IN THIS ISSUE:
- EARS meets with studio design legend Russ Berger at Shure HQ
- Word from the Prez: "Who cares about quality?"
- REWIND: Brilliant meeting with MARTIN ATKINS at LINCOLN HALL
- EARS strikes Grammy Gold! Grammy winners from Chicago
- EARS Book Club reviews: "Will You Take Me As I Am" and "Tour Smart"
- EARS featured in Sound On Sound Magazine article
- And more EARS in the news...
Fran (The LJETPRO) Allen-Leake
Danny (The URBAN G) Leake
Volume 26, Number 2 • February, 2011
***Please note: The February EARS meeting will be held on the last THURSDAY of the month
AN EVENING WITH STUDIO DESIGN LEGEND
5800 W. Touhy Avenue, Niles IL
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2011
• 7:30 PM
EARS is very pleased to welcome our special guest this month, iconic studio designer and acoustician Mr. Russ Berger, who will join us at Shure Head Quarters which bears his design work in the PLC studio (Performance Listening Center). Mr. Berger will be joining us via the marvel of Skype in Shure's state-of-the-art S.N. Shure theater.
Like many of us in the world of audio production, Russ began actively making music at a young age, migrating from piano to drums and percussion in the third grade. While in high school, he joined a local group of weekend warriors who had a hit song but lost their drummer. Session work followed, with one of his first studio gigs doing covers. "I was doing K-Tel sound-alikes...I was in a group the Original Artists...as in 'songs by the Original Artists.' Berger began doing work on the other side of the glass, and eventually became a studio owner as well as engineer. His interest in acoustic design was born out of the construction of the three studios where he had ownership. "I couldn't really find anyone to design my studios for me who knew what they were doing," he says.
Specializing in acoustical and architectural design for recording, broadcast, and entertainment facilities throughout the world, Russ Berger Design Group (RBDG) located near Dallas has established itself as one of the best problem-solvers in the industry. The multi-discipline staff offers experience in acoustics, architecture, electrical and mechanical engineering, interior design and all aspects of the recording industry. RBDG has been involved in more than 2,000 projects since its establishment in 1990, picking up a host of honors in the process.
In setting up for this meeting, it has become evident that Russ has a great sense of humor and is willing to share with us some entertaining stories from his adventures in the design world as well as some details of current projects underway. We have it on good word that he has recently been spotted hanging out with the likes of rock star Steve Miller. While working in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, Russ narrowly escaped from Cairo on the last of 4 planes permitted to take off after the airport was shutdown, only because his plane was already on the tarmac. You will be hard pressed to meet a more adventurous and intriguing studio designer than Russ Berger. See you at Shure!
|Quick Event Facts:
Shure Inc. is just East of Lehigh on Touhy. Park and enter on the East side of the building
- You must provide an ID to security at the entrance
- This event is open to EARS Members and non-members alike
- EARS will provide soft drink refreshments at this event (no beer or wine)
- Food will not be provided at this event
- After the meeting, attendees are invited to BRICK HOUSE next door for drinks, food and revelry
...and to take up a collection so Russ can design our next multi-studio complex
Word From the Prez...
REWIND: EARS @ LINCOLN HALL -- INDUSTRY FOCUS: AN EVENING WITH MARTIN ATKINS
(1) Martin Atkins at the beginning of his fascinating Tour Smart presentation; (2) The irrepressible Atkins is greeted by EARS president, Blaise Bartonhttp://www.toursmart.tstouring.com/)
Tuesday, January 25, 2011: We didn’t quite know what to expect as we stumbled our way to Lincoln Hall -- which in another life was the Three-Penny Cinema where many of us used to watch art flicks. We walked through the “Magic” door and BANG! There we were in EARS heaven! All of our favorite EARS veterans and newbies – sixty-plus EARS members in attendance -- were there to absorb some of the thoughts and musings, hospitality and wisdom of Martin Atkins, an entrepreneurial genius in the Music Industry.
