- President's "State of the Union Address"
- REWIND: EARS 24th Annual JEFF HAMILTON Memorial Holiday Party
- Interview with Juan Labostrie : Katrina’s Piano Fund and Rebuilding a facility in the aftermath of Katrina
- Review of Q on Producing: by Quincy Jones and Bill Gibson, Part of the Quincy Jones Legacy Series
- And more...
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(The LJETPRO) Allen-Leake
Danny (The URBAN G) Leake

Volume 26, Number 1 • January, 2011

President – Blaise Barton
Vice President – Reid Hyams
Secretary – Bob Vodick
Treasurer – Eric Roth



2424 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago

Word From the Prez...

Dear fellow EARS Members and Fans,

I must apologize for the late EARDRUM delivery this month, certainly not the fault of our esteemed EARDRUM editors. Prior to our meeting on Tuesday, I was out of the country drinking tequila which apparently caused the delay in delivery. Martin Atkins presentation at Lincoln Hall last Tuesday was brilliant...A big thank you from EARS, to Martin, his crew, and the staff at Lincoln Hall.

As our Engineering Society moves forward in exploring new and interesting topics for our meetings, we will be focusing on the business end of recording audio and music production as well. There's no question that the landscape has drastically changed in just the last 15 years which has left many scrambling to figure out how to stay viable in this temperamental environment. Not that our craft is unique in this equation, ALL related industries have been affected for better or worse .... record labels, live venues, gear reps and manufacturers ... and certainly the musicians themselves. ALL have experienced major and ongoing upheaval.

Despite this fact, there is now an unprecedented number of recording studios operating in Chicago and its suburbs with new recording facilities under construction as we speak. (A similar scenario is happening in other U.S. cities as well). As if in lock step, there are a record number of fresh young graduates coming out of an unprecedented number of audio recording programs. School is not an inexpensive proposition either ... a degree from Full Sail will run you around 80G's. As little as fifteen years ago, there was practically no such thing as "recording school". Instead of studying the physics of audio, interns were invited to explore the inside of a toilet bowl with a brush, with the occasional eye opening opportunity to plug in mics and sit and listen and watch...lots and lots of sitting, listening and watching.

And unlike other trades where billed services have actually increased and kept up with inflation, recording studios, engineers, and producers today are charging the same or quite a bit less than just 15 years ago. Pound for pound, the recording business has never really made much sense from a money making standpoint... the amount of start up capital combined with high maintenance and administrative requirements and an ongoing insatiable lust for gear makes for many, many hours of work with inadequate compensation. Benefits such as insurance and "retirement" funds are a joke and left to the individual to fend for...or not at all. Let's not even talk about the girlfriends/ boyfriends who have simply given up on us in favor of a mate who they can boink at least once a week.

Pressure from shrinking budgets and the inability to afford a full time pool boy have forced many of the top echelon producers and mixers to compete with professionals at the middle of the food chain. How are YOU going to get that new big record project when L.A. Charlie is willing to sell himself for $20K? (Marked down from $150K, just 15 years ago). You may even find yourself gleefully saying "YES" to a doing a project where, when it's all said and done, you are earning less than a pool boy working in L.A.

Huh? What? How can this scenario possibly even exist? Does any of this make any sense???.

The answer is ... OF COURSE IT DOES!!!

No sane person or Keller business graduate would ever go into the recording business to make money. The obvious reason, of course, is that we are artists and we love what we do. Just as a painter will choose to buy a new tube of burnt umber instead of food for a week, you will buy that compressor you've always wanted so badly INSTEAD of paying rent on time, damn the landlord! And like an artist, you will use the shit out of that compressor ... on everything. Even if it doesn't need it!

Ours is a unique craft, both an individualistic art AND a precise technical field, highly interactive with other artists (musicians), allowing for broad freedom of expression and practically boundless latitude in painting with sound. And when things are going really great in a session and the music is flowing and everything is sounding just great..... well frankly, there's no adequate way to describe that sensation with words... dare I say it's almost better than sex. There are very few endeavors that combine all these elements, and so it makes total sense that so many want to be in the hot seat... and are willing to put up with all of its shortcomings and pitfalls. And like anything else, success will come to those who possess innate talent and really, really, really want to do it and are willing to make large sacrifices.

EARS will endeavor to further explore elements of these bizarre phenomena in the coming year. In the meantime, keep on doing what you love to do, and don't look back...or even sideways. Most of all, have fun doing it!

