

OK, I get someone to sub for me as the engineer in our studio (3.30PM) Rent a different studio(4.30PM) calls up all the musicians, some have to be flown in. Starts to record his solo songs (7.30PM) Starts to record the single again with the band (9.00AM Saturday) Records the whole weekend, starts to do main vocals on the single by Monday morning, while my partner continues with rhythm section tracks.

Finished mixing the single by Tuesday morning,
the whole album except finished vocals is tracked by noon Tuesday,
the record company never notices anything (did you do the lead vocals on the single over again? good, we where going to ask you to)
They later exploit the incident for PR regarding the album.

There's a special energy to that album, for sure.
And, boy, do we have enough backup space now to make it into the next century and beyond.  Confused
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David Kulka

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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2005, 08:24:52 pm »

1.  One night I got an emergency call from a studio in Hollywood.  On an important overdub session the mic was dead, and things were at a standstill. I jumped in my car and headed down there.  Inside the studio a lot of people were milling around in frustration. A condenser mic was set up for a sax player, and in the control room a beautiful Neve console was set up for overdubs, with a few pieces of rental gear.

The stereo and multitrack busses were fine, apparently the problem was specific to the one mic input. I wondered if it was just a bad mic cable, though the engineer told me he'd checked that already. As I walked from the control room to the studio, I followed the signal path "backwards" from the console. The output of a compressor led to a line input on the console. The input of the compressor was connected to the output of a de-esser, and the input of the de-esser was connected to the output of an equalizer. A mic cable went from the equalizer input under the door of the control room and out to the studio. In the studio, the mic cable was plugged into a U87 condenser mic.

Hopefully, you now realize what the "engineer" had missed. There was no mic preamp!

2.  Speaking of mic cables, this was a true horror story.  The place was United/Western, the session was a mammoth Frank Sinatra album project, all 100% live.  In Studio 1 were about 60 musicians and a large chorus, in the vocal booth was Mr. Sinatra.  The 40 input Harrison wasn't big enough, so we set up a rented Auditronics for the extra mics.  Billy May was conducting from the podium, the studio was a sea of music stands, headphones, headphone cables, mics, mic cables, and mic extension cables, Neumann power supplies, etc...

The pre-session check out went fine but in the middle of the second track -- it might have been "It Had To Be You" -- the most God-awful crackle thundered through the speakers and everyone's headphones, complete with echo.  It decayed to silence, followed by someone (perhaps Sinatra himself) grumbling "what the **** was that!"  And then everything was fine, until 10 minutes later, when it happened again, ruining an excellent take.

The terrible thing was, there were so many mics, power supplies, cables, and preamps hooked up and the problem was so intermittent, finding it quickly was just impossible.   And so the Star, orchestra, chorus, and engineer just tolerated it for the whole 3 hour call, grimacing and giving us staffers dirty looks the 5 or 6 other times that loud, horrible noise happened.  After the session finally finished we checked everything in sight while breaking down.  It was a yellow mic cable on one of the violins.  God, that was horrible.

3.  We staff techs always did our best, but often were blamed when things went wrong.  One scenario was quite common with prima donna producers and engineers, that I most hated.  It usually begain with one of us getting dragged into a session and hearing the words "the multitrack doesn't sound quite right".  It nearly always meant that the vocalist was blowing his overdubs, or a musician was late, or the band couldn't agree on something, or the mix wasn't "happening", and everyone knew this.  Still, we had to play along, they'd take an extended break, we'd whip out a greenie, and re-check the whole 24-track alignment even though it was fine.  Sometimes we'd pretend to find and fix a problem, if they were watching.  Often at the engineer would check the machine after they returned, feigning great seriousness in the tension filled room.  Usually it ended with "hey man, it sounds perfect now!  Let's get back to work."  Can you say 'free studio time'?  Mad

4.  Sometimes, no matter how late it got, the studio simply would not let you go home.  The most common threat was non-payment, but more serious threats were sometimes made.  At the hilltop compound  of a wealthy producer, his armed security guards made it clear I was not to go home until every repair on the list was fixed, and I had no say in the matter.  At an enormous technical facility in the desert, run by a well known "church" you not only needed permission to enter, you also needed authorization to leave -- a little like getting a Soviet exit visa.  It was 10 PM, I'd had no idea what I was getting into but had done the job, and just wanted out.  They had more problem lists, and offered me a bunk in the dorm and free meals, if I would just stay a night or two.  I argued with a guard behind a latched gate, watching traffic zoom past on the highway.  Finally they relented and allowed me to go.  They paid me very well but I would never go back, not for anything.