With over 30 years in the music business, Martin runs his own label (Invisible Records), writes books (Tour Smart and Break The Band), lectures all over the world, and still finds time for his first love: drumming. The evening began with socializing and networking in the wonderful venue that is Lincoln Hall. It is an excellent performance venue sporting a World Class sound system, a FOH position where a sound engineer can actually hear what’s going on in the room (You’d be surprised at where they are located in other unenlightened establishments.), a great crew and really great food. (ED Note: A lot of EARS members got another chance to partake of its hospitality at the Grammy listening party that was held there last week.)
Following an introduction from our illustrious President Blaise Barton, the effervescent Martin ascended the stage and immediately summoned his talents to launch into a description of twenty or so social network sites that can be tapped to help market yourself and your services. The audience was comprised of the usual posse of audio engineers and producers, musicians, industry reps, and talent agents and all could take away something from this presentation that can be used to further their careers.
In his hour-plus presentation -- where he regaled us with wonderful and humorous stories covering his 30-years of experience in this Rock & Roll life as Artist, Manager, Label Owner, and all around Rebel Rouser -- Martin sited many issues that plague working musicians like poor tour planning, paying to play, and not reaping the benefits from good merchandising. It’s not difficult to translate several of his ideas to the running of a studio or label as well as applying them to your work and everyday life. Martin’s exuberance was infectious and when he passed around his scratch and sniff CD jackets, you realized that his innovating knew no bounds. This mini-seminar was a “cliff notes” version of the classes he teaches at schools where he talks about our changing industry: How the old rules don’t work anymore, how thinking “Out of the Box” and using creative touring can “break a band.” It was a highly entertaining and informative presentation given on stage with the help of a graphics presentation that was shown on the very screen where art flicks were once shown.
The road stories and business ideas were there to spur your imagination, get you thinking about your own business and “how to get noticed”. In this age of “anyone can record a song and distribute it on the web” how do you get people to notice, and want your services? How you can fine tune your business strategy to get the most out of what you have to share with the world?
Aim Low, Get High: Martin’s simple but effective message to implore you to build your own “Wall of China” by placing the first bricks and building on top of them. You need to plan the first steps then build upon them to get to where you ultimately want to be. These simple, but elegant, examples of preparation and innovation at the heart of Martin’s presentation culminate in his assertion that what you want “…will never be more important to anyone than it is to you.”
Kudos to the EARS Administration for thinking “Out of the Box,” and pulling together a very unique experience for its members!
A special thanks to Lincoln Hall’s Event Coordinator Terri Campelli and EARS member and Lincoln Hall FOH Chris Gelin for helping to make this a wonderful night for all.
Contributing Writers: Danny Leake & Fran Allen-Leake (ED. Note: Martin Atkins’ book, TOUR SMART AND BREAK THE BAND, THE FIRST REAL BOOK ABOUT THE BUSINESS OF TOURING, is featured in this month’s Book Club section. For additional information go to:
EARS Strikes Grammy® GOLD!
Grammy came home to Chicago – and EARS producers and engineers -- in a big way on Sunday,
February 13, 2011. “And the Grammy Went To…”
Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and Pinetop Perkins for Joined At the Hip. Produced by Michael Freeman; Blaise Barton, Recording Engineer. To view the video of Willie, Michael, and Pinetop accepting the Grammy, click here.
(1) Producer Michael Freeman with Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and 97-year-old Pinetop Perkins savoring their Grammy moment at the Staples Center in Los Angeles; (2) EARS president Blaise Barton is congratulated on the win in Chicago by fellow EARS and Grammy members
BEST CONTEMPORARY BLUES ALBUM
Buddy Guy for Living Proof
(1) Chicago’s Buddy Guy will have to make room on his mantle for this one – it’s #6! (2) Chicago Chapter Executive Director Tera Healy with Mary Mazurek, Grammy-winner Michael Freeman and Chicago Chapter President Mike Sturm in LA.
BEST CLASSICAL ALBUM & BEST CHORAL PERFORMANCE
Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Symphony Chorus for VERDI Messa da Requiem. Produced by Christopher Alder; Christopher Willis, Recording Engineer.