With Warm Regards,
Blaise Barton
EARS President

P.S..... Speaking of support for Chicago, I would like to congratulate one of EARS founding members, Michael Freeman for the Grammy nomination of "Joined at the Hip" featuring Pinetop Perkins and Willie Smith. Michael produced the album which has been nominated for "Best Traditional Blues Album". Congrats also to Bruce Iglauer and Chicago based Alligator Records in celebrating their 40th year as a record label and also for nominations in the same category with James Cotton's "Giant" and Charlie Musselwhite's "The Well". The competition will be fierce as these records are up against Jimmy Vaughan and recent blues queen Cyndi Lauper.

REWIND: EARS 24th Annual Jeff Hamilton Memorial HOLIDAY PARTY

The “Nasone Krew” (Nose Helmet) celebration

Spirit of Bad Audio
Greek Islands room
Blaise and Fran
(1) A Tuxedo-clad/Mardi Gras-masked EARS President Blaise Barton welcomes the dozens of Holiday revelers with a poem
(2) The throngs of EARS participants enjoying the sumptuous offerings of Greek Islands fare,
(3) Blaise Barton with EARDRUM co-editor Fran Allen-Leake

On a wintery Tuesday evening in the city of Chicago, a band of 65 hardy souls made their way to a little slice of the Mediterranean, The Greek Islands Restaurant for the EARS 24th Annual Jeff Hamilton Memorial Holiday Party. Upon arrival, our intrepid crew had to fight through the throngs of revelers to the bar until our room was ready. No expense was spared; table cloths, dishes, silverware, wine, and an attentive staff greeted our motley crew so everyone knew to be on their best behavior. One by one, members entered the room; some with guests, others with just their outsized personalities. The mood was festive and very inviting as people found their seats to wait for the evening to begin. As the room buzzed with excitement, our tuxedo-coated “Nasone Krew” (Mardi Gras harlequin masked and crowned) EARS president lept upon a table and recited a poem which elicited laughs and groans from the enraptured audience. At first, we thought "the poem" had been lost to time, but thanks to fellow EARS member David Leach it has been recovered so it may be reprinted here: (Spoken with a pompous English Accent...)

Friends, Roman's, "Soundmen", (and Ladies),
Lend me your EARS! For it is no accident that I make my appearance this evening at your ridiculous gathering of audio ne're-do-wells. I look about the room and see a collection of soothsayers...falsifiers...sycophants...raconteurs...roustabouts...and audio scoundrels! For I am the embodiment and spirit of bad audio! I am the distortion of musical truth, the low end rumble that sneaks in when you're mixing in an unfamiliar environment! The P-Pops that ruin otherwise perfect recordings! I'm that guy who coughs at the perfect moment in a classical recording. And of course, I am the cause of failure for your precious hard drive, always when you neglect your back ups!

You and your loathsome, idiotic group "EARS" and your pathetic pursuit of perfection in audio reproduction reviles me to no end. Mark my words, as you celebrate this holiday and you don your extremely gay apparel, remember this: I will always be there... waiting...watching...wanting you to Fuck Up! And Fuck Up you will! (Well, most of you will anyway).

It is with much disdain that I present your "President", a man who has shown to be light in the loafers - bah!

Greek Island guests
EARS raffle
Alan Sternquist and John Christy

A feast with all the trimmings followed and the conversational din become a roar as more and more people succumbed to the merriment and wine. Many tables were festooned with empty wine bottles as plate upon plate of food was consumed. With happy bellies and numbed senses, our president reappeared to conduct a raffle of epic proportions.

And the winners were: Beth McKay, who won a pair of Sennheiser RS120 wireless headphones, Matt Hooczko who won 3 CD's (Neil Young's "Le Noise", Mavis Staples "You Are Not Alone", and Celo Green's "The Lady Killer"), and Sam Rodgers who won the book, "All you Need is EARS" by George Martin. Danny Leake (our EARDRUM Co-Editor) won “The Daily Adventures of Mixerman”, a book he reviewed for the EARDRUM so he put it back up for the raffle where it was re-won by former EARS V.P. Jack LeTourneau. All winners were gracious in accepting their prizes and all were happy.

Greek Islands guests
Guests sharing a toast

The celebration continued with several members heading to the bar and others in animated conversation in the dining room. This was a most auspicious beginning to a new year for the EARS community and for the promise of great events to come.

Bob Vodick
EARS Secretary

Editor’s Note: In true EARS fashion, a few of our audio mates wound up at the Underground Wonderbar on Walton Street for an “After-Party” and a celebration of the club’s last week at this location. (The building housing this 22-year little music “paradise” is being paved to make way for yet another “parking lot.”) In addition to regular Wonder-goers Fran Allen & Danny Leake, EARS was well represented with piano virtuoso John Christy and Greg Groeper.