5.  Not a horror story, but I thought of this yesterday and it seems good to end with.  I used to do tech work for Indigo Ranch, way up in the hills above Malibu.  The Moody Blues recorded there, along with many other famous acts.  Wonderful people.  One day they had me repairing an LA-2A in Studio B, while Dylan was recording in A.  As one of the owners was showing Dylan around, they stepped into Studio B and I was warmly introduced.  I stammered a few words and knowing Dylan's need for privacy, gave him a lot of space.  But somehow to Bob Dylan, the sight of me servicing an LA-2A was at that moment the most interesting thing in the world, and he just stood there and watched me, for the longest time... It was hard for me to focus to say the least, but looking back, this is a wonderful memory.
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David Kulka

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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2005, 11:09:12 am »

I remembered one more.  This is more of a personal horror story, to be filed under "foolish mistakes that will always haunt me".

Back at United/Western we had a "mag room" with an old 35MM player/recorder and a telecine system.  It must have been quite impressive when first built but it was a tight little room, the machines were finicky, and we all dreaded having to work in there.

Late one night a 1/4" tape came in, to be transferred to 35MM mag.  It had a Nagra pilot tone, a 60 Hz. signal recorded in the middle of the tape on a special head that, using an incredible motor-servo contraption, locked the two machines.

The tape was a Ritz Crackers spot with Andy Griffith.  The spot ended with Andy Griffith saying "Just remember...to Ritz it" and the sound of a triangle being struck.  But the pilot tone ran out a little early on the tape so the machines lost sync at the very end, and what should have been a nice musical ding at the end was more like "dee-yee-ying".  Well, it was late and I had no idea how to fix it, so I just transferred it as is, figuring the bad ending would be edited out, or replaced, or something.

Less than a week later I was home watching TV -- it might have been Mork And Mindy or The Tonight Show -- when the very same Ritz ad came on.  I was feeling quite pleased about my small role in network television until the end, when Andy Griffith said "Just remember...to Ritz it" and the sickly sounding "dee-yee-ying" rang from the speaker.  I had never felt so humiliated.

Well, it was a valuable lesson, and I was more careful after that.
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David Kulka

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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2005, 12:55:49 pm »

I found a picture of the beast, or part of it anyway.  Say, if audio engineers started dressing like this again, do you think the recording industry might make a comeback?

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Brendan Thompson

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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2005, 02:52:46 am »

Ooh! Ooh! I've got one! Pick meeeee! Very Happy

As a bit of background information, I'm 18 years old, from Melbourne, Australia, just starting out as an AE (anyone need an assistant? Very Happy), currently at an "Audio School" (JMC Academy, for those wondering), and I saw an ad somewhere for a government funded program named "FReeZACentral", which involved organizing a concert tour, and being matched up with "mentors" who are currently working in the industry in our field of interest. I decided to apply for this, having heard of the "FReeZA" program before (a related but separate entity, which not even half the people in the program understand), and of course got into it - otherwise I wouldn't have wasted everyone's time by typing it out.

Part of the mentorship side of the program involved a larger "project" with our mentors. We were in groups of about 3 or 4, and the decision was made, with our mentor John, to do some sort of Studio or Location recording.

We met up at a pub sometime last month, and discussed our options. We could either record a live gig of a softer band, or do a studio demo of a louder band. We all agreed that we'd rather do the heavier band (who I had seen before and knew they were very tight), and John told us he was chasing down a pair of blackface ADAT's for us to record onto.

Fastforward to last monday, and we had another meeeting at the same pub where we discussed hire options. John was taking delivery of the ADATs on Friday and we were recording on Saturday in at a rehearsal studio. We worked out a hire list on Tuesday and asked the hire place what we could get.

Turns out the stuff we wanted was booked out, and they were going to have to replace the 57's we wanted with 421's, and the M88 we wanted for kick with some Audix mic from a kit. They also replaced the Neumann's we wanted with Calrecs. Not a bad tradeoff, we decided - typical Aussie "she'll be right" attitude.

Come saturday, I was meant to be picked up from my house at 10:10 or so... I was picked up at about 10:30 by a fellow mentoree, and we headed in to pick up our mentor, before making our way to the hire place to pick up the gear.

They had doublebooked the 421's as well - so they gave us a pair of 414's instead! However, they didn't think we needed cables or stands, so we were there until 12:30 trying to get everything we needed.

So we arrived at the rehearsal studio (the band and one other mentoree had been there since midday) and we began setting up. We had a whole pile of 3 foot mic cables, and no long ones - so we had to string 2 or 3 together for each run.

