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R/E/P => R/E/P Archives => Terry Manning => Topic started by: compasspnt on March 15, 2005, 10:09:49 AM

Title: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: compasspnt on March 15, 2005, 10:09:49 AM
It would be interesting to hear some good stories about how those of us in this messy business actually got here...where and how we learned the "crafts" of production and engineering, and perhaps just why we were crazy enough to forsake the real world in favour of insanity.  Also, did anyone actually go to one of the recording schools, or just learn on the job from mentors?

All of this I believe would be helpful to those trying to break into music recording.

Briefly, for me, it started with going to bed as a very young child with a transistor radio glued to my ear, and listening to Elvis and other early rock late into the night.  My grandfather and father both had radio shows, and therefore both always had tape recorders around, so I was naturally fascinated by those Wollensak machines.   I would go with my Dad occasionally to the radio control room as he broadcast, and I fell in love with the idea of communicating with unseen people through speech or music.  As I progressed to a young teen, got a guitar, hung out with other guys who had instruments (El Paso, TX), formed bands, etc., we naturally turned these tape recorders into home studios to record our great music.  This eventually led to recording in a studio (early Ardent in Memphis as mentioned in other threads, blah...blah...)  I started hanging around the studio a lot, and was mentored by John Fry, owner of Ardent, and a great, solid, by-the-book engineer.  Enough of my stuff, though...

I will say that I believe the number one requisite for staying power in this business isn't really technical ability (that of course helps a LOT), or musical knowledge (that can assist a bit, too), but is actually the power to keep on going, hour after hour, day after day, without griping or giving up.  I've had a lot of guys hang around over the years, wanting to "intern," but have found few who can take it after just a short while.  Those of you doing this professionally today obviously can "take it."  What advice can we give to those wanting to become "one of us?"
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: stevieeastend on March 15, 2005, 10:34:35 AM
Well, I think it is the passion for music and talent.
The things you are very talented at (more than the others), you will sooner or later be doing for life. I personally play four instruments and always wanted to know what makes a great record really great. I think this is one of the most important factors: To have the ambition to make a record as great as possible and really wanting to take care of every little aspect.
And when talent comes to passion you normally can make a living out of it. There is nothing I can do for days and days, weeks and weeks, years and years without being in need of a break. I had clients from day one I started  the studio, before I worked part time and played live for years.

I do not need a lot of money to be happy with my life. To do what I really love is the greatest gift in the world for me besides being healthy. I know what it means to do something which is kind of a compromise. And I always remember all the jobs I have done before when I am in the middle of heart sinking arranging session... I love this MESS Smile
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: wwittman on March 15, 2005, 10:47:13 AM
I'll tell my longer story later, when i can sit down and make it seem linear and logical!

But I am reminded of another story..

Record Plant NYC had a kid that Roy Cicala had hired to be a general helper (that means cleaning up, running errands, etc.. a dogsbody).
This guy had actually been washing Roy's car and things like that before he even brought him to the studio... he had a job at the GM factory before that. So not any audio experience or expressed interest at all.

Well one day one of the main assistants said to him " Hey Steve, want to sit in and watch my session with ________ (a big name artiste)?"

"Well thanks but I am supposed to go to the movies with my friend"

The guy looked at him for a moment and then said " Do you want to go to the movies, or see a session with _________!!??"

That was enough to decide him.
How many people would KILL to see the session?
And he stayed and did.
And he went on to become one of their best assistants and then a fine engineer today.

I guess my point was that I never felt put upon... I always WANTED to be there in the middle of it making records. Or even watching other people make records!

And as I said in antoher thread... it's what *I* would look for today in an intern.. someone who's happy to be there and to learn.
No previous knowledge required or even desired.

Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: Lee Flier on March 15, 2005, 10:48:26 AM
Well, I am not a full time pro engineer anymore and I came into it from a slightly different perspective as some of you.  Namely, I'm a musician first and foremost, and as a musician and songwriter I've always heard certain "sonic landscapes" in my head that to my mind were integral to the process of communicating the song.  And I learned pretty quickly, when I started going to recording studios, that the engineer really had the power to either make that "world" happen or totally fuck it up.  I became really frustrated with my inability to communicate what I wanted to engineers, and I also suspected some of the ones I worked with weren't very good because I'd worked with a couple of good ones.  Mind you this was all happening when I was 15-16 years old.

In retrospect, what I did was probably totally crazy, and I don't know how I pulled it off.  What I did was walk through the door at some of the biggest studios in L.A. (I was pretty fortunate to have grown up in L.A. during the 70's and early 80's), track down some of my favorite engineers and producers and ask them if I could sit in on a session with them, just to learn.  This had to be something that zillions of kids tried to do, I guess.  And I don't know why but most of the guys I asked let me do it.  Maybe because I never asked (at first) to actually have my hands on anything or be a formal "intern."  I just wanted to watch. Very Happy  And I wanted to watch as many different people as possible.  I didn't get in the way.  It was enough just to be there and soak it all in.

So by the time I actually started interning I had a pretty good idea how a lot of great folks worked, from the creative and workflow side, and I think that gave me an invaluable leg up.  And of course made me some good connections too.

In the end I only made my entire living from engineering for a few years - long enough to develop the skills I needed for my specific artistic goals.  The whole business of having to take any client that walked in the door in order to pay the bills, was not something that agreed with my temperament.  I have pretty specific tastes and usually, what's popular and has a budget doesn't agree with those tastes. Very Happy  So nowadays I only take on projects that I truly enjoy, and spend as much time as I want on them.  Now that I'm in the band that I basically always wanted to be in, that takes most of my time and energy.  But I do love the long hours and the craziness of the job! Whether it's playing, writing, or engineering - or just listening and being a fan (which is a very underrated pursuit) - I love being obsessed with music.  That's what got me into this mess. Very Happy
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: Level on March 15, 2005, 10:56:37 AM
Oh crap...here it goes..I hope no one takes offense to my writings below..but honestly..this is how it all started..

When my Brother came back from Viet Nam in 1969..I was a budding Trombone beginner with a love for good high fidelity. Me and my Dad went to "town" each Saturday for the barber shop, the hobby shop and then the hi fi store. We were groupies of them all and it was quite a great day..Saturdays were. It would start with Westerns on the TV and we would "head out" around 11AM. We lived on a long dirt road then (now it is a 4 lane)and "Pop" let me hone my skills actually driving the car at age 10 upwards of 45 mph...until we got to the "road".

The hi fi shop. The equipment of the late 60's (Altec speakers, JBL, Bozak, Klipsch, Scott, Harmon Kardon, McIntosh)and plenty of music. The Hi Fi Shop (FTC Brewer Company) was also an FM Stereo radio station. 94.1 Still on the air..but no hi fi shop.

