Studio / Sessions

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Another pic from my first session ever
centurymepiano.jpg
April 12, 1973

As a Musician
My first recording sessions were recorded by my Grandmother!
She was a piano teacher, and lived in the adjoining twin house
(an East Coast thing).
Way back in the 50's she had a Webcor tape recorder ...
one of those recorders with a glowing green 'eye' tube to indicate incoming level. It recorded in mono in both directions and had a big honkin' mic mounted on a desktop stand. She recorded all her students ... slating with their name, date, study level ...
and I have tapes of me circa age 5 that I hope to restore and transfer to Pro Tools sometime soon. Then I'll post them here for everyone's amusement!

I think there are a few funky cassette recordings of my early bands, recorded by my Mother (of course!).
Ditto on transferring those soon.

On April 12, 1973, I had my first professional recording session ...
at Century Sound in New York City.
Produced by Joe Venneri (of The Tokens), I was invited in by singer Rick Rydell. Rick was offered the chance to record as a solo artist, but opted instead to record as a band ... with me, Pete Venneri (believe it or not, I don't think related to Joe), Paul Schwartz and Walt Barr. Rick's friend Michael Caruso was invited to most of the sessions, and eventually wound up in the band too.

I was hypmotized! Stunned! Yet I managed to play pretty well.
I guess I got over 'red light fever' pretty quickly, and never feared recording. Thanks grandma!

This session led to many others ... mostly in the middle of the night (Joe was squeezing us in 'speck'). I remember sleeping on the floor one night, about 5AM, with razorblades around me and the monitors blasting. What a glamorous life!

Soon enough, Joe began hiring us to play on other recordings and referring us to other producers. How cool! We'd barely put our toe in the water, and Joe pushed us into the deep end!

Thirty-something years later, I've played in countless sessions. Records, demos, TV & radio ads, movies, TV shows. I'm a music ho! But I do it for love, not money! Really!!
Ha ha ... OK ... I like when I get paid for it too :)

If you'd like my unique style tinkling all over your music, give a holla!

As a Recording Engineer
I was fascinated with my Grandmother's tape recorder (see above). Not in the sense that I wanted to take it apart (I'm still not one of those engineers who likes to build gizmos and repair stuff) ... but rather that I realized, even at age 5, that I wanted to record myself. I liked hearing my performances, and studying what I did well versus what needed work. I knew that the 'ideal' was to record a great performance.

When I got to my first professional studio sessions, I had my eyes and ears focused on the process. It was simply fascinating to me, and I was inspired to study and experiment. Fortunately, I was always afforded the opportunity to do so.

For some time, I was far more focused on playing keyboards, songwriting, singing and actually creating the music. To this day, I still like to have other engineers work with me much of the time ... so I can focus on being musically creative.

Ultimately, I realized that people were often confrontational in the studio ... prone to ego battles and control issues. I didn't really encounter much of this (I'm quite willing to try anyone's ideas),
but I often witnessed producers and engineers telling musicians that their ideas couldn't be done, for one reason or another.
This inspired me to become a recording engineer ...
so no one could ever say that to me.

I took a course, many years ago, at the University of Sound Arts in Hollywood. People often laugh at such schools, but I highly recommend them! While it's certainly true that you can't learn nearly as much as you do in the 'real world' sessions, such a school gives you a chance to study the science, learn from professionals and (most importantly) get your hands on the gear! I found that students learned a lot if they wanted to, or very little if they didn't.
I was very eager to learn, and completed the course with accolades and great confidence.

I went around L.A. looking for a job as an engineer, telling everyone that I was one. I tripped into Westworld, a tiny store-front studio in Van Nuys, where I met owner Bob Schreiner. He said that he couldn't afford to hire me, but he welcomed me to hang. I sat in his control room for many sessions ... chatting, watching, learning ... and he really knew his stuff!

One day, after many sleepless days of sessions, an exhausted Bob asked me to sit in and record a vocalist. He had it all set up ... all I had to do was shuttle the tape recorder, follow the performance and punch in & out. I kicked butt!

Bob soon hired me to work at Westworld. I spent many years there, recording a vast array of music and talents. Probably the most memorable ... the day Bob & I recorded Joe Williams singing a guest vocal with his brother Mark's band 'Failsafe.' Joe & Mark are John Williams' sons (the composer ... you may have heard of him?).
Joe was so amazing that Bob & I literally dropped our jaws in awe. In later times, I recorded many of Joe's demos, and played keyboards in his showcase (a major event!). Later, Joe was a member of Toto. He's a monster!

Well ... I met Barry Fasman and Tom Seufert at Westworld (working on the Pieces album, with Jeff Paris and Kenny Lewis) ... That led to my working at Tom's Redwing Studios in Tarzana. There, as an assistant, I met and worked with some monster engineers ... Roy Halee (of Simon & Garfunkle fame), Tom Knox (Toto), Bill Schnee, a host of others ... and some incredible musicians ... Jimmy Webb, Steve Porcaro, David Paitch, Al Kooper, Robben Ford, many more. Wow!

Thanks to Jeff Paris, I also found myself working at Salty Dog Recorders in Van Nuys. For a few years, I worked at Westworld, Redwing and Salty Dog ... both as an assistant and as a 'staff engineer.' I met many incredible talents, musicians, engineers, producers ... and I often wound up playing keyboards for many of them. I managed to arrange to record my own music at Westworld and Salty Dog ... often at night and during unbooked days. Altogether, I spent many years learning and honing my studio skills.

I have since worked at many other studios. I've recorded everything imaginable, from solo flute to full orchestras, a capella voice to blasting rock bands. I've also recorded and mixed many live events ... bands, theater productions, sound effects ... I was even sent to the Bonneville Salt Flats to record a Porche 911 for a commercial.
I strapped a mic under the hood, another pointing down across the tailpipe ... and the stunt driver spun me around at 100+ MPH! Wheeeeee!!!

Eventually, I found myself mixing for TV and films. This started at Salty Dog, with a Winnie the Pooh movie. Then a few others. Then years of recording and mixing TV ads.

I can say with the greatest confidence: I've recorded just about everything imaginable. Bring it on!!

OK ... If you read all of that, you deserve a treat.
Here are some links to above mentioned talents and recordings:

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