ADAT machine 1 wouldn't work. Error 7. So we were down to 8 tracks...

One of the Y-split leads we had for sending vocals to the multicore and the PA simultaneously was broken - so we used a DI box. Which we thought had stopped working, but it was actually a channel on one of the A&H GL2's (we wanted the GL2200, or the Mixwizard 16:2, but both were booked out so we got two GL2's and had to "link" them by running the output of one into the other, since we weren't supplied a link cable).

The overheads were crapping out, from the extreme SPL's in the room, we think - but we weren't sure. They seemed fine when we tested them a bit later, while the band ducked out for a bite to eat...

The clip-on mics we ended up with on toms (the 421's were booked out!) were AWFUL - all we ended up with were little clicks where we should have had big deep toms...

Adat machine 2 started having problems...

So we ended up sending the guitarist home, and he got his portastudio, and we recorded to that in parallel to the ADAT!

We hired $10,000 worth of equipment, only to record to a cassette tape Rolling Eyes
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Jose Mrochek

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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2005, 07:05:15 pm »

I get chills just writing about this...

story goes like this.. I'm this guy, from Bolivia (south america) who has always dreamed of going to the states to pursue a career in music. I have always dreamed of working in a big studio, so I enrolled in school in the US and after finishing the course I get my big break and get a intership at a relatively big studio in Miami. Everything was perfect, doing food runs and wrapping cables knowing that I had made a huge step in my life and only good things where to happen from here. You have to understand, that coming from a country like Bolivia, and having a cigarrete break with Ricky Martin (whatever you think of him) is something special. Or become sort of friends with Shakira, was definetly something for me.

Having said that, I have the brilliant idea one day of borrowing a rolling stones DASH tape to mix during my off time. It was a live rolling stones tape that was given to the studio owner in grattitude for the lending or renting of the 2 dash machines in order to record the concert in miami.

So there was I , put the tape on the machine.. go to the control room, sit on the capricorn, press play.. and off to mixing fun was I... with this thought on my mind "man Jose, you have struggled years to get to this right moment, in front of a Capricorn (whatever it means to you guys, it was alot for me), mixing no other than a rolling stones tape (even if it was for fun) listening to all the stones mistakes.. I truly felt I had accomplished alot in my life................. but then.  

the music just stops!  I don't hear a thing !!! I press play, nothing happens.. the buttons where not working.. reverse, whatever.. nothing moved and everything was silent. So I get up, out the door to the tape machine closet.. open that door.......

I see MILES of digital tape all over the room. (I will never forget that picture in my life). Here was I, infront of miles (at leaste it seemed like miles) of destroyed rolling stones tape. After a few seconds of almost passing out, I think to myself.. well, ok man.. this is it, NO ONE will hire you in this city, I truly felt it was the end of my world.

(I hardly remember this part) ... I know I walked up stairs to the managers office, and by the look on my face I guess he knew something terribly wrong has happened.. so I told him (i guess), we went downstairs he  saw the mess.. (I don't remember what he said, but I do remember he tried to calm me down. So I did, he then said  this happened ONCE before.. don't worry, at least you did not cost us any money, so it will be allright, and trust me YOU WILL NEVER MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE AGAIN.

The "mistake" or plain stupidity mixed with  excitement of the moment..)well.. what happenened WAS.............  I didn't notice the pick up real was of a smaller size of the tape. And well I guess I don't need to explain any more....... I'm ashamed of posting this story right now.

All the staff in the studio found out within 2 minutes, and the story of the day was "the intern screwed the stones tape". I remember the tech saying "so Jose, I heard you were practicing your digital tape editing skills" ..............

I don't know if the owner of the studio ever found out. I never wanted to really ask, I had nightmares of this for almost a week. I couldn't fall asleep, just thinking everymorning I would show up to work and I would get fired. I still after 4 years have a difficult time telling this story.

Luckily the studio's staff was very undertanding, I guess they like me.. or my coffee was great, but I didn't get fired.  Embarassed
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djui5

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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2005, 10:59:35 pm »

wow Jose..that's insane! Man...if I could have just took a picture of the look on your face when you walked into the machine room.


I have a story..not really a tech thing but crazy none-the less.