Skipping some, My Brother brought back a "system" from Viet Nam that was Japanese. Sonics speakers, Sansui Receiver (called a tuner-amp then), Teac R2R. This was when I discovered "popular music" Dad played Slim Witman and Old western recordings, Hank Snow...you know.."the good shit" He loved Motown as well...closest thing to POP in the house. No Elvis, No Beatles. Just this week (he loves the Floyd) I asked why he did not pursue the British invasion..his answer: "their is only one time I like the sound of a female screming"  (dirty ole man hehehe) We had (already)in the house, all valve equipment and we built our speakers from lansing components. POP had to balance between his hobby and hi fi..his being Model Airplanes, Radio control. The only hobby in the barber shop was the local town gossip (Mayor, City Councilmen all there in and out)and the occasional Playboy and Esquire mag..laying around. Not off limits to 10 year olds back then (mind you)

I was hooked on Loudspeaker building. We could build far better systems than we could afford to buy and it escalated into a full time passion for me in the early 70's. Each of them had their good points and some not so good.

It Dawned on me, about 73..it was the recordings and mixdowns that played the largest role in authentic musical transfer and not simply "the loudspeakers" although they do show various displays of the art...all of a sudden, I not only wanted to pursue the recording arts, I was thrown into it. Our High School Symphony was to have a session and the recordist was sick. We were able to obtain his gear and I ran it. this was nov. 73 and since then...loudspeaker design and consulting and live recording have been in the picture. I teamed up with several local studios in 74 and it has been a solid situation. I still play bone and bass and the music is what is important to me.

After High school and the first 2 years of College, I simply had more calling to engineer than anything that would come along. Studios back then had Lathes and we could do most of the entire gambit "in house". Digital really ramped up the involvement and here I am today. I still get calls to do loudspeaker design and consulting as time goes by.

There you go...A book in less than 5000 words.

Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: Otitis Media on March 15, 2005, 11:26:18 AM
My story is very uninteresting.  I had been interested in all manner of electronics (though not really good at it) and mechanical (very good at it) things from a very early age.  While in High school, I designed and built a few speaker systems and bought some nice hifi gear which I have to this day.  Went to school for film way back in the old days of 1995.  Ran production sound on a lot of films.  Also learned to shoot film, edit on Avid, use AfterEffects and Photoshop, light, etc.  Did audio post on a bunch of films.  My sound work was apparently better than what had been done in a while.  I was just careful - didn't do anything special.  

Got coughed out into the pro world in 1999, just in time for the job market in Boston for the film/video industry to start to tank.  Did some freelance audio post engineering with an old Pro Tools NuBus rig and on a PT24Mix at night at a high-end video house.  

Landed a gig mixing post and doing production audio for a local advertising branch of a cable company.  Was _the_ sound guy in the department for 2 years and really honed my chops.  Learned how to make my mixes stand up next to other stuff we were broadcasting.  Got laid off.

Started my own audio/video/film production business - did mainly video (but of course mixed everything!) for a couple of years.  Some freelance firsting and assisting up at Granite Rocks in NH on music stuff.  

Got hired as an Avid editor Sept. 2004, and here I am - still have all my audio gear - mobile digital 8 track, PTLE w/Behringer control sfc.  anyone got some stuff they wanna send my way? Razz

Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: Level on March 15, 2005, 11:29:33 AM
Dan, you will make it in large ways. I can feel it. The Humble Man will get just rewards. Hit me in PM, curious about your loudspeaker adventures. Spring is coming and the saw is to be used a few more times.

I use Vegas 5 lately. It is OK but I miss my old JVC Linear outfit.

Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: JGreenslade on March 15, 2005, 01:31:49 PM
I think my sig line says it all really...

An abridged version:

Got my first hi-fi mag aged 8, and dreamt of a studio of my own from that point. Built amps and experimented with mains-voltage powered devices from when my age was in double figures. Studied guitar on-and-off from early teens, still can't play very well. Started DJ-ing in the mid-'80s, and progressed to engineering in the late '80s, early '90s. Whilst engineering it occurred that the people I was engineering for often had less musical ability than myself, and decided to release own compositions / collaborations (with aid of proper players you understand, I write empirically with sequencer - once something happens the real guys come in) which were surprisingly well received.

Carried on AE-ing and producing / remixing into the late '90s, at which point, after a series of experiments with "managers" and one or two majors / media BS contracts etc I decided to finally realise long-held hardware ambitions. Since getting into the hardware biz I've had little time for my own work, and haven't had a release out under my own title for around 2 yrs now... The irony is that I have met some incredible players / singers (no Auto-tune on these cats) to work with, but hardware rent-paying duties get in the way...

Plan is to take on one or two people in coming months to handle the daily chores on the hardware front, and then I can get back in the studio more or less full-time - fingers crossed!

Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: Gordon Rice on March 15, 2005, 01:36:11 PM
compasspnt wrote on Tue, 15 March 2005 10:09

I will say that I believe the number one requisite for staying power in this business isn't really technical ability (that of course helps a LOT), or musical knowledge (that can assist a bit, too), but is actually the power to keep on going, hour after hour, day after day, without griping or giving up.  I've had a lot of guys hang around over the years, wanting to "intern," but have found few who can take it after just a short while.  Those of you doing this professionally today obviously can "take it."


Well said, Terry.  During my first couple of years as an assistant, I watched several people (all of them ten years younger than I was at the time) spin out and leave the business because they didn't feel that working 50-60 hours a week for next to nothing was "worth it."  Apparently, they didn't notice that I was perfectly willing to not only do whatever was asked of me without complaining, but to pick up their slack as well--I may not have been making much per hour, but I was more than happy to make it up in volume.

The closest I ever came to complaining was the time I pointed out to my studio manager that I'd worked at least four hours and an average of nine-and-a-half *every single day* for the past thirty-five, was scheduled for five more days just like it, and "might I please have a day off to celebrate my wedding anniversary?"  He gave me two, bless his heart.

How I ended up there and subsequently here:

I too had a transistor radio glued to my head from an early age; I wish I still had the tube AM/FM radio that my Dad rehabbed and installed in my room in 1967.  Music was always pretty much the most important thing in the world to me--given that there are a couple of professional singers on my mother's side of my family and quite a lot of very dedicated amateur musicians on my father's, it doesn't really seem like I had much choice in the matter.

My father, a computer programmer by trade and a radio/electronics hobbyist, taught me clarinet and saxophone from the time I was eight or so; by the time I was sixteen I'd also taken up guitar and drums.  By that time I'd also had my first encounters with assorted Wollensaks and then-newfangled cassette recorders in addition to the rudimentary PA systems available to high-school garage bands in the mid-70's--every time something went wrong with a piece of audio gear or a new piece appeared, I'd enter the room and notice that everyone was staring at me.  What they didn't understand was that I didn't know any more than they did, I was just willing to mess with the stuff long enough to make it more or less work.