Danny Leake and John Christy Underground Wonderbar Fran Allen Leake and Danny Leake

The Live! live corner logo Corner

Fran Allen Leake and Juan Labostrie


This month’s Live Corner took a road trip of sorts: to New Orleans, LA. Winding up our 10-day (and much-needed) R&R Tour– that began with sleep, sunshine and Mojitos on South Beach, FL and ended with Food, Family & Friends in the Big Easy – we got together with an old buddy. Juan Labostrie is a life-long resident of New Orleans who is a producer and recording engineer and handles live sound for any number of entities: he’s worked the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Essence Festival, and any number of music venues in and around the Crescent City area. He is the proud owner of Production Services of New Orleans, a live sound and mastering enterprise.

Juan is also instrumental in the formulation of Katrina’s Piano Fund, a local effort to help musicians affected by the devastating Hurricane get back to the thing they love most: music-making. According to Juan’s partner in the endeavor, John "Klondike" Koehler, the concept was a simple one: “once a musician has an instrument in his hands, he can get back to work. Little economies will spin up around each instrument, in all the relocation cities. Money for the long trip home can be earned, and the soul of New Orleans will be saved. Juan and I have chosen the piano as the namesake for our fund-raising effort; from Tuts Washington to Fats (Domino) and Dr. John, it symbolizes the many genres ‘born and raised’ in New Orleans.”

Juan, Danny & I went to a little spot frequented by the locals of New Orleans. Over fried oysters, red beans & rice, and sweet tea, we settled in for a little chat:

FAL: Juan, it’s great seeing you! And thanks for taking time out of your busy day to talk with us. Tell me a little about your company.

JL: The company name is Production Services. I do Mastering and Live Sound, but unlike Danny, I specialize in small venues.

FAL: How did and when did you begin in audio?

JL: I started in 1975. I was in a band playing bass guitar; all the guys began setting their mikes like mine. But, I really didn’t know what I was doing. So, my Mom hooked me up with this guy – Dr. Winslow -- who was a radio DJ known as Poppa Stoppa in the ‘40s & ‘50s. He was a professor at Dillard University. And, he turned me on to the Institute of Audio Research, where I attended through the mid-‘70s.

FAL: Tell me about what happened to you and your business in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

JL: It changed the face of a lot of things. I stayed (in NOLA) during the storm, with 15 people in my upstairs studio space which had a small apartment, a rehearsal room and mastering room. We stayed from Sunday morning through that Thursday. There were two options: I could go to Los Angeles where I had family, or go East and make money. Realizing I was homeless and had no money (the banks weren’t operational) I made my way east near John Klondike Koehler (in Massachusetts); they set me up doing a festival in Rhode Island. That’s where we started Katrina Piano Fund.

JL: I did that because post-Katrina, doing things for other people kept me sane because I had lost everything, like most other musicians in New Orleans. So what we did was get the music manufacturers like Yamaha to give the local music stores equipment at 20% below cost. New Orleans’ economy is based on oil, gas and tourism – and tourism is the food and music. So without the music, I wouldn’t have a job. The things I took for granted, like fellowship of musicians, the Second Line and the $5 cover charge where you get a plate of red beans at the end of the night…all those things were now gone! So in hindsight, the Katrina Piano Fund may not have been as philanthropic as I thought: I was just trying to bring back the things that I loved.

FAL: So, how well did the Katrina Piano Fund effort work?

JL: My partner Klondike Koehler and I wound up raising about $300,000. We bought gear and gave it to the musicians who had lost everything in the flood. We gave away not only pianos, but horns, small mixing set-ups, PA-On-A-Stick, and all kinds of gear. And to help the local music stores, which also took a real hit, we filtered the “gifts” through them to help the stores get back up and running. You see, places like Musicians’ Friend and Guitar Center didn’t take as bad a hit. It was the local music stores, and without them, where would musicians pick up their drumsticks or drumheads? Also, when we gave these instruments the musicians were required to sign a contract stating if they ever outgrew the gift, they would give it to a young buddy musician for their use.

FAL: So, what happened to your former studio while you were out East and pulling together the Katrina Piano Fund effort?

JL: While I was in New York securing the deals to broker to the music stores in New Orleans, my studio was broken into. They took everything. So now, not only was I homeless but all of the gear that I had in the studio (which was 8 feet above ground) was gone. But, I thought about it and said to myself: God took my canvas which was partially painted; painted it white and gave me a new set of paints. And that keeps me healthy and whole. I really feel that I’m in a better place now than I was before Katrina.

FAL: Tell me all about the new studio, Juan. And, having just been there, I must say it is the most unique construction I’ve ever seen. How many feet above ground is it?

JL: 16 feet three inches above ground.

FAL: How do you propose to get the gear up there? By pulley or dumb-waiter?

JL: By strong backs. Strong young backs!

FAL: Not you, Juan!