I called Transcon to book a session in the C room for some vocal recording. I live in Phoenix, and the studio was in Orlando..so there's flights and such involved. The studio manager called the artist trying to change the date..saying he overbooked the studio and would give us an extra day if we moved the date. That wasen't an option as I was allready in Orlando and had flights that couldn't be canceled. I thought this was strange..as I know them to not make mistakes like overbooking a room. I find out later why.
The C room had an Amek Big for a console. I hate this thing and was using it for monitoring only. I was trying to record vocals on 10 songs in a 8hr session so I was allready "under the gun". Setting up for the session..the assistant (Scott..I love that guy) brought in the 824's for be because I don't like Genelics. He plugged them in..and the right side wasen't working, so I figured it was the monitors..and he went and got the Genelic's. Right side wasen't working again. After a few min's it just started working again so I figured it was just something simple. Right...
Couple of hrs into the session..the right side starts cutting in and out...then after a couple of min's it's ok. We continue on. Hour or 2 later the right side $hit's out completely. This was the right side of the stereo buss...so there's really no way around it. Guess the console just had it.
Scott says he'll be right back. Couple of min's later the studio manager knocks on the door. I told the artists to take a break. Studio manager tells me the right side of the board is fried and they're going to swap it out with a Mackie board they have in storage. Told me to take an hour break. I sent the artists to one of the rehersal rooms for a "smoke break". Studio manager was really cool about it too. Told me he'd give me a couple of extra hours for the trouble.
I come back an hour or so later...and they've got the Mackie ON TOP OF THE AMEK! The Amek was covered with a scrap piece of carpet. I'm attaching a picture of it..under that carpet is the Amek Big.

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Jose Mrochek

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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2005, 05:32:33 pm »

hey Randy, yeah.. it was one scary moment. This did happen before as they told me, with a very very very  famous american singer who had to be flown back to Miami to re-do  vocals. The engineer did not get fired either. Those are the type of mistakes that should never ever happen. And I don't wish this happening to anyone in this forum or the sluts.

About the Mackie, I thought those covering up techniques where only used in south america  Laughing
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CCC

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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2005, 09:57:38 pm »

Hi Jose,
Great story - but I have a question; do you have any background info on the stones tape you were using? I worked on a Stones record, and to say that they were insanely protective of their tapes would be an understatement. Every inch of tape was locked in a vault every night (or should I say every morning at 8am) when we finished work...then the key to the vault was taken home by one of the bands trusted employees. I can't believe that a studio owner got his hands on a live multitrack tape - can you elaborate on how he got his hands on it?
Thanks, John S.
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Jose Mrochek

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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #13 on: March 02, 2005, 07:17:55 am »

John Sorensen wrote on Wed, 02 March 2005 02:57

Hi Jose,
Great story - but I have a question; do you have any background info on the stones tape you were using? I worked on a Stones record, and to say that they were insanely protective of their tapes would be an understatement. Every inch of tape was locked in a vault every night (or should I say every morning at 8am) when we finished work...then the key to the vault was taken home by one of the bands trusted employees. I can't believe that a studio owner got his hands on a live multitrack tape - can you elaborate on how he got his hands on it?
Thanks, John S.




It was a live recording of a show in Miami at pro-player stadium.
I think the year was 1995. I'm not sure really.. It's a 48tk DASH tape I think given in grattitude for the lending of the DASH machines to record the show. I could find out the whole story behind this for you, but it's not a subject I want to touch with the managers again. I hope you understand.  Embarassed
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stevieeastend

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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #14 on: March 03, 2005, 05:40:56 am »

I got one, which is kind of similar to David?s... personal horror story.

I was recommended to do sound and music for a commercial of a big german company, the spot was only supposed to be in cinemas. Everything was very urgent to say the least. The whole spot had to be spoken, composed, sounded within a day from gettin the material.. so big challenge for me. Everything went really fine, I gave them all in all four versions to pick, two different music layouts and two more versions of the spoken part as I once worked as a copy-writer and thought it would be good to give ?em an additional option.
They came by in the evening, listen to it and were VERY happy. You know the feelin when you get it right for a new client,  this was a real big name, so I felt like "Mr. Big Stuff" to say it with my favourite Stax song.

So there was only one question left. How to prepare the stereo bus in oder to make it really good in the cinemas. I had really no experience how something translate to theatres, I knew only what radio and TV processing would do, but is this really an issue for a theatre? If I would compress it less, would it than even better as there could be processing happen in the cinemas as well? Or not? Just bringing everything within a certain dynamic range, or compress it really hard?
Actually I had nothing but a certain feelin but could not really trust myself. A engineer, who works at the public radio station and my assistent pushed me to leave it as it is as they thought it would be great anyway. I still felt like sending via mail to a mastering house to be on the safe side but then a friend of mine, who plays with the Vienna Philarmoniker came by. I played it to him and he also agreed that it would be just fine.
The three of them were all like "you can save money not having it mastered, it will sound great anyway, nobody will hear the difference, bla,bla,bla".  And finally I gave in. I did not prepared it they way my gut feeling told me and thought it will be alright anyway.