DETOUR (slightly) to college, where I finished an English major and nearly finished a music theory & composition major.  Never did complete a degree, though . . ..  Realizing that I'd gained whatever I was going to gain from my time at Rutgers, I dropped out and, thinking "here's something that interests me," went to recording school in Ohio.  Had fun, did well, got home in April and suddenly realized that I was getting married the next month and I'd probably better do something about finding a job.

DETOUR completely for several years:  Happy married life, supported by a job in small-corporate hell.  For much of this time, I played bass in a succession of local bands.  Somehow, it always fell to me to cobble together PA systems for shows and recording rigs so that we could make demos to get gigs (once again, "How come you're all staring at me instead of doing something with all that gear?").

Fast-forward to 1993:  Two working bands (I was either rehearsing or gigging 6 or 7 nights/week) and an 8-to-5 straight job just got to be a bit much, so I got rid of the job.  Around the same time, the chief tech here at Sigma took an interest in one of the bands I was playing in.  We had been able to cut a few tracks on the sly in an 8-track facility; he offered to transfer those to 2-inch, do some overdubs and mix.  At one point during the overdubbing process, he had to leave the control room for some reason (I'm not sure about this, but it just might have involved the fader PSU in the big room catching fire); when it became apparent that he was going to be MIA for a little while and that my singer was anxious to get the overdubs done, I sat down at the remote and did the punches.  When he got back and discovered that I actually had some vague idea what I was doing in a recording studio (and was also unemployed at the time), management was alerted.

An internship began almost immediately; turned out that Chief Engineer also liked me on a personal level in addition to being impressed with my willingness to work.  Five weeks (and a freelance gig helping rewire one of the rooms here)later, I worked my first session as a paid assistant:  Mixing Bobby Rydell's remakes of his own hits, many of which were recorded in that room the first time.

A lot of blind luck followed; on two occasions (both of them, truthfully, before I was really ready) clients brought in outside engineers, then came back without them and asked for me to cut the sessions--that kind of made my reputation.  Manager once referred to me as his "ace in the hole"--whenever another staff member had a blowup with a client, he knew that he could put me on the session and everything would be fine.  Slowly but surely I found myself doing less and less assisting and more and more engineering (which paid double what assisting did); there were, however, more than one or two weeks in which I hit overtime on both sides of the line.

Eventually, Chief Engineer moved on.  At that point, I became the Chief here myself.  Now I've managed to survive two changes of ownership and am currently presiding over a studio that's under renovation--hopefully I'll have a room in which to practice my art by the middle of next month.  Meanwhile, I'm covering this desk and looking around for freelance work to supplement this income.

Seems to me to be a pretty typical story . . ..

One other thing:  Last October, I was working, by myself for that moment, on a mix for an album project and suddenly felt the urge to laugh:  Here I was, actually managing to survive by doing something I absolutely love to do!

This will probably sound strange to some, but that moment alone (and I might add that it wasn't the first moment of its kind and I don't imagine it'll be the last) made all the hard, lonely hours and the lost marriage worth it.

Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: Brian Kehew on March 15, 2005, 03:43:18 PM
I am from a musical family - no one "pro" just enthusiasts. I took apart stereos when young to see how they worked. Eventually I began playing piano and guitar and wanted to study electronics and computers. Synthesizers of the 1970's were a passion for me, but I couldn't afford even one. So I saved ALL the catalogs!

Went to college for recording at Cal State Dominguez Hills. I had looked t UCLA and Berkely and this place was MUCH better. It's a 4-years school, you take elctronics and even siht-singing and music dictation to make you well-rounded in all things musical. Of course, there is recording, but the first semester alone is ALL theory, no studio work. You don't even get to touch the board until the second year. You begin with only live 2tr. sessions, then 8-tr, finally 16 and 24.

Eventually, if you're accomplished, you get to book sessions at any time and work as much as you please ON YOUR OWN. Fantastic learning tool - a 24-track studio at your disposal. I spent night after night trying mix options and reverb/FX programming.

Used the studio to "get" artists (small and big) to come for free demos. Nothign did well, but other people heard it and asked me to work to their records. Etc etc. I became free-lance, and was happy to avoid the "second engineer" internship - most places rejected my applications, as I was overqualified by then.

Finally, during a session for a local guy, the producer was also the main producer for Warner Bros and Rhino reissues. He saw that I was VERY traditional and worked FAST, but with good results. He asked me to mix some Doobies for their box set - (Massenberg's tapes indeed, fantastic work) and it came out well. We've been doing it ever since - they've been bringing me tapes ever since (Thank God it's such a big company with excellent artists). We listen through multitracks and mix anything that has never gotten a mixdown. These and any original 2-tracks get submitted for approval - most are rejected for whatever reasons. So, the "perfect job" came in for me - totally by accident. Arguably, I am good at it, as they keep coming back; and I keep the prices LOW so they don't even think of trying anyone else.
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: j.hall on March 15, 2005, 04:09:50 PM
compasspnt wrote on Tue, 15 March 2005 09:09

It would be interesting to hear some good stories about how those of us in this messy business actually got here...

i was four months old and my mother set my car seat (me in it) on the countertop of the local McDonalds.  my sister, wanting to see what was going on, used my feet (hanging off the edge of the car seat and countertop) as her "handle" in order to pull herself up.  what seemed like a good idea ended up with me getting flipped off the countertop and smacking that cold brown brick McDonalds floor with my head.

the trauma i suffered from that head injury is the only thing i can possibly come up with as to why i wanted to work in the music biz.

Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: J.J. Blair on March 15, 2005, 05:34:27 PM
I took the brown acid.  

My advice: Stay away from the brown acid.  It's a real bummer.

And then, I was 5 or 6 and used to jump around with a tennis racket pretending to play guitar to "Saturday Night's All Right for Fighting" and "China Grove".  And then when I was six I bought Rubber Soul.  And my dad got me a guitar when I was eight.  When I was eleven and onward, everybody at school made fun of me and I had no friends, so I spent lots of time playing the guitar and doing acid.

My dad was a hi-fi freak (I still have his JBL Olympus speakers and use them as my overheads) and we had a reel to reel that I always messed with as a really young kid, playing stuff backwards, recording with a microphone, splicing, etc.  I bought a Tascam 4 track in high school and would record myself and a drum machine doiing Traffic songs, etc.  Before I had the Tascam, I would overdub by recording back and forth from two tape decks, playing or singing along with the previously recorded stuff, which just seemed obvious to me.  

When I got out of highschool, I interned at an ad agency so that I could go to lots of recording sessions, which I did.  None of the studios in Chicago wanted an 18 year old intern.  Then I pretended to go to college for a year and studied recording while I was there, and did lots of acid and played lots of guitar.  I learned mainly the theoretical things that guys cutting their teeath on protools aren't learning, like mic selection, mic placement, phasing, etc. etc.  We couldn't just fix shit the way somebody who records something badly can now.