Food For Thought
Clive Young of ProSound News wrote an excellent article on the "Freebird" of audio. (http://www.prosoundnews.com/Blog.aspx?id=34214) And what is that? Let's face it, show up at a concert while the PA is being setup and you will probably hear either Donald Fagen's "Nightfly" or some Steely Dan tune. You'll hear them in the studios, too. These tunes are so pervasive that I was quoted by Clive simply because I said I used the "Siverado" Soundtrack (Recorded by Armin Steiner) and James Taylor's "Only a Dream in Rio" (Recorded by Frank Fillipetti) instead of Steely Dan to tune PAs on Hip Hop and Rock shows. (I didn't tell him I also went through my "Steely Dan" period.) I personally know of about 100 engineers who use some sort of Steely Dan recording to check their systems. They are excellent recordings and sound that good. "Nightfly", "Asia", "Gaucho", and a slew of others were recorded and mixed by Roger Nichols. I recently received an email that said Roger was suffering from Stage 4 Cancer and needed donations to help pay his medical bills. I'm in the process of investigating to see if this is a hoax but I'll tell you: If it's true, everyone who uses "Steely Dan" to tune their audio systems ought to send Roger $10 just on "General Principle".
(This month’s Book Club includes not one, but 2 reviews!)
WILL YOU TAKE ME AS I AM: JONI MITCHELL’S BLUE PERIOD, by Michelle Mercer (Free Press, 2009)
Its Introduction begins, “You’ve probably known this kind of girl. Maybe you’ve been her. I certainly was, at eighteen.” Ok, I asked myself: What is this—a chick book? Answer: Not Even! Will You Take Me As I Am: Joni Mitchell’s Blue Period (Free Press, 2009) is author Michelle Mercer’s study of the prolific singer-songwriter who (at the age of 68) continues to explore, invent, evolve and mystify.
I initially purchased this book because of its reference to Blue, Mitchell’s landmark 1971 “autobiographical” album that I did discover as an 18-year-old college freshman. I assumed that the book would provide a answers to questions I’d always had about this particular collection of songs, namely “River,” “The Last Time I Saw Richard,” and “Little Green”. As a vocal producer, I try to get in the head of my artist; try to understand where he/she is coming from when “telling the story.” But, Will You Take Me As I Am is much more than an album Q&A (i.e., what did she mean by that line?); goes much further than the oft-told stories of Joni’s many relationships and break-ups (graham Nash, James Taylor, etc.) Instead, it delves into the mind and complex psyche of Mitchell the artist/writer, as well as her evolution as one of the most influential music-makers of our time.
Rather than being penned in the traditional linear fashion of most biographies (i.e., she was born in Canada; she began playing at age 8, etc.), the book offers a fascinating analysis of this artist’s songwriting and musical process. For instance, who knew that Mitchell’s unorthodox guitar tunings are a direct result of her compensation for the polio she suffered as a child? And, that there is little piano on the critically-acclaimed Hejira because Mitchell wrote the album in her car while travelling cross- country? Who remembers that is was Mitchell who penned some of the most popular tunes of the 60s that were popularized by others: “Woodstock” (Crosby, Stills and Nash); “Both Sides, Now” (Judy Collins); “The Circle Game” (Buffy Saint-Marie). The book also confirms a theory that I’ve long held: Joni Mitchell’s true and timeless genius is her ability make the listener believe that the songs and situations presented are his/her own.
Will You Take Me As I Am is a masterful read. I highly recommend this book for producers, songwriters, engineers -- or anyone who could use a little incentive to think “outside of the box.”
by Martin Atkins
(Smart Books – 2007)
“Making Music is sometimes a lot like Making War” (Danny Leake, Urban Guerrilla Engineers when asked why his “Little Soldier” logo had a microphone AND a gun); “Every weapon has a manual. I’m sure this one does too” (Corbin Dallas, Hero of The Fifth Element while trying to arm the Weapon Against Evil to save the World.)