Bottom line: It was WAY not loud enough. The voice just did fine but everything was just too timid, not "in your face" enough as most of the other commercials. There was this Coca-Cola spot and the different in loudness was scary. I was getting smaller and smaller in my seat...I could actually feel all their looks on me and comments, ... they will for sure kill me and I will loose my reputation for doing commercials before it even started.

After the show I awaited the worst. I stand next to the toilet, maybe I could escape...  So, the two marketing ladies came up to me and said, totaly honest: "Congratulations, good job! How did you like the movie?" Smile


I cannot say how many lessons this taught me:

1. Never trust anybody else than yourself and your ears. When you make mistakes they should be at least yours.

2. Get the job done properly, don?t matter what it takes. (This was my experience, which taught me that important rule!)

3. There are more marketing guys out there with damaged ears than you might thought.

4. There are more marketing guys out there that would not tell the truth. Actually they did not called me again.


cheers
steveeastend

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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #15 on: March 03, 2005, 08:00:06 am »

John Sorensen wrote on Wed, 02 March 2005 02:57

Hi Jose,
Great story - but I have a question; do you have any background info on the stones tape you were using? I worked on a Stones record, and to say that they were insanely protective of their tapes would be an understatement. Every inch of tape was locked in a vault every night (or should I say every morning at 8am) when we finished work...then the key to the vault was taken home by one of the bands trusted employees. I can't believe that a studio owner got his hands on a live multitrack tape - can you elaborate on how he got his hands on it?
Thanks, John S.


I had the same thought when I read this, I worked with them and Toots and the Maytals about two years ago and the situation was very similar to the one you described.  Even the on the live gigs they had their own security people guarding the recording position under the stage.
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Jose Mrochek

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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #16 on: March 03, 2005, 10:30:18 am »

Samc wrote on Thu, 03 March 2005 13:00

John Sorensen wrote on Wed, 02 March 2005 02:57

Hi Jose,
Great story - but I have a question; do you have any background info on the stones tape you were using? I worked on a Stones record, and to say that they were insanely protective of their tapes would be an understatement. Every inch of tape was locked in a vault every night (or should I say every morning at 8am) when we finished work...then the key to the vault was taken home by one of the bands trusted employees. I can't believe that a studio owner got his hands on a live multitrack tape - can you elaborate on how he got his hands on it?
Thanks, John S.


I had the same thought when I read this, I worked with them and Toots and the Maytals about two years ago and the situation was very similar to the one you described.  Even the on the live gigs they had their own security people guarding the recording position under the stage.



Man you guys are making me feel worse, as to the importance (uniqueness) of having a tape like that. Anyway, I think a total of 3 songs where lost after it was "fixed". And till this day I feel like shit about it.   Sad
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stevieeastend

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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #17 on: March 03, 2005, 01:52:11 pm »

come on mate, get over it.... Wink

Try to see it that way: what do you think would Keith Richards have done with the tapes anyway, if he would remember at all....

after all they are only human and it wasn?t the original "get no satisfaction" tape... so what.... just a cool story....


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steveeastend

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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #18 on: March 03, 2005, 02:21:06 pm »

steveeastend wrote on Thu, 03 March 2005 18:52

come on mate, get over it.... Wink

Try to see it that way: what do you think would Keith Richards have done with the tapes anyway, if he would remember at all....





Hi Steve,
You're totally right - Jose shouldn't feel so bad about the incident with the tape.  We've all had our share of screw-ups and been victims of things beyond our control (like out-of-control tape transports) The way I look at it is that all the clever things and all the not-so-clever things we do add up to the sum total of our learning experiences - assuming you decide you will draw lessons from what happens and vow to never let it happen again...at least that's how I console myself Smile

On the subject of what Keith might do or be cognizant of - I think you'd be surprised, actually.  I was on a gig with them for a few months in 97 and I'd have to say he was one of the coolest people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Those guys ain't dumb - and they ain't out of touch with reality.  This isn't hero worship talking - I just think it's too bad when people put those guys down, because the truth is that they're actually really, really good to the people they work with.
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Jose Mrochek

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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #19 on: March 03, 2005, 03:06:38 pm »

Thanks for the moral support  Smile  The tape was cool and all, but it wasn't something they had up in a wall or something for people to see.. if that was the case I don't think they would give it for interns to play with. What truly bothers me till today is the embarrasment of being trusted and because of excitement reasons not taken care of it more, and if they would have not been as cool as they where, they could have ended my career right there. I know of a couple of similar cases, where people where fired and never got the chance of working in a city for these type of things because they could not be trusted anymore, specialy if you are a intern!!!
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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #20 on: March 08, 2005, 08:49:25 pm »

Hey everyone,

A bunch of years ago I was assisting on an album that was a reggae tribute to the Grateful Dead. The producer had just returned to NYC after doing a bunch of tracking in Jamaica and, by his account, it was a bit of a tough go convincing all these people to contribute, getting comments like, "they should be called the Grateful Living". He basically said that not many of the musicians there cared much for the Dead. But he had gotten his performances and was ready to finish it up.