I stopped doing acid, moved to LA, played in bands,  wound up buying this god forsaken rehearsal facility that I still own thirteen years later, which has graced me with more contacts in the music world than I know what to do with.  Played on a handful of smaller recording sessions, spent much time in the studio with other friends who were making their records, picked my friend Alan Hirshberg's (who was a working engtineer) brain all the time, let Jon Brion live on my couch for a year and absorbed as much info as I could from him, bought a 3M56 and an A&H console, and slowly let the beast grow from there to the room I have now.  I decided I hate being in bands, but I loved recording and producing and was very naturally good at it.  I recorded as many of my friends as I could so that I could learn from trial and terror, and I watched a lot of guys who really knew what the hell they were doing when they were either using my room or when I was visiting somebody else's.  And anything that I would see that was different or that somebody would tell me about that I never tried, I would try.  I would also spend downtime trying  things to see if they worked, which is why I do some things that nobody else does.  The ability to do this is one of the benefits of having your own room.  

The reason I still do it is because I love it and I'm good at it.  It's like second nature to me.  And fortunately, people are willing to pay me to do it.  Most importantly, I love being around musicians and recording types.  I can't deal with normal people.  I need to be able to talk about music and gear or I start to go nuts, which is why I love PSW so much!
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: Greg Dixon on March 15, 2005, 06:01:37 PM
The way I got into this mess, was fairly insane in hindsight. I've been obsessed with music since I was born. Dad was a lecturer in engineering and played in a Trad Jazz band a couple of nights a week. There were always lots of musical instruments around, as well as cassette and 1/4" tape recorders. So I played with all of those. I have always been fascinated with microphones. I have memories of Dad's band rehearsing at home, when I was only slightly taller than the snare drum. Elvis died when I was 9 and I got my first real exposure to Rock and Roll. Between all those music specials and watching the Beatles cartoons before school, I started playing guitar and wanting to be a rock star.

I finally met some like minded musicians in music class, in my second year of high school and so started my first band at 13. I was fortunate to have always played with some very good band members and have two very good music teachers at school. I also, was the guy that would set up and trouble shoot the PA, whenever we played. It was just a very natural thing and I don't think I really thought about it that much. There was a really good industry magazine here in Australia, that I learnt a lot from. Through the school, we had opportunities to perform at the 12,000 seat Sydney Entertainment Centre about 5-6 times and appear on a popular 'soap', where we were recorded with the best mobile truck in the country. With all these shows there was lots of 'hanging around', where I got to pick the brains of some of the top sound guys in the country. There was also a guy, a couple of years behind me at school, who's parents had a lot of money and had bought him a Fostex 1'4" 8 track, a Tascam desk and some good dynamic mics, which we got to use quite a bit, back when we didn't even know anyone with a 4 track.

After school I played in a band for 4 years and did lots of shocking casual jobs to survive. I learnt more from recording a few demos in commercial studios. I'd always thought that being a studio only guy, would be boring and wanted to be a performer.

Around the time my band broke up, I ended up doing  sound for a friends band and recording another friend of mine. I wasn't keen to do either and did them under protest. Of course I loved it and found all these other people asking if I was a professional. So when the band dissolved and I was wondering what to do next, I had all these people telling me I should open a studio. So I did.

My grandparents had invested some money for me in the mid '80s and with the high interest rates, it had tripled in value. Fortunately, we were in the middle of a recession and I was able to buy all the gear from a studio, for less than half of what they had been trying to sell it for a year earlier. I added to that and spent a year recording friends, to make sure that I really knew what I was doing before I charged anyone for a session. I borrowed a lot of money and my parents let me soundproof  what had always been the 'music' room and excavate further under the house for the control room and I went from there.

I always had a natural affinity with mics and mic technique came very naturaly, but being untrained, it took me quite a while to learn about when and how to use compression and to a lesser extent reverb. I was also quite a purist at that time and hated the late '80s reverb and compression overkill, so was happy to avoid most of that anyway, which of course, put me ahead of the pack for the 'dry' '90s production trends. Razz
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: compasspnt on March 15, 2005, 06:13:59 PM
I don't know about everybody else, but I find all of these stories fascinating!  I hope any new guys wanting to get into this business are reading all of this!  Everything here added together is a virtual compendium of knowledge about the workings of the recording side of the music industry, good and bad, sacrifices and rewards.

By the way, I don't think I've yet seen a single person who went to one of the dedicated "Recording Schools!"
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: Level on March 15, 2005, 06:18:33 PM

By the way, I don't think I've yet seen a single person who went to one of the dedicated "Recording Schools!"

Hell no....but in 1989, I was invited to teach at one of them...and I did as long as I could take it.

I love to teach...but not under someones inexperienced layout.

I found the "book worms" could not hear or mix, those who could not understand the books, mixed pretty damned good.

I am happy I did it though. made many friends and built MANY studios for them. Good vibes overall.

Where the hell did Mike Davis go??
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: RMoore on March 16, 2005, 05:31:56 AM
I got into rec & engineering from the side of being a musician playing in bands and became fascinated by sounds, especially why most drum sounds were horrible (in the 80's) & others great sounding (on old LPs) - anyway, I had VERY little idea of how it all worked when suddenly, part way through an album recording project , the engineer a band I was in had hired experienced some kind of mental breakdown and STOPPED SHOWING UP for work at the band's private 'studio' - so someone had to do it & that person was me seeing as I had the most interest and a slight clue of how to use the equip already and get ok enough sounds...
Thats where it all began, a slippery slide down to the bottom of society's scrap heap.
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: Brian Kehew on March 16, 2005, 06:47:40 AM
Recording Schools = I think anyone "good enough" to make it in this business would do fine at one. They would already know some things going in, pick up more while in the school than anyone else, and then learn even more on their own afterward.

When I taught a bit, I saw that a small fraction of the classes (1 out of 20) were people who WERE seriously going to make it in the business. No question. I was one of them, it seems. There was no other choice - even if it meant no money. Effort is about 33% of it, talent is 25%, and getting along with people is about 45%. (However, being very talented at home or in a small city doesn't do much to get you a noteworthy job.)

But "who you know" IS 100%. THAT's how you get hired. Work on your connections; it's not a sleazy thing - it's keeping in touch with your friends in the music business.
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: Phil on March 16, 2005, 10:28:57 AM
I was born into the biz...my Dad owned nine radio stations at one time or another during his lifetime. I started very early, recording on acetate discs for his radio stations, and building most of my own equipment. I did the Ham radio thing, played in bands, was a on-air disc jockey for way too long, and got some interesting gigs by simply telling people that I could do the job (whatever the job was).

