|My interest in recording goes back to my electronic projects in grammar school that I entered into science fairs. In the sixth grade, I won a prize for building a radio control transmitter from parts I found at a WWII surplus store. Winning encouraged me to study, and then acquire a ham radio operator's license.|
|After winning a few more science fairs and now in high school, my interests broaden when I joined a rock band. I played the drums and designed, built and installed a band P.A. system. We played at school dances and parties...and weren't very good.|
|Not a brilliant high school student, I had to next focus on first getting an Associate Arts Degree (A.A.) at Santa Ana Junior College so that later, I could matriculate to Long Beach State University and secure a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree.|
|I had to worked my way through Long Beach State at nights as an electronics technician at various aerospace companies in the Orange County area (South of Los Angeles). I'd go to school from about 10am to 4pm and then scrambled to work, where I worked from 5pm to about 2am. With a full-time job at night and a nearly full class load during the day, I was left with little time for music-playing (or anything else for that matter!)|
|I worked for NASA-contracted companies, trouble-shooting individual circuit boards for digital systems, and later graduated to testing complete digital computer systems. With this experience and my degrees, I fully expected to become an aerospace electronics engineer upon graduation from college. Unfortunately, a major aerospace hiring slump occurred just as I got my diplomas and many people with 10 years experience and an M.S. degree were pounding the pavement. Instead of a promotion from a production test technician to electronics engineer, I WAS LAID OFF!|
While I was in the rock band, I developed an interest in music recording from listening to pop records and went to see a recording studio near my house. I was interested in what made certain records sound better to me and why. The recording studio was an entirely different universe to me that combined my two interests: music and electronic technology. I reckoned that if I could just "hang out" while collecting unemployment insurance, I could learn about the studio and also figure out my life's future. I started as an gofer/assistant at United Audio in Santa Ana, CA.
The owner, Mr. Hank Quinn, a Jazz drummer, taught me the very first things I learned about recording engineering. When I started doing my own sessions as first engineer AND getting paid, I didn't look back at the aerospace industry...I fell in love with the whole studio life and process.
It soon became apparent that I had to move to L.A. if I was going to progress in the music business. I had heard from Michael Omartian (an multi-talented musician/arranger/producer that recorded demos at United Audio) that a West Hollywood studio had changed ownership and may be looking for help. I started commuting to L.A. when Mr. Lenny Roberts hired me at Larrabee Sound for $50 a week.
I began as a gofer and toilet technician extraordinaire! Eventhough, I had been doing first engineering back in Santa Ana, I had to prove myself all over again. I recall my father being a bit upset that his son, the college graduate, was only making $50 a week! At that time, all wannabe engineers at Larrabee (after paying dues and passing the gofer curriculum) were promoted to cutting song publishing demo acetate discs on the studio's mono disc cutting system. You learned quickly what worked and what didn't when you altered the sound with an equalizer and a compressor. It was a place where you could learn by experiment, watch seasoned pros work, make a few mistakes, and not cause many problems. After cutting a few thousand discs, and with the right attitude, you were ready to assist first engineers. I would setup tracking sessions, move mics, plug in equipment, get coffee for everybody and sweep up.
|Eventually (if you really wanted to), you became a tape op or second engineer and operated the tape recorders for big tracking sessions where the engineer was busy catering to a room full of musicians, mixing...and "flying the plane" for a nervous record producer. This was the time to develop and show confidence in front of clients in a relaxing way. It is also the time would-be future engineers develop their control room personalities by learning when and when NOT to inject their personal opinions, observations and commentary banter. I was busy trying to learn how to correctly "punch in and out" of as well as razor blade tape editing...jobs that some first engineers disliked. I started as a staff first engineer on song publishing demos and graduated to freelance engineer after my first gold record: Al Wilson's "Show and Tell" reached #1 and sold 1.8 million copies.|
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