The track we were to mix that day had a guest vocal from the I-Threes, and the producer was very excited about having procured these legends. This excitement waned quickly, though, as I wound the tape on the machine and it began to make a "whit-whit-whit-whit" noise which quickly turned into a SNAP and the sound of loose tape flapping on the machine. It happened so fast!

We all turned in horror toward the machine and looked at the tape. It looked like somebody had taken a hot soldering iron and jammed it into the tape, doing extensive damage to a few minutes of material. Apparently, this happened in customs, where an official thought that perhaps drugs were stashed in a hollowed-out tape.

We lost the drum tracks, and perhaps the bass track too, but somehow we managed to piece enough of it back together to reconstruct the song.

The worst thing about technical disasters is getting back into a creative mind-set after you figure out the problem.


Noah
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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #21 on: March 10, 2005, 11:06:17 pm »

When I was a staff assistant ,One night I blew out the mains in 2 ssl rooms and 1 neve room. I freaked. The studio had a 35 piece booked in one room at 8am and the other rooms were booked all day.

I called the tech and told him. In SSL remix room he asked me to go over to the white eq's used for the mains and bang on them. Boom, just like that they came back.

The next morning I got in at 7am for the 8 o'clock session. I set the room up the night before. I went in there and the mains were back up. I had know idea about the fuses in the speakers.


One more dumb ass thing I did. Kicked my feet up on the ssl which bumped into a 2" box which bumped into a cup of coffee which spilled in the pacthbay. They got the blow dryer out and all was cool 2hr's later.
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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #22 on: March 11, 2005, 10:30:01 am »

compasspnt wrote on Fri, 18 February 2005 16:53



Of course, this may be something people would rather not talk about, BUT...anyone got any stories?



What a great topic, Terry!  I know there are some juicy ones out there, so I'll tell mine in the hopes that everyone else will pipe up.

I was tape-op for a 3M M79 24-track on a jingle session - JCPenney, I think.  If you remember the M79s, they had a peculiar tape path that kinda looped around in a U-shape -- erase and record heads on the left, vertical part of the "U" and the playback head on the right, vertical part.  Capstan was center mounted with two pinch rollers and some kind of passive roller all the way at the bottom.

I was instructed, years before I could even TOUCH the machine, to always observe the tape path and make sure it is smooth as glass.  A particular way of looking for wrinkles or un-even tension from reel to reel was to shine a light onto the back of the tape and look at the reflection of the light source.  If it was reflected like a mirror, all good, if it "distorts" the image of the light source, there is uneven wear, improper tension - whatever, sometimes just built-up on rollers and/or heads.

On this session, while the tape was rolling (it was just a bunch of synths slaving to MTC on track 24), I was looking closely at the tape path, Maglight in hand, everything seemed ok on the erase/record side.  As I was tilting my head over to the righthand headstack, I began to notice slight wrinkles in the take-up path.  "That's strange," I thought, "the other side was perfect?!?"

It wasn't long before I felt the pull on my scalp, as my ponytail was being pulled through the pinch rollers at a blazing 30 inches per second.  Yow!!

It didn't last long and I can't recall exactly, but I think my nose or cheek bone pressed the stop button as my face was being pulled toward the deck. Embarassed

Besides my embarrassment, everything was OK.  I had to have the engineer help unwind my hair and, of course, a good deck cleaning was in order.  I'm so glad there were no camera phones in those days Laughing

We did get everything back in order and xfer the MIDI stuff to the machine, just before the vocal talent showed up.  Of course, the composer and the enginner told the story for the rest of the afternoon to each and every overdub artist and every ad agency person that came through that day.

I keep my hair shorter these days, but I DO keep poking my head in those tape paths to make sure it is smooth as glass.  I guess harddrive folks don't have these kind of "problems" these days.  Aren't they lucky?

Osci-later,

Fig
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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #23 on: March 11, 2005, 12:06:58 pm »

Hey--

Ponytail in an M79?  OWWWWWW!