I love to record...good music, bad music, voice overs, sound effects...it makes no difference to me, I just like the idea of capturing sounds. My favorite gigs are commercials and jingles, mainly because I get a chance to record and edit all sorts of sounds, and compose and produce the music for the jingles.

Actually, I think jingles are the ideal gig. I get a chance to write music that I know will get airtime, I get to work with some great musicians, I experience all styles of music, and I do the whole thing with someone else's money. Reminds me of a political slogan I once heard: "Everything for everybody, and a little something for me".

Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: Gordon Rice on March 16, 2005, 10:36:30 AM
compasspnt wrote on Tue, 15 March 2005 18:13

By the way, I don't think I've yet seen a single person who went to one of the dedicated "Recording Schools!"

Yes, you have--me.  The Recording Workshop, Chillicothe OH in 1983.  Didn't learn what I was doing, but I did develop a nodding familiarity with the equipment and how to make it move tape.  Basically, I became aware of how much more I needed to know.

Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: J.J. Blair on March 16, 2005, 02:33:48 PM
Phil, my favorite part about doing jingles: No egocentric band members (just indecisive ad folks) and you get paid!  One of these days, I'll get smart and stop trying to make records and join your racket.
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: Phil on March 16, 2005, 03:22:23 PM
J.J. wrote on Wed, 16 March 2005 11:33

Phil, my favorite part about doing jingles: No egocentric band members (just indecisive ad folks) and you get paid!  One of these days, I'll get smart and stop trying to make records and join your racket.

J.J., Speaking of indecisive ad folks...

I once had an ad agency book a commercial voice over session in my shop to record Richard Petty, the NASCAR champion. The agency types were standing around in the control room doing their last minute creative thing, and Richard walked in. They all smiled, shook his hand, and said "Hello Richard", then turned their back on him and resumed being creative. In about ten seconds Richard said: "Who's in charge here, besides me?"

The session began immediately.

(engineer and NASCAR fan)

p.s. Didn't mean to hijack the thread. Commercial break over...now, back to the stories.
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: Tim Halligan on March 16, 2005, 05:07:10 PM
compasspnt wrote on Tue, 15 March 2005 18:13

By the way, I don't think I've yet seen a single person who went to one of the dedicated "Recording Schools!"

I'm another...I went to (don't laugh) School of Audio Engineering.

Stop laughing...


Useful for theory, signal flow, basic session management...and not much else...

The one piece of useful advice that I did get from them was:
"Keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth firmly shut. Sit on your hands unless specifically instructed to do otherwise, and save all your questions until the end of the session"

SAE covered post-production sound in 2 hours...I'm now a post AE. Go figure.

I guess the best thing to come out of it was that I learned how to learn about audio engineering.

I am - like almost every post AE I know - a frustrated music AE.


Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: iluvatar on March 16, 2005, 09:59:22 PM
My family isn't particularly musical - mom sings in church; dad listens to a bunch of really bad bluegrass and plays the accordion on Christmas morning.

I was forced to take piano lessons for most of my school years. Any enjoyment I found in it was overshadowed by being forced to do it. In high school, I started playing guitar so some friends and I could start a grunge band and scare old people. I was always more of a tech-geek and went into computer programming for a while. A couple years ago, I decided to write & record a song for my then-girlfriend-now-fiance for valentine's day. Since I knew nothing about recording, and had no gear beyond a guitar, I had to research everything. I got laid off from my programming job a year later and decided that I'd rather spend my life recording music than writing software.

I'm not attending a "dedicated 'Recording School!,'" just a community college with a nice studio and a decent program. I'm one of those guys Brian Kehew described going into school with some knowledge and getting more out of it than most of the guys there.

Never did finish that song, though...

Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: Slider2 on March 16, 2005, 10:11:33 PM
Here goes...my condensed life story.
I apologize in advance!

I started to notice the difference in sound between Beatles and Led Zep records as a kid.
I was facinated by how they sounded so different, and so perfect in their own way.
Got a 4-track at age 12 and recorded hundreds of my own songs.
Soon enough I started recording other bands around town as well.
Moved up to 8 tracks! wow!
Produced a local bands demo, then their record, which ended up selling a LOT for what it was. They went on to much more success after. The first SSL I'd seen was recording this record. (I accidentally spilled bong water into it!)
Around the same time signed an artist deal with Geffen.
Made a couple records with some amazing people, and I learned a ton. Especially from Jack Puig.
Co-produced my first real budget record for A&M.
Record flopped.
My band was soon dropped by Geffen after the second record.
Started a new band and signed with A&M.
Record died soon after release, mostly due to my by then unbelievably unhealthy habits.
Left LA to get better, got dropped again (while in rehab) then bought new recording gear when I finally came out of the fog. It took years.

I'm glad I lived through all of it.
I'm much happier now and I'm still obsessed with Beatles records. Smile
The music business is rough.

Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: Curve Dominant on March 16, 2005, 11:52:07 PM

HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?

When my mom got pregnant with her first child (my older brother Bobby), my dad bought her a Spanish guitar, so she would have something to play with while sitting around the house expecting.

Dad had been a trumpeter in big jazz bands when he was young. But the Korean War came along and sucked my pop  into the Military Industrial Complex. Dad became a GI, then a Cold Warrior... and then family-hood.

Moms never learned how to play that guitar, but Dad did. He was a big Johnny Cash fan, and he kinda looked and sounded like him too.

Apparently, when Bobby and I were still wee tikes, we were afraid of thunderstorms. So, my pop would get out the guitar when there was a thunderstorm, and play and sing this song called "Thunder In The Canyon" and that would make us chill out. We would sit around in our little living room, and pops would put on this little concert, doing his Johnny Cash thing. It was dope. I remember it to this day.

When Bobby became an adolescent, he got ahold of that guitar and started jamming on it, serious rock & roll, and got really good really quick.

He had an attitude too, a real rebel thing, very charismatic. Before we knew it, he was a local rock star. The sexiest girls and the coolest guys in my town would all crowd around my parents' front porch to hear him play rock & roll on that old Spanish guitar.

Then they would all go off to drink and do drugs and have sex. I was too young to go along, but Bobby always left the guitar behind - so I was left alone with it, and started banging on it myself. Of course, I wanted to be like him.

But, of course, it became much more than that. Something about that guitar was magic. It was like touching the keys to the universe, to the Spirit World. And I still feel that way about music, sitting here typing this, surrounded by guitars and synthesizers and percussion instruments, the Pro Tools rig and the recording gear. I love it, and I cannot imagine life without it.

Yes, it is a mess. An interesting mess. A glorious mess. Sometimes a heart-wrenching mess. Like life. Like the universe. Like our species.

Like a woman:
Break my heart though she may,
I cannot imagine life without her.

Music is my mistress,
And she plays second fiddle to no one.
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: compasspnt on March 17, 2005, 06:37:57 AM
Very well said Eric.  Nice story.

