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Studio Stories

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by DonnyThompson, Nov 16, 2014.

  1. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I've posted this thread in this forum - Studio Lounge - because that's what I picture this place to be; in a real studio, this would be the private room where engineers and producers could stop by and chat between sessions... a place where the coffee is always on (tea for our U.K. friends, of course, and Tim Horton's donuts for our Canadian Brethren LOL) and engineers can swap stories.

    The topic for today - interesting session stories. LOL

    I'll start...

    Back around 1994, when I had my real studio, I had booked some lockout time to a producer working with developing a new act. The producer was fairly well known, having worked with a fair share of national acts and successful releases.

    I can't mention his name here publicly, because I still work with him from time to time, but if you want to PM me, I'll tell you...

    A really nice guy, and very good at what he did, which was to bring out the best in the artists he worked with, or those assigned to him by the record company, although he wasn't very tech-savvy - at least not at the time, anyway.

    He brought his own "engineer" (who I actually think was probably just his nephew), and I suspected that after talking to him for a bit before the sessions started; he gave the impression that while he knew which side of a fader was up, beyond that, his experience was "questionable".

    But, because this producer had decided to use his own engineer - we'll call him "junior"- on that session instead of me, and I was only being paid for the use of my studio, at night; I wasn't being paid to engineer, so I had no plans to stick around. (I had worked with this producer many times before, and I knew I could trust him to make sure nothing disappeared from the studio, and to also lock up and set the alarm when they were finished)... so, after squaring them away, I went home.

    At 3:15 in the morning, my pager goes off (I didn't yet have a cell phone in '94). I called down to the studio, and "Junior" informs me that they have no playback audio through the board. For a minute, I asked him a few questions, telling him what to check for, until it became obvious that I was gonna have to go back down to the studio and check it out myself.

    So, I drag my Scottish-American ass out of bed at 3 am, put my coat on, brushed the snow off my car (it was winter and damned cold) and drove the 20 minutes back to the studio.

    I walked into the control room, and immediately saw the problem: someone had solo'd a dead channel on the console.

    Now... I can't just go depress the solo switch, because that's going to make both the producer and "Junior" look bad in front of the clients. So, I got behind the board, pretended I was pulling cables and such, and as I walked to the front of the board, I explained - in front of everyone - that it must have been a bad cable, and while talking to them, I casually put my hand down to the desk and disengaged the solo on the dead channel. I hit "play" on the RC and voila! Playback. (Of course).

    But now, I have to at least tell the producer what has occurred, only so that it doesn't happen again and I don't get another page after I get back home. I pulled the producer out into the hallway, and told him what had happened. He thanked me profusely for not telling everyone in front of him what had happened.

    The worst part of this - beyond driving back to the studio in a snow storm - was that after I had made up the BS about a bad cable being the culprit, "Junior" says "Maybe you should check your cables more often so this kind of thing doesn't happen again." At that point, it took every ounce of self control on my part to not put Junior's lights out with a carefully placed punch directly to his nose. LOL

    So there ya have it. Feel free to add your own stories. ;)
    jo, pcrecord and bigtree like this.
  2. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Did I tell you the story of that drummer who was in a band that was recording to my studio.
    They were making an album to sell in stores and not only the drums weren't tuned, the drummer was very bad at keeping the time. You know the kind of guy I had to help by putting out a wd40 can and get rid of the squeeking sound of his bass drum pedal..

    Anyway, at some point I guess the producer did catch in my face that something was wrong and I was force to tell him about the timing issues.
    After discussing alone, he hired me to record the drum tracks. (with my Ayotte drum kit)

    I was at the album presentation night out and the drummer of the band kept telling everyone about how his drum and playing was amazing !!
    Boy, did he not have any clue or was he just an arrogantly good liar !!
    bigtree likes this.
  3. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    We were working on a studio one time and my buddy nudged a ceiling tile and a few unused hyper dermic needles fell out of the ceiling. We were just like, well, guess he wasn't kidding about the 80's. its kinda funny cuz nobody got hurt, but really a very serious reminder of people taking things to far to be productive in the studio. it amazes me anything got done at all in that heyday studio environment!
    pcrecord likes this.
  4. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    A guy did vocal tracks a while back, it was always on something while recording. The next day he'd strait up and call me to say, well I need to redo the tracks.
    At some point, I told him, either you stop taking stuff to record or you should take the same stuff to listen back to the tracks or you will never be satisfied ;)

    Long ago, I had another Customer who would leave a serious smell in the vocal booth at each session. I had to explain to the other customers...
  5. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    I recently recorded a couple of tracks for a fellow who was visiting his son. He was prepped to drive back home and wanted to capture some of his playing of these songs (a loose term in this case) so he could listen to them on his drive. The session was to simply be electric guitar and a vocal done all at once and no real mix other than bring it up to a decent playback level. He stated that he had two old amps and he wanted to play through both just like at home when he was writing and arranging and so he could get "his sound". (Anyone know where this is going yet??!!)