JL: No…I’m getting a little old for that. But one guy did suggest an elevator to take everything to the upper room.

FAL: Maybe that would be a good name for it: The Upper Room.

JL: (laugh) Yeah, maybe I’ll start doing a lot more gospel. Seriously though, post-Katrina I began looking at a lot of old buildings – firehouses and the like – that could be re-purposed. It dawned on me that I already owned a building that could be re-purposed. Why spend more money? Unlike a tracking studio, a mastering room doesn’t need a lot of space.

The house already had one large room and another that would work well as a rehearsal space. I can – I will -- do it all right here.

Juan's House

FAL: Tell me about your commitment to young people in audio? What’s on your horizon here?

JL: Good question. NOLA has always been rich in performing talent, but not so much in technical talent. That’s a mission of mine. I want to bring more technical education to New Orleans. The way many people learn how to mix here is you’re first hired to sweep the floors, then you’re moving gear around, then you’re loading trucks, then maybe beginning to patch for people. If you’re there long enough, you begin to mix; and if you’re there really long enough, you become a systems guy. Seems as if it’s kind of potluck whether you learn the right stuff or the wrong stuff. Audio is physics. It’s where science, math, sound and music all meet. Like math, it’s cumulative: you can’t learn algebra until you learn basic arithmetic. I want to work with other audio entities and schools to get these young people the training they need. I really want to do that. As soon as I get the studio back up and running, that’s my next project.

Fran Allen-Leake

EARS Co-Editor
Editor’s Note: Juan Labostrie’s Mastering Setup is built around a full-blown SADiE5 Mastering/Editing system including Rupert Neve Super Analogue Legends Mastering Processing, a Manley Vari-mu Stereo Tube Compressor, a Manley Massive Passive, and an L2 Ultramaximizer all mounted neatly in an Argosy Mastering console with Genelec 1031 monitoring.

EARS book club logo

Well it’s about that time again. I received an interesting book as a Christmas gift: Q on Producing by Quincy Jones and Bill Gibson, Part of the Quincy Jones Legacy Series, Hal Leonard Books (2010). I have mixed feelings about this book. A good part of it reads like a “Q Love Fest”; “Quincy produces like a chef making a fine smorgasbord”, ”He produces Magic every time he walks in a studio”, etc., etc, etc. ad infinitum. There are Hosannas from Musicians, Producers, Arrangers, and Engineers all giving testimonials of how great a person “Q” was to work with. After 200 pages I was like, “To Hell with all the damn Magic, how does he make that Magic?” It was about that time when the book gave me some answers and started getting interesting. Education was the key for him. He was a budding gangbanger who discovered Music and Music education and it was this education that enabled him to move easily between Musical styles and disciplines. It got into his production philosophies; “Nothing happens before you have a song and a story”, “Get the best people you can and let them do their jobs”,”Learn your craft”, “Musical excellence is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration”, “Once a task is just begun, Never leave it till it’s done, Be the labor big or small, Do it well or not at all”, etc. It was his open mindedness that enabled him to move from straight ahead Jazz to Movie soundtracks to Lesley Gore Pop to Michael Jackson Superpop. He also has a love for Hip Hop which he compares to Bebop which was radically different from the Big Band Jazz that preceded it. There is also a detailed analysis of Bruce Swedien’s Acusonic Recording Process. There is a DVD that came with it that has an extended, in depth interview with Q on his philosophies and techniques. He talks about Michael Jackson’s sessions and the many artists he worked with and how he made them happen in the studio. For those interested, there is a DVD chapter showing the recording of the World Expo 2010 theme. It covers part of the rhythm date and a vocal session at Westlake Studio D. It was very cool. To tell you the truth I can talk all I want about having mixed feelings but I couldn’t put this book down until I finished it…….accolades and all. I highly recommend this book for budding producers who want a much deeper understanding of their craft.

Danny Leake

question markFood For Thought…….The Next Generation

Editorial January 2011

I’ve been talking to a lot of people about beginning education in our craft. About how “back in the day” we would mentor interns and young engineers on how we did things. I know that was part of my job at Universal Recording. We ALL passed things on to the young people. I, for one, felt that passing on your “secrets” meant you had to continually come up with new stuff. This, in turn, kept you current. I continue this today. So do a lot of the EARS community. The next time a kid asks you about something in audio, take them under your wing and tell him or her…….and also try to show them the difference between a good sound and a bad one. A lot of them have no concept that there is much better sound out there than earbuds and MP3s and that it could make a difference in the emotional presentation of Music. 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. Send any ideas to Fran at or me at

Danny Leake
EARDRUM Co- Editor

Magnifying Glass 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

Danny Leake, Urban Guerrilla Engineers –312.310.0475 or e-mail eardrum.editor@ears-

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