They're all good stories.
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: Kendrix on March 17, 2005, 12:27:15 PM
My story will be a contrast to those above.
I took the "other  road"

Like most folks here music was/is in my DNA. From a very young age I had a VERY deep appreciation of it.  Earliest memories involve banging out melodies like the "Theme from Exodous" on those kiddie xylophones or my neighbors piano.

My dad had one of the best stereos in town in the sixties.. and a reel to reel.
I really appreciated the better sound -and i had decent ears.
I was so taken with music that I obsessed about being an recording engineer.
When i was in 6th grade i wrote to all the big labels in NYC asking them for advice on how to get into the biz of audio engineering.  No one answered.  I remained really taken by this dream.  

However, fortunately or unfortunately, I also did really well in school.  

...and ( this is key)

My dad had a chance to pursue a big singing career in the early 50's. He won a very big singing contest in NYC. Kinda like todays American Idol.  The promoter wanted my dad to go on tour.  Dad was in process of planinng to marry my mother and they decided that the messy music business and starting a family would  not go together very well.  So, Dad passed on the opportunity. He refused to sing in public ever since ( I only learned this a few years back).  So, my folks had well established opinions in this area. I became brainwashed into the thought that music was a messy business and that I ( with such good grades in school) could do much "more" with my life.  Hmmm.

Anyway, I became a physics major in college and didnt do much music after graduating untill years later.  However, the deep seated desire to be involved in music production was lying dormant - but did not disappear.

When moving to Tokyo in the Mid-nineties i bought a keyboard so my daughter could continue piano lessons ( my company wouldnt move the piano to Japan- too much hassle).  The keyboard had midi ports and ended up in the same room as my PC.  Shibuya, the big music  retailing center in Tokyo was 5 minutes from my apartment.  And so, My mid-life-crisis home studio adventure began.  First a sequencer, then a portastudio.  Then a real mic and pre.  Then the move to HD recording and digital mixing. Yada yada yada.

Today it continues as a pure hobby and i write and produce my demos mainly for my own entertainment (tho i'd love to get a tune placed with a commercial artist one day).  I get to dabble in the writing playing and engineering aspects without constraints and i get great satsifaction from being able to do this.

Fortunately, my day job has allowed me to afford to build this up to a reasonable level.  However, unlike many folks here, Im not exactly "In this mess".  I sometimes think about what if....

Everthing has plusses and minuses.  I can enjoy this at my leisure without getting burned out by the BS.  However, Im certainly not living the dream.
Neither am I getting beaten up by the music business climate as many pros are these days. Ive avoided that.

As always, ying/yang applies.

Anyone want to trade places for a while?
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: djui5 on March 17, 2005, 01:21:10 PM
Eric Vincent wrote on Wed, 16 March 2005 21:52


HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?

When my mom got pregnant with her first child (my older brother Bobby).............Music is my mistress,
And she plays second fiddle to no one.

Great story Smile

What happened to your brother? Is he Bono or something?
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: John Ivan on March 17, 2005, 04:09:05 PM
I'm only half in it. I keep breaking off big hunks of engineering stuff to chew on because I'm nuts.

It all started for me when I was about 5 years old. My mom had done a lot of Off Broadway stuff and had quite a nice voice. My dad plays pretty good Piano and at one point in his life had some drum chops. My brother and sister and I ended up with drums,guitars basses, a B-3 and a Piano in our basement at a very early age. The old man did 4 years in the Air Force doing tech stuff and came out working on radio and TV stations. The basement had tape machines,mixers and all kinds of audio enhancement devises sitting around everywhere.

By the time I was 10, maybe younger, I could play through the early Beatles records with decent time and started messing with guitars and organ. From that moment forward, I played every day. The thing that I loved about it was I didn't need to deal much with anyone else. I had very RED hair when I was a kid and people were plain mean. Music was the best place in the world.

The recording end had always been there but doing it for money never really dawned on me until a guy in town started a small 8 track room in his house. I would go over and hang out and this is where I did my first couple jingles at age,, 18?.. I had been playing live bar dates since I was 15 years old and writing songs was just a natural thing. I couldn't afford to pay for studio time so I never really recorded any of my own tunes. By the time I was in my 20's I was doing sessions for other folks and paying close attention to the engineers at different studios. The thing I noticed over everything else was that some of these folks new a lot of stuff about theory but still, the mixes were a bummer. My good friend Don was the only guy in town who could really mix a record. He's still great at it. The "smartest" guy in town was a reverb freak and the stuff just laid there.

Suddenly, I found myself buying gear and recording bands and some jingles. The goal for the gear was to get tunes that a friend and I were writing out to shop publishing. The last couple years have been insane. I've moved twice and taken a  touring gig with Rare Earth. It looks like all those late nights working for peanuts are beginning to pay off. We are working on a new record and I am now at a cool little room here in Lansing. The goal for the room is to dive into the jingle world and make some money doing what I love the most. Writing and recording. For some reason, I just can't get enough of the studio environment. I love music and the related tools more than anything in my life other than my wife and son.

I was going to start school { at 40 years old} somewhere in CINCI but we have found ourselves back in Michigan so, I am looking around for a 2 year in electronics. I need to know more if I'm gona be stuck with all this gear.

As it turns out, I am carving some sort of living out of all this madness. Between club dates,weddings,R.E shows,jingles,and singer/songwriter sessions, it all works out somehow.
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: compasspnt on March 17, 2005, 04:21:19 PM
ivan40 wrote on Thu, 17 March 2005 16:09

....... it all works out somehow.

Always the operative words...
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: Curve Dominant on March 17, 2005, 10:29:58 PM
compasspnt wrote on Thu, 17 March 2005 11:37

Very well said Eric.  Nice story.


Thanks, and...

I was tempted to mention this, and refrained from fear of appearing syncophantic, but...

A LOT of the records Bobby and I learned to play guitar by jamming to, were ones you worked on.

Which means that it's partly YOUR FAULT that we're in this mess!!!

Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: Curve Dominant on March 17, 2005, 10:43:39 PM
djui5 wrote on Thu, 17 March 2005 18:21

Eric Vincent wrote on Wed, 16 March 2005 21:52


HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?

When my mom got pregnant with her first child (my older brother Bobby).............Music is my mistress,
And she plays second fiddle to no one.

Great story Smile

What happened to your brother? Is he Bono or something?


Bobby is currently Greenday's guitar tech. Look here:


Prior to that, he was guitar tech for Audioslave, Weezer, Eddy Money, and a bunch of other rock greats.

Prior to that, Bobby was the rhythm guitarist in Slash's Blues Ball, and played guitar for a bunch of near-miss rock bands which were "almost famous."