    So he comes in on his scheduled day. Two hours late. No prob.....He has a nice Les Paul and a Strat and two old tube amps. One is an old Gibson GA-35 and the other is a Magnatone...probably a 50's with a 15" speaker.So I set things up as requested....separated the amps with a gobo...ribbon and 57 on each...everything through the ISA 428 (the filter rules!) easy to dial and its only a couple tracks.....RIGHT? Iset these out in the guitar area and open a mic in the control room for the vocals (I hesitate to call them that at this point)...I throw up the old trusty Kel HM7 another quick and easy mic that likes a lot of different voices and I plug that into the Manley. Again...brevity here....I open a session and get a phone mix while he's doodling for git levels....seems okay.

    Then its ready...steady...go.

    The dog left the room and crawled into her bed in the back bedroom. The studio cat left the house.

    The first burst of uncontrolled noise went about 6:27. There were lyrics of some sort....not sure what it was about and I'm not curious now as I recollect it.

    The question after it kinda died down was "How did that sound? Did I sound like I was really getting to the essence of it? I thought the guitar was a little behind the voice on the middle part...."

    The only thing I could think to say was....."Ummm....I really wasn't listening...I was just watching all the meters....."
    The conversation continued like this..."Should I redo it?" " Naw...remember your budget " (PLEASE GOD NO!!!!!!)

    The next burst of 'creativity' went about 13:47.

    It WAS different than the first 'creative' use of oxygen and space. And there WAS a repeating theme.

    I charged him $50 for setup and an hour and a half for recording. I gave him a CD with the understanding that I don't STORE projects and since he wasn't certain when he would have internet back at home that I wouldn't be sending him the tracks at any forseeable future date. By the time he had driven away those bursts of noise were off to the trashcan as I didn't want them to somehow seep through the hard drive and contaminate anything that might actually be recordings of real music.

    For what its worth...he was totally sincere about what he thought was coming out of his instruments and mouth in a creepy Charles Manson sort of way.
    DonnyAir and kmetal like this.
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    LOL... Oh yeah... saw it coming a mile away. ;) There are times when you just get "that" feeling... you just kinda know in your gut that it's going to be one of those sessions.

    I once had a session with a band where the drummer insisted on using his own kit; as opposed to using my Yamaha Recording Customs, which were already tuned, mic'd up, and ready to go.... but it didn't take long for me to become very grateful that he didn't use my kit - because the guy was an animal, hitting everything but the drums.

    I dug out my oldest and most beat-up dynamics - 57's and 58's - to mic his drums with, I sure as hell wasn't gonna use my Senny's or 414's, because I just knew he was gonna be hitting far more mic than drums - which, BTW, was some off-brand, cheap kit; all the drums were chrome, and he had glued carpet padding inside all of the shells. The heads were pitted and dented, ancient black dots. If I recall, he had something like 11 toms, 9 cymbals...it was pretty crazy.

    Drum check went as expected - badly. All the toms sounded exactly the same in tone - which could only be best described as various sizes of cardboard boxes.

    Eventually, I got levels (which is really just about all I could do) and we began tracking. Thirty seconds into the track, the guy starts twirling and tossing his sticks. Yes. You heard me right. He was twirling and throwing his sticks while playing.

    And, he wasn't even any good at it. He blew the first take because he twirled a stick straight up towards the ceiling, where it hit an overhead suspended diffuser, bounced off, and landed three feet away from where he was sitting.

    I hit "stop", and walked out of the control room out into the hall, opened up the back load-in door, and lit up a ciggie. The lead singer comes out and asks me what's wrong. Unbelievable.... he actually has to ask me what was "wrong".

    I told him, using very simple grammar, visual aids and hand puppets, what was "wrong", and told him he'd better get the leash back on his drummer. He apologized, and apparently got it through Mr. Twirler's thick skull that we were recording, and that if he looked around, there were no groupies or fans to be impressed by his "showmanship".