Touring is a weapon and such a weapons manual exists for bands trying to survive touring in today’s economic climate in “Tour Smart and Break The Band”, The First Real Book About The Business of Touring by Martin Atkins (Smart Books – 2007) Martin was the guest lecturer and focus of our January EARS meeting. He had this book for sale so I picked one up out of curiosity. I found that his lecture that night was sort of a “Cliff Notes” version of a very small part of this book. As a touring professional I can only say that this book is simply amazing. There is so much “street sense” knowledge about touring in this book that I couldn’t put it down. I can think of nothing that wasn’t covered. Some chapter examples: “Planning and Routing: Saved by Geography”, “Good Advice from BAAAD People #1”, “Promoters and Venues in Their Own Words”, “Crew and Production”, “Good Advice from BAAAD People #2”, “So You Want to be a Tour Manager (You Crazy F* *!)”, “Settlement: Getting Paid is a Blood Sport”, ….there are simply too many cool chapters to completely list in this review. Everything is here; from creating new revenue streams for your band and dealing with local soundmen (Don’t piss them off!) to Safer Sex on the Road and what to do if your gear gets stolen. The reality is that the nuts and bolts knowledge in this book could be presented in a dry and clinical way, very much like some other touring books I have read but this book is joy to experience. I believe it was meant to be read as a sort of reference book but I had to “Power Read” it in one session. There is a playful sense of humor throughout that we experienced during Mr. Atkins’s presentation. Definitely a ‘Rock & Roll” survival manual. It is also interspersed with very serious and sometimes humorous interviews by some of the very people you need to understand to survive in this business. From producers like Steve Albini to Steve Traxler of Jam Productions there is a wealth of knowledge here. There are also insights from members of bands who have experienced some of the things this book describes. I picked up one fundamental truth about touring from the introduction: “You are not trying to sell 10,000 CDs or 100,000 downloads—You are trying to sell one CD or one downloaded track, to thousands of different people, thousands of important times, one at a time”. Truly Martin Atkins is the Sun Tzu (“The Art of War”) of Music Business Touring. I would recommend this book for anyone who really wants to know the problems and rewards of today’s Music Industry.
EARS featured in SOUND ON SOUND article by Dan Daley
BENEFIT FOR MIKE GIAMPA
You may remember meeting our comrade and expert audio tech Mike Giampa at the recent EARS event at Jim Tullio's Butcher Boy Studio in October 2010. Or perhaps you've worked with him in the past. His family is throwing a benefit party for him with details below:
Michael Giampa, age 45, was recently diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme Stage 4 Terminal Brain Cancer. Glioblastoma is the most aggressive form of brain cancer. It’s the same disease that recently took the life of Senator Ted Kennedy. As many have suffered lately in this down turned economic season , Mike’s company of 12 years went out of business 6 months ago after the death of one of the owners and ever since, work has been scarce. The Christmas 2010 diagnosis has presented an unanticipated sorrow that few could have ever prepared for. While undergoing intense treatment, healthy diet and vigorous exercise, Mike still needs to shoulder the responsibilities to support his wife Ulla and his three children, ages 6, 8, and 12. Mike’s wife Ulla has a chronic illness that leaves her unable to work or get out of bed many days. Michael is a graduate of Palatine High School and Memphis State University . He is also well known in the musical community. Michael loves God and somehow sees this situation as a blessing. He is an active member in his church Harvest Bible Chapel in Gurnee.
There will be a benefit for Michael at Durty Nellie’s in Palatine , on Sunday April 10, from 3 to 8 pm.
There will be a silent auction, raffles and live music. Michael's family would greatly appreciate a product or service donation for the silent auction and/or raffle. ALL proceeds will go directly to Michael’s care and family trust fund. In exchange, the family will advertise your business at Michael’s benefit. They are anticipating approximately 500 people to attend this event. For the latest news on the benefit please click HERE.(http://miraclesformichael.com/auction.htm)
In Response to the January Editorial “Food For Thought…….The Next Generation” in which we asked:
“Speaking of the EARS community, Fran and I are having Ball editing the EARDRUM and we really appreciate the compliments we’ve received. However, we are worried that the EARDRUM might start to seem like a semi-personal Blog. WE NEED SOME MORE INPUT FROM OUR EARS COMMUNITY! Come on guys….let’s have some more ideas on articles, tell us things that are affecting you, tell us what bothers you these days, tell us about a great new piece of gear or technique that makes your day…..tell us something. We need your help.”