His son (my nephew) is an AMAZING drummer, and has played on some of my productions for my younger brother Kurt Guitars:


...Click on "Righteous Fury" and that's "lil' Bobby" playing drums...13 years old. THAT kid is going to be famous one day.

It's a family affair...
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: Leo on March 18, 2005, 12:43:20 AM
My dad is a Bass Player and I have been going to sessions with him for a while. Grew up across the street from the singer of Survivor & Target. He had a studio at his house. I could hook up a mic to a console and insert a pitch shifter and prank call you at the age of 6. Slept with a boom box in my top bunk. His wife babysat me and she would take her son and I up to Kiva while she did O/D's. Got a four track. Made alot of stupid commericals then alot of punk rock. Figured out how to use headphones as mics and mics as little speakers and then blow the diaphram. In high school went to school for 3 hours then lunch then a 24 track analog studio everyday for 3 years. They had a Korg X3. New hot shit at the time. Learned how to make rap music and sync up stuff correctly. After high school joined the Stagehand Union. Did a few large concerts ALOT of broadway shows and 1 Jewely Convention. I quit after that. It's was horrible. All those jewel cases. Went to work for a corporate A/V company for @ 2 years. Too corporate. Then went to work for Ardent Studios. Was there for @ 3 years. Went independent, got picked up by a band to run F.O.H. for then 4 nights a week in a different city every day. Got tired of the road and was getting alot of studio work so decided to quit touring. Been in doing it since about 30 minutes before this post.
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: fclayton on March 18, 2005, 02:02:12 AM
Yes, you have--me. The Recording Workshop, Chillicothe OH

I went there to the first class they had.... wound up teaching microphone placement and the sort.... and sleeping in the basement.
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: fclayton on March 18, 2005, 02:11:41 AM
Started out recording church choirs and high school bands and the like in the mid 70's or so... used Magnacord tube type mono and later stereo recorders.... had some old tube Neuman u87s.

I've got a pretty heavy electronics background so I learned to align and repair the stuff along the way.

moved through various semi-pro multi track formats and finally to big consoles and big 2 inch 24 tracks recorders. Worked in the studio where the original Tiny Bubbles was recorded.

now have a laptop with Nuendo and do little recording here and there. More of a hobby than a job. And not much of a mess at that.
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: compasspnt on March 18, 2005, 07:00:14 AM
fclayton wrote on Fri, 18 March 2005 02:11

... had some old tube Neuman u87s...

Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: fclayton on March 18, 2005, 07:36:36 AM
compasspnt wrote on Fri, 18 March 2005 12:00

fclayton wrote on Fri, 18 March 2005 02:11

... had some old tube Neuman u87s...


Well... it has been 30 years. They were Neumanns and they looked like u87's. They had tubes and the external power supplys. Reckon it might have been a pair of U67's.

Whatever they were we used them for everything so I must have handled them a zillion times...... sheesh my memory must be worse than I thought[grin].
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: McAllister on March 18, 2005, 09:11:09 AM
Musical family; mom pianist w/ perfect pitch (all classical), dad sing with choirs - even now and he's nearly 73. I am the youngest of 3 boys. We all had piano lessons and lots of musical involvelment as kids - my eldest brother is a pretty damned good self-taught guitar player; my other brother likely could've made a great life as a session drummer - but chose to be an orthopedic surgeon instead. He still plays, though, and is solid.

My folks got me a bass for my 14th birthday on the advice of my brothers. I didn't even know what one was, but it was love at first play. Went to college, studied music, ended up at Berklee.

I remember reading in Mickey Hart's "Drumming at the Edge of Magic" that until he knew how to record music, he'd always be at the mercy of engineers. I didn't believe him.

For a time I practiced bass a lot, got pretty good, and was a sideman for some people you may have heard of. But I've concentrated on writing for a long, long time now. It's what matters to me the most. I've written jazz, reggae, contemporary Christian, western swing, rock, and big band stuff; and had some amazing lessons in orchestration not too long ago. I love all of it. There's so much there to love.

Started tracking with 4-track in '87 or so. Got a Tascam 388 in '97. 5 years or so later I got an Otari 1/2" 8-track and that's what I still use. Some good mics and a few good pieces of outboard gear.

I usually hire someone else to come and mix my stuff, cause frankly, I suck at it. I thought I'd be better at it by now, but that's sadly not the case.

As I've said before in the R/E/P, I'm not in the same league as most of y'all, but it's nice to be here.

Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: thedoc on March 18, 2005, 11:20:55 AM
I'm looking forward to trying tube KM84's....    Smile
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: Bob Olhsson on March 18, 2005, 11:31:51 AM
The NuVistor U-64 they sold here was a great sounding mike and I understand the KM-64 that was sold in Europe was even better.
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: WhyKooper on March 18, 2005, 05:48:45 PM
1955....THIS is what I always see sitting there at home.  Our trusty, brand new Voice Of Music mono reel to reel.  Not a musician in my family.  But it was always there.  Holidays..non-holidays.  Just always sitting there.  Reels spinning for anything my parents wanted to capture, usually along side the silent 8mm movie camera I'm sure.  This thing's almost bigger than me.  No vu meter..just that orange light that gets lighter and dimmer with the intensity of the sound..just like the robot's face in Lost In Space.  This thing r-e-m-e-m-b-e-r-s every sound we make.  Playing our sounds back in big fat mono through it's own big fat front speaker.  I watched it do what it did and was in constant awe.  I'm absolutely sure that's when it was all over for me.
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: compasspnt on March 18, 2005, 10:55:40 PM
WhyKooper wrote on Fri, 18 March 2005 17:48

... Voice Of Music mono reel to reel...

Ah, a good old friend...loved that glowing light-meter!
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: Bill Mueller on March 19, 2005, 09:14:49 PM
I'm late to this thread because I have been in Austin for a week, but given the stories I've told here, it might not surprise you that I risked my life to be in this business.

Before that happened I sang in the choir. I was so good that the teacher had me try to teach the 8th graders when I was in the 6th grade. Big mistake, they beat the bejesus out of me after school, so I learned to take care of myself. At 13 I was forced into piano lessons that I hated, but taught me a little about chord structure. At 15 I switched to guitar and built a guitar amp from a portable stereo. It was a miracle that I did not electrocute myself.

I was a better singer than guitar player so I sang in a band until I was 19 and just starting college. We had a great band and was offered a gig in Pretoria South Africa. We had a Shure Vocal Master PA with TWO sets of speakers. Damn right.

Then my little sister was killed on a motorcycle and I took some time off from the world.

After a while, I decided I wanted back in the world so I went to Heil Sound, a remarkable, local company that was building equipment and touring with major acts out of offices in the middle of a corn field in western Illinois.