I make a portion of my living teaching analog audio.  When explaining 2" alignment, I always make quite a show of tying my (very long and, at age 45, still not thinning at the back!) hair back, explaining that one *doesn't* want to get his/her hair caught in a transport that's moving tape at 30 ips, never mind wind speeds.  My students all nod solemnly at this juncture, then I'm quite sure they completely forget what I've said.

Last year a group managed to mis-thread an A-80, then get it into wind.  When they saw what the machine did to the tape (stretch 6" of tape out to about five feet), they became believers.

I just smirked and reminded them that they were fortunate that that was a fresh reel, not one with client master program material on it. Shocked
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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #24 on: March 14, 2005, 09:31:14 pm »

Fig, your pony tail in the M79 was a great story, and it reminded me of an injury-by-tape-machine experience of my own.

I was aligning an ATR-102 one evening at United/Western.  People who used these machines may recall that on the black handrest bar that went across the front, the one covered in naugahide or some such material, there was a black rubber end cap on each side, with a raised edge that stuck up about an eighth of an inch.

Well, there happened to be a razor blade lying on the front, and as I finished aligning the deck I swung around, brushing my right hand across the naugahide surface.  My fingertips caught the blade, sliding it to the left.  The grip of the blade snagged on that end piece and when it stopped, the blade sliced nice chunks off of two fingertips.  It hurt like hell and bled like mad.

Making matters worse, there was still another machine to be aligned and I was the only tech.  I had no choice but to wrap a bunch of bandages around my fingers and soldier on with the greenie.  Blood was dripping all over the place.  Adding insult to injury, the second engineer found this quite hilarious and began singing that line from "We Will Rock You" over the talkback mic, with the studio speakers turned way up.  "Got blood on your face, a big disgrace..."

I finished aligning the machine, then bolted for my car and drove home, bleeding all over the steering wheel.  That was a bad night.
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Bob Olhsson

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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #25 on: March 14, 2005, 10:05:24 pm »

The first run of M-79s would go into record briefly on all tracks if somebody kicked out the AC plug!

David Kulka

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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #26 on: March 14, 2005, 10:36:12 pm »

My previous story was kind of funny but this one isn't, and I'm sure it's not what Terry had in mind when he started the thread.  This was a tragedy with loss of life, and will not amuse anyone.  But it's been on my mind for a while lately, and might serve to prevent a similar accident from happening someday, somewhere.

It was in San Francisco. My uncle and I were hired to run sound for the annual Christmas show at the St. Francis Yacht Club, a large, well established, and tony facility near the Golden Gate Bridge. My setup was at the back of the auditorium, under a huge Christmas tree.

About halfway into the show I heard a crackling sound from the speakers and noticed that the VU meter lights on my mixer were flickering. Thinking the power cord might be loose in the socket, I turned around to look at the outlet, and that's when I saw that one of the Christmas tree lights was spitting out sparks. Another guy saw it at about the same time, and we both dived down to yank the cord.

Less than 5 seconds had passed but it was already too late. The tree went up like gasoline. We ran for the exit doors and held them open; people began pouring out. Within minutes the first fire truck was there, they hollered at everyone to get the hell out. I went to my car and saw that the window had been smashed -- a fireman had done that to roll it out of the way.

Sitting on a pile of broken glass, I drove away. I headed home along Divisadero Street, which passed over a hill with view of the club building, way down by the Bay. From a mile or two away I could now see a huge conflagration in my rear view mirror. The whole place was on fire, the flames reflected in the water. People had gathered on the sidewalks, staring down at the fire. Ten minutes earlier I had been sitting under the tree, mixing sound for the Christmas show. I pulled over to look for a while, then drove home in shock.

It turned out that all the audience members got out safely, but the flames had burst through the ceiling and into the second floor kitchen, killing three employees. I went back a day or two later, and found the little Altec mixer that we'd rented from McCune Sound Services.  There wasn't much left of it but for whatever reason McCune wanted it back, so I brought it to them.

Everyone was sued including my uncle, me, McCune, the water utility ("insufficient pressure"), the National Guardsmen (who had supplied the tree), even the fire department. The final investigation found the cause to be a combination the tree being dried out (it was not in water) and a faulty string of Christmas lights.