Well….we have indeed received input!!! In keeping with the Next Generation theme, some of our Student Members contacted us; as a result, next month we will unveil a new section in the EARDRUM that will be written by them. Ki Shih, an absolutely brilliant young engineer (4th-year Columbia College) will lead the editorial charge. A bevy of great ideas are already unfolding, so watch for the March issue!
Also, a few of our Veteran members have expressed an interest in penning articles. We are looking forward to presenting them to you soon.
So, Thanks for stepping up folks! Keep those ideas coming!!!
Send any ideas to Fran at LJetpro@aol.com or Danny at DRLUrbanG@aol.com
Fran Allen-Leake & Danny Leake
EARDRUM Co- Editors
Bobby Z Still Critical In ICU, Will Have 2nd Surgery
MINNEAPOLIS - Bobby Z, the Minnesota drummer famous for touring with Prince, remains in critical condition in intensive care at a local hospital.
His wife, Vicki Rivkin, said her husband is doing much better than a couple of days ago and says “he is stable for now.” Earlier this week, Bobby Z underwent surgery to put two stints in his chest, but surgery to put in a third stint will most likely not happen until next week.
Family members said Rivkin started feeling pain in his neck, arms and chest last Saturday. He thought it was just a pinched nerve from his years of drumming, until his family convinced him to go to the emergency room and doctors discovered three of his arteries were blocked.
Vicki Rivkin said she received a call from Prince on Wednesday afternoon, and her husband’s former band mates were on their way to Minnesota to be with their friend while he recovers.
Pro Audio Legend Bruce Jackson Dies in Plane Crash
New York (February 2, 2011)—Bruce Jackson, pro audio entrepreneur and FOH engineer to Elvis, Streisand, Springsteen and others, died Saturday, January 29 when the single-engine plane he was piloting crashed near Death Valley National Park.
Over the course of his career, Australian-born Jackson mixed the likes of Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, Diana Ross, Johnny Cash, Stevie Wonder, Rod Stewart and the Faces, Barry White, Jefferson Airplane, Ozzy Osbourne, Jackson 5, Cat Stevens, Art Garfunkel, Lou Reed, and was Barbra Streisand’s sound designer/live engineer for 10 years. In more recent times, he was the opening and closing ceremonies audio director for the Olympic Games in Sydney and Canada.
A life-long tinkerer and entrepreneur, Jackson was not content to stay behind a mixing console. After co- founding Australian live sound powerhouse Jands Concert Production early in his career, Jackson left the company in 1970, moving to the U.S. to work with Clair Brothers Audio, where he quickly became the engineer of choice for Elvis, working with the artist from 1971 through his death in 1977. While the legendary performer cut a larger-than-life figure, Jackson wasn’t intimidated, as he recounted to Pro Sound News in an unpublished 2004 interview, recalling how he once went toe-to-toe with The King himself.
“I was doing a show," he explained, "and Elvis Presley started picking on me from the stage. He couldn’t hear himself on the monitors around the back, so he says, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I’d just like to stop now and talk to the sound engineer.’ So he starts complaining over the microphone, and it was just like, ‘Oh my God!’ It was very embarrassing, so I was mad; I wouldn’t talk to him, wouldn’t look at him--and then he kind of tried to be nice to make up and I still was mad! I quit! I said, ‘That’s it, I’m going to finish up at the end of the tour.’ Ultimately, he apologized--which was really unusual--and gave me a big hug and said ‘Sorry.’ From that point on, actually we had a whole different relationship, and I think that helped for years to come.”
We Want to Know…
What have you been working on lately (and with whom?!) Do you have an idea for an article in an upcoming EARDRUM? Do you have a tech tip? How about an idea for an EARS event? Don’t be shy… contact us:
Fran Allen-Leake, LJet Productons – 312.405.4335 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Danny Leake, Urban Guerrilla Engineers –312.310.0475 or e-mail eardrum.editor@ears- chicago.org
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