Here is where the life risking stuff comes in. Bob Heil tells me he does not have a gig for a sound man but he does have a gig for a tractor trailer driver. I was just 21, with blond hair down to my belt and I say to Bob. "Oh yea, I can drive a tractor trailer.  I don't have my license just now, but if you give me a truck for a week I will brush up and get it." I had never been in a tractor trailer, but it was not a lie. I knew I could do it. So Bob, (what was he thinking?) rented a tractor for me. I drove it around the corn fields and in a week went over and got my license. Just like that.

Next thing I know I am driving a loaded tractor around New York City, getting a Humble Pie show on the road. For the next six months, instead of resting like the other drivers did, every afternoon I would assist the crew setting up the PA and forced every one on the tour to teach me their gig. I got no sleep but I learned alot.

During my touring career, I jack knifed a tractor in Ottowa, almost slid into icy ravines in Oklohoma and Washington state, was nearly dragged off a stage by an angry crowd in Detroit, almost slipped from a 30' wet PA scaffold in Kansas and danced the Can Can on stage at Maple Leaf Gardens on New Years Eve. I  was threatened death by Leslie West's crew, (not my fault) made close friends under stages, back stage and in the sleeper, took part in some of the stuff that was in Almost Famous and unknowingly smuggled a large quantity of cocain into Canada. There's other stuff but I can't talk about it. All in all I toured with about thirty good acts.

When I was not touring or sleeping, (on off-weeks we slept sometimes for four days or more) I would borrow equipment from Bob and go out to clubs and record the local bands. I had a friend who was a high school teacher and he had me record his jazz bands as well. I just set the mics up like we did with the big bands and fed a Crown 1/4" machine the two mix. I monitored with headphones from the Crown.

In my spare time (!) I started a company building fiberglass cabinets for Bob, (Oh, yes I know how to do that!) and toured for a while with ZZ Top. A year into that I decided that I wanted to become a studio engineer so I visited a Recording Institute of America class in St Louis. After about two classes it was clear that I knew as much about recording as the teacher, who was VP of a studio in Baltimore. He hired me to immediately take over teaching the RIA course there. I was then 24.

I sold my house to my neighbor, packed my van and drove across the country. When I arrived at the studio, there was a full trash can sitting upside down on the new API console with wine dripping on the floor. Apparently the outgoing engineer had a difference of opinion with the VP over my job. I had thee days to dismantle, wash and resassemble the console, learn how to use it and the MCI 24 track that I had never seen before and be prepared to record an eight piece band. No sweat, I know how to do that!

Best Regards,


Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: David Kulka on March 20, 2005, 12:37:11 AM
One of my first memories is staring at wires on telephone poles from the back of the family car.  I became obsessed with electronics while very young, dismantling radios and TV's from the dump, building kits and projects, fiddling with circuits.  Mom was a music teacher and dad was a structural engineer with a firm in San Francisco, doing projects all over the world.  Occasional run-ins with the authorities -- an FCC visit to shut down my bootleg transmitter, Pacific Telephone showing up to confiscate my "phone freak" gear (they called it Interstate Toll Fraud) alarmed my father, but he was secretly tickled -- I guess it made for good stories at cocktail parties.

The real influence was my uncle, Leo Kulka.  Leo's audio career went way back to the U.S. Army Signal Corps and then Radio Recorders and Gold Star, he later built International Sound at Sunset & Western.  I remember watching Leo cut records on the Neumann lathe, he'd always show up at family get togethers with classical or sound effects albums that he'd done.

In my early 20's I was installing burglar alarm systems, which I really enjoyed.  Leo, who had no kids then, often invited me to come work for him at his studio in San Francisco, Golden State.  I resisted at first because it seemed nepotistic but finally decided to give it a try, then wondered why I'd waited so long.  I repaired and installed gear and Leo taught me disc mastering, which I loved.  There were all sorts of great sessions and projects-- classical, comedy, direct to disk, jazz, you name it.  Working at a San Francisco studio in the mid 70's was great fun.

I was anxious to try my luck in the big city and landed a job at Bill Putnam's United/Western in '77.  I moved to L.A. and became the lead night maintenance guy.  At the time, Western had 5 24-track studios, and just about everyone recorded there at one time or another.  There were more brilliant musicians, singers, composers, producers, and engineers than I could begin to list here.  The number and variety of big sessions there was just unbelievable -- I stayed for 4 years, every day was exciting and special.

By '81 I wanted to earn more and do some freelance work.  I wound up working for Steve Guy at Location Recording Service.  LRS had 3 mastering rooms, I found myself cutting disks again and helping with maintenance.  Steve was an industry veteran and like Leo, an alumnus of Radio Recorders.  He was a highly respected perfectionist and a wonderful influence.  Though LRS was lower key than United/Western, it was still a pretty happening place.   Deanne Jensen and Wally Heider were associates of Steve's and would drop by to shoot the bull, Michael Verdick did album projects with Madonna and Ted Nugent in the back studio.

Within a few years my studio installation and repair business had taken off and I moved on from LRS.  There were a lot of fun jobs building and maintaining L.A. studios, and working for composers, session players, singer-songwriters, and radio people.  For the last few years our work has turned more to video.  This seemed to happen by itself and I'm glad it did -- shrinkage in the audio industry would have made survival awfully hard and besides, video has provided a plenty of new challenges, learning experiences, and wonderful clients.  But we get plenty of tube gear and vintage work too, so it's not all frame rates, HD, and MPEG.

I never thought of it as a "mess", though.  It's been a privilege and I've enjoyed almost every single day!
Title: Re: HOW Did You Get Yourself Into This MESS?
Post by: jasonf on April 02, 2005, 10:20:35 AM

My story, for the most part, is a pretty familiar one. I lived about 25 minutes from the city as  kid. At 17 as soon as I could drive on my own I became the Saturday apprentice at the best studio in town (Neve room at the time) which was owned by 3 of the best engineers in town.

Soon I discovered they'd let me come in late at night to fool around on the equipment. So I ditched drinking with my friends friday nights to hang out at the studio trying to hear the difference between the compressors and trying to re-create sounds I'd heard the engineers getting the week before.

I figured out the patching and basic operation of all the gear pretty quickly. Because I was the saturday guy and saturday is a great day to golf I would often come in and set-up a session with an engineer, he would convince the client that I knew enough to record them, then the engineer would go golfing, I'd handle the sessions.  

After doing well with fill-in stuff for a while, the engineers started assigning me the projects they didn't want anything to do with. This was fine by me.

Fast forward 7 years, 2 original partners have left and the last partner has sold the studio to myself and another employee who started about the same time I did. We've owned the  studio for 1 month and 2 days now, I haven't stepped inside the doors since we took possession because I'm frantically finishing off the final weeks of an EE degree. It's eating me up inside.

At 22 years old (almost 23), I wouldn't of imagined owning a shop, especially this one, in my wildest dreams but the opportunity was there and what did I have to lose!
Wish me luck! (I'll need it!!)