    Truthfully, I don't really remember much after that - obviously at some point, my internal mental defense mechanism kicked in - because thankfully, I don't recall anything else from that session... or that band, either. ;)
    pcrecord likes this.
  7. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Hope they are not burried in your back yard ;) !!
  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    i know that guy! he recorded at my place too!
  9. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    No. They aren't buried in my backyard. ;)
  10. Rod Gervais

    Rod Gervais Active Member

    I've never sat on the engineers side of the desk in a studio - so no stories in that regard.... but I have worked with bands that have recorded over the years....... and one of my memories has to do with a session at a studio in Boston with a blues band I was working with.....

    The engineer was a tad frustrating from the get go because she could not quite capture the concept of "less me" in the headphones. I wanted the rest of the band in my ears - I hear me just fine due to bleed through the phones..... and it took her a long time to both get that and then to make it happen....

    But that was just the tip of the iceberg in this session.....

    We were doing a version of Whipping Post (a very up-beat version) and were about 1/2 way through the song when suddenly she accidentally turned off my head phones.......

    Well I suppose I should not have been upset all that much because I (finally) did not have me in the phones at all - but it was a tad upsetting to not have the rest of the band either.....

    I knew though where we were in the arrangement and how it should have played out from that point on - so I kept on playing right through to the end.

    Now I will have to say that no one looked at me like I was suddenly having flashbacks - nor like I had suddenly gone insane - so I figured I could not have really blown it all that much....... but when the song was finished I pretty much blew up on her....... after all - what the heck was she doing pushing buttons if she didn't have a clue what the buttons were really for?

    She pretty much laughed it off - and said not to worry - got the phones working again - and we finished our session.....

    When we listened to the takes after the session I was actually pretty surprised to find that the song was not only not bad - but was probably one of the best performances of it we had ever done..... made we wonder if perhaps I should consider going deaf......... ;)

    kmetal, pcrecord and bigtree like this.
  11. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I like that story. ;) It reminds us that clients aren't always the only boneheads in the studio.

    Years ago, ( in the dinosaur age, back when tape was still king), I worked as an engineer with a producer "of note" - meaning he had done a few big things in his career that had garnered him some acclaim ... he was no George Martin, but, he had certainly accomplished far more than I ever had...

    We were working with a 3 piece band, an instrumental act with a piano focus (think along the lines of John Tesh, I guess), and the entire session, while I was at the console, the producer sat on the sofa behind me, reading magazines.

    At one point, the piano player hit an obvious clam - really obvious... like playing an F# instead of a G for a major C chord... and I waited for the producer to tell me to roll it back and tell the band to play the section again, but he just continued reading. It happened again, several times in fact, one was a bass mistake, the other, a blown drum fill, and each time, there was not a word from the producer. He just kept reading his magazines.

    I finally got on the TB and suggested to the band that we roll the whole section again; they agreed, and we finally punched in an acceptable take. Like a zombie snapping out of a trance, the producer suddenly looked up and said "so, uhmm, what's goin' on now?" I explained to him that there had been some mistakes made in the performance, and told him that I had directed the band to do another take of the section.
    His response was simply "Oh.. okay then. Good call."

    And I thought to myself... had I not taken any action and had just let the error slide, would he have ever even noticed? And even if he eventually had, would he have even cared?

    When it came time to mix the record, I was on my own. The piano player and drummer showed up, once, for about 20 minutes, they told me "sounds good" - and then left. The producer never did show for those mixing sessions. He never even called to see how things were going. I left several messages with him, not one call was returned, so, I just mixed it the best I could. When I was done, I sent an invoice to the label, they over-nighted me a check, and I Fed-Ex'd the 2 Track Master Reel to the mastering facility they had chosen.

    Several weeks after the album was released, and the artist had done the obligatory rounds of small network talk shows ( Regis and Kathy Lee, Good Morning Boston/Philly/Cleveland/Milwaukee, etc) I read an article in an entertainment rag where the producer was being interviewed about his style, and the topic got around to talking about his "method of production" for that artist...
    The article talked about how "he always was very much involved in the arrangement of the music and mixing of all the albums he worked on", and that he "considered himself to always be a very hands-on producer with the artists he worked with..."

    I remember laughing out loud, and thinking how the article was so much BS, and it also made me wonder about - and begin to doubt - that producer's past successes - and questioning just how much of his success was likely far more due to the engineers on those various records he "produced", than it was due to the producer himself.

    I always thought about contacting the other engineers credited on other records that this guy had produced, just to see if what I suspected was true... I never did though. In the end, I got paid, and I was satisfied with that being enough.
    kmetal and Rod Gervais like this.
  12. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

  13. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OQfGtJnBpg
    pcrecord likes this.
  14. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    This was made by a quebec TV show :

    View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2Rhh_4GZmU
  15. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPJQjtFdE8g

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