The experience had a huge impact on me.  In my own home I am extremely careful with receptacle wiring and power cords, ditto with client equipment and studio wiring.  A recent post on this forum mentioned a fire at a studio, and that rang some bells.  Last week I learned that a friend from 30 years ago had perished in a house fire; he was a packrat and the place was full of papers and makeshift electrical stuff.   Guys, these kinds of problems are easy to prevent but if one is careless, the results can be horrific.  "Be careful with things that are important."
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compasspnt

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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #27 on: March 14, 2005, 11:23:10 pm »

whew!
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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #28 on: March 15, 2005, 08:56:57 am »

David Kulka wrote on Mon, 14 March 2005 21:36


The experience had a huge impact on me.  In my own home I am extremely careful with receptacle wiring and power cords, ditto with client equipment and studio wiring.  A recent post on this forum mentioned a fire at a studio, and that rang some bells.  Last week I learned that a friend from 30 years ago had perished in a house fire; he was a packrat and the place was full of papers and makeshift electrical stuff.   Guys, these kinds of problems are easy to prevent but if one is careless, the results can be horrific.  "Be careful with things that are important."


David,

I'm sorry to hear about the tragedy you described, and I can understand how it could cause a significant emotional impact.

Most folks never think twice about the wiring in their homes, and most do-it-yourself books make it look so easy, so folks attempt it themselves. I recently had to have my entire basement (studio and all) re-wired by an electrician friend because the previous owner had decided to wire it himself. Apparently, he had wired it back-asswards creating a fire hazard which was just waiting to cause a possibly fatal electrical event.

My friend fixed it up good as new and I asked him what he believed to be the #1 cause of home fires and electrocutions. He replied "Home Depot and do-it-yourself home improvement books."

-mr moon
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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #29 on: March 16, 2005, 09:46:24 pm »

mr. moon wrote on Tue, 15 March 2005 08:56



David,

I'm sorry to hear about the tragedy you described, and I can understand how it could cause a significant emotional impact.

Most folks never think twice about the wiring in their homes, and most do-it-yourself books make it look so easy, so folks attempt it themselves. I recently had to have my entire basement (studio and all) re-wired by an electrician friend because the previous owner had decided to wire it himself. Apparently, he had wired it back-asswards creating a fire hazard which was just waiting to cause a possibly fatal electrical event.

My friend fixed it up good as new and I asked him what he believed to be the #1 cause of home fires and electrocutions. He replied "Home Depot and do-it-yourself home improvement books."

-mr moon



A bit OT: My parents recently bought a farm in which the previous owner did all of his own wiring over the last 60 years. Bare wires running through the loose hay insulation in the attic. Bare wire on every lighting fixture. Bare wire in the basement starewell at chest-level. This guy rented out the adjacent property to his brother, who found pennies being used as fuses. Shocked  It's a miracle they only had one electrical fire.

-Dan.
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Bill Mueller

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Re: SESSION TECH HORROR STORIES!
« Reply #30 on: March 19, 2005, 09:26:16 am »

I heard a similar story about Steeley Dan. I'm not sure if it is urban legend or true, but it went like this. The band was working on a song for weeks and was finally just about finished and ready to mix. The session lasted all night and before they left, a piece of leader was inserted in front of the song, which ended up at the end of the reel.

The studio tec came in the next morning and grabbed the reel, and as is the tradition in New York, proceeded to align the tape on what he thought was the TAIL LEADER! Oops. After laying 1k tones over the first half of the song, he hit play and SLAM! in comes the Dan tune. He just got up and went home.

This next one is one of those that you had wished never happend but proves that even us superheroes are human.

I was working for ZZ Top on my first trip with them to LA. We were staying at the Riot Hiatt on Hollywood. We had a ZZ Top billboard across the street from the hotel. Tres Hombres has hitting hard and all was good.

The gig was at the Paladium, which by the way, I was surprised to find out looked a lot like a high school gymnasium. Anyway, it was one of my first gigs where I was not on the PA crew but was working for the band as an assistant to Dave. So we set up the guitar amps and dropped an extension cord for power. After plugging all the amps into this extension cord, Dave told me to plug it in the splitter behind the stage.

Well, I jumped down from the stage and there were two splitters sitting right next to each other, and in fact I thought they were connected together, so I plugged the amp extension into one of them. The wrong one of them to be exact. Apparently there was a lighting splitter and there was a stage splitter and I chose lighting.

Everything went just ducky for about three songs until one big orgasmic confluence of lights and power chords and the whole damn stage went dark and quiet. Shit! I immediately knew what had happend and tried my best to crawl to the power boxes in total darkness and pull the extension from the splitter, that all knew by now was the lighting splitter. This was made even more difficult by the fact that all of the blood in my body had drained into my feet, making me quite light headed.

Once we got the power back on and the amps plugged into the right splitter, I laid on the floor and tried to figure out how I was going to hitchike back to the midwest with two broken legs. However, Bill never said a word to me about it, and in fact I think Dave took the heat for me. There I said it.

Best Regards,

Bill
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