Thursday, January 27, 2011

Almost Famous, Part 1

I was thinking about adventures in music. I'm not sure why, but it might have something to do with the fact that I am close to finishing a recording project (Truth Panel) that's been going on for some time now. And it's going to be rather good. If I say so myself.

I finished the classwork for my M.Mus (Tonmeister program) at McGill. Once you're close to done in any degree program the inevitable question is "Now what?" I finished in 1983 and my dream of being the next George Martin burned bright. Note...George Martin, now Sir George Martin is probably the most celebrated, successful and best-known record producer of all time. I probably don't have to tell you that, but just in case. You know. You're welcome)

So, I sent an armful of resumes to Britain- convinced that being Canadian and well-educated would open doors in just about any studio I went in. Yes sireee, I would walk in and they'd say, "Aren't YOU the next George Martin? We've been waiting for you. We are not worthy. Grovel, grovel, cringe....

Not so much.

I did send letters to various London studios. This was before email, don't you know. Abbey Road (my 1st choice): 1 year later I got a letter saying "Vacancies rarely occur here...." I am sure they have had one or two since then given that it was 28 years ago. AIR Studios (no response), Olympic Studios (no response). The Townhouse (no response). Lansdowne Studios, Advision Studios and everywhere else I could think of where my favourite records were recorded.

One place I sent a letter to was a studio in Scotland called Castlesound- I knew of its existence because of a trade magazine ad showing their Amek console. So I sent a letter there too. Sure enough, I got a charming reply (of course, they're Scottish!) saying that they were considering building a 2nd studio on the premises and I was welcome to stop by and visit should I ever come to Scotland.

So I got on a plane. I am not kidding. This was 1983- and I was 24 years old. I have never been one to shy away from an adventure. Not then and not now. Besides, my aunt and uncle lived not too far from the place and so free lodgings were assured. And my aunt is a terrific cook. ..

The engineer/owner, Calum Malcolm, who is unquestionably one of the most brilliant engineers I have ever encountered, played masters of his new project, The Blue Nile's A Walk Across the Rooftops. I had to admit that it was as good as anything I had ever heard. I realized it might take me a while to become George Martin after all. So after a few days of chatting and listening to mixes, and hanging out at the studio- and the pub- and making lots of tea, the inevitable happened.

"I've got Big Country coming in next week. Would you like a job for a week or so? I need a lackey"

I sighed and decided right there and then that the pedicure and facial would just have to wait.
A Scottish band, who were #8 on Billboard, the cover of Rolling Stone and a few months away from playing on the Grammy's was nothing to be sneezed at. Calum was also dazzling as he was intent on sending them back to London with a very positive impression of what could be recorded in Scotland.  And I was a pretty good lackey too. Mostly I kept quiet and watched intently. I got to make a tape loop (hey this was 1983 you know...) and do playbacks for the band while Calum went to the bog. It was nice to rub shoulders with a band who had clearly "made it" but in true Celtic fashion, they were very realistic and humble about it too. And I got some fabulous new expressions to use too.  One of them came into the control room after a take and said, "Right, Dave....Gee' it to us louder than FUCK!" I never learned how loud FUCK was at McGill. But I sure found out. It was loud; marvelously loud. Deliciously loud.

It must have gone well, because after the time there the band invited me to come down to London to see them record down at RAK Studios with Steve Lillywhite. I am sure they invite every studio tea boy, but who was I to quibble? Besides, I had applied for a job at RAK- and it's just down the street from Abbey Road.

The adventure continued. And so will I. Don't you hate the teaser?


  1. Great post! It inspired me to go back and read your entire blog. Took me hours.

    I particularly like how most posts contain the word "FUCK" in capital letters. You have under-used the word "douchebag" however. Please make a note of this for future posts.

    If you need inspiration we recently saw a guy here in Quebec (while driving) who has named his business "Techno Douche". It is in large proud letters on the side of his truck, and is one of the best translation fails I've seen in a long time. He installs showers.

    So, given the nature of your music/recording technology blog, this might be a great alternate business name to consider. Might help you boost sales. And think of the business cards!
    -"David Findlay, Overproductions: Techno Douche."

    Anyway, keep up the good posts! I will be tuning in!

  2. caiks-

    I always try and think up clever business names. Being from Quebec myself, I like the thought of being a 'Techno Douche'.

    'Douchebag' and, my personal favourite, 'motherfucker' are fine descriptors. I will use them more in future blogs.

    One thing I failed to mention in the blog about Big Country was Stuart Adamson's introduction of Mark Brzezicki: "the big tall cunt's the drummer."

    And so he was.